POSTSCRIPT / October 3, 1999 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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There’s no such thing as covenant among politicos

WHAT covenant on constitutional amendments are President Estrada and congressional leaders claim to be forging? There is no such thing as a “covenant” among fork-tongued politicians.

And what “constitutional correction” is President Estrada talking about in Concord? Who is Erap to say that we have a wrong Constitution and that he would now presume to “correct” it? This Eraption makes us laugh, but leaves a pain in the neck.

Wouldn’t it be better if we corrected the presidency — or our President — instead?

* * *

THE grandstand proposal of Sen. Renato Cayetano for free parking in shopping malls and hotels is great in the papers and the boob tube. Kahit ako, siyempre I’m for free parking.

We’re not a lawyer like the Compañero and we’d fall asleep reading a law volume, but our simple mind tells us that the law cannot, or should not, force private individuals to give free public parking on their private property.

What we should do is regulate public parking, not force private individuals to surrender to the public the use of their private property without just compensation.

There are some obvious options open, if the good senator is willing to listen:

  1. Pass a law or ordinance regulating the private business of operating parking areas. One provision will touch on fees (and this is where we can lower the rates) and another on the responsibilities of the parking area operator.
  2. Convince mall and hotel owners to allow free parking for a certain number of hours corresponding to purchases as evidenced by customers’ validated receipts. Why should we be made to pay for reasonable parking when we are patronizing their establishments?

* * *

AS the Philippines stood by its ASEAN sidekick Indonesia and voted against a United Nations inquiry into atrocities in the Indonesia-claimed East Timor, we pass on this account, without the color pictures of victims, of what happened in the May 1998 riots in Jakarta.

Because of their Christian faith and their race, many Chinese Indonesians were abused, tortured and killed. Their houses and stores were looted and burned. Hundreds of Chinese Indonesian girls/women (aged 10-55) were sexually harassed and gang raped.

Some victims were even raped in front of their family members or in front of cheering crowds. Some of them were thrown into the fire and burned to death after being raped.

Yet, there is not much initiative to investigate officially or to help the victims. And not very many people seem to know or care about what happened.

* * *

WHAT follows is the English version of a story run in a respectable Indonesian paper on the May riots in Jakarta. Reference is Huaran Bulletin Board, June 12, 1998:

My name is Vivian, and I am 18 years old. I have a little sister and brother. As a family we live on the seventh floor in what is supposed to be a “secure” apartment.

At 9.15 a.m., May 14, 1998, a huge crowd had gathered around our apartment. They were screaming, “Let’s butcher the Chinese!” “Let’s eat pigs!” “Let’s have a party!”

We got a call from a family on the third floor saying that the crowd had reached the second floor. They even chased some occupants upstairs. We were all very frightened. In our fright we prayed and left everything in God’s hands.

We left our room and went upstairs to a top floor, as it was impossible to go downstairs and escape. We got to the 15th floor and stayed with some friends. Not long afterwards we were surprised, because of some of the crowd coming out of the elevators just before we entered the room.

We hurried into the room and locked the door tightly. At that time we heard them knock loudly at the other rooms and there were some screams from women and girls. Our room was filled with fear.

We realized that they would come to get us. So we spread throughout the room hiding in the corners. We could hear girls of 10 to 12 years old screaming, “Mommy, …mommy…mom…mom…it hurts” That time I didn’t know that these little girls were being raped.

After about half an hour, the noise subsided and we had some guts to go out and check. It was indescribable. A lot, some of them young girls, were sprawled on the floor.

“Oh my God, what has happened?” Seeing all of this we screamed and my little sister Fenny screamed hysterically and hugged her father.

Tears streamed down my cheeks. With our friends, a newly wed couple, we started going downstairs. On the 10th floor, we heard a scream for help. The scream was very clear and we decided to go and see.

But as we turned, we saw a lot of people. I saw a woman in her 20s being raped by four men. She fought back, but was held down firmly.

Realizing the danger, we ran as fast as we could. Unfortunately the mob caught Fenny. We tried to rescue her, but could not do anything. There were about 60 of them.

