POSTSCRIPT / June 22, 2004 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Spikes await GMA on road to inaugural

THORNY ROAD AHEAD: The task of installing a new president is not done yet.

Still, we join the nation in heaving a collective sigh of relief with the completion of the acrimonious two-week canvassing of the votes cast May 10 for the president and the vice president.

Despite the holding action of threatened political species, including their spreading metal spikes on city streets yesterday, we are sure the sky will continue to clear up as we approach a new day, the June 30 inaugural.

We are optimistic despite the knowledge that even after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has started to serve her own six-year term, there will be the usual political spikes along the way.

We have learned to live with the fact that some characters presuming to aspire for public office have not matured enough to be able to accept defeat with grace.

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PING SHOOTS STRAIGHT: I did not vote for Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, who had managed to garner more than three million votes and land third among the presidential candidates.

But the former national police chief (PMA ’72) caught my attention with his clear, direct-to-the point responses to questions thrown his way, as well as his pragmatic approach to political situations.

If only other losing candidates would sweep away the cobwebs in their minds and the rancor in their hearts, and speak like Lacson:

“Those who continue to question the results of the May 10 presidential race can always seek redress with the proper body mandated under the Constitution as the arbiter of such electoral protest.

“As for myself, I have stated during the campaign that any candidate, who fails to protect his votes, deserves to lose.

“In the meantime, I am urging everybody to leave politics behind and give the president-elect a chance to rebuild the country.”

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EARLY SCRAMBLE: The jockeying for position in the incoming new Arroyo administration is sickening.

For instance, some senior officers who want to become chief of the Philippine National Police are spreading rumors that PNP Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. will be shunted to some Cabinet post come July.

Those plotting to force the 56-year-old Ebdane to early retirement (he is due to retire only on Dec.30) are mentioning him for the public works department, which we think is actually a trap.

If President Arroyo wants to continue the professionalism instilled by Ebdane in the national police, she should bypass the officers who just have three or four months left in the service.

The PNP cannot afford to have a short-lived chief who would spend most of his time preparing for retirement.

Her best option is to start looking to PMA class 1973 and later batches to make sure the incoming PNP chief will have ample time to plan, lay down programs and launch projects the way Ebdane did.

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IT AIN’T BROKE: In Malacanang itself, Press Secretary Milton Alingod is also being “assigned” by masters of intrigue to some imagined diplomatic post to create a vacancy for their nino bonito.

Insiders are asking “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” They refer to Alingod’s quiet but efficient management of the press office, especially major trimedia coverages for the President.

They give as examples the successful twin coverages of President Arroyo’s working visit to Washington, DC, and the return visit of President Bush in Manila. Things worked out well, because Alingod’s forte includes broadcast and public affairs.

The veteran journalist was appointed press undersecretary last Jan. 30 and held the position of executive director of the Philippine Broadcasting Service-Radio Television Malacañang (PBS-RTVM) in concurrent capacity.

Before his services were tapped by Malacañang, he was vice president for news of the GMA Network Inc. (Channel 7) from May 1993 to August 2002.

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SUSPENDED BRIDGE: Now the education department is saying that the “bridge” program for graduates moving on to high school is voluntary. We understand this to mean that the program is being thrown into the freezer.

The department took this route after students, school officials, teachers and parents opposed the “bridge” program that tested elementary graduates if they were fit to go to high school. Some groups went to court to question the program.

Those who failed the tests were to stay in a bridging year for a “review of basic subject competencies” to prepare them better for high school.

I cannot see the logic of the “bridge” program. I have always thought that if a student does not deserve to move on to high school, he should not be given a passing mark in Grade 6 or 7 (depending on which system applies to him).

Why do they think of these expensive programs that only complicate matters? Who rakes in all that money?

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HALF OF THEM FAILED: Education officials had lowered to a ridiculous 30 percent the passing mark in the High School Readiness Test last May. Still, half of the 1.4 million students who sat for the test failed!

This is a sorry commentary on the state of education in our public schools. We are reaping the fruits of the continued neglect of public education in the country. We don’t solve this by adding another year to the curriculum.

Petitioners told the court that the program is unreasonable, discriminatory, and unnecessary. They added that the money being spent for it should be used instead to strengthen the deficiencies in basic education. They are right.

Parents complained of the added financial burden from an additional year inserted before high school. Why burden parents for a shortcoming of the educational system?

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SIMILAR CASES: It seems that the complaint of Elsa BayAni, a Filipino who arrived recently with her four-year-old American granddaughter and was subjected to an unusual procedure and made to pay fees at the “discretion” of the immigration commissioner, was not an isolated case.

Another reader, Edessa Ramos, a writer and teacher in Switzerland, wrote:

“My four-year-old son, Andy, a Swiss born to a Filipina balikbayan (me) traveled to Manila on April 30 this year, accompanied by my cousin. He was being fetched by his grandfather in Manila. Andy also had all the necessary documents including affidavits from me and copies of my passport. His own passport bears the balikbayan stamp on several pages because he has been traveling twice a year with me to the Philippines these past few years.

“Only this one time he had to travel ahead of me. My father had to pay P3,000 in cash to get him released. The poor child, tired and jet-lagged, was kept for more than four hours in the airport before the whole matter was settled. My father is a retired government official. Even he has never heard of this law. Neither have the travel agents here, who advise us about visas. In addition to all these, my family was required to pay an additional P2,000 for every month that my son will stay in Manila.

“We cannot comprehend this procedure. Our children are not Chinese or Vietnamese or what, they are balikbayans, children of Filipinos. They carry the necessary documents to prove this. If we are balikbayans, but our children are not allowed to enter our country, how can we send our children there to learn about their origin? How is this going to help promote tourism? The best tourists will be our children going regularly to the old country to learn about their cultural heritage and discover their identity.

“Travel agents say that they are having a hard time selling the Philippines as a tourist destination. Nobody wants to go there anymore, because they don’t want to be victimized by the corruption. Our country’s reputation in Europe is very bad. Now it’s bad even among us Filipinos, because even we are afraid to send our children home for vacations. It is an outrage.”

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

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