POSTSCRIPT / May 18, 1999 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Lasti and Lacson should leave, not just go on leave

THE leave granted the feuding police top brass should provide a breather for the battered Philippine National Police – if they would really be on leave and keep off official chores and stop making statements on each other.

Before he left for Hong Kong, President Estrada approved the application for leave of Director General Roberto Lastimoso and Director Panfilo Lacson , who have been doing an excellent job of wrecking their organization by publicly trading serious accusations.

The question on everyone’s lips now is: Tunay ba yang leave na ‘yan? (Is that supposed leave for real?)

My barber says that it could happen that their going on leave would just give them more time to plot with their respective followers for more battles ahead for control of that fat cow called the PNP.

Instead of going on leave, the two officers should just leave the service, don’t you think so?

* * *

WE asked a Malacañang official if the RPS Ang Pangulo set sail for Hong Kong to serve some members of the President’s unofficial party. He assured us that the presidential yacht was not part of the “equipment” ferried to the former British colony.

The official asked why we were inquiring. We recalled to him that when still-President Ramos gave then President-elect Estrada a tour of the yacht, Mr. Estrada — when asked by inquisitive reporters what he thought of it — described the vessel as “parang motel.”

There were a few laughs around, which promptly died down when it was time for the multi-million-peso renovations and refurbishings that Mr. Estrada wanted for his floating motel.

The President’s apt description of the yacht came to mind when we were informed by some Malacañang reporters that the RPS Ang Pangulo was put to good use again when the President had a layover at Subic after the recent Araw ng Kagitingan ceremonies in Bataan.

Why not rename the vessel RPM Ng Pangulo, with “M” standing for you know what?

* * *

A BIG print ad says that Bridgestone tires are No. 1 in the market. Closer reading showed that the tires referred to are truck tires, and that their top ranking for “casing durability” was given by retreaders in the United States, not motorists in the Philippines.

The ad reminded me of a white Terrrano moving ahead of me on Quezon Ave. some weeks ago. The van had a big sign scrawled at the back proclaiming to the world that three of his Bridgestone tires blew up.

The Terrano’s sign, obviously a protest of sorts, made me chuckle. Suddenly I realized that I was not alone in my experience of having my Bridgestone tires just exploding when I run faster than 120 kph on the highway.

My Bridgestone tires, the Conselfa 205/70R14 94H type, burst at the sides for no apparent reason. I’ve had four of them exploding at high speed, not at the same time, but individually on separate occasions as each tire reached what must be its straining limit.

* * *

MANY years ago, I shifted to Bridgestone upon advice of the late Tony Siddayao, noted sports and motoring editor. I was satisfied with the tires’ toughness… until lately, I noticed that the Bridgestone tires I’ve been getting seem of inferior quality.

I’ve brought this to the attention of my regular supplier. I told him of my suspicion that some of the Japanese tires being imported in great quantity are of second quality or those that did not pass quality control at the factory.

I’ve noticed that there are two kinds of Bridgestone tires in his store. There are those that have this plastic strip (I don’t know the term for it) wrapped around them like the bandage of mummies. This factory wrapping, with the Bridgestone trade mark, must be a seal against tampering or substitution.

But there are other Bridgestone tires that are displayed and sold without that factory strip wrapped around them. Being cheaper, looking genuine, and being of the correct specifications for my car, they were the ones I bought.

* * *

THE store owner called up the distributor, a direct importer, who informed him that the tires without the plastic strip wrapped around them are bought in bulk, or wholesale, in Japan and shipped to Manila in big containers to save on space.

But why would Bridgestone dispense with this all-important strip wrapping? Is this because those tries are seconds and cannot carry the same warranty as the tires of first quality?

Whatever it is, Bridgestone should explain this to buyers. Any product that has factory defect, or those classified as of second quality because they had failed quality control, should be marked as such.

We’re not saying that Bridgestone is fooling or short-changing Filipino buyers, but users of its tires are entitled to a satisfactory explanation.

In the United States, where there is more respect for consumers, seconds or those with slight factory defects are marked as such. They are sold cheap, all right, but the buyer knows what he is buying.

* * *

TO ask a general question, which government agency is protecting consumers against the dumping of inferior products passed off as first quality?

The buying and selling of seconds is a legitimate business. But defective products must be properly marked and their sale monitored by government and consumer groups.

Take the case of auto spare parts. Not all the parts, even simple nuts and bolts, come out of the factory in perfect condition. There are some that do not pass the rigid quality tests of manufacturers concerned about their name.

What do you do with those slightly inferior products? You don’t just throw them away. The truth is that they can still be used without causing much trouble, but conscientious manufacturers would not risk ruining their names by selling them with full warranty.

* * *

SOME of these slightly imperfect parts are bought in bulk by importers who then put them in genuine-looking boxes with logos of the manufacturers. These are retailed in spare parts stores outside the authorized outlets or service shops.

That’s why service shops and spare parts stores distinguish between “original” and “replacement” parts. The latter items are not originals with warranty from the manufacturers but they look almost like originals. Some of them are outright imitations.

What agency regulates this booming business? Are we to suffer quietly as the dumping ground of “reconditioned” equipment, “replacement” parts and second-hand vehicles?

* * *

MANY Filipinos in Japan don’t bother to buy TVs, VCRs, computers and other appliances. They pick them off the streets, near where garbage is left for collection.

When these appliances conk out, or when it’s time to buy a newer model, many Japanese just throw them away. They do not bother to repair them.

Usually a little tinkering (repair, actually) would put them back in order. Some enterprising Filipinos gather these appliances dumped by Japanese and send them to the Philippines for repair or rewiring. These are given to relatives or sold to bargain hunters.

Others have gone for the big time. They gather junk trucks, buses and cars or transmissions, ship them to the Philippines and recondition them for resale at great profit.

This is the Smokey Mountain syndrome. We pick the garbage of the developed countries, use it for a while and junk it when its life span could no longer be stretched. We have become the junkyard, or the burial ground, of other countries’ discards

* * *

IN this country where cheating the Bureau of Internal Revenue seems to be a national sport, informing on big-time tax evaders could be a multi-million-peso pastime. Or a frustrating pursuit of loose change, depending on where the wind blows at the BIR.

An informant codenamed CI 35-95 was expecting a reward of some P30 million from the P170-million Value Added Tax that Duty-Free Phils. Services Inc. allegedly had failed to pay the BIR.

DFPSI did not dispute the reported non-payment and entered into a compromise in January 1998. It availed itself of the Voluntary Assessment Program (VAP) rather than be slapped with almost P500 million in penalties, surcharges and interests.

Under the law, the informant should receive 15 percent of what was collected. He said he was entitled to P3 million on the P20 million initially paid by DFPSI. But the BIR insists that a subsequent law limiting rewards to a maximum of P1 million applies.

The claimant pointed out that he submitted the information on DFPSI and applied for payment of his reward before the new law took effect on Jan. 1, 1998.

The new law limits rewards to 10 percent of revenues, surcharges and fees recovered, or P1 million, whichever is less.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 18, 1999)

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