POSTSCRIPT / October 10, 1999 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Erap can keep both Puno and Santiago

WE’RE setting a bad example to the world. After the landscape victory of flickerville’s Erap Estrada in the 1998 presidential election, look who seriously wants to run for US president: Actor Warren Beatty and celebrity tycoon Donald Trump. The latter wants TV host Oprah Winfrey to run as his vice president.

The only problem, for Americans, is Beatty might just buck the odds and win!

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MY barber just came down from Mt. Arayat aglow with a bright idea. He says that if Secretary Ronnie Puno and his undersecretary, the husband of Sen. Miriam Santiago, can no longer work together, they can still work — but not necessarily together.

My barber’s solution: If President Estrada wants to keep them both, he could split the Department of Interior and Local Government into a Department of Interior and a Department of Local Government.

The President can then assign Puno to one department and the husband of Miriam to the other. Solomonic?

This is better than the solution of King Solomon in the case of the squabbling women claiming the same baby. The wise king only threatened to cut the child in half for distribution to the two women, but Erap would not only threaten but actually cut the DILG into two. How’s that for action?

This would be a big relief to Miriam, who would no longer have to commit suicide or leave the planet as she has reportedly threatened to do if Puno were to be retained by President Estrada in the Cabinet despite her finding of guilt.

The only drawback is that President Estrada, whose management style is divide and rule, would no longer have a monkey on the back of Puno to keep him in check.

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WANT another more-than-Solomonic solution to the problem of Erap Estrada? Our barber, working overtime on a Sunday, has another one.

He said we should go along with the charter change idea of President Estrada if we could confine the chain reaction to just one element: The splitting of the Office of the President. We could have a real president, he said, and a ceremonial president.

Under this split-the-presidency idea, as the masses go gaga when they see their movie idol Erap in the flesh, we can give Erap to them 25 hours a day eight days a week, or until he drops dead making bola and pa-cute with the fans.

But, under my barber’s proposed amendment, we can have at the same time a real president who would meet the Cabinet and the press regularly, tackle state problems with his real advisers (not the members of his extended families, smugglers, police and cinema characters, and influence peddlers enjoying consultant status), and run this country as a real executive.

The titles are secondary. We can give Erap the most pompous title we can think of (we won’t object to King if that’s exalted enough for him), but his official functions will be confined to things ceremonial and cosmetic.

The other president (called Prime Minister is some parliamentary setups) could be given an appropriate title with his functions focusing on providing topnotch managerial services. He would run the government. Satiated and rehabilitated former presidents could be considered for this post.

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COMES now the Compañero clarifying that Senate Resolution No. 579 will not force private individuals to give free public parking on their private property. Sen. Rene Cayetano said it is not his resolution but the National Building Code that requires commercial establishments to provide free parking spaces for their customers.

With many shopping malls and commercial complexes charging parking fees, contrary to law, we urge the senator to go after them if he really wants to press the issue. We’ll support such a move.

Cayetano said it is not just the legality of these parking fees that is at issue but also the amounts being charged and the waiver printed in microscopic text at the back of parking tickets.

He has a good point. Imagine going to a shopping mall to buy something worth P50 (for which you would line up for 10 minutes at the cashier) and then claiming your car and paying P20 for parking! In some places, parking costs a minimum of P30. In hotels, it will cost you a decent meal.

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FOR paying to park and patronize the establishment, one would think he is paying for convenience and security. No. There have been cars stolen from these pay-parking areas. Some vehicles have been burglarized or vandalized, with the owners failing to get satisfactory action from the parking lot operators.

If that’s the case, and it is the case, what are we paying for? A test case is in order. We’re not a lawyer, but we think a judge in his right senses should rule that a vehicle owner cannot be expected to read the fine print on the ticket (worse than that fine print at the back of plane tickets) about the operator disowning responsibility.

Your honor, if the car owner cannot even read the tiny text of the waiver, how can he be presumed to have agreed to it? And without benefit of legal counsel, and under duress of the situation?

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CAYETANO recalled a recent victim of assault and robbery at the Ayala Center in Makati. He said that business executive Mrs. Sonrisa David was attacked at gunpoint, strangled with a telephone wire and divested of her money and jewelry inside a “comfort room” in Park Square II.

(We’ve long meant to ask what a “comfort room” is. My dictionary does not carry that term. Maybe the senator means toilet? Or a lounge where one can be somewhat comfortable?)

More than two weeks had passed and the Park Square operator has not acted on the complaint, according to Cayetano. “This is inconsistent with the claim of mall owners that one of the reasons they collect parking fees is to be able to provide security within the parking area,” he said.

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FROM New York comes a plea from tourism attaché Emma Ruth Yulo that her side be heard. We reported earlier that all tourism attaches who have overstayed the normal four-year tour of duty are being recalled, but that Yulo appears to be resisting.

“I never questioned my recall,” Yulo said. “I have no intention to stay in New York for dear life. In fact, I have turned over everything to the officer-in-charge. I hurt my back from a fall on Sept. 3 while reaching for boxes on top of cabinets. Per doctor’s advice, I filed for a 27-day sick leave accompanied by a doctor’s certificate. Personnel records show that I have earned 857 days of leave. I am still in New York not because I refuse to go back to the DOT home office but because of medical reasons.”

Although Yulo admitted that she has been at her post for eight years, she pointed out that “I am one of the ‘newest’ in the post.”

She said that some attaches have been posted abroad for up to 20 years under an appointment peculiar only to DOT, adding: “This is not their fault and they should not be the objects of ridicule, especially from DOT management, the very officials expected to protect the image of DOT and the DOT family.”

Yulo said “three of us US-based DOT attaches requested for a three-month extension because that was the time it took us to prepare for the ‘Rediscovery Sales Mission’ that was to hit our posts almost at the very time when we should be packing our personal effects and boarding our flights to report to the home office. It is usual for overseas personnel to request for extension for various reasons. Several DFA officers in New York are now on extended tour of duty.”

She said that although their requests for extension were made as early as June 1, they received the notice of denial only on Aug. 19, a week after they should have been enroute to Manila and after they had worked on “Rediscovery Sales Mission.”

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YULO continued: “The unkindest act of all came on Oct. 4 when I received a notice signed by Secretary Gemma Cruz-Araneta backdated to Sept. 3 saying I have been dropped from the rolls as of Sept. 2 for being absent without leave from Aug. 16 to Sept. 1. This unilateral act was not only capricious and imprudent but a downright mockery of due process.

“While on leave even abroad we now receive only basic pay ($300+). A check with home office personnel disclosed that as of today, there are no desks, no positions and no work assignments for returning attaches. These again, are some aspects of the difference between DOT overseas personnel and the DFA and DTI.

“The so-called unliquidated cash advances amounting to more than $200,000 represent recently received funds for the ‘Rediscovery Mission,’ relocation funds for Mr. Tarcisio Bufete’s recent transfer from Los Angeles to New York, our recently received salaries and allowances, most of which have already been liquidated. The rest are balances left undone by our administrative officer in charge of the accounts, who passed away on May 1 this year.

“These are her accountabilities, not mine, albeit I volunteered to complete these reports. To insinuate that these monies are in my possession is a malicious misrepresentation. Personally, I am eager to report to home office, because I have made many cash advances from my own pocket for which I intend to seek reimbursement.

“It is standard practice in many offices to have unliquidated balances at any one time because funding is a continuous process. To ascribe blame on false information is irresponsible, to say the least.”

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POSTSCRIPT for readers: As precaution against viruses, we have stopped opening attachments to email. We delete attachments without reading them. Instead of attaching text messages, please incorporate or copy them into your message proper.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 10, 1999)

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