POSTSCRIPT / August 7, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Corpus has the evidence? Then let him sue Lacson!

WITH the pile of evidence that the AFP intelligence service claims to have built up against Sen. Ping Lacson, why don’t they just file the charges in court and get it over with?

Prosecution is the logical next step — unless the supposedly incriminating evidence is of doubtful probative value or the AFP intelligence service under Col. Victor Corpus has no faith in the judiciary.

Prosecution of Lacson can proceed independently of whatever the Senate wants to do with two of its new members (the other one being Sen. Loi Ejercito) linked to various crimes that allegedly had netted them almost $1 billion stashed in foreign banks.

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WE say: Sue him! If Lacson is as bad as portrayed, we should show no mercy and mete him the supreme penalty. But if he is innocent, he should be cleared right away.

Only the proper court, not a legislative committee, can do this. The guilt or innocence of the accused cannot be determined in a highly politicized process before a Senate committee whose primary aim is remedial legislation.

Lacson took the floor yesterday to defend himself, making a point-by-point denial of the charges that included kidnapping, murder, smuggling, drug trafficking, graft, and money laundering.

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UNFORTUNATELY for Lacson, a privilege speech will not be enough to clear him, because he is not pleading his case before the proper court.

Then he has to contend with the bigger jury outside the Senate who render judgment only on the basis of perception. If on the sole basis of their understanding of media reports the public finds him guilty, he is in deep trouble.

We’re not belittling the projected Senate inquiry into the charges against Lacson. By all means, let Lacson be tried by his peers. But that should not preclude the filing of formal charges in court.

Meantime, one thing Lacson might want to do, if indeed he is innocent and has nothing to hide, is to execute a legal instrument waiving his rights in favor of Justice Secretary Hernando Perez (or an equivalent official) and authorizing him to inquire into the bank accounts listed by Corpus as owned by Lacson.

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INCREDULOUS readers marvel at the dollar fortune supposedly hidden in foreign banks, wondering aloud how anybody — even one who was that close to a sitting president — could have amassed close to a billion dollars in so short a time.

If the total as toted by Corpus is correct, the only way we see for a person in a position of power and influence to earn that much is through big-time drugs trafficking.

Kidnapping, smuggling, bank robbery, extortion and such syndicated crime pale in comparison to international high-stakes drugs trafficking.

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SUDDENLY we recall that one day during his tenure, Erap Estrada was quietly visited by a grim-looking top-level delegation from Washington headed by no less than the director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The busy FBI chief does not normally leave his office, fly across the continent and across the Pacific, for a hush-hush meeting with a foreign sovereign unless something serious (e.g. high-level transnational drug trade) is on the agenda.

The US officials who flew in aboard a special aircraft departed right after the meeting. No statement was issued by either side, which was unusual since the Palace made it a point to make a positive announcement every time an American official dropped in.

Curiously, Palace habitués reported that Erap appeared glum after the meeting.

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LACSON reiterated yesterday that he was filing libel charges against several persons who wrote and published the stories about his alleged crimes.

Libel charges against newspapers running official reports linking Lacson to criminal activities are not likely to prosper. The senator knows that, but he has to go through the motion of going to court to vindicate his name.

Not all derogatory news reports are libelous. A negative story about a public official based on an official report is privileged, especially as it serves public interest by reporting on the actuations of elective officials.

Even if the news story turns out to have been based on an inaccurate official report, there is no malice per se on the part of the newspaper. Without malice, which is essential in building a case, there cannot be libel.

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ALSO in the Senate, Sen. Juan Flavier has filed a resolution urging the committee on trade and industry to look into the “reported emerging cartel” in the cement industry.

Sen. Manuel Villar has also spoken in favor of an inquiry into the reported manipulation of supply and prices to the detriment of the government’s public works and housing program as well as the real estate and allied industries.

Consumers, including members of the Philippine Constructors Association, have complained that despite a glut, the price of cement has risen sharply. They also noted that while cement is sold locally at P144 per bag, some cartel members export it at only P35.

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MOST cement factories have been bought up by the world’s Big Four — Holderbank Financiere Glaris Ltd. of Switzerland, Cemex SA of Mexico, Lafarge SA of France and Blue Circle Industries Plc of the United Kingdom — which now control the market.

These giant firms who are the leading members of the Philippine Cement Manufacturers Corp. (Philcemcor) are asking the government to impose a 50 percent tariff on imported cement to make it more expensive than locally made cement.

The PCA and other consumers have objected to tariff barriers, pointing out that if the cement cartel cannot sell at reasonably lower prices, it should not bar cheaper imported cement.

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VILLAR said that consumers should not be made to shoulder the cost of inefficiency and the cost of money of the foreign-owned local cement plants.

The senator said that had the foreign investors who gobbled up foundering local plants brought in their own funds and not borrowed money from local banks, they would not have to worry now about paying the banks.

The correct response to cheaper imported cement, he said, is for the cartel to lower their own prices to competitive levels.

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VIRUS ALERT: How do you keep your anti-virus software updated and make sure all the latest security patches are applied? Let us share this item sent us by Tet Gambito of Pinoy 55 fraternity of UP.

If you use Internet Explorer and/or a Microsoft email program such as Outlook or Outlook Express, it’s important to use Windows Update regularly and download any Critical Updates recommended for your system. Go to: http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com.

If you use Netscape, Eudora or a Mac Internet software, here are some links to find new versions, upgrades or security patches: http://home.netscape.com/smartupdate; http://www.eudora.com; and http://asu.info.apple.com.

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A READER asked if he could install an old Norton AV software and expect it to protect his new hardware and files. We were not sure, but we said yes, go ahead and install it. Just make sure, we added, to update your Norton immediately via the Internet.

The reader wrote back that he did exactly what we suggested and happily reported that the Norton worked and accepted an update. It now has the latest virus patterns and is virtually as good as a late version.

Another reader asked if he could install and use pirated anti-virus software. Throwing caution to the wind, we told him that if he had nothing else, he could just go ahead and install the unauthorized copies.

Also, we advised him to immediately download an update (although we were not sure if a pirated copy could be updated). We were surprised to hear from him later that his pirated copy had been updated via an Internet download.

If that were so, we said, his copy is now virtually an authorized version because it was updated by no less than the home site of the AV software maker.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 7, 2001)

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