POSTSCRIPT / March 14, 2000 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Win the Sweepstakes without buying a ticket!

THE people are entitled to hear the honest answer of Malacañang to the points raised by Sr. Christine Tan who was yanked out of the board of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office days ago without an explanation or prior notice.

This daughter of former Justice Tan gave up a comfortable life to become a nun. She now lives with the very poor community of Leveriza, ministering to their needs, including livelihood concerns, through the Alay Kapwa Foundation.

On Feb. 28, when she asked what time the PCSO board was to meet, she was told by the board secretary that she need not bother since a new board had been appointed by President Estrada.

The incident recalled a similar experience of former Justice Cecilia Muñoz Palma who was replaced as PCSO chairman without her being told in advance. The unceremonious removal of key officials has become a hallmark of the Estrada administration.

* * *

WHILE Sister Tan was not told the reason, she disclosed some indecent goings-on at the PCSO that may explain why a person of her character cannot be around while well-connected individuals freely dig into Sweepstakes millions like they were personal funds.

“Twenty months ago, I took my oath with President Estrada as PCSO director, a position that I was told was co-terminus with that of the President,” she recalled. “I accepted the job because I wanted to help channel funds to the truly poor.”

She continued: “Since then, I had tried my best, doing not only what was expected, but more than what was expected, cheating no one, padding no prices of medicine, recommending no ghost employees, stealing not a single peso from this multibillion-peso government agency.”

* * *

AFTER some months, however, she noticed that “requests from congressmen and mayors, from the President and the First Lady, were becoming more frequent, while funds for our regular hospitals and institutions were becoming extremely difficult to secure.’

“We were ordered to send all our ambulances to (San Juan Mayor) Jinggoy Estrada, for him to distribute,” she said, “while hundreds of millions of pesos went to congressmen, mayors and the First Couple.”

She said that fund requests within one year from the President and First Lady, not to mention those that could not be given, had added up to P430,279,581. In contrast, only P60 million was given to PCSO’s regular beneficiaries all over the country, including thousands of sick, aged, children, orphans, among others.

But Tan made a mistake. “Aware of what was happening with PSCO funds, I learned to object to such requests, to question, to stall, to defer resolutions,” she recalled. Obviously, the sister refused to look the other way or, if she could not lick ‘em, to join ‘em.

* * *

WE’RE reminded at this point of Chairman Perfecto Yasay of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who must be replaced because he also has the habit of saying No to a President meddling in SEC quasi-judicial processes.

Like in the Yasay affair, Palace apologists point out that Tan can be removed anytime. That may be so, but the circumstances stink.

As President Estrada puts together a more compliant SEC board in anticipation of the March 25 stepping down of Yasay, over at the PCSO a similar revamp is taking place.

Tan shares the information that of the new board, one director is a character from showbiz; another is a protege of JV Ejercito (the President’s son by former actress Guia Gomez); another, a friend of the First Lady Loi Estrada; another, a relative of the new chairman Rosario Lopez.

And still ringing in our ears is the solemn promise of “walang kaibigan, walang kamag-anak!”

* * *

MOST days on EDSA, one would see a swarm of uniformed traffic law enforcers flagging down drivers who ignore the ban on vehicles with plate numbers restricted for the day.

By their spirited blowing of whistles, wild flailing of the arms and stepping into the path of vehicles to force them to pull over, one would think there is an emergency ongoing. They must net hundreds of violators each day.

But strangely, with the entire traffic force throwing a dragnet on EDSA, buses belching thick black smoke still roll past them without being noticed. The officers cover their noses when the noxious smoke blows their way, yet they do not see the buses!

* * *

ARE our policemen convinced that a license plate number with a wrong digit poses a graver threat to public safety than a bus billowing smoke so thick that one can no longer read its name and body number?

What is happening to our police, General Ping Lacson?

This is the same topsy-turvy priority that drives a police squad to grab four girls enjoying themselves on the dance floor of a disco, but pays no attention to terrorists planting bombs on the office building of an oil company.

Why are the authorities going blind? My barber says “kasi mahina na ang kita.” (Sorry, but we cannot think of a translation for our non-Tagalog readers.)

Hoy, magkano ba’ng itinapal sa mga mata ninyo?

* * *

MAYBE we should ask one of those business-minded showbiz personalities with access to Malacañang to help out.

A mega-contract could be whipped up for the supply of overpriced substandard equipment for testing the exhausts of motor vehicles before registration in all the regions, the random monitoring of emissions on the road, and the compulsory “correction” of the heavy discharge of noxious smoke.

If the contract is big enough, say P100 million or more, one of the presidential pals is sure to “take it” (in the style of Manila filmfest envelopes) – and we might yet move nearer to a solution to the deadly problem of air pollution in Metro Manila.

You see, if there’s big money in it, you can be sure some official and his crony would act on any problem.

* * *

WE asked last time (Postscript 3/5/00), “What ever happened to the rule that government vehicles must be conspicuously marked FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY, that their every outing must be covered by a trip ticket, and that they should be returned to the office garage at the end of the day?”

Thank God, not everybody in government is asleep. Director Luis Mario M. General of the Bicol regional office of the Land Transportation Office reports:

“The regulation referred to is Commission on Audit Circular No. 75-6 dated Nov. 7, 1975, regulating the use of government motor vehicles, aircraft, and seacraft, which also require, among other things, that the markings ‘FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY’ should be at least three inches in height, and under which should be painted the name of the government agency or local government unit using the vehicle.

General says that his office and that of the regional COA under Director Lourdes M. Castillo have been enforcing the rule in coordination with other agencies. From December 1999 to February this year, they had caught 291 violators of the COA circular.

As a result, he reports, most of the agencies and local governments in Bicol now comply with the COA circular. Any echo from other regions?

* * *

ON another column item suggesting what one could do if he suffers a heart attack while alone, Dr. Conrad G. Javier of Cleveland, Ohio, emails us to add another life-saving pre-hospital self-care maneuver: a proven, cheap and potent drug – aspirin.

He says; “Aspirin is the first drug given to almost all patients in the US with heart attack symptoms who are seen by the rescue squad (emergency medical service) or upon arrival in the emergency room. This initial standard remedy is carried out barring contraindications such as allergy to it or the presence of active bleeding, among other things.

“The usual dose is a 324 mg (adult dose) tablet taken crushed or chewed which is absorbed rapidly within the buccal mucosa. This is given way before any non-invasive and/or invasive procedures are contemplated.”

* * *

Dr. Javier advises: “In Metro Manila where it may take hours before a victim reaches the hospital, a person who believes he or she is having a heart attack should take 1 to 3 adult tablets depending on one’s size.

“This is very important to remember since most of the deaths happen within the first hour of a bona fide heart attack.

“Aspirin is a very safe drug with a mild anti-thrombotic (anti-clotting) effect. It is considered an effective mild ‘clot-buster’ by selectively inhibiting ‘thrombaxene formation’ and partially preventing ‘platelet aggregation’ both of which cause clotting formation within the coronary arteries.

“In extreme situations, taking aspirin may be the only life-saving maneuver that an isolated person can do.”

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 14, 2000)

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