POSTSCRIPT / July 8, 2001 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

Share This

Yes, Ping should take same lie tests as Ador

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been roundly criticized for her allotting P10 billion for the “modernization” of the armed forces while apparently neglecting to similarly fund essential services.

The slogans said that we need food and not guns, work and not war.

So she announced the other day that she would also disburse P20 billion this year to “modernize” agriculture, with P6 billion going to irrigation to boost farm production.

* * *

ALL this brave talk about “modernization” is nothing but hot air. Assuming we can produce P10 billion, how far would that go with the prohibitive prices of modern military hardware?

Try buying a flight of fighter jets, a covey of helicopter gunships, a dozen armored vehicles, and a string of naval pursuit craft — and your P10 billion will be gone in a whiff.

Assuming we can afford these materiel we just mentioned, will the acquisitions “modernize” our armed forces?

Modernization, it seems, means picking up the surplus of foreign, most likely American, armed forces.

* * *

BUT we bring up the subject not so much to point to the impossibility of modernizing the armed forces with a limp money bag jingling with loose change from a land deal.

We want to bring back the discussion to what ever happened to the proceeds from the sale of Fort Bonifacio, the 240-hectare prime military camp sold for P34,000 per square meter by President Ramos.

Multiply 2,400,000 sqm (or 240 hectares) by the P34,000-per-sqm unit price and you get a total of about P80 billion. If our arithmetic and our assumptions are right, we expect P80 billion to be realized from the sale of the Fort.

* * *

Mr. Ramos has told us that from 1995 to 1997, his administration collected a total of P30,359,605,589 from the sale. We failed to ask what happened to the P50-billion balance of the supposed P80 billion buying price.

Of the P30,359,605,589 collected by him, only P5,484,705,000 has been deposited in Special Account No. A5514-170 for the “modernization” of the armed forces as provided by RA 7898.

We asked why only P5.484 billion was left of the P30-plus billion he had collected, and Mr. Ramos told us that the P25-billion difference went to expenses, including the mandated shares of local governments contiguous to Fort Bonifacio.

Also, he explained that under RA 7898, only 35 percent of the proceeds from the sale of military camps were to go to the “modernization” of the armed forces.

* * *

BUT many readers have asked us for details about the supposed expenses that Mr. Ramos said ate a big chunk of the P30 billon that he had collected. They think P5.484 billion is too big a drop from P30 billion.

In announcing the allotment of P10 billion for military spending, President Arroyo must also tell the nation exactly the expenses that ate up some P25 billion from the sale of Bonifacio.

Nagtatanong lang po.

Mr. Ramos has explained that P14.689 billion had gone to what he called “expenses,” which included money given to contiguous towns as their share in the sale. After these expenses, he said 35 percent of the remainder, or P5.484 billion, went to Special Account No. A5514-170.

* * *

IT would also help clear the air if GMA clarified if her administration agreed with the business decision of former President Erap Estrada not to collect the final P8 billion installment payment of Metro Pacific (the lead buyer of the Fort) because the last undelivered corner of the Fort has squatters on it.

Before stepping down, the Ramos administration cleared that portion of the squatter families, numbering some 200, in preparation for delivering it to the buyer. But squatters were allowed to go back during Estrada’s tenure in greater number, giving the buyer an excuse not to pay the last installment.

Will the Arroyo administration affirm Estrada’s decision not to remove the squatter and thereby give up collection of the balance?

* * *

IT is to the business interest of the newspapers to have television banned from the upcoming trial of former President Estrada. Such a ban would force the public to rely heavily on the print media to keep track of the hearing.

But many of us in the newspapers still clamor for full television coverage, because, business considerations aside, we feel only television can relay to the public outside the courtroom a full, unedited account of what’s going on in the Sandiganbayan.

We’re sorry to say that we in the print business are handicapped to the extent that we cannot give a full, objective report of something as important as the first trial of its kind of a former President of the Republic.

* * *

INSTEAD of a black-or-white decision striking down TV coverage, the Supreme Court must look for the golden mean, a compromise, that would serve the purposes of the court, help ferret out the full truth and deliver it to the people.

Our compromise proposal, if we may repeat it, is for a fixed three-camera operation: one camera focused on the witness, another camera trained on the panel of judges and a third giving a wide-angle view of the audience.

Nobody would touch the pre-set cameras standing on tripods as they capture what’s going on.

If the court wants to scale this down, it can dispense with the third camera aimed at the audience. The worst scenario is to have only one camera that would be dedicated to the witness.

This is an absolutely irreducible minimum: At least one TV camera showing in clear closeup shots, and recording for court purposes and for posterity, the demeanor of the witness.

* * *

THE court itself will need the film of the proceedings for its own record and review.

With one camera trained on the witness, the justices (who cannot study at close range the facial expressions and other body language of the person on the witness stand), will find the film recording of the testimonies valuable.

Something is lost when a judge merely hears the words of a witness who is not facing him and who is several feet away. A TV camera will pull the witness closer and show every little twitch of facial muscles and other involuntary reactions.

The demeanor of the witness is as valuable as his words in evaluating his testimony. This is something that we in print media cannot capture and relay to the public.

* * *

TALKING of testimonies, we support the proposal that Sen. Panfilo Lacson take a lie detector test to clarify accusations that he had a hand in some big-time criminal activities.

The accusastion was made by one “Ador,” a self-proclaimed civilian agent of the anti-organized crime task force that the national police chief once headed.

After taking lie detector tests to show his truthfulness, Ador challenged Lacson to take similar tests to see who between them was lying. Lacson had dismissed Ador’s accusations and challenge.

The results of simultaneous lie detector tests for both Lacson and Ador may not be admissible in court, but they would help settle questions in the public mind.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 8, 2001)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.