POSTSCRIPT / March 19, 1998 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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FVR paid $625/month; Ming earns more at IS

A NUMBER of spirited habitues of the National Press Club bar are now having second thoughts about ever running for president — not NPC president, but president of the Republic of the Philippines.

Word from the bureau of internal revenue has it that Fidel V. Ramos earned only P300,000 in 1997 as president of this country propelled by a national budget of P493.5 billion. He collected a monthly salary of P25,000 ($625!), the rate fixed by law.

This gross monthly salary is further whittled down to a take-home pay of only P18,974.49, because of deductions for, among other things, a GSIS loan secured by Mr. Ramos.

Mabuti na lang, Mr. Ramos (1) had the presence of mind to engage in an unspecified sideline that earned him, he claimed, P600,000 in 1997, and (2) had the good fortune of still having a wife employed by the International School in Makati from which she earned P400,855.57 last year.

Together, they declared an income of P1,300,855.57, on which they paid income tax of P254,675.66.

The president’s salary has been doubled to P50,000 monthly under RA 6758, but the new rate will apply only to the next president. Still, with a $1,250 monthly gross salary to look forward to, it looks rather odd that one would need something like P6 billion to run for the office.

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STILL on money and working wives, the administration refuses to let go the alleged P800-million pyramid scam blamed on the wife of Reli German, the top public relations adviser of Vice President Joseph “Erap” Estrada and the idea man behind the best-selling Eraption jokes.

Reli’s resourceful wife Bunny had to engage in a little business to help send the children to college and stabilize the family finances. This while the husband spent time marching against the dictator Marcos, crooning in sing-along restaurants, cracking jokes, and later plotting strategies with Erap, the classmate who would be president.

Erap’s suffering wife Luisa (more popularly known as Loi), a psychiatrist by profession, also has her own way of raising money especially during those years she was abandoned by her philandering husband. But now she still has to explain how she raised the P27 million that she claimed to have lost in Bunny’s enterprise.

Her husband is also being needled on his insistence that he had no prior knowledge of the Bunny scam or the details of his wife’s investment losses.

The probing questions on the Estradas are valid since the couple only had a declared joint net worth of P29.9 million, which is not all cash on hand. Indeed, where did Loi’s P27 million come from?

As declared in his financial statement required by law of all government personnel, the Estradas’ assets amount to P44.3 million — which include three real property, two luxury vehicles, furniture, securities, cash and receivables. Their liabilities, including loans, total P14.4 million.

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OUT of a population of more than 70 million, about half, or more than 34 million had registered for the May elections. These are Filipinos who are 18 years or older who have the qualifications and none of the disqualifications to vote.

How does one process about 25 million faceless voters (or 75 percent of the registered total) expected to troop to some 220,000 polling precincts nationwide without these voters having been issued the required identification cards?

Imagine the confusion, the rage, if many voters are unable to cast their ballots because they cannot present election IDs. Even voters with old IDs can be challenged. Those who cannot find their names in the revised lists and who do not carry IDs will not know to what precinct to go.

The situation is ready-made for massive confusion, even for violence, since the election of local officials has been historically very emotional. This is a recipe for a failure of election.

Until now the Commission on Elections has not satisfactorily explained its failure to produce the needed IDs. No wonder, many observers say that the biggest obstacle to free and honest elections is the Comelec itself.

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WITH the depreciation of the peso, the green five-peso bill has been phased out. Poor Andres Bonifacio’s face will be phased out with the paper bill. The Great Plebian, we heard, may have to be squeezed into the P10 bill together with Apolinario Mabini.

For the centennial celebration this year, the Bangko Sentral will put out a huge (8 inches x 14 inches) paper money with a face value of P100,000. Only 1,000 such bills will be printed, each to be sold for double its face value.

What can P100 buy nowadays? Add a few more pesos for VAT and service charge and that amount will get you a bottle of cold San Miguel pale pilsen at the posh Manila Hotel. For us working newspapermen, the NPC bar serves the same beer for only P15.

Other things you can buy: dressed chicken (P80/kilo), drumstick (P100/kilo), galunggong (P100/2 kilos), bangus (P80/kilo), tilapia (P60/kilo), pork (P105/kilo), beef (P140/kilo), wagwag rice (P21/kilo) and dinorado (P26/kilo).

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ERRATUM: The official blue on the Philippine flag is royal blue, and not sky blue as I erroneously said last time (with the “langit mong bughaw”  in our “Lupang Hinirang” national anthem ringing in my ears). Royal blue is a little darker than the limpid sky blue preferred by then first lady Imelda Marcos, but lighter than the very dark navy blue used by some manufacturers when they run out of royal blue cloth.

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