POSTSCRIPT / November 7, 1999 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Marcos gold yarn meant to buy global clearance

SINCE last year we have been pointing out that this talk about piles of Marcos gold worth trillions waiting to be used to finally free us Filipinos from poverty is just part of a campaign of the Marcoses to clear themselves of illegal wealth charges and buy back respectability.

With a sympathetic Erap Estrada as president, the Marcoses seem to be succeeding.

Starved by the dictatorship to make them snatch anything thrown their way, Filipinos are beginning to fall for the propaganda that the gold hoard of the Marcoses was not stolen from them, but was actually retrieved from the so-called Yamashita treasure.

Once the people, and then the courts, accept this Yamashita yarn, the Marcoses will be able to shake off charges – in court and in the public mind – that they looted this rich country during the dictatorship.

* * *

OPINION leaders should rouse the people back to reality. Many of us are beginning to be hypnotized by the dazzling gold mirage swaying seductively before our eyes.

This is the golden key to a life of ease and plenty. This is supposed to signal our liberation from foreign debt and dictation and our emergence as the richest people in the whole world.

This is the stuff of which fantasies are made. And having been deprived for so long, we are falling for it. Even our leaders and supposedly responsible members of the community not only believe in the golden illusion but are helping peddle it.

The people must be told that there is gold all right, but not that much. The gold did not come from the Yamashita treasure but was stolen from this nation — and is now being used to bribe Filipinos into forgiving the Marcoses.

* * *

IN the case of Erap Estrada, he obviously has fallen into the spell of Imelda with his eyes wide open.

If we want to be charitable to our President, we can say that he was maneuvered into it and is now a victim of his own weaknesses.

The deal was obviously that he would be given massive funding and if he won the presidency he would help clear the Marcoses and bring them back into the mainstream of respectability.

Erap was not to be left unrewarded. He would have all the money he needed from his friends the Marcoses to fund his pro-poor projects and make even tighter his hold on the credulous masses.

* * *

BUT first, Erap has to make sure that the Marcoses clinch a global settlement that will clear them forever.

As the scenes keep heaving into view and fading, and then appearing again, on and off like shadows on a screen, there is one unchanging central element – and that is the global settlement.

If we stay awake and keep this master script in mind, we will not get lost as we watch the complicated drama being played with consummate skill before our tired eyes.

* * *

NOW, for some good news. Government personnel will get a 10-percent raise. The bad news is that this wage increase will be given only starting September next year.

Compounding this bad news is the other bad news that Malacañang is firm on its decision (as of noon yesterday) that the usual P7,200 so-called amelioration pay given to government workers before Christmas will not be given this year.

There is the possibility, however, of personnel of the two other departments of government – Congress and the Supreme Court – going around the order of President Estrada and getting their usual Christmas bonanza.

We say “as of noon yesterday,” because one can never be sure what Erap might say next time he is asked the same question.

* * *

UNLESS one of them blinks by tomorrow, there could be a showdown of sorts between President Estrada on one hand and the Supreme Court and Congress on the other over the payment of amelioration bonuses.

The tribunal and the two chambers of Congress have announced that they would insist on giving the usual P7,200 Christmas gift to their workers despite a presidential order prohibiting it and threatening sanctions.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told the press yesterday in the Sulo hotel kapihan that the amelioration pay is without basis in law and is not even provided in the budget.

Elaborating on an earlier announcement of his boss the President, he said that its payment would violate not only the executive order but existing budgetary rules.

* * *

CAREFUL not to take on the two other independent branches of government, Diokno declined to say outright, however, that such disbursement as threatened by Congress and the Supreme Court was illegal.

The budget chief tossed to another constitutional body, the Commission on Audit, the delicate task of ruling on the regularity or legality of the amelioration pay and disapproving it upon audit.

Amelioration pay for national government personnel amountS to P7 billion, and around P10 billion if local government personnel are included.

Diokno said all that has to be answered is the simple question “Is it (the amelioration pay) in the budget?”

Since it is not provided for or even mentioned in the budget, he implies that there cannot be a legal disbursement of amelioration pay from government funds whatever is the noble objective behind it.

* * *

DIOKNO even went further to say that its disbursement under the previous Ramos administration was no excuse to repeat the violation. He noted that President Ramos approved P3,000 per employee during his time even at the height of the financial crisis.

Government agency heads traditionally gave amelioration pay to their personnel, although this was not provided for in the budget, by diverting savings of their office for such bonus with the connivance of Malacañang then.

To please their workers, most agency heads would hold back on budgeted expenses, even for mandated projects, to force savings. From the savings, which would go back to the treasury if not spent by the end of the year, they got the money for amelioration pay. It was actually case of diversion of budgeted funds.

* * *

DIOKNO pointed to a sheaf of documents showing that most government agencies have asked Malacañang for additional funds on the pretext that they had run out of money for urgent obligations and that they do not have savings.

The question, he said, is how these agency heads can now claim to have savings to tap for amelioration pay when they had certified in writing in their request for additional funds that they had no savings.

If Congress and the Supreme Court insist on giving amelioration pay to their workers while other agencies under the Executive department do not, there could be an awkward crisis.

“But they are not an independent republic,” Diokno pointed out when told that the two other branches of government may just go ahead and defy President Estrada’s stopping the practice of dipping into alleged savings to give additional bonuses.

* * *

REACTIONS from technical people have started to come in regarding a claim of inventor Daniel D. Dingel that it is best to remove the air cleaner or filter of a car, because it is just additional expense, reduces the efficiency of the engine and shortens its life.

On reader who begged not to be identified said in part:

“As for Mr. Dingel’s claim that an automobile engine runs better without an air filter, there is some truth to it, as no air filter is 100 percent efficient. Neither does an air filter pass air without some minor air flow restrictions, due to the filtering element. There is much more to this issue, however, and perhaps a little explanation is appropriate.

“I would agree that an air filter adds a minor cost to the automobile, but most probably this is insignificant. As for the filter getting in the way, maybe, maybe not, depending on the automobile. As for shortening the life of the engine, I don’t think Mr. Dingel will have any backers in his corner.”

* * *

OUR reader sent this quote from the Petroleum Motor Oil Guide, published by the American Petroleum Institute:

“There is much more dirt and dust in the air than is generally realized, about 400 tons per cubic mile over cities, and much more in farming areas and above secondary road. Virtually all kinds of dust and dirt are abrasive and will cause wear in an engine unless kept out.

“Even the most efficient air cleaners do not completely clean the air to the engine and some dust and dirt enters where it is picked up on the oil-wetted cylinder walls. Here is causes wear, and the dust and the dirt, plus the metallic debris of wear is carried throughout the engine where it causes further difficulty. Oil filters are designed to remove this type of contaminant from the oil before severe damage is done to the engine, but these are not 100 percent efficient either.”

We will continue his and other readers’ comments in future Postscripts.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 7, 1999)

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