POSTSCRIPT / August 16, 2001 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why are Pinoys poor but not really hungry?

FOOT IN THE MOUTH: It was bound to happen. With Col. Victor Corpus, AFP intelligence service chief, talking endlessly every day about his favorite topic — Sen. Ping Lacson — he was bound to find his foot in the mouth.

And he just did. Imagine him waving a picture of an alleged drugs lord with a supposed unholy alliance with Lacson and this picture turning out instead to be that of the doting aide of Sen. Robert Barbers.

It would have been funny, were it not pathetic.

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A WEEK ago, going deaf with the non-stop spiel of Corpus, I was going to air the unsolicited advice that the overworked officer be sent to the US kunwari to look into another mind-boggling dollar account of Lacson. With the help of the usual unnamed federal authorities, of course.

I was going to suggest that Press Undersecretary Bobby Capco be designated spokesman of the AFP chief spy. At that time, Bobby sounded like he was itching to do a spokesmanning job and take his place in the limelight.

Since First Gentleman Mike Arroyo was apparently not then receptive to the idea of somebody speaking for him, we thought Bobby could offer his ventriloquist services to Corpus if the latter agreed to go abroad to rest his vocal cords.

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PELAEZ VS. LACSON: If Lacson still has dollar deposits in the US or some valuable real property — like the rest of Philippine officialdom — he should worry more about Ms. Blanquita Henson Pelaez than about a garrulous Corpus.

Pelaez has linked up with the joint military-police investigating team following Lacson’s spoor in North America. She is set to sue as soon as the team pinpoints a substantial dollar hoard or property in the US in the name of Lacson.

She can sue in the US (where she thinks she has better chances of getting a fair hearing) because when she sold Smith & Wesson handcuffs to the PNP under Lacson, she was representing the American S&W firm. He allegedly held the P30-million payment.

Lacson himself has transacted business in the US. After it is established that the senator has bank accounts or owns real property there, the proper US court can assume jurisdiction over the projected Pelaez suit — and Lacson’s assets.

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IT is a symbiotic arrangement. Pelaez uses the AFP-PNP probers to locate Stateside assets of Lacson, while the investigators will use her court suit to summon confidential records and blast open all traceable Lacson deposits.

Even if Lacson is able to transfer or dispose of his assets, if any, there would be a paper trail.

Unfortunately for him, the US government is mad about money launderers and drug traffickers. Under the rules, any amount being moved that is at least $10,000 is automatically reported. When frequent movement of big sums is noticed, a red flag goes up.

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COMPUTER SLEUTHS: In real estate, there is no way the purchase of property can be hidden as there is a public registry for such. All the details are captured by computers and organized into electronic files that can be retrieved in seconds.

We once witnessed this wonder of the computer world at the house of a techie friend in the suburbs of Los Angeles. He worked with a major bank.

Opening his laptop, he hit some keys and asked me whom I wanted to check on. I gave some names of prominent politicians and he keyed in their names. There on the screen appeared the records of interesting transactions of some officials who had bought property in California.

This was more or less the same method used in 1985 by investigative reporters of the San Jose Mercury News who exposed the scandalous real estate buying spree of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos as well as his kin and his cronies.

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POOR BUT FULL: Listen to this, all you guys who have been tightening your belts.

The Social Weather Stations tells us that, according to its survey, while more Filipinos consider themselves poor, fewer of them would say they go hungry.

In a quantum leap of logic, presidential spokesman Bobi Tiglao, jumped to the conclusion that the anti-poverty programs of his boss President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo are right on track.

We know that GMA is an economist, but we didn’t know she is Superwoman. How could she have assuaged the hunger of the poor masses in just six months hobbled by endless destabilization?

Bobi’s conclusion, we think, is more of a leap of faith than of logic.

* * *

MY barber, for one, sniffs at this supposedly good news about hunger going out of fashion.

First, he says, Filipinos are a proud people. Except for the professional beggars in the streets, we do not limp around admitting or advertising our hunger. When a guest is asked by his host if he’s hungry enough to partake of something, he is likely to say he’s not hungry even if his stomach is already grumbling.

Second, the digestive tract contracts when not enough food passes through it over time. Its capacity is thus reduced. A person who gets used to dwindling food intake develops reduced appetite and does not get hungry easily.

Third, my barber continues, Filipinos are fortunate in having family safety nets strewn all around. Relatives who have more usually help those who have less. In the province, fish, vegetables and such fare are more easily secured.

All this, he concludes with a wave of his scissors, has nothing to do with any government program.

If Bobby (not Bobi) turns down the spokesmanning job for Corpus, I might recommend my barber for the job.

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TALK BACK: Here are some items sticking out of our mailbox. From Michael H. Anderson, public affairs officer of the US embassy:

“Your 8/7/01 column about an alleged “hush-hush” meeting between the visiting FBI Director and President Estrada gave a wrong impression.

“The 11/6/99 meeting in Manila between the then-FBI Director, Louis Freeh, and President Estrada was not secret. In fact, immediately following their talks, Director Freeh took questions from a group of journalists at Malacañang. I know because I was there when he talked to the press.

“Director Freeh visited the Philippines as part of a widely publicized, five-nation Asian tour (Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Korea and the Philippines). Local and international media reported about his trip.

“In Seoul, he attended the Interpol conference, and at all his stops he met with host government officials. He made this regional trip to discuss professional law enforcement cooperation in such areas as terrorism, money laundering, financial crime and drug trafficking.”

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FROM Marla B. Laraya, AVP-Marketing Services Head of Asiatrust Bank:

“This is in response to the article in your 8/12/01 Postscript, more particularly on the subject of Rey Patacsil” (that may have given) negative impressions xxx on your readers, and our clients.

“There are three points mentioned in your column, which we would like to clarify, to wit:

“1. That the $12,000 check deposit eventually cleared;
“2. That the bank unilaterally debited his account;
“3. That the Civil Case (No. 00-263) filed by Mr. Patacsil is still ongoing.

“Firstly, the $12,000 check deposit eventually bounced. Therefore, the bank’s only recourse was to debit the value of the deposits representing the bounced checks.

“Secondly, the bank informed Mr. Patacsil in writing, so it was not a unilateral act of debiting the client’s account. Due notice was served and acknowledged.

“Lastly, the civil case filed by Mr. Patacsil has already been rendered a decision in favor of the bank last June 4, 2001. The court upheld the act of the bank in debiting Mr. Patacsil’s account as an act of self-preservation.

“In fact, Mr. Patacsil knows this and our representatives in a meeting with him have stated that if he believes that he was aggrieved, remedy should be by way of an appeal of the decision.

“For additional information also, please be advised that the Bank has filed a libel case against Mr. Patacsil in the Pasay City RTCs since he has caused some tabloids to come out with banner headlines against the interests of the Bank. We respect his grievances, however we believe that he has been using the media unnecessarily.”

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INFOTECH: We were swamped with mail after we advised PC users that this may be the right time to upgrade their computers’ RAM (random access memory). When we reported that the price of 128mb SDRAM, both for PC 100 and PC 133, has dropped to P850, a crowd rushed to ask where to buy it.

We answered the queries individually by email, but we’re sorry we cannot identify here in Postscript and appear to be advertising or endorsing the bargain shops.

We thank those who sent encouraging words after they found an easier (the fastest) access to Postscript by going straight to our personal website Try it yourself. Just key in the URL (our www address) on your browser, hit the Enter key, and we’d pop up.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 16, 2001)

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