POSTSCRIPT / August 11, 2002 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Shaming criminals useless; do it instead to top officials

SHAME ‘EM ROUTINE: Who sold the not-so-bright idea to President Arroyo that presenting gangsters to media in her awesome presence would shame them enough to make them cry and mend their crooked ways?

It doesn’t work that way in the real world. That “shame ’em” tack will not work among common criminals who had strayed into the underworld to make some living for their poor families.

Those grizzled guys with their bowed heads may look repentant as they line up behind the President but some of them may just be basking in their finally having been “recognized.”

In fact, their status in the underworld may have gone up with that photo-op with no less than the President of the Republic, the commander in chief of the armed forces, the Iron Lady of Asia.

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DRAG OUT CROOKED EXECS: But President Arroyo need not abandon the “shame ’em” routine. It can still be put to good use.

For a change, however, President Arroyo should turn her guns around 180 degrees and drag into the limelight the big crooks in the government, including some from her own administration.

Parade before media a former president, two generals, three police superintendents, one Cabinet official, two senators and a couple of congressmen. Shame them like those suspects in orange t-shirts — and we’ll see this nation finally taking seriously the President’s avowed anti-crime crusade.

That might be too many? Okay, just get one of each kind. Still too tall an order on short notice? Then just give us for starters a former president, one senator and a justice from the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals — an all-star police lineup representing the three branches of government.

But that would embarrass them? That’s precisely the idea, di po ba?

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SHOCK TREATMENT: What this sick nation badly needs is shock treatment. You can’t do that by catching a few robbers and kidnappers in the bushes who prey mostly on the rich anyway, and then exhibiting them to media.

Drag out a couple of big, really big, officials and then you can get the President’s supposed anti-crime campaign going. Short of that, it will just be another forgettable political sideshow.

If you want proof that a slam-bang show will help restore people’s interest in good government, just recall how this nation stayed up to await every detail of the impeachment charges against former President Erap Estrada.

(Of course the trial fizzled out and now the followup plunder case against Mr. Estrada is also headed for the trash bin of history. But before the coverup artists went to work, we saw the Filipino actually beginning to believe again in himself.)

President Arroyo should examine that short-lived moment of high expectations, and learn lessons from it, because it provided the human force that catapulted her to the presidency — and may serve as the pattern for her own departure.

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STARTING ‘EM YOUNG: There is no more shame in graft and corruption in government. Many of the peers of corrupt officials actually envy the fast operators who amass millions and get away with it. This drives the others who are still relatively honest to do it themselves when the opportunity arises.

There is no more shame even among the children of corrupt officials. The youngsters see their families wallowing in wealth that is grossly out of proportion to the legitimate income of their parents. Yet, they have learned to close their eyes to it and in fact learned to lean back and enjoy it.

Most of these kids go to expensive private schools supposedly teaching Christian values, et cetera, but that is negated by the parental tutoring in the corrupt ways of the world.

That makes it easier for them to later take over from their parents. After learning firsthand that to win in politics and business one has to cheat and steal, the children themselves run — ready or not — to take over that post to be vacated by the parent.

Politics has become so lucrative a family business that Congress, one of the temples of corruption, will never get around to obeying a constitutional mandate to pass a credible law outlawing political dynasties.

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LAND THE BIG FISH!: So we go back to our point that it is useless to round up gangsters and try shaming them by presenting them to media in the presence of the President.

What should carry more impact on public morality, and the peace and order situation, is for the authorities to drag out big-time grafters in government and prosecute them to the hilt.

Until they do that, any effort of President Arroyo to jumpstart her anti-crime campaign and invite the people to become active partners will fall flat.

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WRAPPING THE POSTS: If you’ve been driving around Metro Manila, you must have noticed some workers quietly covering from public view some spindly columns (posts) of the light rail line and some overpasses built in recent years.

You peek and discover that they are wrapping another layer of concrete on the substandard columns presumably to make them stronger. The columns must have been found inadequate for the sustained stress of traffic, the sheer weight of the superstructure, and any killer quake that may hit the area one of these days.

All the while pala those overpasses being used by thousands of unsuspecting commuters are not that safe.

What about the liabilities of the experts who designed the overpasses and light rail lines and the officials and their consultants who approved them? Still on the “shame ’em” line, the government should announce who these people are.

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NO LONGER MONOLITHIC: One disturbing aspect of the upgrading of the columns is that a post that is being wrapped only now in an outer layer of concrete is not as strong as a monolithic column of the same dimensions originally built in one continuous pouring. They can never perfect the bonding of the original post and the new layer added to it.

Also, it is more expensive now to put that bulky outer layer than to have designed it right in the first place and did it in one pouring of the concrete. Who is paying for this additional expense?

Does this mean that they will rehabilitate all the overpasses to ensure their stability and safety? The lingering question is if this band-aid remedy of wrapping the columns is adequate.

While they are at it, we suggest that they also inspect the busy overpasses on Roxas Blvd. at the EDSA and the Buendia intersections. The beams holding up the pavement are dangerously sagging, yet heavy trucks are still allowed to use them.

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HIGH COST OF GRAFT: Malacanang should not be deaf to the protests of users of the expressways about exorbitant toll rates.

In the North Luzon Expressway, commuters pay to have their vehicles destroyed by the bumpy and rutted road. We’ve already paid taxes for roads and such things, and we’re supposed to be paying for something extra when we enter the expressway. What is the extra toll for? Extra torture!

In the South Luzon Expressway, the protestors are right. There is no visible improvement of facilities and services, so what are the recent toll increases for?

The increase in toll rate is to enable the operator to recover the millions they had spent on corrupt officials. In short, we are being forced to pay for the high cost of graft in this country.

Whenever you pay the exorbitant rates, remember that the correct toll should be at least 30 percent lower — for that is the minimum cost of graft.

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FRENCH SANS PERMITS: Recall our earlier report that for every peso that we pay for Maynilad water service, five centavos go to French expats brought in by Ondeo, the foreign partner of the Lopez firm Benpres.

Each French consultant collects at least P1 million monthly despite the fact that much of his work is done by his Filipino staff. Although Ondeo is in the minority, it has been cornering most of the key positions in the system reportedly to make sure it has full control of the business.

Now add this to the data on French expats bloating the cost of our water: We have verified from immigration records that as of Aug. 1, a dozen of the French staff of Ondeo have not even bothered to apply for special work permits or preliminary work permits!

Immigration records identified them as Yves Bories, Thierry Kreig, Marc Beatrix, Stuart Tilley, Phillipe Langlet, Thierry Schock, Nathalie Lamy, Lisette Provencher, Bertrand Dubrous, Hugo Bourgeois, Jacques Chevallet and Pham Van Tin.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 11, 2002)

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