POSTSCRIPT / July 2, 2000 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Misuari and MILF better start praying!

THAT crucial meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference in Kuala Lumpur is over. The Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front better start praying.

The armed forces did not want to assault Camp Abubakar of the MILF while their big brothers in the Islamic world were formally mulling over how to regard the Philippine government’s campaign to quell the secessionist war.

But with the OIC assembly coming up with just an impertinent remark that the government and the Muslim insurgents in Mindanao must stop fighting (as if we would listen to them!), one major deterrent to a full-scale assault on the rebels is out of the way.

* * *

NOW is the time for all presidential cronies to come to the aid of their“pare” in the Palace.

The only remaining problem to the successful prosecution of the war against the rebels is money possibly running out on the Estrada war machine. Millions are lost each day that the war drags on.

But seeing that the Mindanao war is distracting the people from their deepening miseries arising from misgovernment, the cronies and all those living off Erap Estrada should be willing to chip in to the war chest, if it comes to that.

Since outright donation is messy, what they could do is suppress their appetite for that indecent fat oozing from the mega-contracts being thrown their way by the Palace. Every million thus saved by the government could go to Erap’s War of Distraction.

* * *

ANOTHER character who should start praying hard is Nur Misuari, the absentee governor of the autonomous region of Muslim Mindanao.

That was a big, costly gamble he made making sumbong to the OIC kunsintidores meeting in the Malaysian capital. But, it’s obvious that the cry baby lost.

So now, he has to hang his expensive suits and show up in Manila to explain not only his treasonous act in Kuala Lumpur but also the disappearance of billions entrusted to him for his brother Muslims.

* * *

IT’S high time the generally poor and neglected Muslims were told how their supposed leaders have been mishandling billions intended for their amelioration.

It’s actually an old story that Muslims have heard about their leaders even before Misuari came along. This was one of the reasons why younger Muslims learned to disdain their traditional chiefs in favor of younger, dedicated leaders.

Media friends of Misuari point out that the government is guilty of some of the charges hurled by him. But that’s not the point.

The point is that Misuari, a pampered official with billions entrusted to him, should not have run to such an international forum to ventilate internal grievances, however valid. He should take things up with his President.

* * *

REMINDS us to ask, where is Ombudsman Ani Desierto? This supposed graft-buster works with unusual zeal when properly motivated, especially when the President gives a hint that he wants some local executive out of the way.

Sir Erap, give Ani the hint already! As soon as charges are filed, Ani can display again his legendary speed in cranking out a suspension order on anybody marked for political execution.

* * *

KAYO rin. If Misuari is not removed right away, he would still be around when those OIC observers come swaggering down their executive jets to audit how we’re running this country.

The desperate governor would then scurry to their side, hug and give them his kiss of peace, escort them around and continue whispering into their ears.

Misuari, who was plucked from the dustbin by former President Aquino, has been discredited among his own people. We were told that some Muslim governors in his own autonomous region vomit when they hear his name.

There are many upcoming Muslim leaders more worthy of the title of governor than Misuari. Anyway, with his elective term over, he is just holding over on sufferance of the President.

* * *

WE nearly fell asleep listening to the radio report that the officials of the oil cartel broke into tears when Erap pleaded with them in Malacanang to please not make good their well-advertised threat to raise the price of gasoline by P1.30 per liter.

Moved by the President’s award-winning acting, the perfumed gentlemen fell over each other pledging to reduce the price increase to 55 centavos. We were told they were still dabbing their teary eyes when they filed out of the President’s study.

But back in their board rooms, our spy said they again felt the draculaic longing for more blood. So, coming soon, very soon – a replay of the same zarzuela of the oil cartel poising a hefty price increase and Erap falling on his bum knee to reduce it by half.

Editors should consider assigning movie reporters to Malacanang, di po ba?

* * *

“DONG Puno Lied!” cried our colleague Marvin Benaning after reading the text of a certification by the board secretary of the Philippine Ports Authority that the board did not act on or approve the recommendation of the bidding committee on the controversial Batangas Port project.

Puno announced the day before that the PPA board in its meeting the other Friday approved the bid committee’s recommendation that the contract be given to the second lowest bidder.

But a certification of PPA board secretary David R. Simon, a copy of which somehow turned up at Annabel’s in Quezon City, read:

“Resolved, that on motion duly made and seconded, the Board, without acting on the recommendation of the Prequalification, Bid and Award Committee (PBAC) on the award of the Batangas Port Development Project Phase II (Package 1 — Civil and Marine Works), resolves to authorize the General Manager to forward, in accordance with the applicable guidelines of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), the Bid Resolution Report on said project, as adopted by PBAC Resolution No. 017-2000, to JBIC for consideration.” (underscoring ours)

* * *

WE’VE started to wonder if the job description of Press Secretary Ricardo Puno includes being a part-time Port Area barker.

Erap Estrada is tough enough an assignment for the Press Secretary to find time to dabble in press agentry for some port project in Batangas being eyed by cronies.

The way we see it, however, he may not be personally interested in the port bidding, but poor Dong found the press release among the items he was to give to the media that day. That was a dirty trick played on him.

* * *

THE more we look at the Batangas Port bidding, the more messy it looks to us.

The conspiracy to award the contract to the second lowest bidder (P2.975 billion), and not to the lowest (P2.885-billion), is bad enough without the PPA complicating it by its lack of transparency.

Its crude attempt to make media believe that the PPA board had approved the recommendation of the bids committee favoring the losing bidder was bad. You do not gain the understanding of the press by lying to it.

* * *

THE PPA board is making a big issue over the clerical error of the lowest bidder resulting in “1,095 days” appearing on one form it had submitted instead of “1,080 days” (which was what it had typed on the other pages).

The PPA is quibbling over 15 days when its own confusion has resulted in the project being delayed already for five months!

More delay is to be expected if the PPA forces its intention of giving the job to the second lowest bidder. If that happens, the lowest bidder is sure to go to court, resulting in lengthy litigation.

And there they are splitting hair over 15 days!

* * *

THANKS to all those who sent us expert advice, most of it very useful, on the design and management of websites and the recurring problem unique to Postscript of strange characters appearing all over our text.

Those who went out of their way to share with us their technical expertise were: Frankie Lagniton, Travel Post; Emily Mae L. Yap, Ozamiz City; Aries C. de Salit, cav.pworld.net.ph; iTos Rebullida, info.com.ph; Donn Pascual, Tokyo; Charles Gagan, hotmail.com; Peter Pascual, lehman.com; Roel P. DePaz, labs.wyeth.com; Jared Odulio, an IT consultant; Malcolm Casel Hiponia, SkyBiz 2000; rcastro, mail.asiagate.net; Mario Garong, vitesse.com.

As we said earlier, we are preparing to launch a website and join everybody else in cyberspace. For such a project, which should be a reality before Christmas, we’re tapping expert advice and evaluating various web-authoring software.

But many of those who wrote said we can proceed even without a software by simply falling back on the old wordpad and HTML (HyperText Markup Language) or the composer of whatever browser we’re using.

As for the strange symbols, diphthongs and accented letters of foreign languages cropping up in our text, we give up. We leave everything to the tender mercies of our overworked proofreader.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 2, 2000)

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