POSTSCRIPT / September 25, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Napocor, GSIS local victims of war jitters

PAPAL PRESENCE: That was a dramatic interjection of papal presence in the emerging theater of war in the Middle East.

A grieving Pope John Paul II flew last Saturday to Kazakhstan, a few thousand miles north of the Afghan mountain lair of terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden, and prayed for Christians and Muslims to work together for peace.

The pontiff’s plea for peace came at the end of the deadline set by President George W. Bush for the ruling Taliban in Kabul to surrender bin Laden. Will the pontiff’s presence forestall the unleashing of American might against Kazakhstan’s southern neighbor?

With America continuing to whip itself into a war frenzy, we think it’s doubtful if the Holy Father kneeling in prayer in the shadow of the war machine cranked up by Bush could stop the invasion of Afghanistan.

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BISHOPS SPEAK UP: In Manila, while the statement of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines stressed forgiveness, compassion, understanding and dialogue, the media preferred to focus on a phrase saying that a “war of self-defense is morally allowable.”

If one did not read the entire statement, he would get the impression from news reports that the bishops had been corralled into inventing a moral justification for the impending American attack on an already devastated country.

Such a warlike stance of the bishops would have come in sharp contrast to the message of peace and brotherhood of the Pope and the earlier appeal for sobriety of Jaime Cardinal Sin.

Taken out of context, the supposed ethical justification of America’s war of vengeance would have meant, incorrectly, that the bishops were endorsing a war whose details nobody, not even Bush, knows at that moment.

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KORANIC VERSES: The same contextual error rears its ugly head when we publish in isolation a collection of diverse Koranic verses tending to show that the Holy Book itself urges Muslims to go out and kill the perceived enemies and persecutors of Islam.

Such a fundamentalist call to terrorism in the guise of a holy war vanishes when viewed in the light of other text of the Koran showing Islam’s affinity to Christianity and earnestly preaching brotherhood and peace.

All this just goes to show how the dragging in of religion into the exhortations of world leaders could twist contexts and poison the public mind.

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RELIGIOUS UNDERTONES: While we admire the doggedness of President Bush in declaring war against bin Laden and his Afghan hosts even before US investigators could collate a convincing body of evidence, we pity the President for allowing his religious guts to hang out.

Somebody — if not the American media, maybe an angel in his dreams — should counsel Bush to be careful not to be caught in the same web he has been weaving with his warlike rhetoric.

The plane bombing of the World Trade Center towers and other civilian targets in previous attacks are, by themselves, enough justification to organize a posse to hunt down the perpetrators.

The barbaric attacks are heinous enough without Bush having to decorate them with lurid religious color. The American president is demeaning his office and harming his cause by using religion to whip up support for his lynching job.

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LOCAL CASUALTY: Among the early victims of the emerging war is the National Power Corp. and its insurer the Government Service Insurance System.

By law, all assets of the state power firm are to be insured only with the GSIS, with the latter then reinsuring them with third parties to spread the risk.

But Napocor suddenly insisted on choosing where GSIS should reinsure its property. The GSIS objected to this meddling — and the reinsurance of Napocor assets was delayed. Meantime, war jitters caught up with the business and premiums suddenly rose by 50 to 100 percent.

As of yesterday, just a week before the Sept. 30 lapsing of the assets’ current insurance, the GSIS and the Napocor have not moved away from their deadlock. It’s too late to beat the deadline.

Premiums paid under Napocor’s current policy amounted to $13.874 million. Based on the same value of the firm’s assets, the premiums would now amount from $P20 million to $27 million.

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GMA ORDER IGNORED: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued last Sept. 10 Memorandum Order 30 supposedly settling the dispute. She created a special committee to conduct a transparent, open and competitive public bidding for the reinsurance of Napocor properties.

The committee is chaired by Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho, with two members each from GSIS and Napocor: GSIS president and general manager Winston Garcia and the GSIS senior vice president for GSIS; and Energy Secretary Vincent Perez and Napocor president Jesus Alcordo for the power firm.

The committee was directed to award the winning bid “at least 15 days before the renewal date (Sept. 30) of Napocor’s insurance coverage. Thus, the award deadline was Sept. 15.

But Camacho was in China on official mission when the order was issued. He returned Sept. 17, or past the award deadline. The committee met three times, but without a chairman. Nothing has been decided.

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ALCORDO BLACKLISTS TWO: For lack of time to conduct prequalification proceedings, GSIS proposed that the world’s top 10 insurance brokers be automatically qualified. Napocor agreed in principle, but Alcordo specified that two companies out of the top 10 not be invited to bid.

Alcordo wanted to shut out the world’s No. 1 insurance broker, Marsh and Mc Lennan Cos. Inc., and the No. 5, Jardine Lloyd Thomson, which is the current lead reinsurance broker of Napocor properties. Marsh and Mc Lennan is the secondary broker.

Alcordo’s desire to exclude the two brokers is embodied in a Sept. 13 memorandum that he sent to Camacho and Perez. Alcordo raised issues on high premiums and overpricing against the world’s No. 1 and No. 5 brokers, but offered no proof of wrongdoing.

In the committee meetings, Alcordo openly batted for AON Corp., the world’s No. 2 broker, represented locally by the Ayala group. Sources said Alcordo had been pushing also for a multinational broker called “Higgins,” which is not among the Top 10 brokers.

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BROKER BACKS OUT: For background, GSIS insiders said that AON Corp. won in 1999 the bid for Napocor’s reinsurance, and was appointed as the power firm’s “broker of record.”

AON was officially informed on March 23, 1999, that it won the bid, but two days later, Ayala AON (the company’s Philippine subsidiary) wrote GSIS thanking the system for the “distinct pleasure of having been appointed as Napocor’s broker of record for at least two days.”

The letter was sent by James Matti, Ayala AON president, to Alex Valencerina, GSIS vice president for technical services.

Matti told the GSIS that Ayala AON has “no option but to beg off from placing the 90 percent of the 1999 Napocor policy due to compelling reasons.” The “compelling reasons” were given as “tight deadline” and the admission that its quote was “no longer viable and appealing to the various energy-related international underwriters.”

Ayala AON also told GSIS: “We deem it nearly impossible to place the Napocor policy based on our original quote.”

Its appointment as broker of record was transferred to Jardine.

* * *

AON DISQUALIFIES ITSELF: Expressing disappointment at Ayala AON’s withdrawal, Antonio Ingco, then manager of Napocor’s risk management department, wrote Valencerina of GSIS stressing that “AON, after failing in their appointment, should not get any share in the placement of the (Napocor) account.”

Some GSIS officials are asking why Alcordo now wants to deal with AON considering its failed commitments to Napocor. They also ask why Alcordo has been pushing for Higgins which is not on the Top 10 list.

Napocor would have been spared the jacked-up premiums had the original bid schedule been followed. GSIS officially transmitted the schedule to Napocor last Aug. 10. Per schedule, sealed bids would have been submitted to GSIS on Sept. 10 and opened the same day. Awarding was scheduled Sept. 17.

Had the bids been submitted on schedule and considered final, they would not have been affected by the backlash on the insurance industry of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 25, 2001)

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