POSTSCRIPT / July 6, 1999 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Clearance of Marcoses is total and irreversible

DON’T say we didn’t alert you. The Estrada administration is quietly cooking an omnibus settlement of all the cases pending against the Marcoses. It should be unwrapped in time for a Merry Christmas for everybody involved in it.

Umaandar na ang pera – limpak limpak na pera – which makes the deal a foregone conclusion. With the collusion between the two parties, the Marcoses and the Estrada administration, what’s to prevent the early forging of a comprehensive settlement?

Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos herself announced the impending settlement that would clear forever the Marcos name. Addressing her followers in Tondo during her prolonged birthday revelry, she said:

“The truth has prevailed and the truth has come. I know that President Estrada and I will have a settlement. My problems will end and we will start to build a society and caring that knows no end.”

* * *

WE have to take Mrs. Marcos’ word for it, because she’s the one buying back total respectability from Mr. Estrada, and she certainly knows how to pay.

Besides, her announcement was confirmed when Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora denied there was such a deal about to be foisted on the nation. If Zamora denies it, and in the manner that he did, it must be true.

The denials notwithstanding, mark this: For several billions, all civil, criminal and tax cases will be scraped off the slate and the Marcos name will then be as white as snow.

To make the deal acceptable to the population, part of the money will be earmarked for social amelioration projects, for the poor that Imelda claims to love. They must be working on the assumption that it is easy to buy off an ignorant and impoverished masa.

Mrs. Marcos calls it a vindication, because her family will be cleared of all charges without their having to admit, or to confess to, or to apologize for any wrongdoing. They will come out of it morally intact, without need for subduing their accustomed arrogance.

* * *

DON’T say it won’t happen, because the deal is taking shape right now in secret meetings and the quiet drafting of the documents.

Don’t be lulled by the fact that it’s just the Executive, and not the entire government, working overtime to rehabilitate the Marcoses. (It has to work overtime while it still enjoys substantial mass support.)

Theoretically, there is still Congress, which can insert itself into the process and derail the negotiations. But most congressmen, even some senators, are putty in the hands of Imelda who has perfected the art of persuasion.

Then you might say there is the Supreme Court to contend with. But with legal wizard Estelito Mendoza still around lugging his multi-million-watt arguments, even the high court won’t be much of a problem.

* * *

WE can think of only two forces that can stop the impending Estrada-Marcos dirty deal.

One is an upheaval similar to the EDSA Revolt of 1986. But, considering the apathy of the population, this would require some Herculean effort to stage. Besides, this time around, the well-funded Marcos machine would know how to handle another EDSA phenomenon.

Another potential force that can intervene is the communist rebels’ Alex Boncayao Brigade. But that’s only if it could be made to see the propaganda value of terminating some of the parties involved in the impending indecent deal.

* * *

THEY may not be aware of it or maybe they don’t care anymore, but the almost 10,000 torture victims of the Marcos dictatorship are being used by the Estrada administration as the key to unlock the Marcos treasure chest.

In exchange for $15,000 or some P570,000 for each victim (assuming the lawyers do not collect their fat fees and demand reimbursement of expenses), the beneficiaries of the $150 million awarded by Judge Manuel Real of the US District Court in Hawaii are being asked to settle and to clear the Marcoses.

That’s cheap, but the Marcoses are confident that the victims will accept the money despite its being a mere shadow of the original $2-plus-billion awarded them by Real. As the Marcoses have learned through their long reign, money can buy almost anything on earth.

* * *

ONCE the $150 million is taken from the PNB escrow account, the balance of $440 million will be recognized as owned by the Marcoses. How else can you draw from the fund to pay the human rights victims if it is not recognized as belonging to the Marcoses?

The $440-million balance will then be split between the Estrada administration and the Marcoses – and the plenary declaration that there are no more cases against the Marcoses will be formalized.

The clearance will be total and irreversible – and the nightmare that was the Marcos dictatorship will just recede into our forgotten past. Much like EDSA’s having been forgotten.

* * *

THAT’S not the end of it yet. The all-encompassing clearance will then pave the way for the Marcoses openly accessing their secret deposits and hidden wealth squirreled away here and aboard.

There will be no more bar to their withdrawing from, or transferring, their loot. Their hoard, hitherto hidden in disgrace, will have been laundered by official act of the Estrada administration.

Of course, as a public relations gesture, some of the money will be promised for supposed social projects and allegedly pro-poor projects of President Estrada. As we keep pointing out, they know how to buy public acceptance.

As we’ve asked in an earlier Postscript, how many crimes have been committed by this administration in the name of the poor?

* * *

WHAT should not happen is for our government to allow the Marcoses to get the $150 million from the PNB account to pay their victims. Allowing that would mean recognizing that the Marcoses own the money.

The line should instead be that the money belongs to the people. If we cannot now give it back to the people from whom it was stolen, let it be kept in the bank for our children and their children.

Making the Marcoses pay the $150 million is actually a problem of the US District Court in Hawaii and the Marcoses – not of the Estrada administration or the Filipino people.

Judge Real should be told that the $150 million in Manila is beyond his jurisdiction, and that there is much more Marcos loot in the United States that the US court could freeze and seize to force payment.

A while back, for instance, it was revealed that Imelda is building a $7.8-million mansion in one of the suburbs of New Orleans in Louisiana with huge vaults to keep her other assets. She is still oozing with millions, at one time even boasting that she had $800 million in gold hoarded somewhere.

Other Marcos property in the US are of public knowledge. Why doesn’t some party or lawyer bring them to the attention of Real so the judge could go after them? There seems to be a conspiracy of silence in the dark plan to clear the Marcoses in exchange for dirty money.

It is unfortunate that despite his alleged concern for the poor and despite his oath to execute the law, President Estrada, as well as his Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, is acting more as the lead attorney of the Marcoses.

* * *

ON the smoldering issue of vanity plates, we got this complaint from Postscript reader Junel Hipolito of Delgado, Iloilo City, who reports:

“In Iloilo City, many vehicles are sporting car plates of Mayor, 8, Vice Mayor and Governor, but the most number of vehicles sporting vanity plates have 16F which is assigned to Regional Trial Court judges.

“Noticeable among the 16F plates is the one being used as service vehicle of an engineer of the Department of Public Works which displays a 16F 23 plate. The engineer’s vehicle is a lowered-type owner jeep. We know him to be the son of a judge, but I cannot comprehend why he is privileged to use the car plate with that low number.

“Almost all households of RTC judges in Iloilo City use vehicles with the low numbers when they go to market, shopping malls and in taking their children to school.”

* * *

FROM a teacher, Manuel Ruta of Lagro High School in Quezon City, comes another complaint against the proliferation of private groups conducting seminars for public high school teachers as required by the Professional Regulation Commission.

He said teachers are required to earn 60 units by attending the seminars. The problem, he said, is that the sponsors of the three-day seminars charge the teachers exorbitant fees: P300 without lunch, and P600 each with lunch. At 300 teachers participating, he calculated that the sponsors collect P90,000 per seminar, although the school provides for free the place, the sound system, chairs and other physical needs.

There are even seminar organizers who charge P500 to P3,000 per teacher, he added. According to him, there is an element of coercion because those who do not attend the seminars cannot renew their PRC license.

He asked why the education department itself does not hold these seminars either for free or for a low fee. He also suggested that teachers should be rated on how they actually teach, not on how many seminars, meetings and tree-planting programs they had attended.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 6, 1999)

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