POSTSCRIPT / October 1, 2000 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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He who has no luxury car casts the first stone

LET me break away from the mob crying for the head of Education Secretary Andrew Gonzalez on the purchase of comparatively expensive vehicles for his and other DECS officials’ use.

First, we want to ask those in high government office, especially lawmakers, who do not have luxury cars bought with taxpayers’ money to cast the first stone.

Second, may we ask them also to please explain what item in the budget was raided to fund their own expensive taste for vehicles?

Then, they can rail all they want against anybody else in government riding an expensive vehicle.

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BOTH may be unacceptable, but which is worse: Buying a luxury car from public funds meant for essential government services or buying one with non-budgeted funds coming from a donation?

It would help us taxpayers see the issue of luxury cars in perspective if Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Manuel Villar published an inventory of all luxury vehicles in the hands of lawmakers purchased with public funds.

We would support any move to return all these vehicles, including those in the hands of Cabinet members and military/police officers — if indeed it is immoral for government personnel to use them during these hard times.

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WE bewail the spectacle of teachers not being paid enough and on time, of students being crammed in decrepit classrooms or forced to hold classes in the open, of tattered textbooks being passed from hand to hand beyond their useful life.

The teachers, the students and all of us depending on the education system to salvage this country need a break. We need all the money we can lay our hands on.

But funds for salaries, books and classrooms are already allocated in the budget. There is a specific source for each expense. Unfortunately, donations are not among the sources listed in the budget.

In short, even if our officials wanted to, the Land Bank donation to DECS could not have been used for paying the teachers, buying books or building classrooms.

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PARDON us for saying the obvious, but we think our legislators who pass upon the budget every year should give the education department all the money it needs to carry out its important mission.

Since our future is in the hands of our children, quality education is our only salvation. Let our lawmakers give education all the money it needs, so our DECS officials need not scrounge for donations to fund collateral, but necessary, equipment.

Bigyan po ninyo ng sapat na salapi ang DECS para hindi na sila magpapalimos.

Give DECS what it needs. Stop the wickedness of denying them funds then slapping them when they accept donations. Stop the hypocrisy of zipping around in luxury cars bought with budgetary funds, but forbidding others from using similar vehicles bought from donations.

Do we plead lack of funds only when it comes to the needs of line personnel, but not when lawmakers need to satisfy their own runaway taste for luxury?

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IN the end, however, we agree that Secretary Gonzalez and his officials should return the vehicles, pending the laying down of a clear and even-handed policy on gifts and donations for government personnel.

But the return of the vehicles would not amount to anything if only DECS officials would do it.

If indeed these are times that cry for scrimping, let all officials give up their own luxury vehicles — except the President, the Vice President, the Chief Justice, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House.

If they cannot do that, then they should stop the sickening hypocrisy and double standard of hounding Secretary Gonzalez for a management decision he had to make on buying a more reliable vehicle for official use.

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YES, Dennis and Maxi Olsen of Marysville, Washington, are pressing charges against the Seattle airport police officers who harassed and manhandled him last August when he went to the airport to fetch her on a late flight.

Dennis, who used to be consul at the US embassy in Manila, is a lawyer. Maxi (nee Maria Corazon Magbag) is a FilAmerican.

We still have to apologize to beauty queen Aurora Pijuan for mistakenly referring to her and her husband as the victims. Anyway, Maxi says, “I tell you, Ms Pijuan is really a person with a kind heart. She took the mistaken identity with such graciousness.”

When we told the Olsens in an email that we hoped they press charges, Maxi replied, “I am so proud of my countrymen and so happy for all their support. Don’t worry. We won’t let them down. We will do all we can, not only to get justice for us, but to ensure that these perpetrators are not allowed to commit such atrocities again.”

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ALEX A. Esclamado, chairman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) reported that Rep. Vilma Veloria, the first Filipina and the first FilAmerican to be elected to the Washington state legislature, confirmed that an investigation is being conducted.

But, so far, no disciplinary action has been taken against the five police officers of the Port of Seattle (not the Seattle police, which is a different entity) identified by the Olsens as their tormentors.

Esclamado said the case was set for discussion in the NaFFAA convention scheduled in Las Vegas Sept. 28 – Oct. 1. He added that their group would bring it to the attention of the local US media.

Chief Patrick Kasnick of the port police assured Bert Caoili, president of the local Filipino community, that Seattle port authorities and the port police do not condone such behavior, but asked that they be given time to sort out conflicting allegations.

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READER VGMassart with a French cyber address said: “Whatever the color, nationality or breed of the assailants (police officers in this case), I believe such arrogance and bestiality should be condemned and I’m glad you wrote about it.

“There was a report on BBC last night about excessive police brutality in the US so you were not far off at all in denouncing the incident. Moreover, a Filipino woman was involved.

“Having dealt with Americans all throughout my life, I have found that whenever an American is in a position of authority, he reverts to the primitive status of ‘me King Kong, you Jane’ syndrome and although one cannot generalize, I find them on the whole, an unrefined lot.”

