POSTSCRIPT / April 1, 2004 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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We made our image as hotbed of terrorism

TERRORISM IMAGE: We had that terrorism tag coming. After going overboard playing the anti-terrorism game as ammo-bearer of the United States, the Philippines was bound to get mired in it.

Republican party officers were just going by impressions when they posed the policy survey question “Should America broaden the war on terrorism into other countries that harbor and aid terrorists such as… the Philippines, etc.?”.

And the impression we have created, wittingly or unwittingly, in the world’s mind is that this country is crawling with terrorists. With their impunity, some “terrorists” even appear to enjoy the tolerance or indulgence of government.

Now we want the party of President George W. Bush, supposed friend and benefactor of our President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to apologize for that smear?

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TERRORISTS ALL OVER: We encouraged the US to brand as terrorist every dissident group in town on the mistaken belief that such labeling would (1) strike fear into the rebels’ hearts, (2) dry up their logistical support, and (3) prompt the US to join military operations against them.

Anybody looking like a Muslim caught with anything remotely resembling a primitive explosive is immediately tagged a terrorist out on a suicide mission. Every effort is then exerted to link him all the way to the Al Queda network.

Every other Muslim vendor accosted in the capital somehow has hidden among the smuggled goods he is peddling (1) a sketch of how a bomb is assembled and (2) a computer floppy diskette outlining a terrorist plot.

Whenever a grenade, or even just a superloud firecracker, explodes near a crowded place, the conclusion is that it was tossed or planted by terrorists who have no qualms about hurting innocent civilians.

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TERRORISM-DRIVEN: Sure, now and then we catch a few real live ones. We dutifully turn them over to our American handlers, and we get a pat on the head.

As reward, we are promised loads of military surplus. We go ecstatic and shout the good news from the rooftops. But the media, probably grown tired of the charade, forget to report later that the items promised never got delivered.

Still, we continue playing our role to the hilt. On the world stage, we preen and parade ourselves as frontliners in the fight against terrorism, in what the Great White Father has called a cataclysmic fight between good and evil.

With that political ambiance, it is no wonder that we leave the impression even among thoughtful people that our foreign policy, as extension of our domestic policy, is at times terrorism-driven.

The Republicans’ bloody mixup is understandable. You wade recklessly into an estero making a big show of trying to clean it and you end up looking and smelling like it.

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NOLI ON THE SPOT: Sen. Noli de Castro also had it coming when he spotted a super-duper good deal and agreed to run as vice presidential partner of President Arroyo.

The past weeks, he has been bombarded with accusations of having used his radio-TV programs to extort millions from subjects of his exposes. This is no longer coffee shop chatter, but serious charges filed with the Ombudsman.

It is election season all right, but that is not enough reason for the ABS-CBN newsreader to dismiss the accusations. The crimes being imputed to him hit the very core of his character.

We in media had long heard of these alleged activities of Noli, but we tend to keep quiet when cases involve a fellow media practitioner.

With the charges now formally filed, however, we believe Noli must clear himself before presuming to present himself as a vice presidential candidate who might just become the president in a fast shuffle.

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NO ILLICIT AFFAIR: But to the average voter, the more interesting items brought out of Noli’s closet are revelations by his first wife Pacita Torralba. She must have been stung into talking when Noli claimed that their daughter Manueli was illegitimate.

The claim insinuated that Pacita had an illicit affair that bore her Manueli out of wedlock. The fact was, according to the mother, their daughter was born when she and Noli were still married.

As seen in the case of former President Erap Estrada and countless other prominent public officials, Filipinos are usually ready to forgive a man for being a man. But they expect the official to be man enough to admit his mistakes, especially in matters of the heart.

Having failed this test, we think Noli may have lost some points. Voters demand honesty, if not integrity, of those running for a high public office.

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SERIOUS CHARGES: Pacita also revealed that Noli has a bogus diploma. He had claimed to be a commerce graduate, but his ex-wife said he was a dropout who had his diploma made by the master forgers on Recto Ave. at the University Belt.

This charge cannot be dismissed that casually, because it alleges the crime of falsification of public documents. If his diploma is indeed genuine, it should be easy for Noli to clear this up.

Another serious charge was hurled by a former movie actor and businessman who claimed that he was imprisoned after he was falsely accused by Noli in his “Magandang Gabi Bayan” program of kidnapping his (the businessman’s) own wife.

Languishing in jail on false charges is no joke. Whoever was responsible for the man’s having been robbed of seven years of the prime of his life must pay very dearly for it.

We voters are eagerly waiting for Noli to frontally answer the charges before pursuing his campaign.

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POLITICAL JOKE: Those opposition politicians actually expected the President of the Republic to sit down and sign a Covenant among them promising not to use government resources in their election campaign?

That would be much like asking a suspect to sign an ante-mortem confession of a heinous crime.

Until we have an iron-clad law (an impossibility, since it is the politicians who write laws), an election commission and a judiciary that are truly independent, such “covenants” remain in the category of political jokes.

There was no problem as regards evangelist Eddie Villanueva since he is not in government and therefore has no public resources to misuse. No sweat signing it.

Same thing with actor Fernando Poe Jr., but he probably feared the press was waiting in ambush so he sent somebody to sign for him. Sen. Panfilo Lacson also sent a representative.

Former Sen. Raul Roco, who in his days as education secretary was accused of using official resources to promote his prospective candidacy, probably had nowhere else to go the other day. He came over to sign the covenant. No problem.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 1, 2004)

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