POSTSCRIPT / August 24, 2003 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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GMA on husband’s case: He’s on his own

TO EACH HIS OWN: “Bahala na ang aking asawang magtanggol sa kanyang sarili.”  It must have been difficult saying this about her husband Mike, but President Arroyo finally said it.

“I’m not going to intervene,” the President said Friday night at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio, referring to money-laundering accusations against First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo. “The Palace is not a legal refuge of the First Family.”

“I am married to our country,” President Arroyo said.

“My husband is not a ward of the Palace,” she continued. “Neither he nor any other member of the First Family is under the mantle of political protection.”

She said the controversy “has nothing to do with my work as Chief Executive… I do not interfere with my husband’s private business and I do not allow him to interfere in the affairs of the State.”

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye added, “The stance of our President is, first, she is asking all those who have accusations against the First Gentleman to bring them right away to court, and once these are brought before the courts, the First Gentleman would launch his own defense and the Palace will not intervene.”

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PRIVATE MATTER: We’re glad that Mrs. Arroyo has served notice that she won’t shield her husband, who is just being used by the opposition to ricochet political missiles to damage the more impervious President.

Since they cannot directly pin on her a single scandal, her political foes are using her husband — who suffers from some image problem — to get to harm her. The tack being used is a variation of guilt by association.

In the Philippine setting, where even distant relatives sometimes become a political albatross around the neck of officials holding sensitive positions, one’s spouse is often regarded as an alter ego and presumed to be a partner in crime.

Associative guilt is unfairly inferred despite the legal maxim that criminal acts are personal (except when conspiracy is proved, in which case the act of one is the act of all those in the conspiracy).

Bunye stressed that Mrs. Arroyo remains undistracted by the latest attacks against her husband. He said the accusations are a “private matter” that should not affect the President in attending to state affairs.

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FORGED DOCUMENTS: Evaluating the accusations hurled by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, some readers raised the possibility that the former police chief may have been fed a bum steer by his supposed sources.

Reader Bobby Tordesillas, for instance, asks: “Are the xeroxed documents in the possession of Lacson true copies or are they fabricated? (The bank) BPI has already announced that they do not have any bank account that belongs to one Jose Pidal (alleged alias used by Mr. Arroyo).

“And more important, the xeroxed statement of account that Lacson showed in his privilege speech turned out to be fictitious, because the bank’s branch was already closed long before the date reflected in the statement of account.

“If these particular BPI documents have been without doubt fabricated, doesn’t that give you reason to question the credibility of the other documents that Lacson has shown? Is it now all right to show fictitious documents without being made responsible for them?”

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MATAPANG TALAGA: A Filipino peace-keeping contingent consisting of 55 soldiers, 26 policemen and 15 health workers left for Kuwait last Wednesday on its way to join allied forces in war-torn Iraq. A second batch of 39 social workers is set to follow soon.

Matatapang talaga tayong mga Pinoy! As we rush into harm’s way, Japanese officials are considering postponing the departure of Japan’s contribution to the peacekeeping force in light of the recent bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, who along with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi led the campaign to send Japanese ground forces to Iraq, is now saying that sending their troops may not push through this year.

Also reacting to the terror attack on the UN building, Poland has scaled back its military commitment in Iraq. Polish troops will withdraw from a “high-risk area” near Baghdad, leaving it to the command of US forces.

The original plan was for Poland to take charge of the central third of occupied Iraq, sandwiched between the American and the British zones in the north and south.

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(Paragraphs below are being reprinted because they were deleted from the Postscript text in the print edition of The STAR last Aug. 21.)

ROAD MUST GO: Engineers working on the Batangas Port’s modernization confirmed yesterday that the almost two-kilometer access road built for trucks servicing the port will have to be removed as the expansion work progresses.

Their technical assessment is in contrast with the claim of armchair executives at the Philippine Ports Authority in Manila who apparently want taxpayers to believe that their one-year-old access road built for around P60 million will stay.

Engineers explained that the land affected by port works under Phase II, including a new access road, would have to be filled and elevated by about one meter from the present level of the temporary access road.

This means, they said, that the present access road would have to be obliterated or covered as reported earlier in Postscript.

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SWAMPY SITE: Part of the area where the present access road runs will be used for storage and other port area facilities. The engineers said there would be a lot of filling and compacting since the seaside site is generally swampy.

International shippers are awaiting the completion of the modern Batangas port, because of the congestion in the Manila port and the consequent high cost of docking and unloading there.

The government decided to expand the Batangas project and take full advantage of the balance of the P5.5-billion easy loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Even without availing itself of the entire loan, the Philippines is already paying a commitment fee.

The contract for Phase II is held by a consortium that includes the Japanese firm Shimizu, one of the world’s biggest, and F. F. Cruz, a top Philippine builder.

Btw, we’re looking into the oddity that after we wrote about the Batangas Port we were bombarded by loads of computer viruses apparently coming from one still unidentified source.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 24, 2003)

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