POSTSCRIPT / May 28, 2000 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Nene must make a stand on Jinggoy’s ambulances

WE thank Sen. Nene Pimentel for his kind words about us and our alleged readability and marksmanship.

But, really, the senator would gain even more respect if, as chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, he would make a categorical, courageous stand on the wanton abuse of government vehicles for personal, partisan advertising.

We have the impression that he sees nothing wrong in having the name of San Juan Mayor Jinggoy Estrada, who is being groomed for the Senate, emblazoned on Sweepstakes ambulances being distributed to favored local officials.

Some of his admirers are wondering what ever happened to Nene, the opposition stalwart whom Ninoy Aquino once described as a future president of the Republic. Why is Nene suddenly hesitant to call a spade a spade?

We make these comments hoping to stoke the old fire in Nene. Sayang siya…

* * *

OUR recent sighting in the Makati shopping area of a Sweepstakes ambulance (SFK 151) shamelessly advertising Jinggoy and crediting him for the release of the vehicle to Malolos Mayor Resty Roque, has elicited comments.

Dr. Josie Banaag of Hardin ng Rosas, UP Diliman: “Indeed, words are not enough to describe disgust over politicians’ penchant for putting their names on just about anything — ambulances, waiting sheds, asphalting of roads, lighting of streets, barangay halls, playgrounds, vehicles for barangay use, etc. — giving the impression that these came from their pockets.

“Let us stop this practice. It is dishonest, deceptive, and shameful. I’ve seen some of these ambulances with Jinggoy’s name emblazoned on them. Each time I did, I cursed him. Same with the others like that governor of Rizal who made countless, some of them useless, waiting sheds with posts shaped like the letter Y. Hindi pa nakontento doon, nilagay pa ang buong pangalan niya na parang alay niya sa mamamayan ang waiting shed!

“Shame on them! This QC mayor had the nerve to put a sign saying that the streetlights were placed, courtesy of (his name). Isn’t this part of their job? Why announce it as though saying that people owed it to him? Nakakahiya sila!”

* * *

MIGUEL Remo Enriquez of BF Resort Village, Las Piñas: “I share your utter disappointment with the abuse of these supposed ambulances. Earlier this month, a branch of a pizza parlor (Little Ceasar’s) here on Canaynay Road, Parañaque, was inaugurated and topped off with a motorcade complete with motorcycle policemen with sirens blaring and flashers on.

“I was already disgusted with all that fanfare and the traffic it was causing along Sucat Road, but I was surprised to see that the lead vehicle (adorned with balloons and posters) was an ambulance! This ambulance did not have any plate number except for a piece of paper where the plate should have been that stated “GOVERNMENT VEHICLE.”

* * *

MILA Tuazon using a yahoo address: “At times that I and my friends saw some ambulances with names of our “honorable!@#?!!” politicians parked near malls, grocery stores, etc., it made us puke and almost made us throw stones at them.

“I agree with your suggestions wholeheartedly. Please don’t waver. If we see ambulances being used for purposes other than carrying sick people, we will get the necessary details and send them to you.

My husband and I used to be great fans of Pimentel, but now both of us are wondering what happened to him.”

* * *

SENATOR Pimentel can recover some ground by cracking down on this ambulance scandal that dramatizes the low regard that crooked politicians have for their office and their constituents. Reader Tuazon must have been referring to these suggestions we made in an earlier Postscript:

  • The name of any person, politician or not, placed on the bodies of ambulances and similar government vehicles must be removed.
  • Like all government vehicles, ambulances should be strictly covered by the trip ticket rule supposed to be enforced by the Commission on Audit. That is, if a way can be found to make COA do its job.
  • 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.

* * *

WE got the side of Petron on that televised incident showing personnel from the oil company attempting to take over a gas station operated by Dr. Amanda Ternida Cruz at Magsaysay Blvd. corner Altura St. in Sta. Mesa.

