POSTSCRIPT / May 27, 1999 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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VFA was never meant to be a security shield

WE let out a lusty cheer the other day over a startling story that our Navy finally sank one of those Chinese vessels poaching in our waters off the Scarborough shoal west of Zambales.

It was about time our Navy flexed some of its arthritic muscles and shot at intruders in our waters. If the United States could bomb the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, nobody should begrudge our Navy boys’ firing a few choice shots at alien vessels sneaking intro our waters.

It is correct for President Estrada to be publicly apologetic about the “unfortunate” incident (sir, just don’t wink when you say that). Privately, he should call in the Navy boys, uncork a few bottles and offer them a toast.

* * *

AS for the alleged Chinese fishermen, they have been plucked out of the sea and given reasonable assistance, including, we suppose, hot lomi and steaming Chinese tea. We just hope they don’t stray and sink into Chinatown instead.

If any congressional investigation were to be held, it should be into how our Navy’s floating museum pieces were able to chase, corner and sink the alien vessel. (The more imposing generic term “vessel” is preferred to the correct term “fishing boat.”

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ADMIRAL Dennis Blair, commander in chief of the US Pacific Command, was just telling us the unvarnished truth when he said that the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement “is not a security guarantee” against armed attacks on the Philippines.

The security cover that we want is not found in the VFA being heatedly debated in the Senate and elsewhere, but in the existing mother treaty, the RP-US Mutual Defense Pact.

If, say, Chinese warships with guns blazing pushed into Subic Bay and the US comes to our rescue, such military action would be pursued not under the VFA but under the mutual defense treaty that binds our countries to come to each other’s defense according to constitutional processes in case of attack.

Admittedly, some US marines may be somewhat agitated if the hospitality girls they had met while on VFA furlough in Olongapo are threatened by the invaders. That is the nearest we can imagine the VFA being involved in US retaliatory action.

Another remotely possible scenario for US action is if Filipino solders participating in a joint military exercise are attacked by, say, China. Since they are in a joint exercise under the VFA, the US soldiers will naturally shoot in the general direction of the Chinese.

* * *

THE trouble with Sen. Rodolfo Biazon and others like him is that they had hypnotized themselves into thinking that the VFA is indeed a security arrangement, a latter-day mutual defense treaty.

Now when a straight-talking US admiral tells it as it is, they shriek, writhe in pain and threaten to leap to the other side opposing the approval of the VFA. Somebody should tell them that the VFA is just a piece of paper defining the status of US forces when they are here on temporary duty. It is not a mutual defense treaty.

Biazon may have been listening too often to the sales talk of President Estrada, who promises warranties that are not spelled out in the VFA. One such imagined warranty is the alleged commitment of the US to spring to the defense of poor Filipinos if they are attacked.

We ask the senators to cut the runaway debates and “just do it!” We heard President Estrada is all packed up for a pilgrimage to Washington, DC. He needs the VFA when he calls on and compares notes with the boy friend of Monica Lewinsky.

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AFTER the 53 letters we got via email last Sunday on that short story in Postscript about a boy who lost a little sister in an accident and was about to lose also his mother, and the slight drop (45) in reaction email the next day, Monday, we were amazed at the 79 email reactions we got yesterday.

Postscript readers continued to tell us of how they were moved by the story and that they want a copy sent to them so they could forward it to friends and relatives via the Internet.

Not used to servicing such a large audience on a medium with strict rules, we’ve been missing on our sleep catching up on the downloading and reading of the bulging email, transferring the names and address to the address book, organizing the replies and sending the text to those who ask for it.

The chore is indeed tiring, but satisfying since it imparts some lessons on how to connect to here-and-now readers.

* * *

A READER who did not want his name mentioned, but whom we will identify anyway as Archie Co, alerted us that some pranksters have sent some virus-infected spam to readers whose names and addresses we listed in the last column.

So in the next batch in this column, we’re leaving out the addresses of the email-senders. But since their addresses might appear anyway in the common message that we’ve sent to them carrying the boy’s story, we addressed them under bcc:.

Some explanations to the uninitiated: A spam refers to commercial messages sent simultaneously, indiscriminately and in bulk (like junk mail or the mass mail of officials enjoying franking privilege).

When email is sent to people listed under bcc:, the names of the bcc: recipients are not seen by the others who get the same message. Recipients listed under cc: are not the direct recipients, but they are also openly listed and the others can see their names.

