POSTSCRIPT / November 2, 2000 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Lim won’t find Erap’s name on the land titles

AS sure as jueteng millions have found their way to Malacañang, Local Government Secretary Alfredo Lim will not find the name of Erap Estrada on the ownership papers covering the fabulous mansions reportedly given to his high-living mistresses.

That will be the problem of Lim. When (not if) he turns in a report clearing the President, everybody will cry whitewash. On the other hand, if (not when) he finds fault… but do you think he would dare find something?

Lim’s job has been cut and dried for him. Before Erap named him supersleuth to verify the ownership of the mansions, Erap’s lawyers had made sure that the incriminating names of the Bossman and the Boss-women do not appear on the documents.

Even if the investigation were entrusted to Cardinal Sin and a bevy of angels, the inescapable conclusion based on the sterilized documents would still be that Erap and his women do not own any of the mansions described as love-nests of sorts.

* * *

TALKING of investigation, if the Banko Sentral and the monetary board are indeed independent bodies, by this time they should be able to tell us exactly who had purchased and moved huge amounts of dollars, when and where.

The volume and velocity of the dollar flight the past several weeks will explain to some extent the precipitous drop in the value of the peso vis-à-vis the US dollar. Depending on how it was done, such operation could be plunder or economic sabotage.

Is the Erap administration not interested in ferreting out this information? Or worse, is anybody covering up for people close to the Palace? Do we have to wait for another Sabit Singsong from the banking sector to bare all, ledgers and all?

* * *

QUEZON City is right next door to Manila, yet in-depth reportage on it is as spotty as that of an obscure town of Cotabato. That’s why Mayor Mel Mathay gets away with his dismal performance.

Vice and common crimes proliferate at street level, public health (including garbage disposal) has been neglected, salaries of city workers are sometimes delayed, et cetera, yet this sad state of city affairs is hardly reported.

This city that harks back to government housing projects (source of the slang term “jeprox”) amidst cogonal patches still manages to grow — not because, but in spite, of Mathay who just waits for the 2001 bell ending his last term as mayor.

The growth of Quezon City, especially in economic terms, is properly credited more to private enterprise than to the fossilized factotums in the mayor’s office.

* * *

MATHAY appears to have neglected the city that was once the nation’s capital until the error was corrected and the title was given back to the ever-loyal city of Manila.

Uncollected weeks-old garbage is scattered all over the city, posing a serious threat to public health and to neighborhood peace as residents quarrel over the dumping of waste over other people’s walls.

Crimes against property have become so rampant (exhibit A is my innocent car) that most victims have decided it is futile to report them to the police and to the media that have babied Mathay.

Streetwalkers openly ply their trade on busy avenues that one would think they carried licenses from the Office of the Mayor. Indecent shows in nightspots and prostitution in massage parlors go on unnoticed by City Hall yet their operators regularly catch the mayor’s eye and that of his son.

* * *

MATHAY has seen better days, particularly as runner of then Metro Manila Gov. Imelda R. Marcos, whom he had served with canine loyalty under martial rule.

Since he has become irrelevant, Mathay should opt for early retirement as mayor instead of wasting valuable official time and resources. But he holds on, like an Erap Estrada clinging to the presidency, apparently because he finds being mayor a lucrative business.

But do we have to wait for May 2001 to install a new mayor who can curb crime and big-time vice, clean the city, and give sense and direction to the development of this neglected corner of Metro Manila?

* * *

THE giving away by Malacañang of some 17 hectares of Quezon City’s prime park area at North Triangle to professional squatters cannot happen without the criminal collusion of Mathay and officials of the National Housing Authority.

Rallying the poor and rolling them into cannon fodder against the rich in the class war he has been stoking, Erap Estrada is giving away 17 hectares of parkland to professional squatters taking advantage of his desperation to stay in power.

The area is part of the 50 hectares of parkland that then NHA General Manager Lito Atienza (now Manila mayor) refused to lease to shopping mall magnates Henry Sy and John Gokongwei despite pressure from some top officials of then President Aquino.

