POSTSCRIPT / January 22, 2004 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Bush seeks to legalize TNTs working in US

TANGLING OVER ARCHIVES: Some senators grilling archives director Ricardo Manapat and his staffers did not look like they were seeking the truth in aid of legislation in yesterday’s opening of the chamber’s inquiry into the family background of actor Fernando Poe Jr.

They were posing questions and leading witnesses apparently to prove a pre-determined line. This partisan bent of a few senators tainted the avowed good faith of the inquiry.

But regardless of the management style of Manapat and the motives of some senators, the documents in the national archives (assuming they are genuine) have intrinsic value that an objective researcher should respect.

The senators can use modern methods of dating (certainly not by smelling them!) to determine if the microfilms presented as evidence were manufactured just recently or shot decades before the Poe controversy came up.

Afterwards, they can compare the allegedly original films submitted to the Senate against the copies published in newspaper ads and the documents submitted to the Commission on Elections on the Poe disqualification case.

Although lie detector tests are not admissible in court as evidence, they could be valuable investigation aid. The senators may want to resort to polygraph tests to check if the archives director or any witness was telling the truth.

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ENVOY’S RECALL: The recent recall of US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone happened so fast amid explanations that he was needed in the State department to help troubleshoot political problems in US-occupied Iraq.

A foreign government sometimes recalls its ambassador to show displeasure over some issue. But the pat explanation of Ricciardone’s recall appeared to have allayed earlier suspicions that Washington was trying to tell Manila something.

We received the other day an email from reader Rodel Ocampo relating Ricciardone’s recall to pending RP-US issues. Having found it interesting, if not intriguing, we are printing parts (lightly edited) of it below.

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PRESSURE TACTICS: Ocampo wrote: “While (Sen. Manuel Villar, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee) lauded President Arroyo for demanding an apology from Washington (for the harassment of Filipino telecommunications officials attending a conference in Honolulu), he did not mention the fact that in less than 24 hours from that demand, the US ambassador was recalled with unprecedented haste and clear disregard for diplomatic niceties.

“In a matter of days, this was followed by the usual baseless negative US travel advisory on the Philippines. Do not be surprised if the US openly lumps us in the ‘axis of evil’ in a matter of few days. (We doubt if the US would do that.– fdp)

“xxx More than being just an apologist, (President Arroyo) delivered the head of former NTC Commissioner Jane Borje to the US telcos (telephone companies), a peace-offering to the American bully.

“The least President Arroyo could have done was to recall our own ambassador for consultations. The Philippine telcos, awash with cash, can have the best legal advice that money can buy. But our national honor, only President Arroyo could defend.

“The termination rates Senator Villar says Filipino consumers should protest will not be paid by Filipino consumers. They will be paid by the US telcos — AT&T and MCI WorldCom — that have apparently harnessed the US marshals to intimidate the Philippine telcos.

“The rate increase may cut into the profit margins of the US telcos, but the increase is in fact still way below the international termination rate benchmark recognized by the US Federal Communications Commission itself.”

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BUSH OPENS DOOR: As expected, President Bush delivered an upbeat State of the Union address Tuesday night that defended his handling of domestic concerns and the war that the US is fighting in Iraq.

Claiming gains in the war on terrorism and in turning the US economy around, he rallied Americans to stay the course. “We have not come all this way through tragedy and trial and war only to falter and leave our work unfinished,” he said.

Among his proposed legislation that drew much interest among Filipino and other alien residents in America is his temporary guest worker program under which an estimated eight million illegal immigrants could get temporary legal status.

“Over the generations, we have received energetic, ambitious optimistic people from every part of the world,” he said in earlier remarks in the East Room. “By tradition and conviction, our country is a welcoming society.”

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RELIEF FOR TNTs: The US issues around 140,000 “green cards” (actually pinkish in color) each year to aliens wanting to migrate to the US. Bush asked Congress to raise the ceiling, but did not suggest a number.

Under the proposal, illegal TNTs (tago ng tago or always hiding) in the US can apply for a temporary worker’s visa only if they already have a job.

The permit will be good for three years and renewable only once for another three years. If temporary workers failed to stay employed or broke the law, they would be sent home.

Their new legal status would allow TNTs to travel back to the Philippines without the fear they would not be allowed to return to the US. This will minimize their being exploited by employers.

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NO TO AMNESTY: Bush noted that “a basic fact of life and economics (is that) some of the jobs being generated in America’s growing economy are jobs American citizens are not filling.”

Relating his immigration proposal to national security, he said it would help the US improve its control over its borders. “Our homeland will be more secure when we can better account for those who enter our country,” he said.

But Bush opposed amnesty that places undocumented foreign workers on an easy road to citizenship.

“Granting amnesty encourages the violation of our laws and perpetuates illegal immigration,” he said. “Citizenship must not be the automatic reward for violating the laws of America.”

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BOON TO WORKERS: “Decent, hardworking people will now be protected by labor laws, with the right to change jobs, earn fair wages and enjoy the same working conditions that the law requires for American workers,” Bush said.

His proposal adopted some features of similar bills seeking to give aliens secretly working in the US a chance to regularize their stay. Such moves usually gain headway during an election year, and Bush is not one to pass up a chance to win minority votes.

“Temporary workers will be able to establish their identities by obtaining the legal documents that we all take for granted,” he said. “They will be able to talk openly to authorities to report crimes when they’re harmed without the fear of being deported.”

Workers outside the US will be able to obtain a temporary worker’s visa if they have job offers from US employers who can show that they cannot fill the job with an American. The employer has to notify the government if the worker quits.

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

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