POSTSCRIPT / October 23, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Oppositionists in CA disturbed by 'conthrax'

REBUFF AT SUMMIT: Uncle Sam should not be surprised that the heads of government meeting at the summit in Shanghai did not formally endorse the military crusade launched by President George W. Bush against the forces of evil hiding in Afghanistan.

There are still some world leaders who can think straight, whose minds and political instincts remain intact despite American propaganda and pressure. And it’s not just them. One would meet plain folk whose minds are similarly uncluttered.

It’s really amazing that we’ve reached a point where we dare not raise any question when one superpower blithely crosses national borders, rains bombs and sends commandoes to wage war in another country’s sovereign territory.

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IF IT WERE R.P. DOING IT: Imagine a hypothetical situation where the Abu Sayyaf attacks Zamboanga, killing and raping scores of residents, burning and looting the city — then fleeing to the neighboring Malaysian state of Sabah.

If our armed forces give pursuit and attack with planes, missiles and ground commandoes the suspected hiding places of the Abu Sayyaf in Sabah, do you think world opinion would be on our side?

No sir. Because we’re just a small, poor country. We are not the great United States, whose violations of borders of sovereign states are not questioned — especially when committed under the cover of a holy crusade, a war between good and evil, et cetera, blah blah.

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PAINFUL DEATH TO TERRORISTS: We’re not saying that the perpetrators of the heinous attacks on the World Trade Center last Sept. 11 be left unpunished. We say that the attackers and their associates be punished to the extreme. Tortured before being executed, we might add.

But as in the United States where a person’s rights are held sacred, there are certain rules and certain international rights in the rest of the world and among nations.

Any way you look at it, what the United States is doing in Afghanistan is actually war. Yet, President Bush the Executive is waging war without benefit of the US Congress first declaring war on that poor country.

The wonder of it all is that we hear nobody questioning this blatant violation of a basic, but crucial, process. Emotion has taken over. Vengeance has taken precedence over justice.

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IRAQ BETTER WATCH OUT: If Mr. Bush wants to make a big show of getting even, of protecting the American people, of looking macho, of waving the flag, of testing the US armaments of war long lying idle, let him. Let them. What can we do anyway?

But let the rest of the world watch out. Iraq, for one, must be praying hard to Allah.

We assume that Bush Junior is just waiting for an excuse to hit and wipe out Iraq. You see, he has unfinished business with Saddam Hussein of Baghdad carried over from his father Bush Senior who once went all out to kill Saddam but failed.

If Saddam makes just one false move, he’s dead.

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NO SMALL CHANGE: Commission that could run to as much as $5 million (a low of $2 million) on one government deal alone is no laughing matter. That’s what the reinsurance of the $6-billion assets of the National Power Corp. could fetch officials afflicted with “conthrax.”

For those who came in late, conthrax is the newest virus terrorizing targeted government agencies bidding out fat contracts. Abetted by four well-placed officials, it forces its way in, rewrites the bidding rules and lines up favored bidders preparatory to gobbling up the juicy deal.

Some opposition members of the Commission on Appointments have started to ask around about the conthrax-afflicted Gang of Four reported to be moving to corner juicy contracts in various moneyed entities through bidding manipulation.

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$6-B ASSETS IN JEOPARDY: In the Napocor case, the conthrax virus appears to have been momentarily stopped. Chosen bidders backed out when a special presidential committee took over the usual bidding from the Government Service Insurance System.

That was prudence, we think, on the part of the bidders because once they submit their bids, the GSIS (which was robbed of the business) is likely to come up with lower bids from brokers who had been excluded by the committee.

The resulting suspension of the purchase of insurance, meantime, has placed valuable Napocor assets in jeopardy since Sept. 30, when their one-year insurance cover provided by GSIS expired.

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NAPOCOR REBUFFS GSIS: Why does not GSIS, which is mandated by law to insure assets of all government entities, just automatically renew the policy and bill Napocor?

We posed this point to GSIS president and general manager Winston F. Garcia. He explained that they had gone through that procedure, but that Napocor refused to receive the papers and pay the premium. Incidentally, he has stayed away from the bidding conducted by the presidential committee.

With that, we think that Napocor executives headed by their president Jesus Alcordo are deemed to have taken full responsibility for safeguarding the power firm’s assets without benefit of insurance. We were told they could not get term insurance from other companies because the law is clear and specific that they must insure only with GSIS.

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NEA LOWEST BIDDER LEFT OUT: The conthrax situation in the National Electrification Administration is slightly different. One bidder had been chosen to replace the lowest bidder to supply all the wood poles and crossarms for laying power lines to rural areas still without electricity.

The lowest bidder, Nerwin Industries Corp., was replaced after it refused to share with a losing bidder the $12-million contract that Nerwin has won. Its president, Jesus Santayana, said in a letter to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that Nerwin won the deal “fair and square” with its bid being P151,487,736 lower than the losing bid.

Sources said that the government corporate counsel had advised NEA to award the contract to the lowest bidder, but that this counsel was overturned by a legal opinion secured from the justice department to justify giving the contract to a losing (higher) bidder.

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PNOC-EDC RESISTING: At the Energy Development Corp., a Cabinet official had talked to a top executive of this subsidiary of the Philippine National Oil Corp. for the latter to allow a bidding committee similar to the one foisted on the GSIS.

The EDC executive was given the impression that if the GSIS business is captured by the Gang of Four, the group will be emboldened to press similar deals in entities bulging with insurable assets or bidding out fat contracts.

Sources at the EDC said that its officials were not inclined to play along with the gang trying to corner the insurance of its assets. In fact, they resent what they called the meddling although they recognize the influence of the gang members in Malacañang.

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BAY AREA PINOYS PROTEST: In San Francisco, Filipino artists are up in arms against two unelected officials who are holding up hundreds of jobs, housing units and the refurbishing of Bindlestiff Studio, the first Pinoy community theater ever put up in America.

Dr. Theo Gonzalves, composer and Bindlestiff board member, has sent word that their group and the South of Market Area will hold today (tomorrow in the West Coast) a press conference on the subject on the steps of City Hall.

For three weeks, Commissioners Benny Yee and Leroy King of the San Francisco Redevelopment Commission have stalled talks with a non-profit firm to develop the Plaza Hotel (6th and Howard Streets), where Bindlestiff is currently located. Its proposal would create jobs, open 115 low-income dwellings and remodel the studio.

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$200M IN EYE OF STORM: At the center of the issue seems to be the release of $200 million in federal and state funds to the City of San Francisco for affordable housing. With Yee as president of a real estate company and his affiliations in private, profit brokerage and construction firms, public suspicion is high that the commissioner has a personal agenda.

Members of the Filipino community — businessmen, professionals, cultural arts organizations, residents and students — have worked to preserve Bindlestiff, an internationally-recognized venue for performing arts and a model for the artistic expression by immigrants.

There are an estimated 40,000 Filipinos in San Francisco. The US census in 2000 placed the Filipino population nationwide at 1.8 million, but the correct figure that includes TNTs (tago nang tago) could be double that.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 23, 2001)

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