POSTSCRIPT / January 16, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Witnesses risk their lives; the rest of us just watch

FORMER Finance Secretary Edgardo Espiritu had reasons to leave for the United States right after he testified in the impeachment trial. There were strong indications that the vicious drug lords wanted to silence him before he talked some more.

Remember that he was visibly terrified toward the end of his testimony when he was being pressed to identify the smugglers hobnobbing with the President and who were in effect sabotaging the economy while they were raking in, and probably sharing, dirty billions.

These were not the usual presidential cronies who were smuggling chicken, sugar and duty-free merchandise. Prominent on Espiritu’s list of smugglers were those dealing in a more deadly item — drugs.

* * *

FRIENDS of Espiritu who talked to him before he left said bluntly that they had no doubt that the drug lords, whose presence he had noted in Malacañang functions, were the type who would not hesitate to kill anybody getting in the way.

They added that that was the reason why Espiritu was trembling when some senator-judges — who were unaware of the drugs angle and its implications — pressed him to identify the smugglers enjoying presidential connections.

We ourselves had wanted to hear the names, but now we realize how Espiritu already had compromised his safety in his patriotic effort to help the nation know the truth about their impeached President.

* * *

THE coming out of Espiritu and the rest of those brave Filipinos, many of them women, who had testified in the impeachment trial at extreme risk to themselves and their families should shame all of us.

Most of us prefer to just sit idly by and watch while others take up the cudgels for us. We still have to realize that we all have a stake in this.

Under two administrations, we have bungled the investigation and prosecution of the Marcoses and the conniving cronies.

In fact, the thieves are back with a vengeance in the community they had wantonly violated. They are even presuming to offer ridiculous take-it-or-leave-it settlement formulas.

* * *

THERE is a theory that our having allowed the Marcoses to get away with it was what must have emboldened Erap Estrada to embark on his own money-making activities.

The lesson must have sunk in him, as with other officials similarly inclined, that a thief in government has to steal big since he will need oodles of money later to buy acquittal and win back a modicum of respectability.

As many readers of Postscript point out, what took Marcos 20 years to accomplish, Estrada was able to do in two short years of amassing wealth!

Here we are again. We have caught another big fish. Do we let it go again?

* * *

THEY might resent our saying it, but we could understand if the unlettered poor are sometimes easily swayed by blandishments of the rich and the powerful.

We might be able to rationalize the excited crowd in the depressed areas swarming around Asiong Salonga when he comes visiting and doling out land titles, food packages and paper money.

But it puzzles us why some senators, some of whom would even make better presidents than the incumbent, cozy up to Erap Estrada, lick his ass, throw all delicadeza to the wind and take the floor as virtual defense counsel.

Is this proof that we are, indeed, a damaged culture? Assuming we are, is there hope for recovery within our generation?

* * *

HAVE you noticed, by the way, that whenever somebody identified with the President is asked to testify or faces the possibility of being summoned, he or she suddenly gets sick?

When auditor Yolando Ricaforte was traced in the States and summoned to testify, as soon as she arrived she checked into a hospital. She was allegedly sick. When finally she appeared before the Senate, she appeared in a ludicrous wheelchair as prop.

When the President’s brother-in-law Raul de Guzman, a respected member of the community, was to be summoned in connection with the funneling of jueteng payola to an Erap foundation, he checked into a hospital, also sick.

When Laarni Enriquez, the mother of some of Mr. Estrada’s other children, evaded a summons and hurriedly flew to Hong Kong, it was announced the next day that she would proceed to the US for medical treatment.

We’re waiting for the turn of First Lady Loi Ejercito, Mayor Jinggoy Estrada and some of the cronies to get sick.

Ano ba yan, epidemic?

* * *

TALKING of getting sick, my barber said we better watch closely the President himself. He might just collapse, he said, under the weight of the evidence piling up against him.

He has a point. Some of the President’s own relatives have expressed concern that Mr. Estrada might do something violent to himself. Hindi naman siguro, we said.

But my barber insists that one graceful exit for Mr. Estrada is to feign sickness and go on leave. Being stricken with some liver problem would be credible, he said, considering his well-known liquid diet.

* * *

WE’RE tempted to agree. It is easy in this country to get any medical certificate for anything. The President can produce one saying he is too ill to perform his duties. He could then go on leave, turning over the reins of government to Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Considering the damage that Mr. Estrada’s maladministration had inflicted on the economy and the nation’s moral fabric, there is nobody — certainly not GMA — who could turn the country around in one short year.

With GMA failing, as expected, to solve the gargantuan problems dumped on her lap, Mr. Estrada could later claim to have recovered enough to be able to resume his normal duties as President. He then terminates his leave of absence and bounces back.

Lusot siya. (Not being a lawyer, we just don’t know if the President’s going on leave at this time could suspend or abort the ongoing impeachment trial.)

* * *

SOME readers responded to our query about the performance of Pentium 4, Intel’s newest processor. Generally, they seem to tell us that P4 is no big deal considering what it can do, what it requires to function, and how much it costs. Many of them expressed preference for AMD Athlon, a competing processor.

Erwin Olario reports that technical reviews generally agree that “you get the most bang out of your buck (especially with the much depreciated peso) with the AMD Athlon. He says, “The latest Pentium 4 at 1.5Ghz ($833) when compared with Athlon 1.3Ghz ($262) delivers the same performance at a lower price (plus save $571 on the chip alone).”

He adds: “The Pentium 4s may have the highest clock speed at the moment, but their performance is almost the same as Athlons clocked at lower speeds. They also require the new and more expensive RAMbus type memory (RDRAM), and power supply conforming to ATX 2.03 specs.”

“If you aren’t using bleeding edge software, or do video-editing or any CPU-intensive stuff, there are no major benefits from getting the latest CPUs, except maybe that fuzzy feeling of a lighter wallet and the meanest hardware in the neighborhood (but it won’t be long before they get a meaner CPU too).”

“Lastly, if your PC is less than two years old and its processor speed is more than or equal to 300mhz (except for Celerons and Cyrix), you won’t need an upgrade yet. A RAM upgrade to at least 64mb will definitely boost performance.”

* * *

HANSEN C. Dy of Paco says the Pentium 4 is not yet a good idea. He explains:

“Most existing software including MS Windows 98, 98SE, ME, Windows 2000 workstation and server operating systems, not to mention Office 2000 and typical applications, are not yet optimized for use with it.

“Pentium 4 is actually inferior to highend Pentium 3 or Athlon PCs when running typical business applications at this point. Where the P4 put out better performance figures were in graphics and floating point computation intensive applications and 3D gaming benchmarks so these are the only applications where P4 is justified.

“The P4 is still an unproven platform. At present, it can only be used with the Intel 850 motherboard chip set which like the P4 itself, is also relatively unproven and God knows what bugs may be lurking within their silicon guts. The 850 chipset also works only with expensive RDRAM (rambus) memory modules that are significantly more expensive than SDRAM or DDR-SDRAM while having merely marginal and unjustifiable performance improvements.

“The current P4 price with 128 MB RDRAM is roughly P38,000 which means the P4 CPU alone is P30,000. The Intel 850 motherboard (remember that this is the only motherboard that works with the P4 at the moment) is about P12,500. You already need P50,500 and you still don’t have a hard drive, a monitor, a video card, etc.

“In short, you will spend roughly P70,000 to complete the system and it won’t be a good system since you will have to cheapen out on the other peripherals because the P4 has already eaten up a sizable chunk of the budget. By comparison, you can already assemble a whole P3 or Athlon system at that price of the P4 CPU alone, and assemble an impressive P3 or Athlon.”

* * *

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

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