POSTSCRIPT / October 3, 2000 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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We favor Ping’s stealth to military’s open assault

THE rescue of preacher Wilde Almeda and his followers from their Abu Sayyaf captors was a welcome break for President Estrada who was beginning to feel the pressure of a protracted war draining scarce resources and taxing the patience of an anxious population.

We hope President Estrada does not take the recovery of the Almeda group as a vindication of his erratic handling of the war in the uncharted jungles of Sulu.

The formula of Gen. Angelo Reyes, AFP chief of staff, of strafing and bombarding the kidnappers’ lairs before sending in the ground troops reminds us of policemen driving to a crime scene with sirens blaring — a signal for the criminals to start fleeing so there would be no bloody encounter.

But if you ask us, Gen. Ping Lacson’s formula — accumulating intelligence and having commandoes surprise the targets — would have been the better approach.

* * *

GOING out on a limb again… if I had the money, I would buy a Mercedes instead of a cheaper bantam sedan — not because of any taste for luxury but because I want to be assured of a safer, trouble-free ride with less maintenance over the long run.

If, like Education Secretary Andrew Gonzalez, I were faced with a choice between a Ford Expedition and a Toyota Corolla or a Nissan Sentra, I would go for the Ford — for the same reasons.

I can imagine that the same practical evaluation process goes through the mind of most hard-working executives, even the gentlemen in the Senate, whose activities demand a lot of traveling.

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TALKING of luxury, why are such vehicles as the Honda CRV, Toyota Revo and similar utility vehicles described as luxury cars in stories about government vehicles?

What’s the big deal with riding one? Some of these vehicles may give a more comfortable ride, but what’s so luxurious about that?

Luxury is all in the mind. Some folk back in our barrio would feel swathed in luxury driving to Sunday mass in a stainless jeepney of their own. I would not feel ensconced in luxury driving a Honda CRV or a Toyota Land Cruiser to a press assignment.

* * *

THE same pygmy thinking is behind the purchase of cheap medium-sized motorcycles for traffic officers and bantam cars for highway patrol use, the scaling down of the model blamed on lack of funds.

Our police officers look pathetic riding decrepit vehicles that threaten to fall apart when revved up to more than 100 kph. Our police may not always be outgunned, but they are always outrun by traffic violators and carnappers.

When accosted by a traffic officer, I want to be able to talk to somebody who knows his job and looks and talks like a real person in authority – not somebody who looks in dire need of financial assistance. I want to be proud of our police officers.

* * *

SENATE President Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, emailed to assure us that the Senate “has not allocated funds for the purchase of vehicles for members of the chamber.”

He added: “All the vehicles used by the senators are their own personal property. Like any government institution or agency, the Senate owns service vehicles for the use of its staff. But none of these are luxury vehicles.”

Now, can we please hear something like that from Speaker Manuel Villar? And from Cabinet secretaries and other heads of government agencies?

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WE received mail sharing our lament that Gonzalez is being unfairly subjected to a mob trial on his management decision to buy a vehicle that would serve him well in his work as Cabinet secretary.

One point of ours is that the money used in the purchase was not taken from funds earmarked for teachers, books, classrooms or such critical items, but from a non-budgeted donation intended for equipment.

The outside donation, not being a fund in the budget or the national treasury, could not have been used for teachers, books or classrooms even if Gonzalez wanted to.

Many readers have agreed that “let him who is without a luxury vehicle cast the first stone.”

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READER Monet Lopez said: “I’ve known Bro. Andrew since my grade school days in La Salle and I can tell you, you can call him anything but corrupt and dishonest. He is truly a man of unquestionable integrity and morality. If at most, he would be ‘guilty’ of naiveté about the pitfalls of working in government.

“He should have known that there would constantly be slings and arrows thrown his way especially by the ‘gods’ whom he displeases. My advice to him is to get out of government. It isn’t worth it.

“Those of us who know him will vouch for him. But how about the many millions more Filipinos who do not know Bro. Andrew other than what they read in the papers? There really must be something wrong with our culture and values as a people when a man like Bro. Andrew is now perceived and judged to be more ‘evil’ than his accuser.”

* * *

IN California, a long time ago the state bought really powerful and fast pursuit cars for the highway patrol. Official equipment does not always have to be cheap just because it is government-issued. It must first of all be suited for the purpose.

Road chases in the wide expressways in the West Coast could escalate to dangerous speed so you sometimes see highway patrol officers wearing helmets behind the wheel.

A few really fast patrol cars look like regular cars so speed maniacs do not readily spot them as they creep up on them. Some look like regular police cars but they carry gleaming souped-up engines under the hood.

That’s what we mean when we say that the equipment must be suited for the purpose.

* * *

ON the police brutality case involving a Filam couple at the Seattle airport, some readers said Dennis Olsen the victim was stupid, or even arrogant, when he argued with the arresting officer. They said that the best thing to do under the circumstances is to just keep quiet and contest the ticket later in court.

I disagree. One must speak up when he feels he is a victim of an injustice. I’m not advocating that one tangle with the policeman, but we can always argue our side in a civilized manner.

Going to court eats up too much time and then there is the burden of overturning the testimony of a police officer who for some reason is presumed by most US traffic judges to be more credible.

* * *

MANY times I had argued with officers accosting me or pulling me over for some supposed traffic violation. A few times, I was able to explain away my side.

One case was for speeding on Highway 80 near Sacramento on my way to Reno. The police car signaled me to pull over and even led me out the exit. Rolling down my window I asked what the problem was. He said I was running beyond 60 (the speed limit then was only 55 mph).

How could that be, I asked in surprise, when my speedometer was hovering on 55 when he jumped on me. I pointed out that I was on cruise control (that automatically controlled the speed to what I had set) so I could not have been speeding.

I don’t know why he let me go, but I guess he was not so sure about his own meter in the face of my saying that my cruise control was set to 55. My speed gadget could not have been wrong since I was then driving an obviously brand-new Nissan.

* * *

OLSEN’S mistake, I think, was his getting off his car and thereby exposing himself to manhandling and such abuse. That would not have happened if he stayed inside the car.

We’ve been told in driving school to just roll down the window and talk pleasantly with the arresting officer, making sure both our hands are on the wheel. It would be a gross mistake for a policeman to drag you out of your car.

Avoid being provoked into stepping out. Even here in Metro Manila, sometimes a driver who did not like the way you passed him may get off at the next red light and rap your window to expose you to verbal abuse or challenge you to a fight.

Keep your doors locked and do not get off. The law would be on your side if he forced his way in or forces you out.

* * *

BACK to the Gonzalez inquisition in the Senate… since education secretary is an alter ego of the president, it is high time President Estrada spoke up. What does he think?

President Estrada can put to rest a variety of questions by issuing or reiterating an administrative order prescribing what type of motor vehicles can be bought and/or used by officials in the Executive department and prescribing penalties for violations.

The example thus set could be the standard that personnel of the legislature and the judiciary could follow under similar administrative orders of their respective department heads.

As it is, either the rules are not clear enough, the penalties not stiff enough, or the enforcement not consistent enough, that there is general confusion as to what is allowed and what is not.

* * *

INFOTECH: Some readers who sense that something might go wrong any time with their PC hard drive have asked us how best to back up their files. By “best” we presume they mean easily, reliably and with the least expense. Perhaps our readers who are into infotech and such would be able to help.

If I were to do a backup, my first option would be a zip drive, preferably an external model so I could use it with other computers. Second choice would be a second hard drive installed as a “slave” of the master disk. Of course, there are other ways.

If your hard disk has been there for more than a year, it is advisable to do a backup right away, even if everything seems normal.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 3, 2000)

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