POSTSCRIPT / November 21, 1999 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Police need not solicit Xmas gifts on the sly

REMEMBER that accident last June where a Mandarin hotel lady worker was bumped and sent reeling across a Makati street by a rushing Mercedes bearing Merrill Lynch executive Stephen Cu-Unjieng and some Caucasian companions?

Cu-Unjieng and his guests did not even deign to get off to help the victim or rush her to the hospital. His driver just gave her his company ID and offered to just come back since his boss was hurrying to a meeting.

The bruised lady, Karla Atilano, had to limp to the car and rap on its window like a beggar to force Cu-Unjieng to talk to her. “I see that you’re all right,” he merely said, adding the classic line that he would pay for the expenses. Why didn’t he get off? He said he might himself get hit by a passing car if he stepped off.

Learning that Atilano worked with Mandarin some meters away, Cu-Unjieng sniffed and announced to her that he was a VIP client of the hotel. They then left the victim to gather herself and her things scattered all over the busy street. Kind witnesses helped her to the hotel, where a doctor treated her and recommended her going to the hospital.

It’s been six months and we’ve been told that Cu-Unjieng has been giving Atilano the runaround.

We marvel at how some people could sink to such cold sub-human level. We wonder why Merrill Lynch allows such unfeeling creatures to represent them in this country.

This variation of the hit-and-run should not go unpunished.

* * *

THE saga of Amable R. Aguiluz V, President Estrada’s Y2K bug buster, is the same recurring story of firemen peddling fire extinguishers, of revenue officials selling tax compromises, of lawmakers selling shelter to the targets of their bombastic privilege speeches, of judges selling favorable decisions to losing parties, of policemen selling their services as night club bouncers, of priests selling indulgences to sinners, of bankers filching loans from their own banks, et cetera ad nauseam.

The resignation of Aguiluz does not solve the problem, does not cure the culture and the character flaws involved. His quitting is not out of delicadeza, as he claims, but looks more like a move to gain more time to make the Y2K records compliant with his defense.

As we’ve asked in earlier Postscripts on the Millennium Bug, how many crimes have been committed in the name of Y2K?

* * *

WE’VE heard some skeptics, among them media commentators, ask why no policeman was killed in the recent shootout in Fairview, Quezon City, wherein PNP Chief Ping Lacson’s police team gunned down eight suspected robbers.

What? Policemen must get killed first to make an encounter authentic? That’s pushing skepticism too far.

And when a peace officer is killed in a shootout with criminals, the same skeptics are wont to ask why policemen have become so soft and clumsy that they are now being outgunned by hoodlums.

While we have misgivings about the human rights record of the new PNP chief, we believe that we should give Lacson a chance to prove that he could handle the doubly difficult job of fighting the criminals inside and outside the national police.

We think that the firm fist of Lacson is exactly what the rotten PNP needs at this point.

* * *

SO what if the Lakas party of former President Ramos is plotting ways of discrediting President Estrada by exposing the failures of his administration?

That’s normal, and we would say desirable. In our system of democratic checks and balance, there has to be an opposition. While the administration is trying to show its good side, somebody must stand up to show the public the other side.

In a sense, that is destabilization all right, but it is as it should be. The public has to be continually informed if they are to be intelligent participants in the intricacies of popular democracy.

What we should be alarmed about is if, after its debacle at the polls, the opposition retreats to its cave and hibernates until the next presidential election comes around.

* * *

ANOTHER thing we should be alarmed about is that scarce government funds are being spent by the Estrada administration to spy on and neutralize the political opposition.

A member of the Crisis Committee of President Estrada has admitted that personnel and funds of the armed forces have been used to eavesdrop on the opposition. He was explaining how they monitored two groups allegedly behind the “destabilization.”

Government or taxpayers’ money should not commingle with the funds of the administration party. The party of the President must not dip into public funds to carry out private and partisan pursuits.

It’s not only unfair. It is also illegal.

* * *

THIS early, it is already a Merry Christmas for many local officials reaping a windfall of kickbacks from the usual massive spending for Yule decorations and pakulo.

If an official gets a hundred pesos for every lantern hung by his favorite contractor, another sum for every string of Christmas lights, another for every belen at chosen sites, and more jingle bells for the extra job of decorating the streets… isn’t this, really, the time to be jolly?

If auditors have not been swept by the merriment and if they could still be objective enough to look closer, they would note that many lanterns passed off as new creations are merely last year’s old frames dressed in new trappings. Even newly bought lights are not that new.

But many of us tend to be charitable when Christmas draws near and so we gloss over these little hanapbuhay.

* * *

IN this sense, Ping Lacson is thus somewhat a killjoy to the usual bands of policemen who go “caroling” as Christmas draws near. He has issued the order to stop this annual solicitation.

We won’t be surprised if Lacson, especially now that he is the big boss, is lavishly gifted by people who want to, huh, spread Christmas cheer in the top PNP echelons. It would be bastos of him to throw out the gift-bearers even if they were Greeks, di ba?

The interesting difference is that while many of the boys go out foraging, top officers like Lacson we suppose can just stay in their offices to wait for the Three Kings laden with present-day versions of myrrh, gold and frankincense.

* * *

THIS is some kind of an intro to our suggestion that maybe Lacson could devise a way by which various police units could openly accept Yule gifts – even checks (never cash) — without having to apologize for it.

Guidelines and criteria could be drawn up, and published even, as to what is acceptable and what is not, and how the gifts are to be received and distributed to the boys.

The idea is for all the gifts to be received in the name of the group, never for any individual or officer, and given away at a date and in a manner to be defined in the guidelines.

Many people and institutions would be happy to help the police in this open, jolly manner. We all know how little policemen get by way of wages and benefits and, in contrast, how awesome is their responsibility.

A reformed police, as what Lacson is aiming to evolve in his own style of leadership, will earn public support. Reforms will make it easier for many of us to identify with and be drawn closer to our police protectors.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 21, 1999)

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