* * *

THIS cheap political trick of bribing homeless migrants with valuable real estate (that park area now commands a price of P25,000 per square meter!) illustrates one of the reasons for this country’s meltdown under Erap Estrada.

In civilized countries, they look for urban areas to clear and develop into people’s parks. They go to great lengths planting trees and developing extra lungs for their community. They lead their people back to nature, good health and sanity.

In this benighted country, it’s the opposite. We already have the park areas wisely reserved by law, but idiots elected to public office lose no time in cutting the trees and giving away the parks to real estate developers and, lately, to professional squatters.

Impeachment is much too kind for such demented officials.

* * *

THE thousands of suckers who are handed “land titles” by an Erap Estrada bribing them with home lots better look closely at the documents.

Niloloko po kayo! Those are not land titles as claimed in Malacañang propaganda. They are just pieces of paper representing the usual political promise that at some unspecified date in the future the torrens title to your new home lot might be given to you.

It makes us vomit to see the President of the Republic no less distributing fake land titles to gullible victims. When will Erap Estrada outgrow cinematic props?

* * *

THIS serial rape of public parks by government officials is not just a case of twisted priorities, miseducation and bad taste. It is a case of graft and corruption.

The wanton surrender of reserved park areas to mall operators and real estate developers happens because the officials approving such conversions are bribed with tons of money. There cannot be any other explanation. The thing speaks for itself.

Official discretion and decisions are routinely sold to the highest bidder. You see, an official must amass as much wealth as he can while in office to sustain his acquired lifestyle in the grand tradition of the Marcos kleptocracy.

* * *

THIS is the sad truth about so-called government service. Politics is nothing but big business. This explains why choice positions are bequeathed to spouses and children like they were family possessions.

The 1987 Constitution bans political dynasties, but our lawmakers – many of whom are actually representatives of vested interests and political dynasties — refuse to pass the enabling law to enforce this prohibition.

So we have such spectacles as Makati’s Jojo Binay simply passing on to his wife the mayorship after he served the three-term maximum set by law. He is now preparing to take it back in 2001 and hold it until his son who is councilor is himself ready to inherit the post.

(We just happened to mention Binay because he is the closest and most convenient example at the moment. But the same dynasty-building is replicated all over the country while Congress refuses to pass the law needed to stop the unconstitutional practice.).

* * *

IN another bribery attempt, Erap Estrada is scrapping the 3-percent duty on imported oil and petroleum products to gain public sympathy. But the move might be all for naught since duty-free importation need not automatically mean lower fuel pump prices.

If the loopholes are not plugged first, the 3-percent savings on the landed cost of oil and refined products could end up in the coffers of the oil companies instead of the pockets of the consuming public.

With deregulation, the government cannot tell the oil ogres how much to charge for their fuel. So where is the guarantee that prices would go down by 3 percent?

* * *

IT might be easier to ensure a price reduction if, instead of dropping the 3-percent duty for the benefit of importers, the government reduces or removes the specific taxes on petroleum taxes and reflect the discount directly on the pump prices.

Import duties are paid by the importers (the oil companies). Remove duties and you favor the importers. But their savings will not necessarily be passed on to consumers.

But remove or reduce specific taxes on oil products sold at service stations and you favor the buying public by directly discounting the tax savings from the price.

The problem is that while the President can lift on his own the 3-percent duty on crude oil and imported petroleum products, he cannot just tamper with specific taxes on fuel retailed at service stations. He needs Congress to do this.

* * *

POSTSCRIPT: This is no joke. Infocom Technologies Inc. warned us subscribers that there is a dangerous virus being passed on with email as an attachment titled “ERAP.exe.” Infocom’s advice is not to open this .exe file, but to delete it on sight. Not only that, if we may add our own one-byte piece of advice. Chase the virus to the trash bin and impeach it with finality!

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 2, 2000)

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