POSTSCRIPT / May 9, 1999 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Erap confirms Ping is really untouchable

IF Nissan executives know what’s good for their business, they would just give Standard chief editor Jullie Yap Daza another Sentra of comparable condition to replace her defective car that has been causing her untold misery. (Note the progressive tense or the continuing sense of “has been causing….”)

In much the same way that the famous Pajero of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile became a cause celebre for victims of car hijackers, Jullie’s Sentra has become a conversation piece among car owners who, having bought a lemon, don’t know whether to make lemonade or make war.

Some friends who had been considering a Sentra are now eyeing other brands just because of Jullie’s nightmare on her shattered Super Saloon.

* * *

YOURS truly is supposed to be sentimental about the Sentra. My first car in the US where I fled after the murder of Ninoy Aquino in 1983 was a blue Sentra five-door with a roof rack that I never used. (Wagon types are favored by Californians on their weekend forays.)

My Sentra was practical enough for my simple needs, even for delivering bundles of our FilAm newspaper to dealers scattered all over the San Francisco Bay Area.

Of course, the 1.6-liter Sentra was small compared to bulky American family cars. The power discrepancy was more evident whenever, driving friends through the Sierra Nevada to Reno, bigger cars would pass us without effort.

When Nissan demonstrated its new Sentra in an endurance run through the Maharlika highway linking our many islands, I had the chance to drive the car in Ilocandia. (That’s another story I might just tell another day.)

* * *

GOING back to Jullie (it used to be just Julie, but a double letter is supposed to bring good luck – except probably when you’re on a Sentra), the shower of glass splinters on the dashboard, her dress, arms and face (!) was soon followed by rain.

Imagine driving on the highway with broken glass on your lap, the polluted wind stinging your eyes, rain drenching you and filling the car — while you try talking to an uncaring Nissan manager on a cellphone cradled against your aching ear….

And then Mr. Manager telling you as you drove to the supposed sanctuary of his shop that they had run out of windshields and could you drive in for repairs after the weekend?

If Jullie’s looking for anything positive in that gross mishandling by Mr. Manager, it is that she probably avoided having another of Nissan’s brittle windshields hurriedly pasted on her no-longer-so-Super Saloon.

* * *

THIS battle-scarred veteran of the highways has gone through the same shattering experience, if the indulgent reader won’t mind my recalling it.

I was also driving on the North Expressway on the way to Manila, also on a Friday, when the windshield of my Mazda van suddenly shattered. I don’t remember anything hitting it.

But the glass shards didn’t rain on me. The pieces stayed on, hanging on in a lacey jigsaw puzzle. But the visibility was reduced almost to zero.

I pulled over quickly, surveyed the damage, and decided to let the broken windshield hang precariously while I crawled on to Manila peering through the hazy glass with alarm lights blinking.

Despite the heat, I kept the windows closed, on the theory that the air trapped inside would prop up the windshield. I avoided high speeds, sudden stops and bumps and ruts so as not to shake the pieces loose.

A few pieces did fall, but when I reached the Mazda shop near Guadalupe on Epifanio delos Santos Ave., the windshield was mostly intact. They didn’t have a replacement on stock, but they managed to get one from another shop.

Was the broken windshield laminated, tempered or safety glass? Was it “original,” Republic, Aguila or made by San Miguel? I did not check, relying on the belief that Mazda – which has among the most expensive parts in town – uses only the best.

They rushed the replacement job since I didn’t want to leave the van over the weekend. But, alas, it must have been too hurried a repair job, because that windshield has been leaking ever since.

* * *

IT’S amazing how car dealers get away selling fleets upon fleets of defective vehicles. What’s the government doing? Since bureaucrats won’t make money attending to consumer complaints, why would they lift a finger nga naman?

Where are the noisy consumer advocates? Some of them write newspaper columns denouncing bad goods and services, but quiet down after somebody talks to them.

Note how car manufacturers in the United States announce, on their own initiative, certain defects discovered in their models and ask all owners to bring in their cars for free repair.

Not here in the Philippines, where one has to go to court or threaten to bomb the auto shop to have a dealer honor warranties or correct for free certain obvious defects of units they had sold.

Everybody’s watching Jullie’s case. Nissan better settle it fast to her satisfaction.

* * *

PRESIDENT Estrada’s asking his niño bonito Police Director Panfilo Lacson to reconsider his threat to resign made the Philippine National Police mess even worse.

The President’s move only disproved his avowal that nobody was indispensable. If Lacson cannot coexist with his own chief, PNP Director General Roberto Lastimoso, he should be allowed to quit. If he balks at resigning, he should be dismissed.

The unfortunate episode only confirms that Lacson is really that malakas with Mr. Estrada. This fuels speculation some more that Lacson must have the goods on the President. Lacson appears to be holding the President by the, huh, never mind.

* * *

THE bored comment of many people is that after a few weeks, the storm whipped up by the Lacson camp against Lastimoso, and Lastimoso’s own counter-threats, would die down as if nothing happened.

With Lacson having failed to prove his charges, why would Lastimoso allow such gross insubordination and lack of discipline plague the police through the rest of his term? He should press the dismissal of Lacson in the sacred tradition of the uniform.

It is unthinkable in the service for a subordinate to go around town badmouthing his superior, and even boasting that he would quit if his target were to be cleared. There is no excuse for such behavior.

If the police hierarchy does not punish Lacson, the national police would never be able to recover public confidence while the present top brass are running the force.

* * *

AS for Chief Supt. Reynaldo Acop, Southern Tagalog police director, there is no option but to dismiss him outright for illegal wiretapping.

They should not file charges against Acop for illegally eavesdropping on phone conversations of Lastimoso, because with our flawed system, he would just be able to wiggle out of it and gain an excuse to stay on.

Acop had admitted under oath having tapped without court order the phone of Lastimoso as he talked with a suspected drug lord. That should be enough basis to fire him outright.

As the whole town has noted, if Acop could do that to the PNP chief and get away with it, how are we ordinary citizens to fare when a policeman decides to do the same horrible thing to us?

If Acop is not dismissed and Lacson put in his proper place, President Estrada and the rest of them can forget about ever winning back public support for the police.

* * *

SENATE Majority Leader Franklin Drilon notes that there is resistance among many congressmen to a bill that would place the police under the supervision of local executives.

While the Senate has approved on third reading SB 1261 delegating such supervisory powers to the mayors, the counterpart bill in the House of Representatives is still pending second reading. The measure is supposed to be a priority legislative item.

The attitude of congressmen is understandable (though nor forgivable), considering that they would not want any local official to eclipse their power and influence over their area.

The hoary argument against placing the police under the mayors is that such a setup would give rise to private armies.

Manila Mayor Lito Atienza counters that private armies are passé. He says that it is grossly unfair to hold local executives responsible for peace and order in their areas while keeping the police outside their supervision.

* * *

DRILON explained that the National Police Commission, which has primary control over the police, could correct any abuse by local executives in their handling of the local police.

He said that the powers to be vested in the mayors by the peace and order measure will only be delegated powers since the Constitution vests those powers in the Napolcom. Delegated power, when abused, can be taken back, Drilon said.

The Senate leader also explained that one reason why their Thursday sessions seem unproductive is that that day is reserved for local bills. As the output from the House has been low, he said, not that many local bills reach the Senate to keep it busy.

As for Senate committees reportedly not churning out fast enough committee reports to keep the chamber busy everyday, Drilon said the committee chairmen and members are aware of legislative priorities and would know how to handle important measures.

* * *

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

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