POSTSCRIPT / June 12, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Reject KL & Libya roles, but allow US to help out

WE’RE celebrating today, June 12, our supposed independence.

Meanwhile, we have just surrendered public interest to the World Bank-IMF-Asian Development Bank loan sharks that pushed the power restructuring bill. We have just permitted American FBI officers to help work out the release of Americans being held by the Abu Sayyaf. We are also considering the good offices of Libya to find an end to that hostage problem.

Now you know why we look confused, and pathetic.

* * *

THE announcement of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that she would order public hearings and certify a bill to correct or amend the power industry restructuring law that she just signed has raised some questions:

  • Why hold public hearings only now? Was GMA not listening to the people loudly protesting the onerous provisions of the bill when it was still in Congress?
  • If the power bill submitted to her for signature was defective as she now implies, why did she sign it?

* * *

DOWN South, in a preposterous reversal of roles, it’s the Abu Sayyaf setting conditions for whatever they want to happen to the hostages in their jungle lairs on Basilan island.

Instead of the Arroyo administration laying down the terms, it is the Abu Sayyaf giving the government a deadline to agree to the participation of Malaysian negotiators. Otherwise, they warn, they would behead some of their American hostages.

On the ground, meanwhile, the outnumbered Abu Sayyaf holds sway with their superior weaponry, intimate knowledge of the terrain and their using the hostages as human shields.

When will the government snatch the initiative and put things in proper order?

* * *

IT would be a blunder for the Abu Sayyaf, and we think they know it, to execute any of their American hostages. If they hurt one of them, “tapos na ang maliligayang araw nila” (it’s goodbye to their happy days).

As a matter of policy, the US is bent on crushing terrorism wherever it rears its ugly head. In the Basilan case, we can imagine the US holding back because it does not want to be accused of meddling in an internal affair.

But let the kidnappers lop off the head of one US hostage and the US, conceivably, would leap into action.

* * *

NOW consider this bizarre thought: With the Abu Sayyaf saying it would execute an American if the government rejects Malaysian negotiators, and with the government casting around for help, let’s call the terrorists’ bluff!

Malacañang could let the 72-hour deadline of the Abu Sayyaf lapse without allowing in a single Malaysian negotiator. Or, better, categorically reject the participation of Malaysian intermediaries at this point.

Possible scenarios:

  • If the Abu Sayyaf blinks and does not behead an American as threatened, the government would have scored a major psychological point which it could pursue.
  • If the Abu Sayyaf executes an American, the Arroyo administration could then give official acquiescence to a deeper and more active US involvement in the pursuit of the kidnappers. This is meddling, but easy to rationalize.

* * *

AS we write this, however, presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao is on the radio saying that the government was accepting the Abu Sayyaf demand for Malaysian negotiators.

He lamely added the condition that the Malaysian negotiators’ involvement would have to be approved by the Kuala Lumpur government.

However they package this capitulation, the government’s acceptance of the Abu Sayyaf condition – as announced by Tiglao – is another propaganda score for the terrorists. Sayang!

The Abu Sayyaf is not only winning the war on the ground, but also on the airlanes.

* * *

INFOTECH NOTES: You don’t have to be a hostage of Bill Gates’ Microsoft just because you’re using his Windows operating system. You don’t have to use a pirated copy of Microsoft Office 2000 and risk arrest or to buy a genuine Microsoft copy for an exorbitant P9,000.

There’s StarOffice, an enhanced substitute that is just as efficient and powerful as, and superior in some respects to, MS Office 2000. What’s more, it’s being given away free. For more details, visit

Our free CD copy was given by Leo Y. Querubin, strategic business development manager of Sun Microsystems. We’ve installed and tried StarOffice and we’re impressed. You should try it.

StarOffice combines word processing, spreadsheet, graphic design, presentation, HTML editing, email, news reader, scheduling, and database in a single environment. Note that these features correspond to various software on the market, including popular Microsoft programs.

StarOffice works perfectly with Windows.

* * *

AS for a good substitute for Windows, whose Millennium version (ME) sells for P4,000, there’s Linux, an extensively tested and widely used operating system being distributed for free.

We have been receiving good reviews on Linux. Many techie friends have told us that it can give Windows a run for its money. The problem of Linux, they said, is that it is not being promoted and advertised as extensively as Windows.

Advertising and promotions, incidentally, are some of the factors that have made Intel’s Pentium processors more widely used than the Durons and Athlons of AMD although the latter processors perform just as well, sometimes better, than the Pentiums.

The irony is that users pay a higher price for Pentiums because the high cost of advertising is built into their retail cost.

* * *

UNTIL now, we keep receiving email with attachments. We want to remind our correspondents that we do not open email with attachments. We delete them sight unseen.

If you’re emailing us text, please do not attach it. Just copy/paste it on your email so it comes outright as text without our having to open an attachment. It’s all right if it’s formatted text. Our browser can handle it.

* * *

ABOUT thrice a week, we receive viruses from unidentified parties dead set on wiping us out and wreaking havoc on Postscript. None (knock on wood) has penetrated our anti-virus shield so far.

These cyber terrorists are cowards. They send materials without identifying themselves. They are so unlike most emailers from the US who manly admit their mistakes or apologize for their unfair comments when we show them to be so.

A few have hidden behind pseudonyms. But when we are able to track them down, they come out with their hands up and conceding they have lost in their cyber game of hide and seek.

We take it in that light spirit and usually end up as avid correspondents.

* * *

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

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