POSTSCRIPT / January 27, 2000 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why are oil firms afraid to join worldwide bidding?

SOMEBODY was overheard asking “Kung sila ay mas marunong, bakit ako ang presidente at hindi sila ?”

BennyO, a POSTSCRIPT reader, simply had to say something. This:

A turkey was chatting with a bull. “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.”

“Well, why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings?” replied the bull. “They’re packed with nutrients.”

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the first branch of the tree.

The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.

Finally after a week, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. Soon he was spotted by a farmer, who promptly shot the turkey out of the tree.

Moral of the story: Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.

* * *

ANOTHER question somebody might want answered: If their prices are really low, how come Shell, Petron and Caltex are afraid to join an international bidding for oil products under a National Oil Exchange (OilEx)?

Bakit sila natatakot sumali sa bidding? Why are they afraid to join the bidding?

Instead of losing sleep over the proposed creation of the OilEx, the Big 3 should be happy to join the bidding. Being already in the Philippines, their handling costs – and their selling price — should be lower.

But no, the local oil cartel is moving heaven and earth to block HB 8710, the bill initiated by Bataan Rep. Enrique T. Garcia to set up the OilEx that will take international bids for gasoline, diesel, LPG, kerosene and other refined oil products.

* * *

PRESIDENT Estrada sensed the right direction when the OilEx was first explained to him by his partymate Garcia. His political instincts told him this was the long-sought solution to the problem of runaway prices of oil products.

He actually promised to certify the Garcia bill. But after his classmate Energy Secretary Mario Tiaoqui presented to him the side of the oil giants, the President turned around.

Once again, it was proved that a mere partymate is no match to a classmate, especially if the latter comes to deliver valuable messages from the Big 3.

But all is not lost.

* * *

WE got word from the House of Representatives that Speaker Manny Villar, who had studied the measure, is considering the inclusion of HB 8710 to the urgent bills on the legislative agenda.

Let’s hope that, unlike President Estrada, Villar is not “enlightened” by a Tiaoqui type bearing valuable messages from the Big 3. With a higher office on his front sight, Villar can be expected to weigh more carefully the impact that the OilEx will have on prices and people.

In fairness to Tiaoqui who had been in the refinery business, he may have unwittingly contributed to the “refining” of the Garcia bill by calling attention to what could be its weak points, or at least the objections of the threatened oil firms.

As the bill languishes in a House committee and later in the full chamber, it will be subjected to the deliberative process and amended to answer the points raised by its critics, including the oil firms represented by Tiaoqui.

* * *

VILLAR could contribute immensely to the process by just calendaring HB8710. More so if he facilitates the legislative debates leading to its amendment and eventual passage.

As a seasoned businessman and manager, Villar must be aware of the impact of pushing this key solution to the thorny problem of rising prices. The passage of the OilEx bill would be a major point for him.

Thanks to Tiaoqui, the President may be missing a dramatic opportunity to demonstrate his avowed concern for the masses. He should leave one ear cocked to the grassroots, go back to his basic instincts, and certify the OilEx bill to Congress.

After all, the measure cannot be passed in its present form. It will still be polished according to the collective wisdom of the legislature working under pressure from lobby groups. That middle-road approach is safe enough for a President caught between the Big 3 and the small tao.

* * *

A MULTIMILLION-PESO poser: How can 100 tax-free luxury cars just vanish from such a wide-open yard as Clark Field in Pampanga?

The vehicles, brought in through tax-free privileges of the Mimosa Leisure and Resorts Corp., are reportedly in the hands of taxable individuals who had spirited them out of the former US military base.

Customs personnel under Moreno Ridor and police operatives under Chief Supt. Roberto Calinisan, the newly extended director of the PNP Central Luzon command, may have to go as far as Manila to track down the flashy hot cars.

The vehicles include Ferraris, Jaguars, Ford Expeditions and Explorers, Toyota Land Cruisers and Lexus sedans, BMW cars, Mercedes Benzes, Volvo limousines, Honda CRVs, Dodge Rams, Mitsubishi Monteros and Mitsubishis.

* * *

ALSO in Pampanga, we got word that Gov. Lito Lapid had been cleared by Ombudsman Aniano Desierto of two charges against him on the theory that his reelection in 1998 had wiped away whatever wrongdoings had been attributed to him.

The charges arose from the purchase for P40 million of 40 hectares of land in San Fernando for housing of provincial government personnel, and Lapid’s advances of P4 million that had reportedly been unliquidated.

While many of us Capampangan saw the charges as pure harassment and therefore feel relieved with Lapid’s acquittal, this non-lawyer believes that the Ombudsman’s decision needs clarification.

We believe that crimes allegedly committed by an official during his term are not automatically condoned by his reelection. If ever, only administrative and “political” lapses could be deemed to have been forgiven by the electorate.

The proper venue for hearing criminal charges against officials is the court, not the polling place. There cannot be one rule for officials and another for ordinary citizens.

* * *

AS we said, we’re happy for Lapid, who has been the object of endless harassment for having campaigned against President Estrada in the 1998 elections. The people of Pampanga suffered with him as he was kicked around.

But with Desierto (who is widely regarded as a political Doberman of the Palace) clearing him, we may have seen the signal that Lapid has been forgiven by the President already.

The governor’s constituents are hoping that he would be allowed, finally, to kiss the hand of the President in full view of the TV cameras.

* * *

OUR recent item on the anti-virus program PC-cillin prompted a reaction from Jeffery Sy, country manager of Computex Industries Inc., a branch of Trend Micro Inc. that makes the software.

The PC-cillin software of many PC users are OEM (original equipment manufacturer) versions pre-installed in their computers. The software version can be updated by downloading pattern files of new viruses from the Internet.

Sy said that owners of OEM versions could update their pattern files as well as scan engines free of charge. For pattern files, download updates from http://www.antivirus.com/download/pattern.asp.
For scan engines, download updates from http://www.antivirus.com/download/engines/default.asp .

An anti-virus software that is not periodically updated becomes outdated and virtually useless — since it cannot detect and wipe out new viruses that break into the market by the hundreds every month.

* * *

IF your software is a licensed OEM version, generally it was installed, or is intended for installation, by the manufacturer only in one computer. Hardware or PC makers save money by buying OEMs (such as Windows) in bulk and installing one unique copy in each equipment they ship out.

The PC user is not supposed to reinstall his OEM software in another machine. But this one-software-per-machine rule is being violated in the country with impunity, especially in cases where the owner does not register the software to avoid detection. 

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 27, 2000)

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