POSTSCRIPT / July 27, 2000 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Fairness didn’t save TV team from kidnappers

IT was cowardly for President Erap Estrada to have used his State of the Nation Address to hit his predecessor Fidel Ramos — then run away to the airport and fly to the United States before anybody, including his target, could retort.

There was absolutely no justification for the unwarranted attack on the former president. He went to the joint session of Congress in good faith, but ended up being a sitting duck for a president in desperate need of somebody to blame for his failures.

We agree that the PEA-Amari deal and the Centennial Expo project stink, that some people made a pile of dirty money from the gargantuan projects. But Mr. Estrada employed the wrong place, time and weapon in nailing his predecessor to the scandals.

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THE defenders of the doomed jai alai fronton on Taft Avenue must be also getting desperate. After Postscript agreed with Mayor Lito Atienza that the old building must give way to a Hall of Justice, one of them wrote me a long email calling me names.

Now, as it is with columnists, when we start cursing people instead of engaging them in a sober constructive exchange, that means we have run out of arguments.

The jai alai defender, who did not even sign his name at the end of his peroration typed in bold capitals (equivalent to “shouting” in email usage), denounced me as not cultured or familiar enough with architecture to authoritatively pass judgment on the jail alai building.

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MAYBE it’s my tired eyes, but I pass by the jai alai building almost everyday and have failed to notice anything grand, awesome or inspiring about it. Have you?

On the contrary, I’ve heard many people associate the jai alai fronton more with gambling, game-fixing and the low life that had gravitated to it and the off-fronton betting stations.

Come on, let’s not cry for the jai alai building. Let’s cry instead for the poor victims of a justice system that is loaded in favor of the rich and the influential.

* * *

IN Diliman, Environment Secretary Antonio Cerilles is figuratively shedding tears, at least at the moment, for sick and dying trees.

His information man Butch Dayrit told us that 255 sick, impaired, and disfigured trees in Metro Manila have been cured and rehabilitated some two months after Cerilles launched “Oplan Sagip Puno.”

“Trees are especially important in polluted Metro Manila since they soak up carbon dioxide and give off oxygen which we humans need,” Cerilles said.” It takes ten trees one day to produce oxygen required to burn 3.7 liters of gasoline.”

“They also help cool the metropolis,” he said, “since trees absorb and neutralize the thermal impact from motor engines and combustion machines.”

* * *

AN average 50-year-old tree is estimated to provide at least P1,919 worth of air conditioning, P1,972 worth of erosion and storm water control, at least P1,972 in wildlife shelter, and at least P1,315 in air pollution control in one year.

In its half-century lifetime, the value of one urban tree is estimated to grow to P1.5 million, according to Cerilles.

“Oplan Sagip Puno” will try to save whatever trees are still standing in Metro Manila, especially those along sidewalks. Tree doctors have been fielded to maintain, treat and rehabilitate them.

Water sprouts or excess lower branches are removed, their injured and damaged root system and wounded trunks treated. Nails, billboards and wires wound around them are removed.

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WE think Cerilles should talk also to the owners of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), one of the biggest threats to trees in the metropolis.

Branches of helpless trees are cut away indiscriminately when they threaten to touch electric wires. The Meralco crews do not prune the trees, they hack away and leave the poor trees disfigured. This is the reason why most trees in Metro Manila are grotesque and ugly.

It takes years to grow a tree. Then a Meralco crew comes around and destroys it in a few minutes of mindless hacking away. In many cases, the tree was even ahead of the Meralco tree-killers where it stands, but that’s immaterial to them.

A law should be passed requiring electric, telephone and cable TV companies to put their lines underground. This will not only save the trees, but also eliminate the ugly view of crisscrossing wires and help give us a cleaner and more pleasant environment.

* * *

TALKING of clean air, reader David Tible has an interesting alternative to our 1,000-kilometer road test for the car that inventor Daniel D. Dingel claims is power by nothing but water.

Tible said a similar test could be conducted indoors to answer the security concerns of Dingel who shuns the road demonstration. The car could be mounted stationary inside a sealed warehouse and made to run the equivalent of 1,000 kms (or even less), he said.

He said he would raise at least P100,000 to pay Dingel to stay inside the sealed warehouse while his car’s engine is running non-stop and emitting what is supposed to be nothing but steam (if the claim is true that only hydrogen extracted from water is fed to it).

If no fossil fuel such as gasoline is being used by Dingel’s car, there should be no problem of carbon monoxide poisoning the inventor who would have to stay with his car without any gas mask to prove his water-only claim.

* * *

IF you ask me, I still prefer having the red Toyota Corolla of Dingel, festooned with ribbons and balloons, running the length of the South Luzon Expressway back and forth, with 100-km pit stops, until it completes 1,000 kms.

(We repeat the rationale for the 1,000 kms: We figure that even if Dingel were using gasoline from a hidden tank, that would run out over that long distance. Of if his hydrogen generator were good only for short durations, it would show.)

There would be full media coverage, TV especially, and we would beg the deadly marksmen of Gen. Ping Lacson to please secure the car and Dingel as it rolls down the highway.

I volunteer, ehem, to do the honors of pouring the water into the car’s water-processor at some of the pit stops.

* * *

WOULD we allow commercial sponsors? Toyota might want to have Dingel install his water device in a brand-new model. Some bottled water firm might want to provide the pure water, a tire company the tires (even Bridgestone would do since the road is smooth), et cetera.

An apparel outfit might want to donate the denims and T-shirt that have become trademarks of the simple Filipino inventor who dropped out of school — but became a NASA engineer instead of president of his country.

But that would be straying away from the technical idea behind the 1,000-km road test, di po ba? Let’s first convince Dingel to agree to the test. We mean the road run, not the suicidal stationary test in a sealed warehouse.

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THE kidnapping of two TV journalists of ABS-CBN should prompt mainstream media to reexamine their coverage policy on bandits freely kidnapping people for ransom.

ABS-CBN has been fair and generous to the rebels and kidnappers in Muslim Mindanao by giving them free access to their programs to talk and spread propaganda under the pretext of giving their side on issues.

In the end, this fair and balanced treatment of confessed common criminals was not appreciated by the bandits and terrorists. The two ABS-CBN journalists, who freely roamed enemy territory and are known to the rebels, became kidnap-for-ransom victims themselves.

Another tempting idea that suggests itself is for all media to now deny equal time to the criminals.

* * *

THE nagging question has been whether media, by giving ample time and space to criminals, are not abetting criminality. The abduction of the two TV journalists may have answered, partly, the question.

We in media are often goaded by the traditions of our profession to reach out to the disadvantaged, the down-trodden, the “small man,” even to professed enemies of the state in our desire to be fair to everybody around.

However, there are times, such as when a war is raging, when even private media will have to take a position on burning public issues.

We’re not saying that we should black out one side whose ideology differs from ours or from that of the majority. We’re simply saying that perhaps we could be forgiven if we took sides at times instead of straddling the fence thinking that that is being balanced and fair.

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

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