POSTSCRIPT / November 23, 2003 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Ignominious fall to showbiz level

DEGENERATION: An indication of how low we have sunk as a nation is the spectacle of the President of the Republic seeking out popular broadcaster Noli de Castro, a neophyte senator, to run with her in 2004 for vice president.

However Malacanang disguises this act of desperation, it is obvious that the Palace wants a vote-getter for a running mate of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to buoy her own chances of winning the presidency.

Can this cheap resort to mass appeal be justified by arguing that it is just a reaction to the opposition’s threat to field movie star Fernando Poe Jr. in tandem with another popular broadcaster, Sen. Loren Legarda, to lead its ticket?

Another indication of how low we have fallen is Sen. Edgardo Angara’s openly pushing for FPJ as opposition standard bearer in 2004. There must be something seriously wrong, either with the system or with the senator.

The electoral process has degenerated into a popularity contest. On cue, movie stars and showbiz personalities have stepped up appearances on radio and TV in preparation for running for public office.

The idea seems to be: If we can’t give them (the people) bread, let’s give them entertainment!

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TWO OPTIONS: The alarming aspect of this looming scenario is that there seems to be no way of stopping the showbiz cavalcade from overwhelming the electorate. The teeming masses will see to that.

…We take that back. Actually, there are at least two possible developments that could stop showbiz types from gobbling up key positions as the nation drifts to anarchy:

  1. If the May 2004 elections will push through — Take a deep breath, make the sign of the cross and close our eyes as the drug lords dictate who would run and win.
  2. And if there will be no elections (NoEl) — Raise our arms in surrender and allow an alliance of revolutionary forces to seize power after giving this nation the bloodbath that it seems to need for purging evil spirits.

When friends and relative ask us for advice, we often tell them: Amass as much money as you can and keep substantial cash on hand. Get a departure visa and buy an open plane ticket.

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PBCOM SAVED: What could have been a disaster for the Philippine Bank of Commerce (PBCom), with collateral damage to the banking system, appears to have been averted by quick response and concerted rescue efforts by friends of the bank.

The disturbance started with reports last week that four big commercial banks were moving to acquire PBCom. Sources were also quoted as noting that while the bank was not in financial trouble, it needed P10-billion in additional capital to remain competitive.

This was followed by malicious text messages that helped build up the impression among jittery depositors that PBCom, and possibly other banks, may not be as solid as they should be.

Drawing assistance from their friends in the banking and the Chinese communities, PBCom executives met the assault frontally and with dispatch.

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TO THE RESCUE: In a hastily called press briefing at the Century Park last Wednesday, a panel that included taipan Lucio C. Tan of Allied Bank, president Robin Sy of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. and top PBCom executives announced that Allied will honor all valid PBCom checks and negotiable instruments.

In addition, Sy gave assurance that PBCom enjoys the full trust of the FFCCCII, which maintains a sizeable account in PBCom. Federation members also signified their intention of keeping their PBCom accounts.

Backed by the financial muscle of the Lucio Tan Group and the powerful business federation whose roster of members reads like a “Who’s Who” of Philippine business, PBCom’s troubles have all but disappeared.

Looking back, we see that while networking is important, the best weapon against disinformation is transparency. There is no substitute for telling the truth, especially for institutions such as banks that are imbued with public interest.

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GOVERNOR’S SIDE: From the office of Bulacan Gov. Josefina M. dela Cruz, we have received a rejoinder to our Nov. 11 column. Her spokesman said in an email:

“From January to November of this year, only 39 vehicles were bought by the province. Of these, 26 vehicles were given to the Philippine National Police to beef up the Anti Criminality Campaign, two ambulances and 11 service vehicles assigned to the different departments of the province. These vehicles remain as government property and are strictly for official use only. And from June to August of this year, only 13 were bought. All these vehicles were purchased in accordance with COA regulations.

“With regards to the ownership of Freeway Motor Sales where the vehicles were bought, it is true that Mr. Joselito Mendoza, a brother of the governor was an original incorporator but he diverted all his share on Sept. 25, 2000. This can be checked with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Records at the SEC therefore will show that the Mendoza family does not own a single share of Freeway Motors when the vehicles were purchased.

“Records from SEC also show that there is no NGO registered under the name of Bumago Ka. This bogus NGO is nothing but a group of individuals with obnoxious political agendas bent on destroying the good name and record of Gov. dela Cruz. We are confident however that the intelligent people of Bulacan will not fall for this type of political mudslinging.

“With regards to the house of Gov. Dela Cruz, the social and financial capability of the Mendoza family in which the governor is a member is known to one and all in the whole province. Gov. Dela Cruz does not have to be in public office to be able to build a house.

“Yes, the original house where the governor used to stay was a two room house beside the family house. In fact it is still in the compound, but it is not a guardhouse. Long before the governor became governor or vice governor, the family decided to build her suitable house and this is the house where she stays with her family at the moment.

“Hindi po siya nangungurakot para magpatayo ng bahay. The family could very well afford it.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 23, 2003)

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