POSTSCRIPT / February 24, 2000 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Marcoses buying back respectability for $150M

WE support Sandiganbayan Francis Garchitorena in his principled refusal to break open the $600-million suspected illegal wealth held in escrow with the Philippine National Bank and give a third of it to the Marcoses.

We can imagine the pressure being brought to bear on Garchitorena. Lesser men would have succumbed long ago – and pocketed millions (in dollars) in the process.

We want the Sandiganbayan to know that a great number of his countrymen believe his stand is not only legal, but also logical and just.

* * *

THERE is a stepped-up campaign using Marcos torture victims to stampede Garchitorena into releasing $150 million from the $600-million escrow account and thereby setting the stage for a final, global clearance of the Marcoses.

The Marcoses want the victims paid from the PNB funds before Feb. 28, the deadline set by the Hawaii District Court. Otherwise, the compromise $150-million would lapse and the original $2-billion award to Marcos victims would be reinstated.

The Marcoses, whose dirty billions are stashed in hidden accounts all over the world, can easily pay the $150 million out of pocket, but they want it to come from the PNB account for devious reasons.

* * *

PAYING the victims their overdue claim from the escrow (pronounced “screw”) account is just a side issue, a pretext. The core issue is that if payment were made from the PNB account, that would mean:

  1. The $600 million held in escrow is thus recognized as owned by the Marcoses, who will then grab part of it (a third, or some $200 million) according to a proposed sharing formula.
  2. All civil, criminal and tax cases against the Marcoses will be dropped in a global settlement. They will come out cleaner than Christ emerging from the Jordan River upon his baptism.

* * *

GLOBAL settlement as demanded by the Marcoses as a condition for the release of the money would mean that the nightmare that was the bloody Marcos dictatorship never happened.

With a stroke of his pen, Garchitorena would in effect be rewriting history for Marcos and his brood for the paltry sum of $150 million – a bloody hoard that, ironically, is not even theirs in the first place.

After the lawyers get their usual fat legal fees, the money will break down to some P450,000 per head when distributed to the almost 10,000 victims.

That’s petty cash for the Marcoses, but to many of the victims badly broken by time and circumstance, that’s a big sum. That’s why the Marcoses are banking on them, and on their ally and protector Erap Estrada, to pressure Garchitorena to agree to its release.

* * *

LEST we forget, we repeat these basic facts of the case:

  • The almost 10,000 claimants are just the victims of record. They cannot clear the Marcoses for all offenses of the dictatorship. What about the thousands more who have suffered in silence?
  • The $150-million judgment in favor of the victims is a private obligation of the Marcoses. It must be paid from their private funds, not from government funds or the pockets of others, including taxpayers and the victims themselves.
  • the escrow account is not Marcos money. Its true ownership still has to be determined. (It is even likely to be declared ill-gotten wealth and seized by the government.) Therefore, it cannot be used by the Marcoses to pay their private obligation.
  • President Estrada, ally and protector of the Marcoses, must inhibit himself from all discussions and decisions pertaining to the case.

* * *

IN FACT, Erap Estrada should order the pulling out of those TV and radio plugs showing him reciting empty lines on the supposed ideals of the EDSA Revolt that toppled his friend the dictator.

Estrada is the wrong person to recite those lines. Dapat mangilabot siya at baka tamaan ng kidlat!

Why do radio and TV stations waste valuable time and resources to foist a falsehood on their audience?

The media can feature instead key players in that chapter of our history. The voices of ordinary citizens who provided the warm bodies on EDSA in 1986 are far better than the emoting of an actor insisting on playing an EDSA role.

* * *

IF it is true that his heart bleeds for the claimants, President Estrada should look for another way to pay, or at least advance part of the money for, the $150 million. He should stop conniving with the Marcoses in using the claim to pressure Garchitorena to compromise.

Unless he has sold himself to Mrs. Imelda Marcos, Mr. Estrada should not use his exalted office to push a settlement that would mean allowing the Marcoses to buy back respectability for $150 million.

There are many ways of paying the victims. The President can ask his own finance whiz kids to give him at least three alternatives for raising or advancing the money without committing the PNB account to an omnibus clearance for the Marcoses.

The victims should know that if there is no alternative so far proposed for paying them, it is because Mr. Estrada is on the side of the Marcoses.

* * *

ON our question on which is better to install, a CD-ROM, a VCD or a DVD drive, JP Fenix of takes off from what he calls “the Betamax situation.” He says:

“Remember when the Betamax format video cassette recorder came into the country? The technology was so new and radical that the first units had killer price tags. Then they because numerous, more advanced and cheap that the early buyers of the first generation technology wanted to shoot themselves.

“Then Betamax was phased out altogether that tape collectors found themselves with libraries of movies that were rotting because of non-use. There were no more machines available—save for Burma, I guess.

“That’s something to have in mind when confronted with new technology. Always consider the actual need versus the price. Not perceived need (we may always want some super feature or another), but a real, useful need.

“If you simply want a productive computer which can run or install the latest programs, a CD-ROM is adequate. The sound quality, if you want to listen to music, is as good as your sound setup (sound card, speakers, woofers, amplifiers, etc.), just like any CD player.

“The price is not bad. I just bought one with a 50X speed for about P5,000. I remember my first one, a 4x speed that cost twice as much.

* * *

“A rewritable CD-ROM is good if you need to store data into the CD — or if you’re a video, audio or software pirate. I wish I had one, because the CD is a good medium for keeping data long term — it doesn’t rot as fast as diskettes or tape. Plus, one CD stores up to almost 700 mb.

“But I already have a Zip drive which stores 100 mb per Zip disk which is good enough. (There is also a 250 mb Zip and a 1 gig Jaz drive.) But if I didn’t have my Zip yet, I would seriously consider buying a rewritable CD-ROM.

“Price is double or triple, depending on make and model, and the speeds are still slow. Maybe in a year or so they’ll start releasing faster models.

* * *

“VCD plays video CD movies. It’s supposed to have better sound quality, but it depends on the sound system on your PC. Now, for the price, do you really want to watch a two-hour film on your computer? Think about the wear and tear on the rest of your system.

“You are actually burning up components on a P25,000 (at least) computer when it’s the same thing to do it on your VHS player and TV. In fact, VCD quality and VHS quality are the same. Some even say VHS tapes play better than VCDs.

* * *

“DVD is the highest form—in price and quality. But, again, if you play a DVD on poor quality equipment, you don’t get the desired result. The main feature of a DVD disk is that it has all these stuff crammed into it.

“For example, one movie DVD has the movie in it, then you can access or turn on various other features like subtitles in the language of your choice. Or you can see the script and director’s notes while watching the film.

“Plus it has full soundtrack recordings, or behind the scene documentary, cast and production staff interviews — everything about the film.”

* * *

RETIRED Justice Fernando Santiago believes that the Supreme Court decision in the case of Jose Pascual (no relation) vs. Land Bank over the payment of compounded interest on 34.8 hectares of land in Gattarman, Cagayan, was based on a bogus copy of DAR Administrative Order 13-s1994.

Santiago says the genuine copy allows the payment of six percent compounded interest on the land value. But the decision penned by Justice Jose Bellosillo scrapped the compounded interest on the P1,961,950 that Pascual should enjoy as payment for his land.

The dubious Land Bank document made Pascual to appear as not qualified to enjoy the compounded interest on the payment since he rejected the land valuation. What will the high tribunal do now with its decision based on a spurious document? Will it correct itself after being misled?

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 24, 2000)

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