POSTSCRIPT / February 22, 2004 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Poe’s fans walking into a ‘No-El’ trap?

GO HOME NA LANG: With their movie idol Fernando Poe Jr. getting a fair hearing at the Supreme Court, the crowd baying at the justices may want to do something more worthwhile than marching in the streets, littering and causing monstrous traffic jams.

Clearly, there is also no need for Poe’s wife, actress Susan Roces, to turn livid reminding the Supreme Court about the rule of law.

We do not resolve an important legal point by taking to the streets, or by going berserk.

If we may offer unsolicited advice: By staging violent rallies and fomenting street mayhem, fans of Poe may just be walking into a No-El (No Election) trap.

Unbridled violence could help set the stage for the authorities to postpone the May 10 elections or for an adventurist politico-military cabal to attempt a power grab that would deal this staggering nation the final knock-out punch.

For his part, Poe must demonstrate his leadership and his civil conscience by reining in the hotheads in his camp. Failing this test, he would be providing the proof that he is not equipped for the presidency.

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AFRAID TO DEBATE?: Sen. Vicente Sotto, the campaign spokesman of Poe, said meanwhile that his boss (imagine a senator calling the actor his “boss”!) would debate with the other candidates only if it would be held in the slums.

The comedian-turned-senator stopped short of saying that the debate, if any, should be in scripted Tagalog one-liners only.

Candidate Raul Roco started this talk about a debate when he challenged the other top contenders (presumably President Arroyo and Poe) to a debate. The President has accepted, but Poe appears nervous to plunge into uncharted waters.

A lot of people are asking tuloy if Poe is afraid to expose his ignorance. Hindi naman siguro.

Of course, such a debate will not decide for us who among them is the best material for the presidency, but it will help voters make informed choices for the May 10 elections.

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GROUND RULES: Since it seems to be the season in the Poe camp for blocking meaningful presidential debates and roundtable discussions, we jump in to contribute our own obstructions:

The debate, whether in a slum area, at Plaza Miranda, the Quirino grandstand, wherever, must be televised in a nationwide hookup to maximize viewership and serve its purpose.

No debater should be allowed to wear dark glasses and earphones or use teleprompters. But heavy makeup and even cinematic costumes can be tolerated.

Each speaker must always look straight at the camera poised in front of him. This camera, one of several, will be dedicated to taking close close-up shots.

Debaters may bring reference notes, books or charts as memory aides, but will not be allowed to project these on a big screen or insert the materials in a previously produced film clip.

The speaking order will be based on a drawing of lots, not by height.

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MORE GUIDELINES: As in the last Supreme Court hearing on the Poe case, everybody present must not bring any electronic gadget or camera, placards or such materials that would distract or be used to help or harass a speaker.

In the same way that witnesses are required to take an oath before they testify in court, all debaters will be required to first swear to the truth of every word they will utter, of every claim or promise they will make.

All debaters must sign a formal undertaking not to sue for slander or libel the other participants for what they might say or do during the debate.

There will be no direct questions from the audience. Questions posed to the speakers must be coursed through a panel whose members will be pre-selected with the approval of the debaters.

Participating radio-TV networks will co-produce, co-own and broadcast live the show. Major print media may join as co-sponsors. They will share the production cost. No public funds will be used.

No advertising will be inserted within the debate proper, but advertising will be allowed before and after the main body of the show.

The debate may not be replayed except in its entirety, and only by the participating networks. In the replay, however, carrying stations may divide or chop the debate into logical segments and insert advertising between segments.

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MINDORO KILLINGS: Newsreader Noli de Castro may want to take a break from his campaigning for vice president and look at the situation in his province of Mindoro. He must show concern and leadership in his home ground before venturing out.

Rep. Satur C. Ocampo of Bayan Muna had to talk and write to President Arroyo herself to get government to act on the explosive situation in the island-province.

Ocampo asked the President in a letter last Feb. 17 to order the immediate withdrawal of the 204th Infantry Brigade (IB) and its commanding officer, Col. Fernando Mesa, from Mindoro.

He said that since the deployment of the brigade in Mindoro in May 2001, “the numerous incidents of harassment, abduction, killing and other human rights abuses that subsequently occurred have all been mainly attributed to the presence of that unit under then commanding officer Col. Jovito Palparan Jr.”

These cases, he said, include the brutal slaying of Bayan Muna Calapan coordinator, Edilberto “Choy” Napoles Jr. in May 2002; the murder of human rights leader Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eduardo Gumanoy in Bansud in April last year; and the recent slaying of Naujan Vice Mayor Juvy Magsino, LAKAS-CMD candidate for mayor, and Bayan Muna coordinator Leima Fortu.

Ocampo said the Magsino-Fortu killings placed at 20 the number of slain Bayan Muna members in Mindoro since 2001. Nineteen of these allegedly occurred after the deployment of the 204th IB in the area.

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MANILA FALLS SHORT: All that smooching last Valentine’s Day on Roxas Blvd. led by no less than Mayor Lito Atienza in a bid to break the Guinness world record for the most number of people simultaneously kissing may have been another useless pakulo.

Reader Mel Catre emailed us from Canada that the Toronto Star reported last Feb. 14 that while Canada became the record holder in 2000 with 3,176 people kissing (compared to Manila’s 5,122 last Feb. 14), that record had been eclipsed.

Quoting the Star, Catre said that last Jan. 11, Chileans broke the record with 8,890 people kissing together in one big event.

Atienza may have thought that if we Pinoys cannot excel in the major things, we might as well display our prowess in something as mundane as kissing in public. It seems now, however, that even in that minor event, we had faltered.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 22, 2004)

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