POSTSCRIPT / August 12, 2001 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Our readers’ opinion is 7-3 against Lacson

MANY of us parents are unaware (or unconcerned?) that our children may be taking a practical course on how to kill or get killed on the road when they become old enough to drive.

It’s Sunday, and if you happen to do some malling, go to the games arcade to see what we mean.

Observe the array of computerized driving contraptions with steering wheels and pedals, complete with windscreens and sensurround effects and mechanical bumps to simulate giddy driving situations.

While the computer tries to approximate reality, it places the driver in a very unreal racy situation that can only distort his reflexes, instill twisted attitudes, and develop dangerous driving habits.

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GEARED to violent driving, the computerized program goading the driver destroys his sense of discipline and mocks road courtesy. One careens at any speed he wants, turns anywhere on or off the road, runs over anything getting in the way, and bumps other vehicles on the road.

As there is no injury or death and destruction to property, and no real punishment for violations (there are no rules in the first place), the driver develops over time a sadistic recklessness that could mean his life or that of others when he ventures out later to a real thoroughfare.

Why are the mayors issuing permits for these dangerous contraptions that pose a long-term but very real menace to society? Are our local officials that desperate for money?

And why are we parents allowing this wholesale miseducation and mistraining of our children when there are alternative forms of entertainment that are wholesome and constructive?

* * *

BASED on unsolicited reactions of our readers, received mostly via email, the score is 7-3 in favor of those who think there is some basis for reports that Sen. Ping Lacson and his partners have secret multimillion-dollar bank accounts abroad.

As obviously none of our respondents have examined the evidence, their opinion is presumably just perception based on media reports and the publicized exchange of Lacson and his accuser Col. Victor Corpus, chief of the AFP intelligence service.

It should be noted, however, that in these parts, perception could kill. We mean that public perception could shoot down the best laid out political plans.

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OUR own impression at this point is that Corpus does not have enough airtight evidence to warrant filing of charges. His sleuths are still busy fishing for more documents.

If he already has the goods on Lacson, how come Corpus is still demanding that Lacson grant him blanket authority to investigate the latter’s accounts abroad? Is Lacson stupid enough to incriminate himself?

Why is Corpus allowing only selected members of the press to publish his “documents” instead of giving them simultaneously to everybody? Better still, why doesn’t he go straight to the Ombudsman and let the judicial process to take off?

How come Corpus is prosecuting in the press and not in court?

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OUR information is that although the case was still “hilaw” (or not ripe enough for filing), Corpus was forced to come out prematurely with whatever he had because one of his favored media outlets was suddenly under pressure to prove his anti-Lacson tirades.

But “hilaw” or not, Lacson has a lot to explain. Even if just two or three of those bulging accounts listed by Corpus prove to be genuine, they would constitute a big case, actually several big cases.

Our impression from reactions of Postscript readers is that the scandal appears to have tainted the clean image that Lacson’s handlers have been assiduously trying to project.

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IT may be reflective of growing cynicism, but eight out of every 10 reacting readers predict that “nothing” will come out of the noisy debate in media — meaning that even if the charges are eventually filed, no conviction will result.

Several readers said “parepareho lang naman silang lahat” (they are all the same), many of them commenting (without presenting proof) that most, if not all, top officials in government have dollar hoards abroad.

Actually there is nothing wrong per se with having foreign deposits provided the money was not the fruit of criminal activity and pertinent laws were complied with in declaring, transferring and depositing it abroad.

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THE fact that many officials also have dollar accounts abroad does not clear Lacson of accusations that his mind-boggling deposits, as alleged, were raised from such illegal activities as kidnapping, robbery, smuggling and drugs trading.

Using one of the favorite lines of Estrada lawyer Rene Saguisag, Lacson has been heard asking why the authorities were cracking down on him and not on the others. The senator failed to see that the other cases are irrelevant to his.

That “selective prosecution” line of defense does not hold since it would mean that we would never be able to prosecute anybody until and unless we prosecute everybody — which is a ridiculous precondition.

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APPARENTLY on advice of his lawyers, Erap Estrada has announced that he was filing libel charges against Corpus and one newspaper that used the ISAFP chief’s expose. Lacson made the same threat much earlier, but held back.

We think suing the newspaper is a big mistake. Whatever his lawyers tell him, Erap will never win that case. The publication of the derogatory report on the public person (Erap) is privileged and malice is hard to prove.

When a billionaire client like Erap asks his lawyer if he would sue, don’t be surprised if the lawyer’s reply is “Of course we would sue! Those bastards should not get away with it!”

If you were the lawyer, would you advise against suing and thereby forego the fat fees that go with a full-blown case?

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ALSO consider this: Once Erap’s libel suit is filed in court, the accused can ask the judge to subpoena certain documents and witnesses to prove their point and bolster their defense.

That would mean Erap being compelled to open his bank and related records. Harassed as he is, is he ready for detailed scrutiny? If he does not want further prying into his personal business, he might prefer not to sue.

In the end, the winners in the big cases of Erap will be the lawyers, di po ba?

* * *

THAT was a mere rap on the wrist that the Central Bank dealt several big banks found to have violated regulations pertaining to foreign exchange transaction.

With the economy reeling from the deterioration of the peso vis-à-vis the US dollar, and with currency speculation partly blamed for it, when the banks themselves are found violating foreign exchange regulation, that must be a serious offense.

To the man in the street forced by the hard times to skip breakfast and just speculate on a possible lunch, such violations by the banks is a high crime.

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“ENOUGH is enough,” Central Bank Gov. Rafael Buenaventura said after rapping the erring banks, but we think the penalty imposed on them (like a P30,000 fine each for five of the nine banks) was not enough.

If there were repetitive violations, there might even be a case of economic sabotage. The problem is that the Central Bank might end up being shown as negligent in overseeing the banking system.

The banks penalized were identified as Citibank, Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp., Standard Chartered Bank, Banco de Oro, Export and Industry Bank, Bank of the Philippine Islands, United Coconut Planters Bank, China Banking Corp., and Equitable PCI Bank.

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STILL on banks, businessman Rey Patacsil has accused Asiatrust Bank of playing with his dollar savings account and deducting $12,000 from it unilaterally in violation, he said, of existing banking rules and its own fiduciary responsibilities.

Patacsil said Asiatrust accepted his $12,000 check deposit on Jan. 22, 1999, in its Salcedo branch in Makati with the same check eventually being cleared.

He said that between Jan. 22 and March 10, 1999, he made several business transactions that substantially involved $12,000. When he tried to withdraw the $12,000 to settle his obligations, Patacsil discovered that the entire amount had been debited from his account. Thus he failed to withdraw a single dollar.

He said Asiatrust ignored his complaints, forcing him to sue (Civil Case No. 00-263) in the Makati RTC.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 12, 2001)

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