They tied us up with ripped sheets, myself, my father, my mother, Fenny, Donny, Uncle Dodi and my Aunt Vera. They led us to a room.

Uncle Dodi asked what they wanted, but they did not reply. They looked evil and savage.

One of them grabbed Fenny roughly and dragged her to a sofa. At that time I knew she was in great danger. I screamed loudly and one of the mob slapped me down.

My father who also screamed was hit with a piece of wood and he fainted. My mother had fainted when Fenny was dragged to the sofa.

I could only pray and pray that disaster would not befall us.

Uncle Dodi kept trying to stop them by offering money. His efforts were fruitless. In the end five people raped Fenny.

Before beginning with the raping they always said “Allahu Akbar!” (an Arabic phrase meaning “God is great!”). They were ferocious and brutal.

Not long afterward, around nine men came to the room and dragged me. I also saw them forcing and dragging my Aunt Vera. I passed out and everything went blank.

I became conscious at around 5 or 6 p.m. My head hurt and I realized I had no clothing on. I cried and realized my family was still there. My father was hugging my mother and little brother Doni. I also saw Uncle Dodi lying on the floor and Aunt Vera was crying over his body. I felt so weak and I fainted again.

The next day I was in the Pluit hospital. My father and mother were beside me. I kept asking, “Mom, why Fenny. Mom?”

I felt a stinging pain as I said these words. My cheeks were swollen. My mother cried again and could not speak, while my father, holding back his tears, managed to smile to assure me.

After four days in treatment, my condition improved. With a sad look, my father told me then what had happened. After I fainted, seven people raped me. At that time my father still could not see well having been hit with a piece of wood. They raped me repeatedly.

Then my father said, “Vivian, Fenny is gone….”

I was confused and cried out, “Why, Dad?” My father could not answer. He told me to rest, and he went out of the room. I cried over and over, feeling that my life had no meaning any more.

A week ago, after I was released from the hospital I was told more of what had happened. When Fenny was raped she kept on fighting and so her rapists repeatedly slapped her.

The last time she fought, Fenny spat on one of them. Offended, the man grabbed a knife and stabbed Fenny’s stomach again and again. Finally she died with blood all over her body.

My father told me that Uncle Dodi met the same fate. He watched by as Aunt Vera was also raped.

God… why should all this happen? Where are you God? Are you still alive?

* * *

WITHOUT exception, the Department of Tourism has recalled all overseas tourism attaches who have overstayed in their posts. But one, Emma Ruth Yulo in New York, appears to be fighting the recall to become the only exception to a standing policy.

The standard tour of duty of personnel assigned to our missions abroad is four years. Most of the tourism attaches have been at their posts for at least six years. Ms. Yulo has been in New York for eight years. There is one even who has stayed overseas for close to 20 consecutive years starting with the tenure of then Tourism Secretary Jose D. Aspiras.

What is so “sadista” about recalling overstaying personnel? What is so special about Ms. Yulo that she has to be the exception? Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz-Araneta said all the attaches have been given ample time to prepare to be recalled. They were told as early as December last year.

* * *

EVEN ambassadors and chiefs of mission who are the administrative bosses of tourism attaches get recalled and rotated, so what is Ms. Yulo whining about?

If she keeps up her antics and refuses to report back to the DOT home office as directed, she runs the risk of being declared AWOL (Absent Without Leave).

Pretty soon, she will have to liquidate cash advances amounting to more than $200,000 or about P6.9 million. Some of these advances reportedly date as far back as 1996.

The DOT consulted the Civil Service Commission in formulating the recall process. Commissioner Corazon Alma de Leon and the CSC board arrived at an en banc decision supporting the DOT policy decision to recall the attaches.

The department also reviewed its organizational setup, particularly overseas offices. Overdue changes to its Policies and Procedures Manual have been adopted, such as those pertaining to overseas terms of office, and a system for future overseas appointments and recalls, according to Undersecretary Ram Antonio.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 3, 1999)

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