POSTSCRIPT / October 11, 2001 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Best time to get caught in an ongoing bank heist

WE apologize to Manang Pacita and her family for our mistakenly referring to her in our column the other day as the “late” Sen. Pacita Madrigal Warns. Reader Pons Marquez, former general manager of Madrigal Shipping Co. (1972-1976), told us in an email that the former social welfare secretary under the late President Magsaysay is still very much around. We’re sorry for this grievous error.

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WHEN TO AVOID BANKS: With Christmas approaching, expect more bank robberies and other high-stakes crimes meant to raise instant millions for the crime syndicates seemingly coexisting with our police.

This means, if we understood former Manila Mayor Mel Lopez right, that if we could help it, we should avoid visiting and transacting business with our banks around noon when there are fewer clients at the teller windows.

Bank robbers generally strike when they expect fewer people getting in the way.

Lopez added that motorists may find it prudent not to drive too close to the banks’ armored vans, which are sometimes hijacked on their way to deliver huge sums of money. If we may add, most armored van drivers think they are licensed to bully their way through traffic.

This reminds us of a related advice of Col. Rex Robles, formerly of the RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement), that when caught in such civil disturbances as violent demonstrations and coups, one should not seek cover near the tires of a vehicle. Tires are among the first targets of snipers intent on pinning down or demobilizing the enemy.

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MIKE’S RATING DROPS: Their charges stand on wobbly legal legs, but this does not deter the opposition from hurling more stones at First Gentleman Mike Arroyo in an oblique bid to bring down the popularity of his wife President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

After accusing Mr. Arroyo of allegedly taking liberty with Sweepstakes millions, the opposition is raking up old charges that he received a bribe to broker the recall of the President’s veto of a telecommunications franchise bill.

A Social Weather Stations survey, meanwhile, showed that accusations of wrongdoing have eroded the trust rating of Mr. Arroyo to negative 8 percent (arrived at after deducting his 28 percent “trust him” from his 36 percent “distrust him” rating).

Being merely social appendages of a president, the worst acceptance rating of a First Gentleman or a First Lady should be no lower than neutral or zero, but never negative. A negative trust rating is calamitous.

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IS HE WILLING TO LIE LOW?: If Mr. Arroyo and his handlers do not do anything dramatic to arrest the decline of his trust rating, he can expect go even lower in the esteem of the public as the opposition escalates its offensive after finding him vulnerable after the firs salvos.

In the SWS survey that gave him a negative 8 percent trust rating, 36 percent or more than a third of respondents said they could not give any opinion either way because they did not have enough information.

This is the volatile undecided sector that the opposition could aim for to further erode the trust rating of Mr. Arroyo. With the seeds of doubt planted in the public mind, further discrediting of Mr. Arroyo has been made easy.

He may have to take a drastic step, which is to submerge himself. Insisting on being in the limelight, being seen and talked about, will make him more visible as a target. And more vulnerable.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: At City Hall, meanwhile, Mayor Lito Atienza has his hands full juggling environment issues. Will his hard sell see him through?

On his high-profile campaign to drive out of Pandacan the depots of the three major oil companies, he has universal support, including ours.

Here in the heart of the nation’s populous capital, next door to Malacañang, are huge riverside storage facilities reportedly holding some 350,000 gallons of highly flammable refined oil products.

This is enough to obliterate a ground zero with a radius of 1-1/2 kilometer from the depot, according to Atienza. In a sudden explosion, there will be no time to run away. Beyond that scorched bull’s eye will be extensive death and destruction, not to mention the release to the nearby Pasig river of burning oil and noxious fumes.

In the kamikaze attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, each of the jetliners flown into each of the twin towers carried only some 20,000 gallons of aviation fuel — a bucketful compared to the 350,000 gallons in the Pandacan depot.

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NO PRICE IS TOO STIFF: The only objection raised so far to the transfer of the highly hazardous presence of the depot is that the move would be very expensive. That’s a problem of the oil companies that should not be passed on or poised like a threat to the public.

The oil cartel and its sympathizers should not find the price of relocation too stiff when seen against the primordial consideration of public safety.

But where do we relocate the depot? Let the oil companies, not the people in jeopardy, work out an answer to that. With their billions, with more merrily rolling in each day, they can always buy a satisfactory answer to that one.

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ATROCIOUS PARKING BUILDING: But Atienza’s decision to build a parking building beside the historic Mehan botanical garden and the Metropolitan Theater is meeting serious opposition.

The trend in a renascent world is to open more public space and plant more greenery within congested communities. But the mayor is swimming against the current by putting up an ugly building without any culturally redeeming quality in a historical open public space.

He has explained to media that the parking building will be used by motorists shifting to the light train and by buses ferrying provincial commuters working or studying in the city.

To us, the history of the Mehan garden space marked by Atienza for his parking building is a secondary issue. The main point as we see it is that government should not build atrocious structures on scarce open spaces and, on the contrary, should look for structures to demolish to create space.

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WHERE’S ALVAREZ?: One public figure in demand lately is Transportation Secretary Pantaleon Alvarez. A number of organizations want to confront him on many issues, but he has been elusive.

At the Manila Hotel kapihan last Monday, Alvarez was awaited by the crowd expecting a sizzling debate between him and former chairman Perfecto Yasay of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Yasay represents the MASO (MIA-NAIA Association of Service Operators) which is seeking a review of the controversial contract between the government and the Philippine Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO) for the construction of Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport complex in Pasay and Parañaque.

Alvarez is also being sought by Central Luzon sectors to shed light on his handling of the PIATCO contract as it affects the Clark international airport (renamed Diosdado Macapagal International Airport) and the economy of Region 3.

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LUZON FOLK AGITATED: Among other concerned sectors, community leaders in towns surrounding the former US airbase want to confront Alvarez for misleading President Arroyo into thinking that the controversial Terminal 3 would have no effect on the development of Clark as an international airport.

A “People’s Summit” has been scheduled on Oct. 25 in Angeles City to draw the attention of GMA, a Pampanga native, to the government’s prior commitments to develop Clark Field as the country’s premiere air facility.

But this vision has been negated by the PIATCO contract wherein the government agreed not to develop any other international airport on Luzon for 25 years or until Terminal 3 achieves a traffic of 10 million passengers a year for three consecutive years, whichever comes earlier.

The summit convenors are “Pinoy Gumising Ka Movement” led by Ruperto Cruz and “Move Clark Now !” headed by Angeles councilor Alex Cauguiran. The groups are multi-sectoral organizations working for DMIA’s full development.

The stakeholders hope that at the end of the summit, the administration would issue a categorical policy favoring the position of the summit participants for the development of DMIA as an international airport.

The stakeholders said that DMIA offers better opportunities for service handlers, cargo companies, travel agencies, and related businesses because of the superior capabilities of the former US base compared with the NAIA.

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

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