POSTSCRIPT / December 26, 2002 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Surrender to the Lord, gain peace and fortitude

CYCLOPS GONE BLIND: We’re amazed that until yesterday President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was reportedly still undecided on whether to keep Justice Secretary (on leave) Hernando Perez in the Cabinet or not.

The obvious choice has been staring the President since weeks ago, but she continues to close her eyes to the fact that Perez will no longer be effective or credible as justice secretary. There’s no point in her keeping him or for his clinging to her.

Perez must realize that much is expected of him as justice secretary. His actuations must be beyond reproach. Yet, there he is, like a hurting Cylcops gone blind, hurling threats that he would get even with his tormentors.

If he has any political sense at all, Perez should realize that quitting now would be much better than being dismissed outright or being found guilty later. The beleaguered member of the Cabinet should not make it too difficult for his President.

A justice secretary twisting in the wind, under a cloud, is not a pretty sight.

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TOTAL SURRENDER: Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez should not have second thoughts about leaving today for the US as agreed upon, regardless of whether Perez goes back to his post or not after his one-month leave ending tomorrow.

The two gentlemen should face their respective cases: Jimenez in Florida and Perez before the Ombudsman.

Returning voluntarily to the US to answer charges should not be that difficult for Jimenez. After some soul-searching at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, he had surrendered himself to the Lord.

The Novitiate, by the way, is one of the favorite retreats of this Atenean who once spent three years in the seminary preparing for priesthood under the Society of Jesus.

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TRUE LIBERATION: Surrender is the beginning of true liberation. Making peace with the Lord and surrendering everything to His wisdom and mercy builds up fortitude and inner peace.

With our fate left in His hands, we suddenly discover that there is no longer anything in this world that can ever scare us. Not federal charges, not incarceration, not vilification or black propaganda, no, not even the possibility of assassination.

With that, we wish Jimenez Godspeed. We understand he already has confirmed tickets for him and his family to go back to America — the land of opportunity where he made quite a pile selling computer components and accessories.

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WRONG TURN: Sucked into White House politics, Jimenez also made quite an impression on then US President Bill Clinton. Looking back at those halcyon days, he mused that it might have been at that junction where he made a wrong turn.

A Filipino who is legally barred from contributing to the campaign coffers of American politicians and political parties, Jimenez found what he thought (erroneously) was a neat way of contributing in a roundabout way to his favorite US politician.

Instead of doing it himself, he convinced more than 25 of his employees to contribute $1,000 each to the Democrat party. Nothing wrong in that — except that he and/or his company reimbursed their contributions and thereby became the actual (and illegal) contributor.

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PLEA BARGAIN: Each case of illegal disbursement made through an employee was one count or one separate case of illegal political contribution. Necessarily, there was fraud and tax evasion involved.

That explains why Jimenez seems to be facing a long list of crimes.

We expect Jimenez to enter into plea bargaining, meaning he will admit the error and ask for clemency or some lesser penalty. Other Asians who also contributed to the Democrats and who were similarly charged had resorted to the same bargaining and came off with light penalties.

The charges, by the way, and some other crimes being mentioned in reports are bailable. His lawyer, who happens to be Clinton’s own attorney, expects Jimenez to be allowed to stay out of jail while his cases are pending.

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TRUTH SETS US FREE: We commend the same spirit of surrender for Perez. The secretary should surrender to the superior wisdom of God and stop talking like the lawyer that he is. Legalities are irrelevant anyway in the game of public perception.

If Perez is truly innocent as he claims, his innocence will be able to shine through the clouds of public cynicism, given the resources at his command.

He does not have to lose his temper or threaten (“uupakan”) the head of the President’s anti-graft agency who had cited his alleged crimes in barring disclosure of his (and other officials’) travel records.

As we keep saying, Perez and President Arroyo need not be afraid of the opening of the Coutts Bank account in Hong Kong where Jimenez claimed to have wired $2 million that Perez allegedly extorted from him.

Truth, they say, will set us free. Its suppression makes of us captives of our nagging guilt.

We pray that President Arroyo — who we wish a dramatic political rebound in the coming new year — will see this basic truth.

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RAMOS GIVES SIDE: From the spokesman of former President Fidel V. Ramos, we received an email taking exception to comment that three presidents — Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo — are “washing hands” and “disclaiming responsibility” in the award of a power contract to the CBK Power Co. Ltd. (more popularly referred to as Impsa, or the Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima, because Impsa is the better known here of the partners in the group).

The spokesman said, among other things: “FVR never denied and in fact he acknowledged that CBK project was initiated by his administration. Neither did he disclaim responsibility for initiating the said project which he considered, based on careful and diligent study and evaluation, necessary and called for in the national interest under the then prevailing circumstances.

“The CBK plant complex which at that time had deteriorated, is no ordinary generating plant. It is the only regulating power plant in the Philippines and without its rehabilitation, the critical support services in the Luzon grid would have been placed in jeopardy.

“The importance and strategic nature of the plant to the country’s power industry was beyond question. However, the fact is that by the time the Ramos administration ended on June 30, 1998, the contract for the CBK project had not been executed. It was signed several months thereafter, during the Estrada administration.”

“On Feb. 7, 2000, a few months after the Sept. 29, 1999, visit of former President Estrada to Argentina and his tour of the Impsa plant, Impsa commenced its work in Unit 2 of the Kalayaan Plant or Phase I of the contract which was completed on Oct. 12, 2000.

“This should probably tell us something because ordinarily, no contractor will proceed to work on a project, particularly one of this magnitude, without the ‘go-signal’ from the authorities. Anyway, I am sure, you have noted that point.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 26, 2002)

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