POSTSCRIPT / January 20, 2004 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Circus won’t decide Poe citizenship case

MATTER OF PROOF: The sideshows to the petition to disqualify actor Fernando Poe Jr. as presidential candidate have no bearing on the case. Decision on the petition will have to depend on the law and the evidence, no more no less.

Speeches on the Senate floor, street marches, press releases and manifestos, calls to radio stations, war medals, passports, etc., will not produce the correct answer to the question of whether Poe is a natural-born citizen or not.

Since many people seem to have missed it, we repeat the clarification that the question is not whether or not Poe is a Filipino, but whether or not he is a “natural-born” citizen (or one who has been a Filipino since birth).

Let the Commission on Elections hear the case in peace and let us just wait for its decision, which we were told would be handed down possibly within one week.

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MAKE OR BREAK: Unlike in the previous case of former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, who ran for president in 1998 and his citizenship also questioned, this time the Comelec has time to dissect and decide the case early enough.

We assume that the Arroyo administration, despite its feigned non-involvement, is aware that this citizenship suit against Poe will surely backfire if his being a natural-born Filipino is upheld.

If Poe wins this case, his vindication as underdog could carry him to sure victory in May.

But if he loses and is disqualified, that will sweep him away from contention, leaving the field to President Arroyo and Raul Roco. Marches and violent protests will not alter the fact of his disqualification.

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NEW ROAD&RAIL LINE: The Cabinet is expected in its meeting on Jan. 28 to flash the green light for the MRT-7, the $1.3-billion road&rail transit system linking Quezon City to the suburbs at the southern fringes of Bulacan.

The National Economic and Development Authority has approved the MRT 7 project after its technical group recommended its execution under the Department of Transportation and Communications.

The biggest single project during the tenure of President Arroyo, the MRT-7 will service the two million residents of northern Metro Manila, particularly in north Caloocan, Novaliches and Fairview in Quezon City.

Behind the project are the Universal LRT Corp. Ltd. and Alstom of France, the same group behind the LRT-1 along Rizal and Taft Aves. and MRT-3 on Edsa.

A 17-kilometer four-lane asphalt road to be built in southern Bulacan will funnel commuters to Tala, where they transfer to a 20.9-km elevated light rail line that links up with MRT-3 at its main terminal at West Triangle at North Ave.-Edsa in QC.

For expansion, the line will also have a 4.8-km spur connecting to MRT-3 at an integrated joint station with MRT 3 in Katipunan, QC. By 2006, it will also connect to LRT-1 at its northern terminal near the Bonifacio monument.

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HOUSING COMPONENT: Around the MRT-7’s road-rail transfer point in Tala is expected to mushroom housing and commercial establishments that will boost development in San Jose del Monte in Bulacan and barangays in northern Caloocan.

Anticipating increased traffic in the Tala connection, proponents plan to develop high-rise housing on a 20-hectare site there with priority given to government workers who commute daily to Metro Manila.

Aside from cutting travel time from Bulacan and northern Metro Manila to Quezon City, the MRT-7 will also reduce traffic caused by provincial buses coming from the north.

The group behind the MRT 7 includes retail giant Henry Sy of SM Prime Holdings Inc.; former Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo, chair of Universal LRT; Eli Levin, managing director (board chairman, EL International Holdings Ltd.); Vicente de Villa, executive director (executive director, EL Enterprises Inc.); George Uy, executive director (director, EL Enterprises Inc.); Samson Lazo, director (president and COO, EEI Corp.); Walter Mergelsberg, director (country manager, Earth Tech Manila); Claudio Altura, director (board chairman, TGCI Engineers); Jovencio Cinco, director (president and CEO, PentaCapital Investment Corp.); Romeo Bernardo, director (president, Lazaro Bernardo Tiu and Associates Inc.); and Peter Wallace, director (president, AYC Consultants Inc.).

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EMPIRE OF BASES: Interesting reading is an article “America’s Empire of Bases” by Chalmers Johnson published last Thursday in the website TomDispatch.com, which runs materials not commonly used by mainstream US media.

Johnson described America’s “baseworld” and offers us a snapshot of the superpower girdling the globe with an “overstretched, heavily militarized empire.” Excerpts:

“This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire — an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.

“Our military deploys well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations. To dominate the oceans and seas of the world, we are creating some 13 naval task forces built around aircraft carriers whose names sum up our martial heritage — Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Enterprise, John F. Kennedy, Nimitz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John C. Stennis, Harry S. Truman, and Ronald Reagan. We operate numerous secret bases outside our territory to monitor what the people of the world, including our own citizens, are saying, faxing, or e-mailing to one another.

“Official records on these subjects are misleading, although instructive. According to the Defense Department’s annual ‘Base Structure Report’ for fiscal year 2003, which itemizes foreign and domestic U.S. military real estate, the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries and has another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories.

“The military high command deploys to our overseas bases some 253,288 uniformed personnel, plus an equal number of dependents and Department of Defense civilian officials, and employs an additional 44,446 locally hired foreigners. The Pentagon claims that these bases contain 44,870 barracks, hangars, hospitals, and other buildings, which it owns, and that it leases 4,844 more.

“These numbers, although staggeringly large, do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally. The 2003 Base Status Report fails to mention, for instance, any garrisons in Kosovo — even though it is the site of the huge Camp Bondsteel, built in 1999 and maintained ever since by Kellogg, Brown & Root. The Report similarly omits bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, although the U.S. military has established colossal base structures throughout the so-called arc of instability in the two-and-a-half years since 9/11.

“Other countries mentioned as sites for what Colin Powell calls our new ‘family of bases’ include: In the impoverished areas of the ‘new’ Europe — Romania, Poland, and Bulgaria; in Asia — Pakistan (where we already have four bases), India, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and even, unbelievably, Vietnam; in North Africa — Morocco, Tunisia, and especially Algeria (scene of the slaughter of some 100,00 civilians since 1992, when, to quash an election, the military took over, backed by our country and France); and in West Africa — Senegal, Ghana, Mali, and Sierra Leone (even though it has been torn by civil war since 1991). The models for all these new installations, according to Pentagon sources, are the string of bases we have built around the Persian Gulf in the last two decades in such anti-democratic autocracies as Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 20, 2004)

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