POSTSCRIPT / October 16, 2003 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Bush shows advisories vs RP travel baseless

ALL SO PINOY: The visit this Saturday of US President George W. Bush despite security difficulties shows how ridiculous are the advisories of such countries as Australia, New Zealand and Canada against traveling to the Philippines.

Despite security concerns, the American President no less — the No. 1 target of hardcore terrorists — will be in our midst however briefly this weekend.

The groups noisily threatening to disrupt the visit are a minuscule minority. Their antics are unFilipino.

The frenzied preparation, the sprucing up of the places in the Bush itinerary is all so Pinoy. To a fault, it is our wont to always go all-out and reserve the best in the house for our guests. It has its downside, but we should not apologize for it.

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PING’S SLIP SHOWING: If they can muster the courage to tell him, the handlers of Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson should advise their boss against exposing his fangs and mailed fists.

Lacson’s uncalled-for challenge to the Supreme Court in his last privilege speech and his hinting that he was ready to operate outside the law only reinforced the widespread impression that he is a dangerous man.

Lito Banayo and his other PR (public relations) advisers should remind the former policeman that he is now a senator of the land. Even if he has to fake it, Lacson should show a good example to the youth.

Lacson seems disposed to sulk and throw tantrums when he cannot get what he wants. We remember him betraying the same bratty behavior when he was the national police chief under then President Joseph “Erap” Estrada.

This is one of the reasons why we think that Erap would prefer Fernando Poe Jr. to Lacson as his presidential candidate. Our gut feeling is that Erap is not so sure he can rely on his former protégé.

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SECRET PROBE: We saw only yesterday the rejoinder of Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho to our comments regarding his unfriendly attitude toward President and General Manager Winston Garcia of the Government Service Insurance System.

He mentioned that he proposed/forwarded “to the Office of the President solutions for the problems at GSIS because the Finance Department is genuinely concerned about the predicament of these government employees and their beneficiaries.”

Camacho said earlier an investigation by his department showed GSIS guilty of delays in processing salary loans and applications of members. On that basis, solutions were supposedly forwarded to Malacanang.

What were the solutions? Camacho isn’t talking. It figures — secret solutions can only be expected from a secret investigation.

If the finance secretary, as overseer of GSIS, indeed conducted an investigation, how come he did not call Garcia, the object of the probe? Garcia and some senior GSIS officials were unaware they were being investigated.

How come Camacho’s investigation report (if any) and other sumbong to the President did not include inputs from GSIS management?

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LUCKY BANK: We do not argue that HSBC, Citigroup, JP Morgan-Chase Manhattan group and CSFB have been associated with government bond issuances, not only during the time of Camacho but also during the tenure of his predecessor.

What we were pointing out was the fact that Deutsche Bank, where Camacho came from, figured prominently as top player in the fund-raising activities of the government when its former employe took the Finance portfolio.

He said that DoF “does not favor any bank or underwriter to underwrite the government’s bond issuance.” What we know is that Deutsche Bank’s participation in the borrowings of the government took a high gear with Camacho at the helm of DoF.

He bragged that the government is now paying the lowest underwriting fees. True. But to give credit where it is due, we salute National Treasurer Sergio Edeza, whose handling of government borrowing has earned him the nickname “barat” by the market, for demanding that investment banks lower their fees.

Camacho would do well to let the records do the talking — how small Deutsche Bank’s business in government bonds and other securities had been before he became Finance secretary, and how big it is now that he is Finance secretary.

As the senator in the limelight would say, “Buksan, nang magkaalaman!”

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MOUNTING BACKLOG: As to the Napocor reinsurance issue, this surfaced in 2001 when Camacho was already the Finance chief, sitting as chair of the state utility firm on a concurrent capacity.

He addressed the problem by adopting the suggestion of then Napocor President Jesus Alcordo to form a joint committee to oversee the reinsurance business. Incidentally, the joint committee could only come up with failed bids.

Camacho cites noble reasons for intruding into GSIS’ exclusive mandate to insure government assets and properties. His claimed intentions may look noble to him, but, under the circumstances, his motives are suspect.

Which brings us back to the issue of his GSIS probe. Camacho said it was just his luck that he was the concurrent Napocor chairman when the controversial reinsurance issue erupted.

Point taken. Using the same line, was it just Garcia’s luck, too, that the GSIS problem erupted during his term?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 16, 2003)

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