POSTSCRIPT / October 19, 1999 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Review of cases implies SC has no conscience?

BY its name alone, the so-called Conscience Committee of President Estrada reviewing capital cases affirmed by the Supreme Court is an affront to the tribunal and the entire judicial system.

Is the President implying that his committee provides the conscience that the Supreme Court lacked or did not use when it reviewed the capital cases now being reviewed all over again by a more supreme Supreme Court invented by the Executive department?

If the review of capital cases by the religious advisers of President Estrada was questionable, his transferring the task to a so-called Conscience Committee is just as bad.

We hope the President merely wanted the committee to provide the conscience that he was not sure he would be able to provide by acting on his own. But even in this case, the President has to be reminded that conscience resides in the person and cannot be borrowed from outside.

* * *

LET’S go slow in putting blame on anybody in the dawn strafing of the offices of the Department of Interior and Local Government. We cannot rush to conclude that it was either Secretary Ronaldo Puno or, on the other hand, Deputy Secretary Narciso Santiago who masterminded the incident.

Both Puno and Santiago have the motive, the means and opportunity to stage such a strafing. But that does not mean that either of them was behind it.

It could even happen that a third party cooked it up for any of various reasons. Wherever the blame lies, we should be relieved that nobody was wounded or killed.

What should happen now is for President Estrada to sort out the mess at the DILG. The two officials obviously cannot work together. One or both of them must go. The earlier, the better for the Estrada administration.

* * *

WHAT would you do if a finance center abroad suddenly informed you that you have just won a $5,000 prize — but you can’t quite recall having joined a contest?

Postscript reader Antonio C. Halili has received such a notification from a Canadian Equity Funding, with address at 1740 Kingston Rd., Pickering, Ontario, Canada, that he was entitled to a Prize Entitlement Premium or Cash Payment of US$5,000. Although he more or less knows what to do, he seeks advice.

He says it was too good to be true, so he examined the fine prints in the letter. Before he could claim his prize, the text says, he should first fill out an attached “Entitlement Release Form” and send it to the bank with US$24.95 as processing fee no later than June 30, 2000.

Those of us who have lived long enough in this cruel world know what the thing is all about. If you receive a similar letter, take it to the nearest Goto King counter and order a bowl of goto against that glittering Prize Entitlement Premium.

* * *

A REVIEW of the government’s housing program should include a physical check of owners, tenants or occupants of dwellings built under the government’s auspices. A check of housing projects of the National Housing Authority, for instance, would reveal that many units are actually being used by foreigners.

While millions of Filipino taxpayers are homeless, dwellings built with government funds under government programs for Filipinos have been sold or are being rented out to foreigners. The NHA is aware of this anomaly, but is not doing anything to correct it. Why?

We had intended to ask about this in an interview with the NHA general manager, but after months (yes, months!) of trying to set an interview, we got tired of being told by his office that the big boss was busy somewhere. Hiding somewhere?

Lawmakers looking into the housing mess, such as Senators Rodolfo Biazon and Nikki Coseteng, would discover much more than this anomaly if they looked deeper.

* * *

IMMIGRATION Commissioner Rufus Rodriguez does not have that many officers spread all over the country. It should not be too difficult for him to instruct them in writing and other means to follow policy as defined by him.

Rodriguez told us clearly in an interview that his bureau recognizes dual citizenship as affirmed by the Supreme Court in the leading case of Makati Vice Mayor Edu Manzano whose citizenship was questioned in the last local elections.

The core idea in this case is that anybody born anywhere, even abroad, with at least one of his parents a Filipino is a Filipino under the Constitution. His being Filipino is not tainted or negated by the fact that another state may claim him as also its citizen by operation of its own laws.

Now there is this Postscript reader, Marina Hamoy-Tejani of Dumaguete City, who believed Rodriguez and proceeded to apply with immigration officials in Cebu City for an Order of Recognition of her also being a Filipino.

To her chagrin, the officials reportedly told her that she does not qualify to be recognized as a Filipino despite her having at least one Filipino parent. Tejani was thus forced to renew her 9a visa as a foreigner.

* * *

RODRIGUEZ should publicize that his office is issuing a document called an Order of Recognition to qualified individuals who, despite their being citizens of another country, are also Filipinos as provided under the citizenship article in the Constitution.

One such category of individuals who are Filipino citizens are those born with at least one parent being a Filipino at the time the individual was born.

Our favorite example is a person born in the US, who is therefore an American, but who is at the same time also a Filipino if at the time of his birth at least one of his parents was a Filipino.

Many money-making schemes flourish because of the widespread lack of awareness of many “foreigners” that they are also Filipinos, or dual citizens, by operation of the Constitution no less.

* * *

THESE dual citizens are entitled to have an Order of Recognition issued in their favor, but they are not aware of it. Immigration officers whom they approach deny there is such a document and thus are able to make money on the poor “alien” who is actually a Filipino.

Postscript believes that even this so-called Order of Recognition being issued for a fee by the immigration office is unnecessary. If the Constitution itself says one is a Filipino, there is no need for Commissioner Rodriguez to order it. His order would be redundant and unnecessary.

The commissioner should help dispel the confusion or the feigned ignorance of his officers if only to erase suspicion that they give dual citizens a hard time just so they could make money off them.

* * *

AYALA Land Inc. writes to give their side in that incident mentioned in Postscript where a shopper parked at its Park Square 2 in Makati and ended up being robbed and strangled in the toilet of the parking building.

Elvira Pelaez-Marfori, ALI’s media affairs manager, gave assurances that the experience of the victim, Ms. Sonrisa David, was an isolated case and that “Ayala Center remains a safe and secure shopping mall.”

Ms. Marfori narrated what they did to help the victim, including lining up possible suspects, reporting to the Makati police and searching for the personal items taken from the victim. She denied that there was “inefficient and unprofessional handling” of the case by Ayala personnel.

* * *

FROM a respected private operator in the tourism industry came questions on the handling of tourism attaches who are being recalled by Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta.

Some of the questions the operator posed: Upon their return, what is their status? Where would they go? What career pattern, if any, should apply to them? Were there provisions for their recall, such as funds to defray their expenditures resulting from the movement? What retraining program, if any, has been prepared for them?

She said, “Let’s not overlook the fact that because of stringent budget allocations, the important function of promotion and marketing is seriously hampered and this falls on the shoulders of our tourism attaches.

“Is it their fault if their head office can’t provide collaterals and materials; if there is no budget for important trade show and travel marts in their respective market?”

We have information that some of the attaches being recalled have been marked for replacement by friends and relatives of new cronies despite their having no background in tourism work.

* * *

WE were surprised by a proposal of Negros Oriental Rep. Herminio Teves to tax the interest income and the capital gains of the Social Security System. This could collapse the pension fund that had worked well enough for the past 42 years.

Teves explained that the SSS makes too much money. For earning well and providing its members more benefits, the system will be punished by taxation?

The tax measure poised over the SSS looks much like the privatization scheme hatched by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, two agencies notorious for their imposing tax programs that sap the vitality of developing countries.

The Teves plan would take away funds that benefit 18 million SSS members, who comprise 27 percent of the population, and some 600,000 retirees. There should be some way of holding back officials and foreign advisers prone to go on taxing sprees.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 19, 1999)

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