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GOLDEN Emerald using an aol (AmericaOnLine) address: “This is very sad. If they can do this to him, they can do this to any Filipino or Asian-American in Seattle and the US. About time Filipinos and all Asian-Americans in Seattle and the US unite, organize and mobilize, and protest this police brutality!”

Rocky Boisvert of celeritysolutions: “I sent your article to two Seattle newspapers. My hope is that they will do their job and put some serious heat underneath not only the police officers whose behavior, which is not only moronic but which is also criminal, but also underneath the Seattle government that is ultimately responsible for hiring these thugs.”

EXZUR12 also of aol: “What the Seattle airport police did is utterly reprehensible. The couple’s option is to get a good civil rights attorney and take this matter to court. No human being should be treated the way they were treated.

“However, (the couple) are partly to blame. They should have acquiesced, right there and then. Arguing with a police officer is not advisable, whoever is in the right or in the wrong. It is not a good idea to act belligerent towards an arresting officer. One can just take the ticket and challenge it later on.”

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NERISSA Hansen of (Copenhagen, Denmark): “I’m totally outraged at how in this day and age we still encounter abusive police officers. Too bad nothing was caught on camera, or there were no other witnesses. There are a lot of these incidents everywhere, mostly of racial motive.”

Sam Wayne of “If what she says is true and it may well be, the problem must be addressed and the wrong rectified, and the sadistic cops convicted of their brutal and unsavory acts. The US does not tolerate this behavior from its police force.

“My question is, did you verify any of the information printed? If so with whom and to what extent? I would be much more comfortable if you had published a statement from the hospital, or a police official along with the editorial written by (the alleged victim) who is without a doubt a biased witness.”

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OSCAR S. Castillo of Montebello, California: “For the benefit of us abroad and reading the news on the Internet Edition, what is the name of the husband of Aurora Pijuan? Is he a Filipino?”

Edwina Litton Ortigas of hotmail: “I am a friend of Aurora’s and would very much appreciate it if you could pass on the following letter to her.”

Ed Bayani of “Your column reads like a Philippine police news report, but I guess it happens anywhere, not only in the Philippines because most humans are inhuman.”

Ben-Gabs of “If they do take some legal action we hope to read in your column any development on the case. I hope in due time those American police officers will have the chance to visit the Philippines so they can also experience how pigs like them are dealt with.”

Irene D. Llamzon of Carson, California: “Such incidents are not really new. There’s been several incidents here with police officers, fortunately, some of it had been caught on video. It’s very disturbing.”

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RAY Satorre of Daly City, California: “Her husband is a bit shitty and arrogant, since it is plain and simple that any infraction of traffic rules in America can easily be contested in the traffic court. He was even saying that he is a lawyer. He is a lousy lawyer that needs to be disciplined the hard way. Arrogance in America is a two-way affair.”

Orlando Domingo of Irving, Texas: “I don’t think that incident ever happened. If ever it did, looks like it’s the husband’s fault for not following instructions. If you were pulled over by a law enforcer, the safest and smartest thing to do is to keep still and listen. If there are any issues on how you were treated, etc., you have the chance to file a complaint and sue the police officer involved.”

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MASATO writing from a Japan address: “I sympathize with (the victims), but they are also partly to blame. For one, the husband was illegally parked. To tell the officer that others are parked illegally too is like telling him how to do his job.”

“Secondly, you do not argue with a police officer (especially at night) because in their one-dimensional brain, they are always right. To do so is plain stupidity. If you do not agree with the offence being charged you, there is always the court.

“Thirdly, one can only be stupid to be defiant to a cop, after you recognized him as the same one who you had an altercation with earlier, thinking that he does not have a premeditated agenda. It is so easy for a cop to say that he thought you were trying to retrieve a hidden weapon and hitting you was just a defensive reaction.

“And lastly, never offer something else from the wallet when a cop has asked specifically for a driver’s license — they go ballistic when you do this. I guess they think that it could be mistakenly perceived by others as them accepting a bribe.”

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MANUEL C. Diaz of aol: “They should now find a good lawyer and sue the police and the Port of Seattle for violation of civil rights. This is a megabuck case if filed properly. There is a good chance that the police and the port will settle this and the case record is sealed from the public.”

Dr. Cid Terosa of the University of Asia and the Pacific: “What those policemen did was really abominable. It is a disgrace to the police force in the US. I thought that something like this happens only in the Philippines or in other developing countries.”

Bing Ramos of Hayward, California: “These people (if they still deserve to be called as such) must be behind bars and made to pay for their ruthless behavior.”

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ERNIE Delfin of hotmail: “Obviously like many people, you were also ‘taken’ by the speed of cyber-space journalism! In our desire to commiserate with other people’s, we sometimes become ‘victims’ of some malicious (?) news that come our way!”

MYU88 of aol: “Journalists should be more careful in writing unconfirmed stories. Your explanation regarding the error in your column on the Seattle incident presumed to involve our ex-beauty queen Aurora Pijuan is well taken. However, you would agree that the mistake has caused a lot of unnecessary negative reactions among the Filipino communities around the world especially here in America where the incident happened.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 1, 2000)

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