POSTSCRIPT / January 12, 1999 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Erap’s son is better off rejecting a House seat

PRESIDENTIAL son Joseph Victor Ejercito does not need a seat in the House of Representatives, he does not need to wade into the crocodile farm, to add to his well-deserved laurels earned through his own merits.

It will be to his credit, and to his father the President, if he now makes an unequivocal public declaration that he is withdrawing his name as nominee for a seat in Congress as a party-list congressman.

JV is already doing exceedingly well in his own right as a businessman and national president of the Jaycees. He should resent the way he is being used as lead man to open the gates for 37 losing candidates for party-list or sectoral representatives.

The impression that he is trying to gatecrash into Congress on the strength of his being a presidential son is not doing him and his father any good.

* * *

THE decision of the Commission on Elections to allow 37 losers in the last party-list election to sit as sectoral congressmen is a monumental fraud that all right-thinking Filipinos should not allow to pass.

These sectoral congressmen being sneaked in by the Comelec failed to garner the minimum 2-percent vote (of the total cast for party-list candidates) explicitly required by the law governing party-list elections. (Thirteen other groups that won the required 2 percent had already been declared winners and their representatives now sit in Congress.)

No amount of legal contortions — and pa-sipsip to the President — by the Comelec can transform the 37 clear losers into winners. Their using the President’s son to spearhead the sneak attack is a cheap trick.

* * *

TO justify its weird thinking, the Comelec cites Section 5 (1) of Article VI (The Legislative Department) of the Constitution which speaks of a “House of Representatives… composed of not more than 250 members….”

Note that the charter merely sets a ceiling, and does not say that Congress must be filled to the full capacity of 250 members. But the Comelec insists that even losers should be declared winners just to fill the 250 seats!

Why the Comelec’s unusual interest in padding Congress? Who is working it out? And for how many million reasons?

Don’t you think there are already just too many congressmen? Why add more of the same species, especially if they are of dubious legitimacy?

* * *

THE same section of the Constitution also says that the members of the House shall consist of the congressmen elected from the legislative districts “… and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations.”

As provided by law (under RA 7941, the party-list law), only those who garner at least 2 percent of the votes cast can qualify as elected party-list or sectoral representatives.

The Comelec has no business going out of its way to qualify even those who did not get the required minimum number of votes as provided by law. Unless the commissioners are precisely in that lucrative business.

We’re getting more convinced that the biggest obstacle to clean and honest elections in this country is the Comelec itself.

* * *

AS we write this, the air is rife with reports that PCGG Chairman Magdangal Elma will be named concurrently chief presidential legal counsel to replace Harriet Demetriou who was sent to the Comelec as chairman to try cleaning that stinking marketplace.

Elma is eminently qualified either as PCGG head or as presidential counsel. And as President Estrada said, there is no legal bar to his holding both positions simultaneously.

With due respect, however, we submit that the PCGG chairmanship is a full-time job. It requires the undivided attention of not only the chairman but also the commissioners helping him.

How can Elma and his commissioners pare down the mountain of cases pending before them if they are distracted by other assignments, not to mention their personal livelihood programs (sa wikang Tagalog, “hanapbuhay”)?

* * *

ANOTHER appointment in the offing is that of a replacement for Science Secretary William Padolina who is joining the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna.

A candidate who has been trying to catch attention is Amable Aguiluz V of the AMA computer schools who is also supposed to be the presidential adviser on the Year 2000 (Y2K) Bug.

In his column feeds and press releases on the Y2K or Millennium Bug, there has been lately a subtle mention of his possibly becoming science secretary and nothing much about what he is doing as presidential adviser to lick the Y2K Bug.

We would like to think that President Estrada would be more comfortable with qualified persons who do not seek the position but whom the position seeks because of their qualifications.

* * *

AT the risk of being repetitious, the Y2K Bug is that glitch in older computer systems and programs that designate years only by their last two digits. When 2000 rolls in, the computer’s internal calendar writes it as 00 and possibly reads it as 1900, throwing back by one century the date-sensitive files that that computer handles.

You can imagine the havoc it would wreak on massive computerized and networked files or data of various businesses such as those involving insurance, pension plans, banks, transportation, and government agencies.

We have less than a year to locate the bugs and rewrite the affected computer programs. As in the PCGG, we need somebody who is not distracted, say, by having one eye on a higher position or some business selling computer hardware.

* * *

BUT all is not lost. While others are busy cajoling columnists and tending to their private businesses, three government agencies have joined hands to speed up implementation of the President’s instruction on the Y2K Bug.

The agencies are the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Computer Center, and the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center. They will use the TLRC’s state-of-the-art repair facility at the Cyber City at Clark Field in Pampanga.

TLRC Director General Livia Singson-de Leon said her agency’s technical team has the capability to lick the Y2K problem quickly, completely and at the least cost.

The TLRC has trained manpower, consulting experts and linkages with the information technology sector to do its job. De Leon has contacted at least 115 government agencies and presented “remediation plans” to some of them.

* * *

INSTEAD of looking dainty holding hankies to their noses or looking grotesque with masks on, traffic policemen should flag down smoke-belchers on the road and give the drivers violation tickets.

Why do traffic officers who have to inhale poisonous air everyday in the streets put up with the unmitigated smoke belching of motor vehicles whose owners do not bother to fine-tune them?

They and the thousands of daily commuters may not know it — although we’re sure they can feel it — but they are slowly being poisoned to death. Allergies and respiratory diseases have gone up sharply because of air pollution. Pregnant women are in danger of harming their unborn children.

If the lungs of a long-time commuter are split open, they would reveal black gooey deposits. They will look no different from a sanitary napkin dipped into an estero.

* * *

THE police don’t need sophisticated equipment to detect the worst offenders. The smoke and soot emitted can be seen a mile away. There’s no need for long arguments on whether or not the dark emission is of obnoxious level.

Any driver who claims his thick tailpipe emission is safe should have his face shoved to the exhaust while somebody steps on the gas pedal.

To avoid tricky arguments over borderline cases, the police can concentrate on the blatant ones.

The Metro Manila Development Authority, which has been experimenting on this and that traffic-reduction scheme, may want to mount a campaign against smoke-belchers and reduce traffic by at least 15 percent in the process.

Commuters, unite! We’re slowly dying from poisoning! Sobra na!

* * *

POSTSCRIPT: We suggested one time that the hours we waste while stuck in solid-state traffic (sometimes as much as five hours daily) be used to learn some lessons or take courses via recorded lectures played while in the vehicle. Management consultant Anthony Pangilinan sent us his TimeCheck cassette teaching time management. Using six principles, he guides you through various techniques covering visioning, prioritizing, planning, scheduling, managing change and maintaining personal enthusiasm. We thank him for the cassette.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 12, 1999)

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