POSTSCRIPT / December 11, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Alcordo told to quit; Alvarez faces CA bypass

RIGHT RESPONSE: It would be a gross error for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to appear before the Blue Ribbon committee of the Senate to refute unsubstantiated claims that she tried extorting controlling shares of a telecommunications firm seeking a congressional franchise.

It’s not even the Senate, but a mere committee thereof, before which some presumptuous senators are noisily demanding that the President should explain.

If the President does not oblige, there is only one way to make her appear as an accused — and that is through an impeachment trial. Even that is not easy as only the House of Representatives can file for impeachment, with the Senate merely waiting to hear the charges.

We assume that even the non-lawyers and the neophytes among the senators know about separation of powers. Why then are they insisting on it? We’re tempted to say it’s all for publicity. Ang kaso, pinapatulan naman ng media.

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GMA HEEDS CLAMOR: President Arroyo has shown a healthy sensitivity to public opinion about the officials assigned to major concerns of her administration.

Days ago, she eased out president Jesus Alcordo of the National Power Corp. who has allowed valuable assets of Napocor worth some $6 billion to remain uninsured as he bypassed the Government Service Insurance System which is mandated by law to insure assets of all government-controlled agencies and corporations.

The unusual gambit of Alcordo to reject compulsory GSIS insurance and to handle the matter himself came amid industry reports that the commission from insuring Napocor assets could run to as much as $5 million.

Malacañang sources told us that Alcordo was supposed to retire by yearend, which is just three weeks away, but that it was suggested to him in the Palace to quit immediately so as not to derail the upgrading of the nation’s unreliable power system.

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ALVAREZ FACES C.A. BYPASS: Disturbed by the continued failure of the Commission on Appointments to confirm most of her Cabinet secretaries, President Arroyo met days ago with a bipartisan group of CA members.

One consensus that emerged, according to sources, was for the bypassing of Transportation Secretary Pantaleon Alvarez, who has been embroiled in the controversial building of the $500-million Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay and Parañaque.

Among other things, Alvarez has been accused of misinforming GMA that the deal he has been pushing for Terminal 3 will not stunt the full development of Clark Field (which has been renamed after the President’s father Diosdado Macapagal) as an international airport.

In exchange for dropping Alvarez, GMA was assured of the confirmation of Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho and Defense Secretary Angelo Castro, who did well in their assigned chores in the recent US working visit of the President.

The CA transportation subcommittee had set a closed-door hearing on complaints against Alvarez already, but the process was dropped in view of the consensus to bypass him until Congress goes on recess Dec. 21.

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POLITICS IN THE AIR: Some Malacañang quarters are suggesting that GMA put together for the coming year a Cabinet reinforced by opposition members. Alas, partisan politics has overtaken everything.

The politically-charged air was palpable in the recent circus staged by the Blue Ribbon committee headed by Sen. Joker Arroyo. Most members looking into charges of businessman Pacifico Marcelo against GMA acted in the same partisan manner that senator-judges behaved in the impeachment trial last year of her predecessor President Erap Estrada.

Partisanship has ruled out the possibility of opposition leaders participating and contributing positively in the National Socio-Economic Summit that opened yesterday at the Manila Hotel.

Precisely, the opposition appears bent on derailing the Arroyo administration. Oo nga naman, why should they give GMA a chance to make good where their fallen idol Erap had failed? Besides, good performance by GMA would shut out all opposition hopes of grabbing back the presidency in 2004.

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MORATORIUM DOOMED: This is also the simple reason why GMA’s appeal to the opposition for a one-year political moratorium will fall on deaf ears.

One way around this is for the President to sell the idea first to religious leaders, the business community and the so-called civil society. If convinced, these sectors in turn can pressure the opposition to cooperate in pushing a national recovery agenda.

Talking of religious leaders, imagine the impact of GMA winning the support of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (including Cardinal Sin), Bishop Eraño Manalo of the Iglesia ni Cristo, and Bro. Mike Velarde of El Shaddai.

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ANGARA vs GMA IN 2004?: One problem dogging the opposition is that with 2004 creeping closer, they still do not have any rallying figure to lead them to battle. No opposition leader stands out who can approximate the drawing power of Erap.

At this point, only Sen. Edgardo Angara is closest to being the opposition standard bearer in 2004. Other pretenders in the opposition camp who showed strength in the last elections are not as prepared as he is for the presidency.

Angara’s rivals for the opposition’s presidential nomination may even come from the administration coalition itself. The moment GMA shows her cards, some presidential hopefuls around her may jump to the opposition to pursue their presidential ambitions.

One such political acrobat is presidential hopeful Sen. Manuel Villar, who is notorious for his flitting from one political party to another depending on where favorable winds blow.

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CITIZENSHIP & SUFFRAGE: The discussion continues, meanwhile, on pending related measures (1) easing the concept of dual citizenship for Filipinos who had taken other citizenships, and (2) allowing Filipinos abroad to vote in elections starting with the 2004 presidential polls.

From California-based PhilStar columnist Ben S. Simpao came this update on dual citizenship and extended suffrage:

“The latest country to adopt voting rights to former Mexicans, but now Mexican-Americans is Mexico. This is some kind of dual citizenship. Now Mexican-Americans just cross the border in Tijuana or any parts of Texas and enter Mexico to vote and then come back to the US where they are either residing or working.

“Mexican consulates are issuing photo-IDs to Mexican residents in the US who can cross the border and then come back to the US. Have not heard a word yet from the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“Israel is the worst. Jewish-Americans (of the right age) are conscripted and get military training in Israel although they are American citizens.

“Fil-Ams (born in the Philippines) should also be made to vote. Probably, the country would at least be assured of ‘quality votes’ unlike those votes that went to Erap and Ping Lacson.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 11, 2001)

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