POSTSCRIPT / October 9, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Something's cooking in Kiko's kitchenette

HIDING THE MESS: A gourmet friend once told us that any restaurant manager who bars customers from peeking into his kitchen is not to be trusted. He is most likely hiding some stinking mess inside.

This bit of advice came to mind when Sen. Francisco “Kiko” Pangilinan announced before the weekend that the investigation by the Senate ethics committee into the highly profitable stock trading of Sen. Renato Cayetano would be held behind closed doors.

Why bar the press? What stinking mess are the honorable senators hiding in the kitchen?

The only instance where a closed-door Senate hearing could be justified is when matters pertaining to national security are being discussed. Is Cayetano’s multimillion-peso windfall suddenly a national security concern?

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SENATE SOLEMNITY?: Committee chairman Pangilinan gave this lame excuse: “The ethics committee, unlike the other committees, is a quasi-judicial body and a disciplinary tribunal. It is imperative that we preserve the solemnity and impartiality of the body. By holding the hearings in private and behind closed doors, we are able to remain as independent as possible, free from the complications presented by media presence.”

What Senate solemnity and impartiality is Pangilinan talking about? Obviously, the fellow still has a lot to learn about senators.

And why is he insulting us by saying that media presence in Senate hearings leads to complications? Of course there would be unwanted complications if Kiko & Company were hiding something.

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PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE: Why does Kiko want to hide something that Cayetano himself has already admitted during the televised public impeachment trial of then President Estrada? It’s as senseless, and futile, as trying to block out the sun.

Among other things, Cayetano had admitted having netted more than P40 million from his well-timed trading of controversial BW Resources shares before the ceiling fell on BW and those cashing in on insider information.

Yet he as senator failed to declare in his sworn statement of assets and liabilities (SAL) his multimillion-peso earnings. Now Kiko wants to hide this well-known fact already reflected in public documents?

A freshman senator groping for political life-support, Kiko appears to be easily swayed by the pressures and persuasion of the grizzled gang in the Senate. He is fast learning the tricks of the trade, including legislative coverup.

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CLOSING AN OPEN BOOK: Cayetano and his peers are all public officials. Their actuations are of public concern even if at times they impinge on their private reputations. The press must cover the hearing.

By seeking and winning election to the Senate, Cayetano has lost his privacy. Being a public figure, his life, especially his behavior that bears on his official duties, is a book that has been flung open. Now Kiko wants to close it to the press and the public?

A closed-door inquiry is “propesterous” — if we may borrow that tricky term spat out by basketbrawler-turned-senator Robert Jaworski during another Senate investigation into serious charges against Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

In Lacson’s case, by the way, everybody was in the Senate kitchen watching Lacson’s goose being cooked and getting a taste of the steaming soup. Why should the sauce for Lacson’s goose be different from Cayetano’s gander?

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GRAND GANDER: Remember the town Gander, Newfoundland, in Canada’s most easterly province, one of scores of locations that harbored airplanes that were instructed to land immediately at the nearest airport after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

We published last Sunday an inspiring account of how the chance landing in Gander by several jetliners changed the host town and its unexpected guests that dropped in from the sky. We got a load of email from readers who were moved by the story.

Is there really a place called Gander? We leave to you the pleasant task of discovering the answer.

But we’ll help by suggesting that you open you browser and search for “Gander.” You’ll come upon more heartwarming information and pictures about that small town and its warm, generally young people (half of them between the ages 20 and 44).

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MIKE CAN’T WIN THIS ONE: Another Senate inquiry coming up is that one on First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, who has been accused of dipping into the tempting millions lying around at the Sweepstakes office awaiting disposition by whoever is in power.

This is one case the lawyer-husband of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will not win. Whichever way the hearing goes, he is a sure loser. And his wife Gloria, the real target of the demolition job, is fated to go down with him.

His accusers won’t be able to prove his guilt, but that is not the point. It is enough to the opposition that he is dragged around for viewing by a cynical public that is predisposed to believing whatever hanky panky is pinned on him.

Every appearance, every mention of his name, every accusation hurled at him adds to the cumulative prima facie bad impression. We cannot see how he could win this perception game.

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MILLIONAIRES, DON’T STEAL: Mike’s favorite defense that he could not have stolen millions because they are rich (“Mayaman kami…”) is ineffectual. Nobody buys that line anymore.

His older relatives should tell him of the late Sen. Pacita Madrigal Warns who also became the butt of graft charges arising from her stint as social welfare secretary under then President Magsaysay. Her elitist line of defense: “Millionaires don’t steal!”

More knowledgeable readers may want to help us recall the details, but an elder senator (was it the venerable Claro M. Recto?) riposted that a comma should be prominently inserted into her line, thus: “Millionaires, don’t steal!”

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UNILATERAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Glossing over the qualifications of former Immigration Commissioner Rufus Rodriguez and former Justice Secretary Artemio Tuquero — both stalwarts of the short-lived Erap Estrada regime who have been appointed ambassadors by GMA — we would rather ask a more basic question:

Was the announcement of Rodriguez’s and Tuquero’s appointment as ambassadors to Germany and Canada, respectively, cleared with the receiving governments? Have Germany and Canada officially given their agreement  to their nomination?

It is bad diplomatic form to unilaterally announce the appointment of an ambassador without a prior agreement from the receiving government. The practice is for the two countries to announce simultaneously the nomination and the acceptance.

Aside from violating protocol and normal courtesy, premature unilateral announcements of ambassadorial postings are sometimes regarded as an attempt to pressure the host country into accepting the nomination as fait accompli.

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NOBODY IN GOV’T CARES?: Every day that we pass the EDSA-Quezon Ave. intersection and get stuck for 20 to 30 minutes in traffic, we wonder who is running this country. It seems to us that this nation has been let loose to drift on its own.

We invite President Arroyo together with her secretaries of public works, transportation and local government to drive through this intersection INCOGNITO so they would know what we ordinary mortals go through everyday because of their incompetence and indifference.

Multiply the Number of Commuters stranded at this bottleneck by their individual Productive Output per Hour by the Number of Hours they are stuck there and you would realize the staggering losses incurred by the economy at this one choke point alone.

But then, who cares? Officials are more interested in consolidating their power turfs and amassing dirty millions. EDSA-Quezon Ave. is a micro-representation of the continuing failure of government to bring order and progress to this poor nation.

How do we solve the monstrous traffic problem at that intersection? The solutions are so obvious that it is a wonder nobody in government has seen them.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 9, 2001)

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