POSTSCRIPT / June 4, 2000 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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PNCC just interested in collecting toll fees?

JUST because Infocom Technologies, one of many Internet Service Providers in town, is owned and controlled by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. is no guarantee that it would give the fastest, error-free Internet connection.

While dialing for a connection, we kept getting an error message the last two days saying “The computer you’re dialing into cannot establish a Dial-Up Networking Connection. Check your password and then try again.”

There was nothing wrong with the password because we’ve saved it. An insider told us that if the password had been saved and that that error message pops up, the trouble lies with the ISP.

Pressed by deadline, we made frantic calls to Technical Support and Customer Care, and in the few times we got connected to their clogged lines they promised to solve the problem “in 10 minutes” by resetting the password or some other means, but the problem persisted.

A Customer Care staff made the big mistake of telling us after many unsuccessful attempts to connect that there was nothing more they could do. Infocom is that helpless?

Other staffers salvaged the situation by lending us a username and password. After the ordeal of more failed attempts, we finally made a connection late yesterday using the borrowed password.

* * *

MINDANAO used to be some faraway place that hardly elicited immediate and compelling interest in the political center of gravity in Luzon.

Delivering mass information to, from and about Mindanao, especially about its tribal and religious minorities, was a difficult endeavor mainly because of the psychological remoteness of the place.

But with Mindanao now high up in the public consciousness, the stage has been set by accident for a well-planned information campaign on that major island group that has lagged in development. Talk Mindanao now and people listen.

* * *

THE government must not pass up this opportunity that may not come again in a long time. Until now, however, we have not seen any organized and comprehensive government information effort along this line.

The brunt of information work on Mindanao is being carried by private media without waiting for government complementation that is unlikely to come. Information to and from Mindanao is delivered mainly through private channels, not government media.

Unless it jumpstarts its own media machine for its own agenda, the government is liable to lose the information war by default.

* * *

IT may be too late to say this, but the government panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front must discard immediately the “GR” label it had assigned to itself.

In the ongoing power play with international implications, tags and labels are important. GRP, standing for Government of the Republic of the Philippines, may become a liability because:

  1. It subliminally accords the MILF a semblance of status of belligerency, because the group sitting opposite the GRP is able to project a same-level political status for the consumption of the watching world.
  2. The panel sent by Malacañang to engage the MILF negotiators is not representative of our tripartite government. At best, it merely represents the Executive, only one of the three branches of government.

* * *

THE Philippine government has said it often and clearly enough that its meeting the rebel panel does not mean granting it a status of belligerency. That may make sense in a court of law, but talking with rebel groups as “GRP” is fraught with political risks in the field of propaganda.

Why not just call the group a presidential commission or panel to highlight its purely Executive composition and the fact that it represents only one branch of government?

The legislature is not represented in the GRP panel. There is no congressional resolution empowering the panel or defining its authority and policy guidelines. Neither is the judiciary represented in what is labeled as the GRP panel.

But limiting the GRP panel membership to emissaries of the Executive to the exclusion of Congress and the Judiciary makes for flexibility, deniability and timely checks. It is still unwise and misleading, however, to misrepresent it as the government panel.

* * *

THERE is a marked reduction in the incidence of top officials – such as Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon and Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora – speaking out of turn during the delicate negotiations for the release of hostages held by Abu Sayyaf terrorists.

That is both good and bad for Secretary Robert Aventajado, the designated lone government negotiator.

It’s good, because it enables a poker-faced Aventajado, finally, to play his cards with the least possibility of kibitzers or mirons torpedoing his delicate mission with an errant word or gesture.

But it’s also bad for him, because he has been deprived of a built-in excuse in case he fails to buy back all the hostages. The most frightening scenario for Aventajado is to be given maximum leeway, full support, sole control, and plenipotentiary powers to bargain. It leaves him no excuse for failure.

His only remaining excuse is the military presence in the area. Every time Abu Sayyaf negotiators fail to show up for a scheduled meeting, for instance, military movement nearby is trotted out by Aventajado boys as the reason.

* * *

SOME concerned readers have reported sighting more of those Sweepstakes ambulances serving as mobile advertising for San Juan Mayor Jinggoy Estrada, who is preparing to run for the Senate in 2001.

Reader Gold using an i-avenue address gave these details: Ambulance with Plate No. SER 756, sighted June 1 at 12:54 p.m. near the Cagayan de Oro Medical Center (must be on sick call, he said), emblazoned with the names of President Estrada, Jinggoy and that of Mayor Balindong of Malabang, Lanao del Norte.

Another reader, Manong of Baguio, reported sighting a new Sweepstakes ambulance last May 30 parked near the Baguio cathedral sporting the names of Jinggoy, his father the President, and Mayor Fernando Abay of Tinglayan, Kalinga. What was it doing there?

* * *

WE have expressed the view that placing the name of Jinggoy on these government vehicles constitutes shameless personal, partisan advertising that should not be tolerated.

Jinggoy’s refusal to put an end to this partisan misuse of ambulances that he did not buy with his own funds shows his being insensitive to criticism and a creeping arrogance of power.

Readers who spot more of these Sweepstakes ambulances running around with the name of Jinggoy or any other official are encouraged to send their sighting details to Postscript.

* * *

TECHNOCRAT Ping de Jesus, now president of Manila North Tollways Corp., has welcomed as a “good idea” our proposal to make the North Luzon Expressway into a Traffic Safety and Discipline Zone (or Safdiz, with a long “a”).

The proposal envisions the NLE as a controlled traffic zone where rules are strictly enforced 24 hours and willingly obeyed by road users. The no-nonsense enforcement would help educate motorists not only on road ethics but also on other aspects of citizenship.

The Safdiz project could condition motorists to drop their bad driving habits upon entering the expressway and automatically switch to disciplined tollway driving – the same shift observed among drivers entering Camp John Hay and the Subic Free Port.

Who will implement it? De Jesus said it would be the Philippine National Construction Corp, which now operates the tollway. He said they could start enforcement immediately, because all the rules are already there.

* * *

THE PNCC may not be aware of it, but it’s in a unique position to adopt this plan and, in carrying it out, do something great for itself, the motoring public and the country.

We asked the office of Leonilo Javier, who directs PNCC’s tollways operations, for a reaction, but until deadline time yesterday the PNCC has not been able to put together a simple reaction or comment.

The PNCC is part of the MNTC run by De Jesus. Other shareholders include a big foreign concern with expertise on tollway operations.

The MNTC is working out a big loan for the expansion and improvement of the NLE. When this project is completed, the operation will be turned over from the PNCC to a new group.

* * *

MEANTIME, reader Richard Santiago of 2217 F. Zobel St. agreed with our other proposal to assign superheavy trucks to an extra-durable lane on the expressway. He said:

“In some countries, such as the Unites States, large trucks and buses are required to stay on the rightmost lanes on expressways and may move left only when passing. This is done not only to reduce roadway wear-and-tear but also for traffic safety in recognition of the fact that, in most industrialized countries, over 90 percent of road users are private vehicles whose occupants are normally wary of being near these ‘behemoths.’

“The law governing our expressways, RA 2000, also known as the Limited Access Highway Act, actually mandates that these ‘behemoths’ not be allowed onto the expressways. The law says ‘”a limited access facility is defined as a highway or street especially designed for through traffic… Such highways or streets may be parkways, from which trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles shall be excluded; or they may be freeways open to use by all customary forms of street and highway traffic.’

“By definition, the North and South Luzon Expressways are parkways from which trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles shall be excluded.”

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 4, 2000)

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