POSTSCRIPT / June 27, 2002 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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US gives final verdict: Sabaya is indeed dead

WHAT DO YOU THINK?: Here’s our latest Postscript survey question: Do you think Abu Sayyaf leader/spokesman Abu Sabaya is dead or alive? Either way, please explain your answer with one paragraph of not more than 50 words.

For statistical purposes, kindly give your Age, Sex, and Location. The information will be kept confidential and deleted from our files after 10 days.

To prevent your response from getting lost with the rest of our mail, type “SABAYA” on the subject line if you’re emailing your response. Or write “SABAYA” on the envelope if you’re sending it by regular mail or by messenger (to c/o PhilStar, Port Area, Manila).

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LINA DROPS BOMBSHELL: We’re dismayed, but not surprised, that some politicians who are known professional pessimists saw no merit in the sacking yesterday by Local Government Secretary Joey Lina of several police generals who have failed to stop illegal gambling in their areas and may have even abetted it.

Downgrading the dramatic action against suspected police coddlers of gambling operators, some opposition leaders sniffed and asked how come Lina lowered the boom only on the police but not on vice lords themselves.

Isa-isa lang po! One at a time. It’s easier to go after erring police officers, who are in public service, than after gambling lords who are private businessmen who can throw all sorts of legal obstructions. There is no rule saying that the whole caboodle should be dragged to court at the same time.

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HIDING BEHIND POLL BAN: Some quarters are citing the ban on the removal or shuffling of police officers during an election period (we’re in such a period as we are now preparing for the July 15 barangay elections).

While it is true that there is such a ban, it must be noted that the Police Commission has applied for clearance from the Commission on Elections to go ahead with the relief of the police generals.

We hope the Comelec under its new leadership, seeing that Lina’s move is pure internal disciplinary action and has nothing to do with the coming barangay elections, will issue the necessary clearance. In this case, Comelec clearance appears ministerial.

We have long criticized the administration for not cracking down really hard on vice lords, especially jueteng operators. Now that Lina did what was generally considered a delicate but necesssary move, some quarters with twisted priorities assail him.

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DEAD OR ALIVE?: Uncle Sam seems to have settled it for us Pinoys. The American general in command of US forces in the South has said that Abu Sayyaf leader and spokesman Abu Sabaya is dead — and that’s it?

For days, our military top brass have grown hoarse insisting that Sabaya had indeed been shot by a navy commando in close combat and swallowed by the sea. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself joined the chorus affirming his death.

But with sagging government credibility and no corpus delicti, the report of his death was met with understandable skepticism in some quarters — until Brig. Gen. Donald Wurster, commander of the US forces with Balikatan, spoke up and lent credence to the death notice.

It’s a quaint trait of us bored natives. When local chieftains say something, it bounces off us, but when a white foreigner stands to say something, it sinks like Gospel truth.

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U.S. ON TOP OF THINGS: Even with that, however, there are the usual skeptics, including some members of media who brusquely tell Wurster to shut up and mind his own business.

But, in fairness, the general was only giving his opinion because he was asked what he thought. It would have been more disastrous if Wurster refused to comment. His silence before media would have been interpreted as his harboring doubts about Sabaya’s death. His silence, in itself, would be a statement.

One mistake of the government was its failure to give the full details in the first three days. With its bad record of having announced supposed military victories which later turned out to be false or grossly exaggerated, the first skimpy reports of a special commando having killed Sabaya did not sound convincing to some quarters.

It’s only now when secret details of the operations are being divulged that the veracity of the report is starting to register in the public mind.

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MOLES DID SABAYA IN: The handing over of the P5 million reward to a close-in aide of Sabaya did much to make the story credible, because the ceremony forced the disclosure that this man constantly kept the military fixed on their quarry and was with the elusive Sabaya when he was shot at close range.

It was disclosed that the mole, and another companion, had been given by intelligence handlers electronic beacons that were constantly monitored by pursuing operatives and US drones keeping track of the boat used in the escape attempt.

The moles were with Sabaya’s gang until the time his pursuers, equipped with night vision goggles, rammed his boat in the dark sea and peppered their target with automatic fire at close range until he fell into the brine.

Earlier, there was also the statement of US President George W. Bush hailing President Arroyo and her military for a job well done. Now, why would the US President stick his head out if he did not have independent confirmation of Sabaya’s death? The US helped track down Sabaya and fix his position.

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SHRINKING PC PARTS: While infotech equipment is growing faster and more powerful, it is generally also getting smaller. The Pentium 4 wafer has been made smaller although it now has more pins (478) than the earlier P4 model (423) while its computing power has been greatly enhanced.

Laptops are getting thinner and lighter, but more powerful. The bulky box-type monitors are giving way to flat screens that stand on pedestals and occupy less space.

We have seen a small PC the size of a large shoebox. We opened one at Villman and, yes, everything’s there in the innards of the sleek aluminum box/casing. Our only worry about the cute setup is that ventilation may suffer or that the DVD/CD-ROM drive and the other fixed drives might bump the processor. But see it to appreciate it.

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MICROSOFT’S TABLET PC: Microsoft is stepping up its promotion of its Tablet PC, introduced nearly two years ago, that is a powerful, pen-based computer without a keyboard.

Microsoft boss Bill Gates can be seen making the rounds of industry events, tablet in hand spreading the Gospel of handwriting and digital ink. He says that machines using its Tablet PC software, with emphasis on pen-based features, will be in the market Nov. 7.

Some 14 companies have signed up as Tablet PC partners. While a few plan to make pure tablets, all are expected to have detachable keyboards.

With a notebook-tablet hybrid, the user can type away as on a standard notebook computer. When needed, such as in meetings and cramped quarters, the user can close the lid and the PC becomes a writing screen for a pen-based computer.

Pen computing has not caught on over the years mainly because users have found the hand-writing recognition software unreliable. Samples that failed included Apple’s Newton handheld.

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MORE TABLET DETAILS: Microsoft’s Tablet PC software is the Windows XP Pro operating system with the tablet features added. It runs all Windows applications.

The machines will be available from Acer, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, NEC and Motion Computing. The price in the US will be around $2,500.

Also from Microsoft, we learned that the next version of Microsoft’s suite of productivity applications, Office 11, would be available by the middle of next year. More than 300 million use Microsoft’s Office versions worldwide, while its Windows operating systems are used by about 94 percent of users around the world.

In its current fiscal year about to end, Microsoft is expected to report revenue of roughly $27 billion.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 27, 2002)

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