POSTSCRIPT / May 25, 2000 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Jinggoy uses ambulances for personal advertising

FINALLY, this infidel was blessed last Tuesday with the beatific vision of one of those Sweepstakes ambulances doled out by a member of the Blessed Trinity of San Juan.

There it was shamelessly parading itself, its sirens and flashers off, near the shopping area in Makati. We drove in front of it, beside and behind it to fully experience the celestial sight.

The Sweepstakes ambulance, Besta brand, carried red license plate number SFK 151. Emblazoned in big letters on its side was the name of Mayor Jinggoy Estrada of San Juan, who the text said facilitated (“sa pagtataguyod ni…”) the release of the vehicle to Mayor Resty Roque of Malolos, Bulacan.

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THIS is political advertising obviously in preparation for the 2001 elections wherein Jinggoy is reportedly set to head the administration Senate slate.

Sen. Nene Pimentel, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, sees nothing wrong with that shameless appropriation of public property for private partisan use. It’s a pity that in the twilight of his career Nene has to compromise his sense of right and wrong.

Like other politicians still nursing presidential ambitions, Nene is unwilling to displease President Estrada, probably because he is hoping that by some divine intervention of the Blessed Trinity he might just be anointed to carry on.

But Nene should be sharp enough to notice that he is just one of several aging politicians feeding off the hands of Erap, titillated by the seductive possibility that God the Father would pick him as his successor.

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MALACANANG and the Senate committee have assured taxpayers that the ambulances were doled out by Jinggoy only to the poorest of the poor municipalities. Are they saying that the capital town of Bulacan just 44 kilometers north of Manila is that poor?

Since the media are pretending not to see these ambulances appropriated by Jinggoy for his mobile political advertising, we invite readers to inform us of their own sighting.

If anybody goes to the malls often enough, he is bound to spot these Sweepstakes ambulances on shopping errands. On weekends, they can be seen in resorts and such places ferrying members of the families of politicians.

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SOME doctors have told us that these ambulances are so badly designed and equipped that during the few times that they are used for mercy missions, the dying patient sways from side to side as the vehicle weaves its reckless way through traffic.

If the patient needs dextrose along the way, somebody has to hold the bottle up as there is reportedly not even a hook from which to hang it. If the patient cries for oxygen, he may have to inhale instead the cigarette smoke of the security guard doubling as a driver.

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SENATOR Pimentel can redeem his name by coming back and cracking down on this ambulance mess which epitomizes how our rotten government works.

First of all, the name of any person, politician or not, placed on the bodies of ambulances and similar government vehicles must be removed. If Malacañang is too insensitive to impose this basic rule, Congress must step in.

Second, like all government vehicles, ambulances should be strictly covered by the trip ticket rule supposed to be enforced by the Commission on Audit. (But, how do we make the COA perform this constitutionally mandated job of policing government funds, supplies and equipment?)

Third, the public has to be satisfied that the acquisition of these fleets of substandard ambulances was on the level.

Fourth, the vehicles’ configuration and equipment for ambulance service must pass a rigid test. As they are now, the vehicles seem to have been designed for shopping and weekend sorties.

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THIS early, some congressmen are expressing doubt that the anti-dynasty measure hibernating in Congress would be passed.

Their pessimism is not without basis. Why would the Estrada administration allow this bill to become law when it would prohibit any relative to the second degree of the President from running for public office?

With the anti-dynasty law in place, how could Jinggoy become senator? How would the other sons of President Estrada, such as JV, satisfy their lust for public office?

It is unlikely that the bill would reach the President for his signature since lawmakers themselves who have espouses, children, siblings and other relatives to the second degree would not allow the bill to pass.

The measure as it is now worded bans candidates in the same town, city or province where there is already an incumbent who is a relative to the second degree.

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THEORETICALLY, the citizens can nip any budding dynasty by simply voting down candidates whose only qualification is their relationship to a sitting official.

Alas, the integrity of elections has been compromised beyond repair in the foreseeable future. The people are so resigned to electoral anomalies that cheating is now taken to be a normal occurrence.

What happens is that public outrage is not enough to screen out undeserving relatives of officials attempting to grab a public office on the strength of the machinery of their political dynasty.

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MIKE C. Bolos, writing from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, joins the discussion on our proposal for a compromise middle ground for the Big 3 oil companies to co-exist with the National Oil Exchange proposed by Bataan Rep. Enrique T. Garcia:

“It looks like Congressman Garcia wants all or nothing for his OilEx proposal. Unless he comes out with something that would dispel the perception of another government monopoly in the offing with his proposal, then his proposal will not fly.

“We have seen numerous times in the past that the government does not do well in business. As a matter of fact, the government has no business being in business. Business is better left in the hands of businesspeople.

“True competition in the marketplace is the only and the most palatable way to break the stranglehold of the Big 3 on the market. I would suggest to Congressman Garcia to concentrate on how to bring that about at all costs rather than staying put with his proposal that will probably end up just being talked about until hell freezes over.”

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BOLOS also mentioned a TV Patrol report last May 18 on Channel 2, which we missed, featuring a Petron gasoline station barricaded by Petron security personnel reportedly for selling gasoline cheaper than the prevailing or suggested price.

Our reader cited two significant points:

  1. It looks like that gasoline and diesel can be sold cheaper at the pump, but the price is being dictated by the oil company.
  2. Petron assumed police powers by allegedly barricading the station and destroying its equipment.

Fellow columnist Mentong Laurel also told us about the same incident, identifying the gas station owner as Amanda Cruz, who ran with him (and lost) in the last senatorial election. Amanda is known to stick to something she believes in.

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ONE nagging question is whether an oil company may dictate the retail price of fuel in gas stations selling its products. Is it not enough that the oil company gets its projected profit upon its bulk sale of oil products to a gas station?

We think that whatever the station owner does to the fuel, even if he gives it away for free, should not be the business of the supplying oil company.

We invite the affected gas station owner to speak up and for Petron to give its side.

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SO you think PAL means “Planes Always Late”? You may have to recast your bias, it seems.

After a review of the on-time arrival and departure records of 12 major Asia-Pacific airlines in 1999, the Asian Wall Street Journal ranked Philippine Airlines second for arrivals and third for departures.

“Surprisingly, the Asian airlines with the best on-time records aren’t necessarily the ones with the best public images,” the Journal wrote in its May 17 issue. “Philippine Airlines, for example, reported the second-best arrival record last year.”

A pleased PAL president Avelino L. Zapanta remarked: “This recognition by a highly regarded international publication confirms that PAL has what it takes to compete with the best. I especially commend our airport services, ground-handling and maintenance staff for this achievement. Their hard work just paid off.”

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THE systemwide arrival punctuality record of PAL was 88.7 percent in the fiscal year ended March 31, second to Japan’s All-Nippon Airways (ANA).

Singapore Airlines, a perennial survey favorite, was only sixth out of nine which did not give exact on-time statistics for each carrier.

For departures, PAL’s on-time record was 89 percent – good for third place behind ANA and Japan Airlines. Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways and Korean Airlines were way down the list.

A flight is considered on time if it is within 15 minutes of schedule. When the door of a departing plane is closed within 15 minutes of its scheduled departure, it is considered on time.

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POSTSCRIPT: Whoever is planting those bombs may not have enough of them to go around. So, we speculate that those places already hit, such as the Glorietta and Megamall, may be relatively safer now since, we think, it is unlikely that whoever planted those bombs would do it again in the same place… We’ve been looking for native chicken eggs to no avail. Will somebody who knows of a source for about a dozen native eggs a week please inform us. A source near Mabalacat and Angeles would be preferred.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 25, 2000)

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