POSTSCRIPT / March 9, 1999 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why pay rebels hurt in their own rebellion?

GETTING captured and tortured, shot even, is part of war. That’s what one gets when he declares war on the state, when he mounts a rebellion.

So why should rebels like Jose Ma. Sison be now demanding payment for alleged torture during the regime of former President Marcos?

You rise against the duly constituted government and you want it to shower you with flowers, beg you to please lay down your arms, and pay you a handsome sum if you as much as sustain a scratch?

War is not for sissies and Sisons who cry and ask to be paid $800,000 for having been hurt in battle. War is no picnic, nor is it a fund-raising caper.

That American judge in Hawaii should be told to get real and withdraw his ridiculous order for Filipino rebels (we repeat, rebels) to be paid damages. His honor is giving revolution a bad name

* * *

WE’RE talking here only of the rebels taking refuge under the umbrella of the National Democratic Front and the gang of Sison shooting press release and pressing demands from its luxurious lair in the Netherlands.

Innocent civilians, outspoken critics of the Marcos regime, members of the political opposition, journalists, and other non-combatants whose human rights had been violated are a different matter. They have a legitimate claim for damages.

Unjustly injured by an oppressive regime that routinely utilized torture and similar violations of human rights on perceived oppositionists, these non-combatants suing for damages must be compensated.

The court that ordered the Marcos estate to pay torture victims must distinguish between the rebels and the other victims of the dictator.

Otherwise, some adventurers and desperados might just start plotting revolution for the funds of it.

* * *

NOTE that Sison et al. have been insisting cockily in local courts that they should not be charged with murder, rape, arson and an assortment of other mayhem because, according to them, such crimes are part of rebellion.

One cannot pursue rebellion, they point out, without murder, rape, and such atrocities. Finding the novel argument cute, titillated judges have dropped those collateral charges and just lumped them together with the rebellion raps.

The same arguments of the rebels could be used on their comrades suing for damages. We throw back the argument to them: One cannot fight rebellion without blood being shed or lives lost on either side.

If the state and its agents hurt a rebel, or even kill him in the process of quelling the rebellion, no payment for damages is due the rebel’s heirs or the rebel himself if he survives the wounds of war.

* * *

OF course you remember sweet, demure Irene, the youngest in the Marcos brood who was married to Greggy Araneta in royal splendor in 1982 in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, during the Marcos reign.

Reiner Jacobi, a former CIA agent who has made hunting for hidden Marcos wealth a lucrative business, has announced his discovery that Irene maintains a $13.2-billion secret account in a Swiss bank.

Treasure hunting is a tricky business, strewn as it is with fake maps, false leads, intrigues and avaricious motivations. But given the layout of the land, the Jacobi report should be looked into.

The question arises: Where did little Irene, she with the sweet voice (mana raw sa nanay), get all those exciting billions—assuming the report is correct? Granting she was paid one million pesos every time she sang in public, she would have been singing one song every hour since her wedding to amass just a fourth of that reported Swiss hoard.

Her reported account—“885931 asset No. 2” – may very well be just one of many accounts in her name squirreled away in the bowels of the Swiss system.

What about the other accounts in the names and aliases of her sister Imee, brother Bongbong, mother Imelda and father Ferdinand, not to mention the other assets in the name of shell corporations and foundations?

Can you believe that these billions (in dollars!) are the fruit of honest and legitimate labor?

* * *

REFERRING to the billions that the Marcos family admits having amassed, it is often pointed out that records of the Bureau of Internal Revenue show that the combined income of the Marcos couple from 1949 (before martial rule was imposed in 1972) to 1984 amounted to only P16.4 million.

With this legitimate income as reflected in official BIR records, how could the Marcoses have amassed legally assets worth at least P500 billion? That is the conservative estimate given by Mrs. Marcos of only their blue chip holdings still in the hands of dummies.

Rep. Act. 1379 (Forfeiture Act) has been worn thin being cited as a ready basis for the government to seize the indecent Marcos wealth. That law says: “…whenever any public officer or employee has acquired during his incumbency an amount of property which is manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public officer or employee and to his other lawful income from legitimately acquired property, such property shall be presumed prima facie to have been unlawfully acquired.”

With the administration sitting on its hands, it is clear that Mr. Estrada is coddling his friends the Marcoses. He laments that the government lacks funds for essential services and is bent on imposing new pahirap taxes, yet he does not move to touch the Marcos hoard.

* * *

BACK to street level, every now and then, we hear of people suddenly hospitalized for various diseases, including cancer attributed by doctors to air pollution. Some of the patients have died in great pain.

At least half of Metro Manila residents are suffering in various degrees from diseases and infections of the upper respiratory system, and no relief is in sight. Are they doomed because they cannot escape the heavy pollution around their residence, work sites and places in-between.

Too many residents complain of coughing and runny nose, asthma, emphysema, bleary eyes, headaches, chest pains, dizziness and assorted other ailments traced to air pollution.

School children are most vulnerable. Pollution has resulted in deteriorating health for many of them and bad performance in school. They keep coughing in class. They come home pale, sweaty and feeling sick.

* * *

WHILE we are all aware of this deadly menace in our midst, nobody is doing anything about it.

What is the Estrada administration doing about it? Is Mr. Estrada waiting for people to start dropping dead in the streets or fainting on buses?

The President and the rest of officialdom zip around in air-conditioned luxury cars and apparently feel impervious to the deadly pollution just outside their car windows. The criminal neglect is appalling!

It’s uncharitable, but sometimes one wished that somebody very close to the President were felled by some fatal ailment caused by air pollution.

A bird’s eye view of the metropolis shows how extensive the pollution is. But since not everybody can ride a reconnaissance plane, the curious can drive up to Antipolo and from that vantage behold the thick brown-grayish death cloud perpetually hanging over the capital of the Philippines.

* * *

ON the ground, the evidence is palpable. The polluted air never lifts. Never. Even at night, when traffic is lighter, the poisonous gas is still thick in the air.

Bus companies have been advised by conniving officials to field their worst smoke belchers at night as, they think, their smoke is hardly noticeable in the dark. (It is noticeable!)

Early morning commuters are not spared. As early as dawn, anyone who ventures out into EDSA would see the pollution waiting to take helpless commuters in its deadly embrace.

As we have predicted months ago, the Metro Light Rail stations being built on EDSA have been turned into gas chambers. Crawling under these stations in heavy traffic is like driving out of a dark, smoke-choked parking basement without ventilation.

Normal wind current is not enough to clear the air in these tunnel-like portions of EDSA under MRT stations. The government should require that ventilation be integrated into the design before it is too late to insert it.

* * *

IN the name of the long-suffering residents of Metro Manila, we ask President Estrada to take an ordinary bus with plain folk during the peak hours from Monumento to Baclaran on EDSA.

Without wearing a mask, the President can sit in front together with his health secretary, the Philippine National Police chief, and the chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority.

The two-hour immersion may be hazardous to their health, but it will certainly be a healthy exposure to one of the major problems slowly killing the capital of the Philippines.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 9, 1999)

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