POSTSCRIPT / April 10, 2001 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

Share This

Make Sign of the Cross before entering tollway

PERSONAL message to presidential daughter Luli Arroyo: Please ask your Mom if she gets anything from jueteng. This was one of the big issues that brought down the Estrada administration. It might just as quickly taint and topple your Mom.

* * *

WE join friends in welcoming back Tony Zumel, a respected elder of the working press who flew in from Europe the other day with the contingent of the National Democratic Front that will sit with a government peace panel.

Like journalist Satur Ocampo, who is campaigning for a congressional seat as a Party-List nominee of Bayan Muna, Tony is a staunch defender of the oppressed.

* * *

A SWING man of the defunct Philippines Herald covering a different beat each day, Tony would bump on us reporters here and there. It was from him that I first heard the mixed metaphor “music to my eyes” whenever he would be dealt a good hand at the poker table.

He must have been tipped that he would be a target upon the declaration of martial rule in September 1972, so he went underground when Proclamation 1081 was imposed on the darkened land.

We suspected that the military, where he had a brother who was a general, and even his fellow Ilocano President Marcos knew all the while where Tony was hiding, but never went after him in earnest. We assumed that they understood what he was fighting for.

* * *

YEARS later, a common friend told us at the National Press Club that Tony was very sick. We could deduce what he was suffering from, based on the expensive medicines he was asking friends to procure for him.

We’re sad to note that he now uses a wheelchair. We hope that after a few bottles of beer at the NPC bar he would be able to get up and fling the chair out the window. By the way, his official picture (a sketch actually) hangs in the NPC hallway with those of past NPC presidents.

It was at the same Press Club where Satur Ocampo, then a political detainee on pass to vote in the NPC May elections, walked down the seldom used spiral stairway at the back after casting his ballot. When word got around that Satur gave his military escorts the slip, the boys at the bar drank to it!

* * *

WE heard of stories of the missing Tony Zumel in secret meetings with relatives, colleagues and even top officials who were his friends. One of them was the late Secretary Jose D. Aspiras.

Sunshine Joe reportedly agreed one time to meet Tony at the minor basilica in La Union, hometown of the then tourism secretary. They were already within sight of each other when military types appeared in the area by coincidence. Tony, then in disguise, had to slink away.

We cannot confirm this story from Joe, who died years ago, but Tony might recall this if true.

* * *

A FRIENDLY advice to the government panel: The NDF team that came in is a bunch of expert communicators and tacticians, as you will soon see.

But they have a compelling story to tell, a true story we must be willing to hear and heed if we want peace in the land.

* * *

ALL ye motorists, attention: If you have to drive down the North Luzon Expressway this Holy Week, or any day of the year for that matter, remember that this is one of the most dangerous roads in the country.

Your being forced to pay toll is no guarantee of a safe and comfortable ride in this 90-kilometer stretch between Balintawak and Mabalacat, Pampanga. Bless your car and make the sign of the cross as you enter the tollway.

There’s no use appealing to the conscience of the Philippine National Construction Corp., the NLE managers. Its officials appear to be more interested in maximizing profits than in minimizing accidents and discomfort of road users.

* * *

EVEN then, may we ask the PNCC to please provide holy water (like they do at the door of churches) for the fainthearted who have no choice but to enter, after making the sign of the cross, the dreaded North expressway?

Another public relations gimmick, if we may give free PR advice, is to automatically grant free accident insurance to motorists like the airlines do for their passengers. With the millions it rakes in, the PNCC can afford this drop in the milk bucket.

* * *

THE sad story of the North expressway began with the opening of the initial stretch (then called the “North Diversion Road”) from Balintawak to Tabang in Plaridel, Bulacan, built by then President Diosdado Macapagal in the 1960s.

A smart Marcos picked it up and extended the road to Angeles, inserting an elevated viaduct spanning part of the usually flooded Candaba swamps in Pampanga. Why up to Angeles? Because they wanted to install the toll plaza at Km. 77 (see the connection now?) and that spot happens to be in Angeles.

With his crony Rodolfo Cuenca, Marcos formed the Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines (CDCP) to build and manage the extended tollway. And rake in the millions.

That was the birth of what is now a prolific milking cow of every administration since Marcos. As things stand, it seems the Arroyo administration will not be an exemption to the milking operation.

* * *

LOOKING around, we see many objectionable aspects of past administrations being carried over to the GMA regime.

Take jueteng, one of the key issues that contributed to the fall of Erap Estrada. The illegal numbers game is still very much around. Operations have escalated with the onset of the expensive election campaign, indicating that official protection continues.

Who now gets the multimillion-peso jueteng payola exposed by Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson? The games and the skimming operation continue. So who gets the moolah?

If the recipient used to be President Estrada no less, do you think a lower official now would dare grab the payola from President Arroyo?

* * *

IN the President’s home province of Pampanga, jueteng is thriving with official blessing. More so in her late father’s hometown of Lubao, the base of suspected jueteng lord Bong Pineda.

Do you think GMA is unaware of this? We don’t think so.

The bottom-line question in 2004 could just be: If GMA cannot even set things aright in her own province, why should we entrust the entire country to her?

* * *

WOULD you believe, my own mother, ailing at 96 years of age and who should be oblivious to the cares of the world, keeps telling me to do something about the jueteng  rampaging in our hometown.

Either she has too much (misplaced) faith in my capabilities, or she has too much fear of jueteng’s  effects on some of those dear to her.

But one certainty is settling on many people’s mind: As far as jueteng is concerned, there is no difference between Erap and GMA. (At least Erap is no hypocrite.)

Maybe presidential daughter Luli Arroyo should ask her Mom if she gets anything from jueteng and, whatever is GMA’s answer, to stop the illegal game before it stops her.

* * *

LOCAL Internet users are being alerted of a move in the United States to bill subscribers for every connection they dial up to the global network. This money-raising scheme is not yet actively talked about in this country, but watch out for it.

A federal bill has been filed reportedly to authorize the US government to collect a five-cent charge on every delivered email. The idea is to have the US Postal Service bill email senders for “alternative postage fees” to be collected by Internet Service Providers for the government.

The US Postal Service is reportedly claiming revenue losses estimated at $230 million annually because of people using email instead of the regular postal service.

* * *

TRUE or not, the report highlights the fast-changing modes of global communication and the need to continually update applicable laws.

Locally, the postal service has seen its revenues dwindle dramatically with the ascendancy of alternative messenger and communication services that are more reliable.

It seems hardly anybody these days goes to the trouble of writing a letter, sealing it in an envelope, looking for the correct amount of stamps, and then locating a mailbox to drop it.

We described the process in just one paragraph, but it could take a full week to do all that. And then wait at least another week for that letter to reach the addressee, if ever, within the country.

But tap out an email on your computer and it will be with the recipient in seconds! The cost? Virtually nothing, since we do not pay for the delivery of email, however long or weighed down by graphics, special effects and sound.

* * *

BILLING us users for email would be a nightmare! In my case, I receive an average of 50 email messages daily. Whenever I run surveys for Postscript, the number jumps. Imagine the money involved if each email were to be slapped a delivery fee!

The postal service is much like the local railroad, which has been rendered virtually obsolete by the emergence of more efficient modes of passenger and cargo transport — and condemned to insolvency by the curse of mismanagement.

Who has not received mail from abroad that has not been slit or rifled by thieves in the postal service? Where does one get stamps and determine how much stamps to stick? What ever happened to the mailboxes that used to wait quietly in almost every street corner? Is it true that one of every five letters mailed end up with the dead section?

Having one’s precious mail delivered has become chancier than the most unreliable birth control method.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 10, 2001)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.