POSTSCRIPT / January 13, 2002 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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We can assemble a PC for Nur gratis et amore

GMA TO FLIP-FLOP?: The acrobatic skills of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will soon be put to a test with the arrival of American troops geared to fight the Abu Sayyaf in the guise of advising Filipino soldiers looking for a pair of American hostages on Basilan.

The President has said time and again that while she welcomed US military advisers, she was opposed to their engaging in combat. Pressing for modern materiel for our armed forces, she said that our troops could lick the Abu Sayyaf anytime provided they had modern equipment.

We’re watching GMA to see how she would flip and flop when more US troops start landing and eventually engaging the terrorists in combat. That’s just a matter of time, considering that the US is getting impatient for results in the rescue operations.

We’re also curious how GMA would take the slap of American troops coming in to do what her own battalions who are familiar with the local terrain had failed to do after being given by the US the tools to do the job.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK?: We’re asking readers these survey questions: Should we allow American troops to fight the Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu-Basilan area? Why?

Please answer with a Yes or a No, and limit your explanation to 50 words (around four typewritten lines). Kindly write your real name and address, your Gender, Age and Location — which we’re gathering just for statistics.

Write “US TROOPS” on the subject line if you’re emailing your response, or on the face of the envelope if you’re sending it by regular post or messenger. Send your response promptly to assure its being counted.

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A FREE P.C. FOR NUR: It says here that Moro leader Nur Misuari is demanding that he be given a laptop while detained in a police camp in Santa Rosa. If he does not mind a bulkier desktop model, we can assemble for him an Intel-driven personal computer — for free! — and set it up in his cell.

The only condition is that in the unlikely event he escapes, he should leave the PC behind with a note that it be returned to us. Also, as we’re handling only hardware, he will have to buy the software of his choice.

But we wonder why Misuari has to ask the government to buy him a computer when, according to the police, he was carrying almost a million pesos when picked up by a Philippine arresting team in Kuala Lumpur. That’s a lot of laptops and burgers.

Whatever… as long as he’s detained in Luzon, our offer to assemble a PC for him stands.

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NUR’S LEGAL DEFENSE: But what’s the point of some of his admirers in the Muslim enclave in Quiapo starting a Peso-for-Nur campaign to raise money for his defense?

With his reported wealth, it should be the other way around — Misuari donating to his poor constituents part of the reported fortune he had amassed as a government factotum while maintaining his lifeline with his rich foreign sponsors.

On second thought, the contributions might come in handy. With his platoon of lawyers — 15 as of last count — he might just end up in penury before his case is resolved. Unless, of course, his lawyers are that rare Rene Saguisag type who assists affluent clients pro bono.

At the Sulo kapihan yesterday, the press got an idea of Misuari’s legal firepower with the appearance of a dozen compañeros who came after lawyers Macapanton Abbas Jr., Arthur Lim and Salvador Panelo.

If Press Undersecretary Manuel Sanchez is not that busy untangling conflicting Malacañang statements, Misuari might want to borrow him to coordinate his lawyers and ensure that they “speak with one voice.”

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LIFE ON THE RUN: Misuari’s escape is unlikely. His problem is not how to escape, because that’s an easy feat in our porous prisons, but how to lead a life on the run after being coopted by the establishment and leading a life of leisure.

After all that pampering, how will an aging Misuari manage in the infested forests of Sulu and Basilan — assuming other renegades like the Abu Sayyaf will surrender part of their domain to him?

Besides, won’t being a fugitive tarnish his image as a Moro leader trying from inside to institute reforms for his people?

His other option after escape is to slip out of the country and go back to a luxurious but lonely life as an exile in Muslim countries willing to provide him a haven. He has gone through that and might not be excited to go through it all over again.

The better scenario, we think, is for him to stick it out here, close to his followers, and fight his battles in the full glare of media — even from behind bars. Depending on how he plays it, media coverage could be managed to earn him points and boost his market value.

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CONTINUING EDUCATION: Back to the computer, we think that qualified detainees should have access not only to PCs but also to the Internet, for their continuing education. However, such high-tech facilities should not be in individual cells but in a regulated computer room.

If it’s true that prison life should rehabilitate the individual, computers must be brought in as part of an educational component of the prison system.

We have heard of the dons of crime syndicates, such as drug rings, using computers, cell phones and such devices to continue their illicit operations from behind prison walls, but these are the exceptions. They are also easy to monitor.

Will Misuari use a laptop or a PC to pursue criminal activities? We give him the benefit of the doubt, but we can imagine that he’ll use it to compose letters, statements, draft of briefs, etc. But these are normal and legitimate activities, especially of somebody presumed innocent until convicted.

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POLITICAL TALK: Everybody assumes that our tireless politicians, starting from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, are already preparing for the 2004 elections.

But it did not serve the presidency for Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez to tell the media that, indeed, there are such preparations, that GMA would get the party nomination when she runs in 2004, et cetera….

All that is true, of course, but Alvarez’s openly talking about GMA running and the party preparing for her candidacy only fuels the unhealthy talk about her politicking this early. That’s bad for her, the presidency and her administration.

President Arroyo should tell her officials to minimize political talk, especially about her running in 2004. They should just concentrate on attending to their assigned tasks.

There are so many other things to talk about (even Alvarez himself has other things to talk about regarding environment issues), so why did he have to highlight to the press GMA’s running in 2004?

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SANCHEZ MUST ADVISE GMA: If Press Undersecretary Manuel Sanchez wants to coordinate information emanating from the Executive department, he should talk to Alvarez right away and advise against carelessly talking about GMA’s running.

While he is at it, Sanchez may also want to coordinate Palace pronouncement on the toll rollback in the expressways running north and south of Metro Manila.

For two days after GMA announced the rollback, motorists using the South Manila Expressway had to contend with a callous management insisting on collecting the newly raised fees despite the Malacañang directive.

It was only much later that GMA herself called a radio station to cut short the debate by clarifying that the rollback applied only to the entire length of the North Luzon Expressway and that part of the South tollway between Ayala-Alabang and Calamba.

It seems that Sanchez may have to include GMA and the officials running the expressways in his briefings on the need for coordinating and making clear public statements.

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HERE’S THE AUTHOR: Remember that piece “The Religion of Blame” that we ran in Postscript last Jan. 3? Reactions to it clogged our mailbox. Finally we got info on who wrote that compelling commentary and give credit where it is due.

Readers Manuel Lino G. Faelnar and Kazuaki Aizawa emailed us to say that the author is David “Danny” C. Martinez from Dumaguete City who now lives in Los Angeles. Faelnar says that the article is a chapter in Martinez’s forthcoming book “A Nation of Our Own.”

We did not notice, but we’ve been told that the same piece was published way back by colleague Art Borjal in his Jaywalker column in the STAR.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 13, 2002)

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