PRESIDENT Aquino has stated that there can be no reconciliation without justice. We would add that there can be no justice without truth. Logically therefore, there can be no reconciliation without truth. If the truth never emerges, there can be no reconciliation. Those seeking reconciliation had better be prepared to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, otherwise their talk of reconciliation is empty.

The adroitly-named Truth Commission faces formidable challenges. The first is to define its Terms of Reference. The President's SONA speech due next week would be an excellent platform to state how it will work, how it will not be a mere talking-shop with no consequential actions, how whistleblowers will be treated fairly and, above all, whether it has any real authority. Whatever we may think about the Ombudsman we should recognize that this position is enshrined in the Constitution, whereas the Truth Commission is not.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

The President is determined that past controversies such as the development of funds ostensibly for fertilizers (2004) and NBN/ZTE (2006-7) are thoroughly investigated. Of lower profile, though highly important, is the questionable use of US money earmarked for the Balikatan exercises in 2007. Americans are like elephants: they never forget.

The Americans, in common with the Chinese, want to re-energize their relationship with us. Early dialogue between our new defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin and his counterpart Robert Gates will help to do this. Gates will not have fond memories of his visit to the Philippines last year, especially the "Press Conference" where he was peppered with inane, planted questions such as whether he thought there 2010 Presidential Elections would take place. We believe this was choreographed by former AFP Press Sec Lt.Col Romeo Brawner in a successful attempt to deflect media attention away from discussions on Balikatan 2007. We are pleased that Brawner has faded into obscurity within AFP and that the important role of AFP/media relations is being undertaken by Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr.

Now that the AFP is under new leadership [Chief of Staff: Lt. Gen. Ricardo David Jr.] and the immature Gibo has been replaced as Defense Sec. by Voltaire Gazmin - whose given name suggests that even his parents were hoping for the creation of a better society - we can look forward to a significant change in the implementation of our defense strategy.

It is time to mend fences with the Americans. How? By initiating a thorough, impartial investigation in the movement of funds allocated by the Americans for Balikatan 2007. Lt (ret.) Nancy Gadian may have information. She and it need to be treated with respect. An empathetic Attorney is required. Although Evalyn Ursua has been Gadian's legal adviser in the past, we believe Katrina Legarda may be more successful in obtaining relevant data. After the harsh and humiliating treatment Gadian suffered at the hands of AFP last year she may have had enough. We hope not. The Americans can help as well and perhaps will be willing to do so. Balikatan is not an empty concept, there is much direct contact between American and Filipino forces, so that American troops can provide important anecdotal evidence about the 2007 exercises and whether directed funds reached the desired and specified arenas.

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William R. VIllarica, sole proprietor of W. Villarica Pawnshop has, unfortunately, not enjoyed the greatest of business success of late for he has regularly declaring zero income to the BIR. But by some creative financial management he acquired a Lamborghini sports car valued at P26 million. Could this be the same Lamborghini that was intercepted by the Bureau of Customs amongst other luxury cars in 2007? If so, did the impecunious Mr. Villarica pay the duty on this vehicle? Did he retain the BoC receipt? Did the BoC issue a receipt? I think we should be told.

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Those who are covered by PhilHealth must know their entitlements and responsibilities' intones Health Sec Enrique Ona. Well actually we don't. Please could Sec Ona enlighten us?

In fact, as your ultimate bosses, we are giving you marching orders. Tell us our entitlements and responsibilities under PhilHealth for which we pay both directly and through government funding. It is the lack of clarity of government systems that causes so many of our problems. It causes people to become supplicants when in fact they should know their rights and to be able to "bang the table" if the service provider is not meeting these rights. Sec Ona, you have stumbled across a major health problem. Let us see what you can do to solve it. My churlish medical practitioner friends do not have a high regard for PhilHealth. They complain about red tape when making claims. They hint darkly that those processing claims receive bonuses dependent on how little money is paid out.

Is this true? Does the current system incentivize PHIC staff to make things difficult for doctors who are submitting claims?

President Aquino has said that only 38 percent of Filipinos are covered by PhilHealth although PhilHealth is claiming 85 percent. Who is right?

The Aquino administration has the ambitious goal of providing universal health care coverage within three years.

I suppose it depends what is meant by "universal health care coverage." It should mean that anyone seeking medical attention can go to a doctor or hospital knowing that the cost of treatment is being handled by the government. If it does not mean this, then Sec Ona needs to state unambiguously what "universal health care" does mean.

The most recent SWS survey indicates that there is much trust in President Aquino but little confidence in his ability to fulfill his campaign promises. In a healthcare context, the current issue is to define clearly what will be and what will not be provided. If this issue is not addressed adequately, then we have no yardstick for determining whether healthcare policies are successful or not.

Our Congressman, Dr Tony Golez, will, I am sure, be considering possible draft legislation which clarifies the government's responsibilities in the health care sector. We need to get away from the horrible current situation where the poor are given prescriptions for medicines they need but cannot afford, and our elected officials are crowded with requests for "help". We need rules. We need structure. We need a proper framework.

If we are to believe the incoming government, 2013 promises to be a good year. Our population of almost 100 million will enjoy rice self-sufficiency. We shall have universal health care. We shall have a budget deficit reduced to only 2% of GDP. Except we won't!

But we have a government which means well. This is a good start. The next step is to greatly improve public sector efficiency and probity. Better directed use of our resources would yield substantial improvements. The incoming cabinet will have enormous debates about how our resources should be allocated.

We trust that these deliberations, though heated, will be fruitful. Future national heroes can emerge from this administration.

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Daniel "Bitay" Lacson rejected the position of DPWH Sec because he did not want to be based in Manila. We empathize. Now he has accepted the post of GSIS Chairman on the basis that he only has to go to Manila two or three times a month.

A more radical solution would have been to transfer GSIS to Negros. This is a semi-serious suggestion. Decentralizing government departments away from the National Capital Region is, via computers and telecommunications technology, now perfectly feasible. It would also be of significant economic benefit for those parts of the country which host the transferred departments. The wealth and income distributions of various parts of the country have become unacceptably wide, which is a strain on the nation's social cohesiveness. Decentralizing the civil service would help rectify matters and cause our limited wealth to be shared more equally throughout the archipelago.

We can fight poverty by swamping our poorer communities with civil servants!