POSTSCRIPT / June 8, 1999 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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When caught in traffic violation, cite Article V

LOCAL Government Undersecretary Narciso “Jun” Santiago would do well to stop pleading that he had nothing to do with the exposés of his senator-wife Miriam linking his superior Secretary Ronaldo Puno to some allegedly anomalous deals.

Nobody in his right mind would believe the clumsy line that Jun slipped to Miriam the documents against Puno so the secretary would be removed and Jun would take over as DILG chief. That’s just too pat.

Even assuming the improbable, that Jun failed to spot the obvious perils of such a plot, his wife is smart enough to sense immediately that a takeover would be too obvious a scenario to carry out without risking heavy enemy fire.

Usec Jun Santiago should also stop saying that under no circumstances would he accept the position of DILG secretary if the position became vacant and were to be offered to him. He should leave that to President Estrada.

* * *

AFTER all, the Estrada circus is full of surprises. Remember, Jun himself was reportedly just on his way to the cockpit one Sunday and somehow found himself in Malacañang taking his oath as DILG undersecretary!

We can’t vouchsafe for the veracity of that coffee shop story, but actually Postscript had an inkling of Miriam’s eventually ending up in the Estrada bandwagon.

In the homestretch of the last presidential campaign, there were these big pictures in the papers of Miriam and his running mate, then Senate Majority Leader Francisco “Kit” Tatad, barnstorming in the Bicol bailiwick of Kit.

There they were waving from a van with a front plate proclaiming “Strada.” Even at that point, nasa Strada na pala sila!

(Doesn’t that remind you of another story, that of the open truck bearing the coffin of slain opposition leader Ninoy Aquino on its way to the memorial park in 1983? As the truck picked its way through city streets packed with grieving Filipinos, a sign on its front bumper pleaded: “Don’t Delay. Another Project of the First Lady.)

* * *

STILL on the subject of car plates, we were driving down the North Luzon Expressway a little after noon last May 26 when we spotted on our rearview mirror a white Izusu van bearing down on us.

The van bore a front plate announcing “COUNCILOR.” That minor town clown, or whoever was at the wheel, was tailgating. (He can look up the term in the traffic code if he does not know what tailgating is.)

As we refused to yield to his bullying, including his attempt to ram us on the side, he went to the shoulder and sped away. We spotted his rear plate: RDP 261. Whoever you are, Mr. Clowncilor, mabuhay po kayo!

We are not in the habit of giving way to brash officials with flashers and sirens who labor under the illusion that they own public roads. Their low-numbered plates or their plates announcing their supposed privileged status don’t mean anything to this taxpayer.

After all, the driver’s license of an official or that of his chauffeur is exactly like mine, giving him and me the same rights and imposing the same responsibilities on the road. Why should they be treated differently or deferentially?

Sometimes we do not give way even to ambulances of the Sweepstakes variety. Many of them are just wasting taxpayers’ money transporting in air-con comfort the wives or girl friends of officials on shopping sprees or weekend sightseeing.

The President’s No. 1 car and fire trucks that are obviously responding to a fire alarm are an entirely different matter.

* * *

WE remember spotting one time on lane No. 1 beside us on Roxas Blvd. the white official car of then US Ambassador Nicolas Platt. Following him was a big unmarked van loaded with security.

Anybody securing a VIP traveling in Manila traffic must stay close to the subject. But the van was trailing Platt by several meters, leaving a gaping security breach. Finding the opening too tempting, I swung casually between the ambassador’s car and the security van.

The van blinked its lights and turned on its siren. Some of the guards in the van angrily waved their fists from the windows. I kept cruising behind the envoy’s car, pretending not to have noticed the security’s frantic signals.

After having made my point that the detail securing the US ambassador was sleeping on the job, I swung out and waved at them.

* * *

SOME months back, President Estrada banned the unauthorized use and display of sirens and flashers on private vehicles and on government vehicles not being used for emergencies.

Later, the President also ordered the withdrawal of vanity plates, referring to those license plates of officials playing bit roles in the bureaucracy.

We understand that only the President, the Vice President, the Chief Justice, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House Representatives may use low-numbered plates.

The problem is that nobody seems to take President Estrada seriously anymore. After the President’s orders were issued, the number of vehicles sporting sirens and flashers seemed to have increased. On the road, we still see all sorts of conveyances using the banned devices.

As for low-numbered plates, not only mayors and clowncilors now have their own special plates. Even barangay captains have them.

We haven’t seen tricycles with low-numbered plates, but we have seen some with the press stickers of the National Press Club. That’s another story begging to be told one slow day.

* * *

ANOTHER of our Postscript columns copies of which many readers are asking for is that one on how to beat Manila traffic. A friend even offered to publish it, but we said we might be cited for inciting if we distributed copies of that.