Petron Chairman Jose Syjuco Jr. said it was not true that Petron’s action was intended to prevent Cruz from selling petroleum products at prices lower than the suggested price. He said Cruz was just being prevented from selling non-Petron fuels misrepresented as Petron products.

Liberador V. Villegas, Petron counsel, gave us this backgrounder:

“Petron did not barricade the station for the alleged reason that Dra. Cruz was selling cheaper gasoline and diesel. Pricing is not the issue here. It is however being used by Dra. Cruz as a smokescreen, as it appears that she does not want the public to know the real reason for Petron’s action.

“As the oil industry is already deregulated, dealers are free to price their products as may be dictated by factors such as competition and their own operating costs. That dealers are free to price their products is enshrined in the Oil Deregulation Law and is fully supported by Petron.

“The issue in the case of Dra. Cruz is really her unlawful and extended stay at Petron’s station. Her contracts with Petron, which expired as early as 1987, were no longer renewed by the company. However, when asked to vacate the station by Petron, Dra. Cruz refused to leave, compelling us to file an ejectment case against her.

“The Municipal Trial Court of Manila decided in favor of Petron, and so did the Regional Trial Court upon Dra. Cruz’s appeal. However, Dra. Cruz elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals, which found that Petron had not complied with certain procedural requirements in terminating her dealership, therefore ruling in favor of Dra. Cruz.

“The Supreme Court eventually upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals. Dra. Cruz thus claimed victory as a result of the rulings of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. However, even as the Court of Appeals found that Petron could not remove Dra. Cruz due to some technicalities, its decision cannot be interpreted to mean that Petron should be deprived of its legitimate right over its property.

“The required notices identified by the Court having been sent, Petron proceeded to recover its station from Dra. Cruz. All the proper steps were taken by Petron, including the notices to Dra. Cruz as outlined by the Court. This culminated with the re-entry into and repossession of the premises by Petron in the morning of May 17.

“Unfortunately, when Dra. Cruz and her spouse, Atty. Francisco Galman Cruz, forcibly re-entered the station, verbally abused the General Counsel of Petron, and even threatened violence, as shown in the film clips on TV, Petron decided to withdraw to avoid further confrontation and any untoward incident that could result due to our continued presence at the station.

“Petron was fully within its rights in its efforts to recover the station. Dra. Cruz has no hold over this Petron property and yet continues to occupy it illegally. We are therefore again resorting to judicial action and are confident that we will inevitably recover our station.

“The products being sold at the station are not being purchased by Dra. Cruz from Petron, but from unknown, non-legitimate sources. This was admitted by Atty. Cruz when interviewed by a TV reporter on May 17. Petron is therefore concerned that the public is being misled to believe that this being a Petron station, the products are of the same quality as those being marketed by Petron.

“Moreover, some people in the neighborhood have been complaining of seepage of used oil within the immediate vicinity of the station. We feel that this prevailing situation is not in keeping with the high environmental standards Petron has set for itself and its dealers.

“In view of the foregoing, Petron has no alternative but to recover its station to assert its legal rights over its property, as well as to protect the consumers, the environment and the good name of Petron.”

* * *

ANXIOUS friends and relatives abroad, agitated by the barrage of negative news about the home country, asked us what exactly was going on.

We advised them to relax, assuring them that everything appears to be normal. We emailed them a common situationer that read in part:

Everything here seems normal. The peso has dropped to P43 to the dollar and may fall lower, but prices of gasoline and key items have risen. There are bombings in crowded public places, especially malls, and innocent people have been killed or wounded. Solid state pa rin ang traffic. It has been raining and many places have gone under water. Terrorists continue to hold hostages in Basilan and Sulu, many of them foreigners, and the government is stumped. Days ago, an overloaded ferry sank and a domestic jetliner crashed. The other day, some character hijacked a PAL airbus over the hills of Antipolo and bailed out the back door at 6,000 feet. Yesterday, a Cessna with four aboard vanished while flying over Isabela’s mountains. And Erap is still around to bring us more good luck. I’m afraid everything is normal.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 28, 2000)

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