POSTSCRIPT / November 14 1999 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Crisis team can just look at Erap and find solution

MILLIONS are being spent and millions more have been included in the budget for schools to buy thousands of personal computers for the use of students/faculty/staff and for linking the schools to other institutions and the Internet.

Government agencies are not far behind. They have included in their buying programs computers to carry them to the new millennium and to link them to a nationwide and a global network through the Internet.

The cost of this shopping spree runs into billions. Who are the privileged suppliers and the officials who will get the fat commissions?

But we’re mentioning this mainly to point out that the same computers could be had for only a fraction of the budgeted funds.

* * *

WHAT the Department of Education can do is teach selected students how to assemble personal computers and tell the schools to let these students assemble the hardware needed by the schools.

Students themselves will handle the maintenance and the upgrading, and thus save more money for their schools. The same students can move on to industry or into businesses having to do with computers.

Such a move will cut costs by as much as 50 percent. Imagine the millions of pesos saved, and the useful trade skills that students would carry on through life after being taught PC assembly.

As we keep saying in Postscript, PC assembly is very easy. One who is computer literate needs just one day to learn it. All he needs for a tool is a screwdriver.

In the schools, the entire learning process can be spread over five days. Modules can be produced to standardize lessons, maximize results and minimize the teaching time.

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ONE variation will be for specially selected students from all schools in neighboring towns to be gathered for five weekend sessions.

Civic groups or commercial firms can donate the screwdrivers, but the schools, using a fraction of their budget for buying computers, will buy the parts and pay the instructors.

If it really wants to save scarce funds and teach the youth useful skills – especially on computer work – the education department can work on this idea and refine it. Making the teaching modules is very easy.

The only problem is that this approach would deprive certain businessmen the profits and some officials their usual commissions.

* * *

THE Crisis Committee of President Estrada need not look far to find the major cause of the supposed destabilization of the administration. All the committee members have to do during their Monday meeting with the President is to stare at him.

There before them is the main root of the problem that had resulted in a dramatic drop in the approval rating of President Estrada. The political wounds of Mr. Estrada are self-inflicted.

It’s now obvious, though, that President Estrada himself is aware of the fact that he is part of the problem. In fairness to him, we have to acknowledge that he is now trying hard to be also part of the solution.

He has been pedaling back on many hot issues and making “popular” decisions he once loathed to make. A collateral problem, however, is that most people see through the “pa-pogi.”

* * *

MALACANANG is pointing to two groups allegedly plotting to undermine the Estrada administration. They should identify the leaders and the active members of these two groups, so the people can decide if they are worth listening to.

President Estrada and his Crisis Committee cannot just point to figments in their minds, scream “destabilization,” and expect the people to rally behind them. They should give more credit to the people’s intelligence.

Even the Constitution provides for a healthy system of checks and balance, confined not only to the three branches of government but also involving contending parties and constituencies.

In our democratic system, free debate is healthy. That government policies and pronouncements are sometimes criticized and opposed is normal – and even desirable. The free exchange is not destabilization, but democratic debate.

* * *

PRESIDENT Estrada himself should also look closer at the Crisis Committee coaching him at the start of the work week.

Has it not occurred to him that this motley group of advisers might be the microcosm of the elusive solution to his problem of effective governance?

The Estrada Cabinet is the mother team that is supposed to think and act for the President on key issues and concerns – so the President can have time to do what he likes best doing (which does not necessarily have anything to do with running the country).

But the Cabinet is in disarray, with most department heads mostly attending to their own racket. Worse, officials in many departments even quarrel among themselves, although this may be exactly how Mr. Estrada wants it.

* * *

BUT this Crisis Committee appears different. Here is a group of presidential appointees from different departments, with different styles and motivations, coming together as a team to engage in preventive or crisis PR for the President.

Some of the members of the committee are natural rivals (e.g., Press Secretary Rod Reyes and Presidential Spokesman Gerry Barican), but they appear to be able to subordinate their personalities and clashing ambitions to pool their talents, think together, and regularly advise the President on critical issues.

Now, if only the entire Cabinet could function like the Crisis Committee… President Estrada may have stumbled in the committee on the solution to his management problem in the Cabinet.

(Of course we’re assuming that the Crisis Committee really works as a team as advertised.)

* * *

IF you can avoid EDSA starting tomorrow, avoid it and be spared the gargantuan traffic problem it is expected to experience with the partial closing for several months of one side of the most-traveled avenue in Metro Manila.

As usual, the search for solutions to the expected monstrous traffic mess is late in coming. The contractor and the authorities were obviously banking on exclusive villages in the vicinity to just open their gates and provide detours to outside traffic.

The fact that there was hardly an effort to prepare all alternate routes, such as the clearing, widening and paving of side roads for the diverting of EDSA traffic, has not earned sympathy for the Metro Manila Development Authority and the public works department.

Neither have they earned the cooperation of residents of the exclusive villages.

* * *

AS a motorist, we should resent the refusal of the exclusive villages to open up. But stepping back, we see their point.

Why should these villages make up for the glaring mismanagement of the simultaneous construction of the Metro Rail Transit and the overpasses? Why should they catch the foul droppings of the MMDA and the MRT contractors?

Roads in these villages were built and are being maintained through the private resources of the villages and developers.

In the same way that those who do not want to pay their way through the tollways are barred from using them, those who do not spend for the private roads in the villages are kept out.

One compromise we see is for the village associations to agree to accept a limited number/category of private vehicles that will be restricted to a specific non-stop route for a limited number of hours during the day. The government can advance the maintenance funds.

* * *

WE just got a virus alert from our nephew Donn, a computer engineer working in Japan. The name is VBS/Bubbleboy, an Internet worm that requires Internet Explorer 5 with Windows Scripting Host installed (WSH is standard in Windows 98 and Windows 2000 installations). It does not run on Windows NT due to some limitations.

The Internet worm is embedded within an email message of HTML format and does not contain an attachment. This worm is written in VB Script.

In MS Outlook, this worm requires that you “open” the email. It will not run if using “Preview Pane.” But in MS Outlook Express, the worm is activated if “Preview Pane” is used.

The virus sends itself embedded in an email message to every contact in the user’s email address book of MS Outlook It carries the following information:

From: (person who sent worm unintentionally)

Subject: BubbleBoy is back!

Message Body: The BubbleBoy incident, pictures and sounds http://www.towns.com/dorms/tom/bblboy.htm

To check your system for this virus, and to learn how to protect yourself from computer viruses, visit the McAfee PC Clinic at http://clinic.mcafee.com.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 14, 1999)

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