POSTSCRIPT / January 27, 2004 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Must Marcos loot vanish like Japanese reparations?

PURE R.P. CONCERN: The only basis for paying Marcos torture victims from the $685 million in assets illegally amassed by the dictator is an order of an American judge in Hawaii before whom the victims sued.

But note that the order of the US district judge is irrelevant, is in fact a bad case of meddling, to the Philippine government’s recovery and sovereign use of the fruits of corruption.

It is absurd, at least to this layman, that a Hawaii court that cannot even enforce all its rulings throughout the US will reach across the Pacific and presume to tell the Philippine government how to conduct state affairs.

The money was not stolen from an American, was not deposited or invested in the US, and was never under the jurisdiction and control, and never subject to the disposition, of the Hawaii district court.

So why is the Philippine government moving like it is scrambling to obey the over-reaching order of the Hawaii court on how to use the recovered asset? Can’t we think, can’t we decide, for ourselves?

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PRIVATE POCKETS: The next questions are: Why should only Marcos victims share in the recovered loot? Are there no other potential beneficiaries or programs (such as something related to education, health care or the environment) that are just as, if not more, deserving?

The moment that public fund is given to private claimants, the assets that took decades to recover will be dissipated without our having something to show for it.

Why don’t we use this valuable resource instead for something more tangible and longer-lasting? Let us review the painful lessons offered by our misuse of the huge Japanese war reparations.

The politicians running the government may think it unpopular to dampen the expectation of Marcos torture victims. But why should politicos continue to mismanage our dwindling assets based on the politics of popularity?

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PRESUMPTION STAYS: In dismissing the petition for the disqualification of presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., the Commission on Elections did not directly rule that the actor is a natural-born Filipino.

Since there is a presumption of regularity, the sworn declaration and the documents attached to Poe’s candidacy forms were presumed to be in order, including his claim of citizenship.

And since the lawyer challenging his citizenship failed, according to the Comelec, to present adequate proof debunking Poe’s being a natural-born Filipino, the presumption that Poe is qualified to run must stay.

In that sense, the Comelec also ruled in its favor.

Upholding the challenge would have amounted to the Comelec’s admitting that it made a mistake when it accepted the claim of Poe, upon his filing of his certificate of candidacy, that he was a natural-born Filipino and qualified go run for president.

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WHO’LL TRY THE FACTS?: Sen. Nene Pimentel said the Supreme Court and not the Comelec is the right venue for the disqualification bid, while Senate President Franklin Drilon said the poll body is the proper place since the question is being raised before Poe is proclaimed winner.

Drilon said the Supreme Court would come in as an electoral tribunal to hear a protest only if Poe, or whoever was challenged, were already proclaimed.

We are not even into the campaign period yet, so the Comelec must butt in and resolve these preliminary questions before the game starts. The poll body must not toss the mess prematurely onto the lap of the high court.

Our lay opinion will not matter, but we agree with Drilon. We think the Comelec must first sort out the facts as alleged in the pre-campaign disqualification case before a question of law is posed before the Supreme Court.

We cannot imagine the high court, which does not conduct trials on the facts, sifting through documents whose authenticity it would be asked to determine. The Comelec must be the court of first instance in this case.

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SILENT TYPE: Some friends have asked if it was true that Poe’s media handlers had advised him to refrain from making extended statements to media. We think it’s not true.

It is probably just one of those political jokes, but one story had it that Poe, like a suspect collared by the police, had been advised that any statement he makes to the press will be misquoted and used against him. (there’s a Murphy Law ring to that).

That’s a bit better than his saying “No comment, and don’t quote me on that.”

In the same vein, somebody on his Senate ticket once asked us: “But wouldn’t you love an inaugural speech lasting only seven minutes?” To which we replied: “Ang haba naman!” (That’s too long!) We thought a one-minute silence before the waiting microphones would drive home the point better.

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YEAR OF THE LORD: Reader Nila Fragante asks in a text msg why we call 2004 the Year of the Monkey. Why indeed should we name the years after animals and wallow in the absurdity that they affect what the incoming year brings?

Fragante reminds us that after the birth of Jesus, we are all living In The Year of the Lord (Anno Domini or AD). That reference is more ennobling than thinking that we have just entered into the Year of the Monkey!

As used in the Gregorian calendar, Anno Domini, or more completelyAnni Domini Nostri Jesu Christi (The Years of Our Lord Jesus Christ), reckons from the traditionally accepted year of the birth of Christ. However, many scholars say He was born between 30 BC and 4 BC.

Many non-Christians who object to a reckoning based on an event in the Christian faith replace Anno Domini with “Common Era” (CE). This makes the element of Christianity less visible. But others use CE to mean Christian Era.

Jehovah’s Witnesses find the term BC/AD objectionable because it implies that Christ was born in 1 AD and their theology requires a different date. Many Jews and Muslims think that the use of AD implies that Christ is Lord, and they object to that.

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TELCOS & RATES: Lawyer Rene Saguisag disagrees with reader Rodel Ocampo who said last time that “[t]he termination rates Senator (Manuel) 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 World Com — that have apparently harnessed the US Marshals to intimidate the Philippine telcos.”

Saguisag said: “I think Senator Villar has the right take on the issue when he says in his Resolution that Filipino consumers abroad who are ‘Overseas Filipino workers… shall ultimately shoulder the burden of paying the costs of long-distance calls since the increase would be expected to be shifted to them by foreign carriers.’

“The grand jury is no respecter of status in that even First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton could not use connections when subpoenaed. There is no nice way to serve a subpoena. And no one of course is told in advance he will be a recipient of one. If anyone’s rights has been violated, let’s hear it. So far all we know is the executives were subpoenaed. Let us see what the US Department of Justice will find out as to whether there has really been a conspiracy to gouge the consumer.”

Another reader, Mitch Nobles of BF Homes, said: “The DOJ is doing their job, A complainant makes a claim in the US and the DOJ will do their job and are forced to issue the pertinent documents to get the details so that the case can be dealt with. The FBI is assigned to deliver any Federal subpoena, they are just doing their job, it’s not personal.

“The problem is that those telco officials that Mr. Ocampo refers to who are used to being treated like untouchables over here were indignant that a lowly government delivery boy (US Marshal) would have the gall to actually hand them personally a subpoena instead of giving it to the office boy or receptionist as is the practice here and even calling them first to get their permission to make the delivery.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 27, 2004)

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