POSTSCRIPT / March 7, 2002 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Alvarez not qualified to talk of press payola

MICRO HEATING OF FOOD: Users of microwave ovens, take note. Ed Sacris of Pinoy55 shares with us this item on heating food in microwave ovens, which information you might want to pass on.

On Channel 2 (in the US) days ago, Sacris reported in his email, a Dr. Edward Fujimoto, identified as manager of the Wellness Program at the Castle Hospital, talked about dioxins and how bad they are for humans.

The doctor said that we should not heat food in a microwave oven using plastic containers. This applies to food containing fat. He said that the combination of fat, high heat and plastics releases dioxins into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body.

Dioxins are carcinogens and highly toxic to human cells. Instead, the doctor recommends using glass, Corning ware, or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results without the dioxins.

Such things as TV dinners, instant saimin and soups, etc. should be removed from the container and heated in something else. Paper is not bad, but you don’t know what is in the paper.

Recall that some big fast food restaurants had moved away from the foam containers (styrofoam to us in the Philippines) to paper. The dioxin problem was one of the reasons for the switch.

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U.S. CASUALTIES RISING: On the other side of the exploding globe, American troops are taking casualties in increasing number as they pursue Taliban remnants regrouping in the seemingly peaceful mountains blanketed with snow in eastern Afghanistan.

American officers now talk in anguish of how they watched helplessly as a Navy SEAL who fell off a damaged Chinook helicopter was dragged away by al-Qaeda fighters on the ground and executed. His commanders saw the gruesome details in images beamed from a reconnaissance plane.

Six other US soldiers died Monday after their chopper was hit and crash-landed about a kilometer from the first incident. In the second incident Monday, one of two helicopters flying in the area came under fire. Intense fighting broke out on the ground after it crashed. Six Americans were killed.

American forces responded with all their might, using Apache helicopters and jetfighters. “We body slammed them today and killed hundreds of those guys,” an officer told reporters.

* * *

GI JOEs ON R&R?: Back in Basilan, we are treated to color films of US Special Forces in various stages of relaxed preparation for war with the Abu Sayyaf terrorists holding kidnap hostages.

We see them running errands in Zamboanga, chatting with the pretty natives, fixing their camp security, trading notes with Filipino soldiers, taking a dip in nearby streams… one would think the boys were on a holiday on a tropical island.

One is tempted to ask what ever happened to the supposed war. Another question is how the Abu Sayyaf, unusually quiet these days, has been taking the high-profile war preparation of the combined RP-US forces.

We take the seeming relaxed preparation as the proverbial tip of the iceberg. We’re sure that in the background, preparations for an attack or synchronized operations are ongoing without the enemy being tipped off.

Don’t be surprised to wake up one morning to learn that the American advisers of our troops had just delivered a costly lesson to the Abu Sayyaf who might have been lulled by the seeming relaxed pacing of their pursuers.

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MEDIA ON DENR PAYROLL: On another war of sorts, one basic blunder of Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez in his public relations battle for confirmation by the Commission on Elections is his insinuation that newsmen who write anything unfavorable about him were paid to do it.

Just because Alvarez does it, i.e. paying off some newspapermen, it does not mean that everybody else is doing it.

Businessman Enrique Zobel, who has been researching the budget of Alvarez’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has discovered that there are media men, some of them columnists, on Alvarez’s payroll.

Some of these enterprising columnists are listed as consultants to legitimize their collecting public funds. Some DENR insiders have told us that these writers are separate from other media persons being given certain sums for work done on the sly.

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UNFAIR TO THE PRESS: This is a messy issue Alvarez has raised in his desperation. The resulting exchange on so-called “jukebox journalists” places in bad light all our colleagues who have written favorably about him and his programs.

As a result of the washing of dirty linen, all media men commenting favorably on Alvarez or unfavorably on his detractors — even if merely giving their honest opinion — have become suspect.

On the flip side, those who had written unfavorably of Alvarez or his running of the DENR — and did it on the basis of the facts and their honest conviction — are likely to resent the Secretary’s hints of alleged payola. They might just decide to get even.

Alvarez’s insinuations that money has changed hands are ill-advised. With his reputation, including his stint with the Ninoy Aquino Movement fund-raising campaign in the US, he should be the last one to talk about dirty money and corruption.

* * *

BOGUS MR. IMPEACHMENT: The Secretary’s promoters refer to him as Mr. Impeachment, hoping that such a title would be picked up by media and place their boss in better light. This refers to Alvarez’s having filed impeachment charges against then President Erap Estrada.

They want us to think that were it not for Alvarez, then a congressman, Erap would still be president. Additionally, they want to call the attention of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to that point to mislead her into campaigning for Alvarez’s confirmation.

That’s a ridiculous Mr. Impeachment title. With Erap’s reckless imprudence, the serious charges were bound to be filed — if not by Alvarez, by some other congressman or a private taxpayer or group. That Erap had to go was, you might say, written in the stars.

Alvarez’s part was purely accidental, to say the least. It reminds us of the dramatic role played by then Speaker Manuel Villar, who opened the House session with a routine prayer, then went on to read the impeachment charges from the rostrum, and banged the gavel like he was nailing Erap’s political coffin.

Nobody in the House pays attention to the routine spiel at the opening of sessions. The trick caught the pro-Erap forces by surprise. By the time they realized what was happening, it was too late to recall the impeachment charges read into the record.

* * *

VILLAR GRABBED CREDIT: While we say that Alvarez’s part in the impeachment process was accidental, that of Villar was intentional.

According to the secret game plan for impeachment, it was the turn of Deputy Speaker Alfredo Abueg Jr. of Palawan to be the presiding officer. The script called for him to do what Villar did from the chair, i.e. read the impeachment charges.

But Villar got wind of the plan and, acting true to form, elbowed Abueg out, grabbed the opportunity and the credit.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 7, 2002)

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