POSTSCRIPT / September 30, 2003 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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From mendicancy, a slide to prostitution?

OCCUPATION: How would Americans feel seeing foreigners in combat gear manning checkpoints in their towns and cities, regulating or restricting their movements and occasionally shooting at them?

That’s exactly what US occupation troops are doing in Iraq, a sovereign country like the United States. They are forcing themselves on Iraqis who just want to be left alone much like Americans do.

Days ago, at a checkpoint in Fallujah, about 40 kms west of Baghdad, GIs fired without provocation on a duo on a motorbike and others in a pickup driving into the city. Four Iraqi civilians were killed and several others, including a child, were wounded.

The senseless killing will go down as just another case of collateral damage in a war teetering on shaky moral and legal grounds.

How would we feel if foreign troops invaded us in the guise of liberation, occupied our land with the excuse of clearing the mess they themselves had created, ordered us around and shot civilians under the pretext of self-defense?

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GOING DOWN THIS LOW: This is the unconscionable situation that the Arroyo administration wants to gloss over and support with the promised sending of Filipino soldiers to lend legitimacy to the US occupation of Iraq — while other US allies pause and ponder the wisdom of sending troops.

Even poverty-stricken Bangladesh, which usually sends big contingents in expectation of extra dollar earnings for her peacekeeping troops, is having second thoughts.

Can President Arroyo justify her collaboration with the hawks in the White House by pointing to our being sponsored by the US in the UN Security Council, the promise of more armaments for killing Filipino insurgents, the release of grains under Public Law 480 for possible use in 2004, and the subliminal endorsement of her candidacy with a parachute visit of President Bush in October?

We are poor, yes, but while we cannot eat dignity we have to insist on it. We are a pathetic sight going down this low. This is not even mendicancy. It looks like prostitution.

* * *

‘OPEN SKIES’ STARTS: Starting tomorrow, with the failure of the US and the Philippines to amend their air transport agreement signed way back in 1982(!), the so-called “Open Skies” provision of the pact will take effect.

The inequities of the old agreement will still be there to bedevil Philippine airlines. While RP carriers are restricted to nine US ports, American airlines can fly to any point in the Philippines.

Also, while Philippine airlines can carry passengers beyond the US to only five countries, US carriers can take their passengers via the Philippines to all countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

With Open Skies, the weekly cap on passenger flights between the two countries will be lifted both ways. Airlines of the two countries can fly an unlimited frequency to any point in the other.

This is a challenge to the competitiveness of Philippine airlines.

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REGISTRATION BLUES: An overseas Filipino told us last time (Postscript, 28Sep2003) why he and many other Pinoys abroad did not or failed to register for the 2004 elections. Today is the deadline for absentee voters to register.

This time, let’s listen to the registration blues of Dr. Walter Villanueva of Makati, who at 28 would be a first-time voter. He went to register the other Sunday, and here’s what happened:

“Last Sunday, I found some rare free time. I decided to register. Since I’m a first-time voter (at 28! and I was in Edsa Dos, but that’s another story), I had to go to the fire station in Makati. I was glad they have this service on a Sunday. I went with another friend who is tired of whining and finally wants to make a difference.

“When I got there, I already saw bad signs in the entrance: trash on the floor, lots of dirt. But then I said, what can we expect from a government whose most efficient service is probably the towing service? So on we went to the registration place on the second floor.

“What we saw nearly floored us. The line was two miles long (of course, this is an exaggeration), and it would take you two hours just to get a number! In other words, half a day (at least) to register! And that’s on a Sunday! It probably takes even longer on a weekday.

“I looked at the lines helplessly. Sadly, none of the members of the line looked like part of the educated vote. You have to really, Really, REALLY want to register to brave this long and tedious procedure!

“As I had only an hour to spare that day, I went home empty-handed not knowing if I’ll have another opportunity.

“My point here is, you can’t always blame the people for being indifferent.

“People want to register! People want to vote! But how can they, if the Comelec itself doesn’t seem to want to help them? Just last elections, no one knew about the registration until the last day!

“I have two suggestions. I hope the Comelec listens. Implement this only if your heart sincerely wants all eligible Filipinos to be registered this time around.

“First: Go to the malls. This is where the educated class goes. This way, we don’t have to really get out of our way to register. The BIR does this. All it takes is a bit of initiative!

“Second: Start a good information campaign. The registration is creeping along silently. Frankly, this makes me feel that the Comelec is really in no mood to render its service to us. Use the media! Text! Tell the youth that their vote counts!

“I’m the type who loathes having to avail of any government service. I hate it when it’s time to register the car, renew the license, get clearances or passports. Please don’t make registration one of them. If you want us to register, reach out to us. We will meet you halfway.”

There. Mr. Comelec, how about it, Sir?

* * *

LISTEN TO THEM: Sample SMS text messages on the same topic received at our 2960 Postscript TextService:

Ces Go, Malabon: I want to reregister but d malabon comelec is always flooded. Can they do dis thru d barangay 4 everybodys convenience?

XPT161: i agree wid ur reader dat elections wont solve problm. we r in2 deep shit. am also inclind 2shoot politicians. stil, am regstering on wednesday.

NHC412: my famly rgstrd n caloocn long ago. Since wer hir n mkti cn we rgstr n belair brgy? Its d closiest 2us. Wen cn we go der 2rgstr?

Jjandalis: Let us all register & vote 4 God’s sake! It’s d only sacred RIGHT we have in our system!

ANJ305: In Comelec QCHall npkahaba ng pila pra mgregister. Kailangn mdaling araw nkapila na. 4x nako ng-try di pa rin ako umaabot.

Manuel Jalandoni: I really want to register but the queue is very2 long. Is there a shortcut?

There. Mr. Comelec, have you been listening, Sir?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 30, 2003)

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