* * *

A READER said he had received from a certain Virgilio Reyes two anonymous emails after his name and address appeared in Postscript. The reader said Reyes warned him that an email from somebody named Cueto contained virus. Our reader then received email whose subject line said it carried an “an important message.”

“Since I don’t know both of them,” our reader said, “I deleted both of them and followed them through and deleted both from my trash too.” He said he has this policy of not opening email from people he doesn’t know and deleting it without opening.

He suggested that we warn other readers whose email addresses were published in this column.

That’s why in the batch we’re publishing today, we left out the addresses. Also, as we said earlier, the email is sent under bcc: The other recipients will not know who else got the common mail.

* * *

WITH the second batch of readers who wrote in about the boy’s story are: Emmanuel Santos, Tintin, Ann Berlanga, Angie Sanchez, Marie Lato, Lyndon Fanilag, Pauline Choy, Lora Wong, Lumar Baccay, Bonifacio Mayo, jfkassad, Beverly Tan, Jeff Co, Victor dela Cruz, Eleanor Estrella, Jenny de Jesus, Muriel Francis Armea, Edna Oretti, Salve Fortadiz, Vilma Pesa, Nina Armea, Anthony Mindanao, Dennis M. Flores, Ed Soriano, Ruby Anne S. de Leon, Eugenio V. Lacson, MariAn Santos, Marichu Pinote, Herni D. Defante, Emil Mark Cayanan, Mylyne Flores Cayanan, Gerald Gloria, Arnel Aquino Aquipel, and Arthur Bautista.

A third batch included: Gila Yabut, Marionne Santana, May J, Karen Jean Villaruz, Liza Medenilla, Penny Escobar, Rudelyn Demerin, Sheree Perez, Cherry Rose Mecua, Valerie Wong de Leon, Eileen Yordan, Ejay Abcede, Boogie Ancajas, zerofive.emerbase, Irineo Tan Te, Willy Bustamante, connie br, ann, chediaz, lorry, Bernard, Julius Aribon, Nikki Hao, GinaV, sen 143, cris, nayr, cjfmoon, Melody Grace de Jesus, bluenavy08, Lee Wlliams, Dy Salvador, Myleen Yap, Malou Quintos, Dante Flores, Anton Hermosisima, Corazon Mercado, Jun Alcantara, Leni Balaba, Mary Rose Tiamson, Yolanda Leon, Edith Glorio, Jehan Balbanero, Victoria Frances Jose, Lory Lopez, Mary Jean Veloso, Toni Dungo, Joann Calica, Ameurfina Santos, Josefa Oxales, Gina Genterola, John Hoover, Mark Dy, Melit Villanueva, Rosie Asenjo, Jorge Bundalian, Gemma Llamis, Edgar Rolda, Michelle Lanuza, Moonlight Mitz, Chinkee Ayaquil, Wilfredo Casumbal, Celeste, Lizarondo, Nimfa Mananquil, Jasmine Alfonso, Maria Asuncion Alfaro, Rodney Ulangca, Guring 99, aset, Loraine Bautista, Odin Deseo, and Ed Jacob.

* * *

IN an earlier mail, Archie Co also commented on my suggestion to go to CMOS to change the internal date of the computer when you want to confuse a date-based virus like the Chernobyl virus that’s triggered on April 26, the anniversary of the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

Co said that one does not have to go to CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) at startup just to change the date. He said one can go to the control panel to do that.

He is absolutely right! Using Windows, to change the date without going to CMOS, you just press Start, Settings, Control Panel, Date/Time. When Date/Time opens, you fiddle with the calendar and clock. The changes you make are simultaneously carried by CMOS.

* * *

WE deliberately suggested going to CMOS to lead the new user to this seeming no man’s land for the uninitiated. We wanted to introduce the new user to the input/output system and explore the high-tech tool at his command.

Early in the computer education of any body, there should be untrammeled exploration of the world inside the computer and the world outside in cyberspace.

The objective is to demystify the world of computers. It is only when this is demystified that more of us will be able to surge farther and faster into that alluring, yet somewhat forbidding, realm of computers.

As president Reggie Villasin of PC Builders Club said, the advances in hardware technology and software design will not mean much if we don’t have competent peopleware. We need more people who are not intimidated by computers because they know how to build, use and service them.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 27, 1999)

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