POSTSCRIPT / April 22, 2001 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Don’t buy a PC yet; wait for price slashes

WHY should Justice Secretary Hernando Perez, an official from the Executive branch, be announcing the impending issuance of arrest warrants for Erap Estrada by the Sandiganbayan?

As the graft court is part of the Judiciary, Perez has no business acting as its spokesman or second-guessing for the public the court’s moves and motives. The Sandiganbayan can make its own announcements, if it cares to.

Why the unusual zeal of the justice secretary? With side issues having muddled the plunder case, Perez’s announcement that warrants would be issued this week may even turn out to be a case of misplaced optimism.

* * *

A SIMILAR overstating of the facts has been noticed in the handling by the National Bureau of Investigation, one of the offices under the justice department, of the kidnap-murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver.

Even before they could wrap-up an air-tight case, NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco was already dropping broad hints all over town that ex-President Estrada and/or former National Police Chief Panfilo Lacson were behind Dacer’s kidnapping.

If indeed evidence implicates either Estrada or Lacson, or both, the logical thing to do is to file the proper charges or add their names to those already identified as the suspects in the November double murder.

* * *

ASKED pointblank at the Senate hearing the other day if Lacson had a hand in the Dacer case, Wycoco had no choice but to admit that none of the witnesses and suspects in government hands had implicated the former PNP chief.

Obviously, the administration is playing the old trusted trick of conviction by innuendo. The object is not really to prove guilt, for that is ruled out by the lack of evidence, but merely to smear the target and erode his public image.

It’s no coincidence that Lacson is running on the senatorial ticket of the opposition and has been given a fair chance of making it.

* * *

DON’T you feel that the election campaign has dragged on too long? We do.

At this point, we’ve made our choices and are ready to vote. As far as this voter is concerned, all that noise and litter of the campaign is for naught. We’re tempted to scream for them to leave us alone.

Looking back, the campaign took off after the filing of certificates of candidacy and rose to a crescendo leading up to last Palm Sunday. The campaign flattened out (as far as we are concerned) with the Holy Week, then dropped.

We don’t speak for everybody, but if you ask us, we’re no longer listening. We came out of Holy Week saturated with the campaign. We’re just waiting for May 14.

* * *

THERE’S a legal storm brewing around the serving of arrest warrants on Erap Estrada for non-plunder criminal charges filed against him then hurriedly withdrawn by Ombudsman Aniano Desierto.

State lawyers from the Ombudsman’s office put together the minor cases based on the same facts used to build the big plunder case against Erap. After the cases were filed, arrest warrants were issued, but not for the plunder case.

After Erap presented himself before the Sandiganbayan and posted bail in response to the warrants, the question arose: Since the cases alleged the same facts and violations as the main plunder case, can the plunder charge still be pursued without exposing Erap to double jeopardy.

* * *

A BIGGER question is whether or not this unusual move of state prosecutors of filing minor collateral cases was deliberate, or worse, suggested by Erap lawyers.

The problem was not entirely unforeseen. Private lawyers who have been helping government prosecutors had warned the latter of precisely this possible implication of filing those minor cases based on the same facts as those in the plunder case.

Despite that, state prosecutors went ahead. Now we have this knotty legal question.

* * *

LAWYER Leonardo de Vera, spokesman of the panel of 13 private lawyers, said they were not consulted nor were they shown the drafts of the criminal information filed by the Ombudsman despite their requests that they be given a chance to review them.

The private prosecutors warned early on that the non-plunder graft cases to be filed against Erap should not be acts arising from the same cases composing the plunder case to avoid a defense of double jeopardy.

This latest problem points to the need for a better working relationship between state prosecutors and the private lawyers helping out.

* * *

PLANNING to purchase a new personal computer or to upgrade your old unit? You may want to postpone the purchase if your need for a PC or an upgrade is not that urgent.

Word from New York has it that Intel Corp., makers of the PC microprocessors bearing its name, would soon slash the prices of its computer chips by as much as 60 percent!

Advanced Micro Devices, which produces the AMD Duron and Athlon processors fiercely competing with Intel’s Pentiums and Celerons, would have to also reduce its prices to survive.

The price dive of the two PC chip-making giants is likely to slash the retail prices of PCs using Intel and AMD processors inside. The less popular brands will have no choice but to follow suit.

* * *

REPORTING the coming price cuts, Dan Niles, Lehman Brothers’ semiconductors & PC hardware analyst, noted that the price of Intel’s 1.5-gigahertz Pentium 4 microprocessor had dropped to $520 last week, compared to its previous price of about $625.

By April 29, the price will drop to $250, he said, while the price of Intel’s 1.7 gigahertz Pentium 4 chip would also be slashed to about $350 by the end of the month. We suppose that the Pentium III’s would be priced even lower.

The microprocessor chip is to the PC as the engine is to a car. Its price comprises about a third of the price of the entire PC. The processor usually can be upgraded to improve performance.

The price cuts may also prompt assemblers, including individuals who put together their own computers, to wait for local prices to settle down as a result of Intel’s moves.

* * *

THROUGH the dust and smoke on Edsa, we sometimes can make out the pathetic figures of traffic officers trying to speed up traffic while holding hankies to their noses.

Why do they put up with this? They are not that helpless against the buses whose sticky smoke is slowly poisoning to death everybody within whiffing distance.

We’re waiting for the day when one officer who has had enough would flag down a smoke-belching bus and shoot armor-piercing shots through its engine block to permanently disable it.

The officer would get into trouble? He can always plead self-defense. We suppose a law enforcer has the right to defend himself against a machine that is slowly killing him.

* * *

THE authorities, all of them and not just the officers on the road, are not helpless. They are unable to do something about the deadly air pollution on Edsa and similar thoroughfares only by choice.

To avoid having to flag down smoke-belching buses and inconvenience passengers, the authorities can inspect the vehicles before they move out of their garages.

Those found excessively beyond the limits allowed will have their license plates removed and their bodies prominently marked for repair. Only when found satisfactory after repairs and re-testing will they be allowed to roll out again.

This can be done from one garage to another. Operators whose units are found to be generally in violation will be given a reasonable period to upgrade their equipment — or lose their franchises for good.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 22, 2001)

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