But seriously now, we must have a well-studied and sustained program for educating drivers and pedestrians if we are to keep our sanity, if not our lives, out there in the hostile streets and highways.

One mistake in our traffic management is that we plunge right into enforcement when we haven’t done anything at all in the area of education. Many public utility drivers cited for violations turn out to be unaware of the rules they had been violating.

In fact, some traffic rules enforcers might be that ignorant themselves. How many of them have read the traffic law and understood it? Maybe some of them think that all they need are a whistle and a pad of traffic violation receipts.

* * *

ONE time we made a right turn at an intersection. A traffic aide stepped out from behind a post and waved us to the shoulder. In such situations, I often stop several meters from where the aide is so he would have to do some walking. For his exercise.

“Bakit, ano bang problema?” I asked as I rolled down my window. (Why, what’s the problem?)

“Sir, nag-right turn kayo kahit naka red light.” (Sir, you turned right on a red light.}

Yung red light ay para sa dumidiretso,” I said. “Hindi naman ako dumiretso, nag-right turn ako. Di ba, ang rule ay right turn is allowed anytime with care? Kung bawal, dapat maglagay kayo ng No Right Turn on Red Light.” (The red is for those going straight. But I turned right. Isn’t it that we can turn right with care? If it’s not allowed at an intersection, you have to put a No Right Turn on Red sign.)

Hindi sir, bawal talaga ang tumuloy kapag red light.” (No, sir, you really should not go ahead if it’s a red.)

Anong bawal? Tingnan mo sa Section 2, Article V ng Traffic Code of 1998. Hindi mo yata binabasa ang Traffic Code, eh!” (Why don’t you read Section 2, Article V. It seems you don’t even read the Traffic Code!)

The legal mumbo-jumbo stumped him. “Sige na ho, attorney. Mag-ingat lang po kayo (You may go, attorney. Just drive carefully),” he said, scratching his head over Article V of the Traffic Code.

Today, June 8 (6/8), I would cite Section 6, Article VIII, if I’m flagged down for a violation.

* * *

NONNIE Pelayo (no relation to the Noni wonder drink), news editor of another paper, has a better line. His being able to project the air of a member of the LTO Flying Squad has served him in tight situations.

When accosted by traffic enforcers with an alleged violation, Nonnie opens his window and demands what the matter is.

Told of the supposed violation, he barks “Putris, anong violation yan? Twenty years na ako sa LTO ngayon ko lang nadinig yang violation na yan!” (What violation? I’ve been with LTO for 20 years and this is the first time I’m hearing of such violation!)

He delivers his “I’ve been with LTO for 20 years” line so convincingly that he always goes scot-free. That’s a bonus for newspapermen who had covered the transportation beat that long and who have some flair for acting. (Some lawyers call it impersonating.)

* * *

SOME people ask about the one-day course we’ve taken on assembling personal computers (PCs). They ask if it’s worth the P1,500 fee, if they would understand what’s being taught, and if they could troubleshoot and upgrade their home computer after they take the course.

A student must have a basic knowledge and have been using a PC to be able to absorb fully the crash course. But their unique presentation has made PC assembly very easy. After the day’s session, one can assemble his own unit, then move on to assembling computers for friends… and maybe later for customers!

The main point is that we should demystify computers if we want this nation to fly on the wings of computer technology. Those awesome machines are useless if we don’t have the people to use them to full capacity.

We should banish fear of computers. We can do that by using them, stripping them bare and putting them back at will, and modifying them to suit our changing requirements.

* * *

MORE Postscript readers — among them Roy Cruz, JOLim, Aljoriz Dublin and Frankie Lagniton – have emailed some advice on some computer problems such as viruses, slow downloading, handling email while offline, and opening Macintosh files in a Windows-operated PC.

JOLim says a friend who works in a US bank has compiled a list of virus files that should not be opened at all when received with email.

“Do not open these attachments unless you are confident they are safe,” he says. “Do not run and do not launch them at all as they will wipe out data in your hard disk and destroy your emails!

He listed the viruses as: buddylst.exe, calcu18r.exe, deathpr.exe, einstein.exe, happ.exe, happy99.exe, japanese.exe, keypress.exe, kitty.exe, and teletubb.exe.

Among other useful information, Dublin suggests downloading Download Accelerator from www.softseek.com. He said this is a shareware that improves download speed by 300 percent. Postscript has not tried it.

Cruz suggests that we shift from Yahoo to eudoramail (www.eudoramail.com). He says that web-based eudoramail allows a user to access his mail from any computer using his favorite email software and thus handle mails offline. Postscript has dropped Yahoo in favor of Infocom.

As for Macintosh-based attachments, Lagniton says they can be opened in a Windows-operated PC with the use of the full version of MS Office, which has a converter for opening Mac files. Postscript tried using Word and Excel in Office 2000 and in Office 97 in an Acer Aspire, and we were able to decode or open difficult Mac files.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 8, 1999)

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