POSTSCRIPT / July 28, 2005 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Between law and anarchy, choice is clear for Pinoys

OPPOSITE POLES: The two protagonists in the Political Squabble that is threatening the very life of the nation are (1) President Gloria Arroyo and (2) the Political Opposition. Their respective followers are just bit players.

To summarily reject or condemn one of the two sides would be to cast a judgmental stone without benefit of a fair hearing. To most reasonable men, especially those steeped in due process, that is not right.

To ask the President to resign just to put an end to the squabble or to tell the opposition to stop pestering the President just so she could pursue her programs in peace and quiet is to fall short of the standards of fairness.

Restraints, if warranted, should apply to both parties. The correct approach to the conflict is to demand that both parties, not just one party, submit to the accepted processes.

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LAW VS. ANARCHY: If we want a just resolution of the conflict without losing our balance, we should require the usual hearings guaranteed under our laws. We must respect the law and concomitant processes if we are to preserve the very foundation of society.

We have well-defined and time-tested processes for resolving such serious charges as electoral fraud and official graft leveled at an incumbent President.

To seek redress under these processes, complainants must go to the presidential electoral tribunal, the Senate sitting as an impeachment court and/or the regular courts (if appropriate for lower officials and civilian respondents implicated).

It is obvious that the accepted processes do not include mobs massing and shouting in the streets and propagandists spreading ill-disguised defamation in the mass media.

A growing number of people, many of them from the generally quiet Middle Class, have gotten tired of the noisy and rowdy behavior of some partisans. They are pressing for a return to due process, to the rule of law.

They know that the alternative is anarchy.

(I am not saying anything new. I am just trying to refresh our occasionally faltering memory.)

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BELIEVE IT OR NOT: Here is another item for Ripley’s. A power-generating firm with cash assets of only P14,000 wants to put up a billion-peso plant in Mindoro!

No wonder officials of Oriental Mindoro are opposing a contract between the firm, identified as the Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (Ormeco), and Power One, a supposed independent power producer (IPP) with no track record in the industry.

The objectors, including Rep. Rodolfo G. Valencia (1 st district, Or. Mindoro ), are urging the Energy Regulatory Commission to disapprove the controversial contract that could jeopardize some 400,000 consumers.

Valencia is demanding to know how Power One, with an authorized capital stock of only P1.56 million, can build a power plant costing between P800 million and P1 billion. He noted that in its latest financial statement, Power One has cash on hand of only about P14,000.

He added that Power One has not built nor operated a single power plant in its existence, yet wants to supply practically half of the power requirement of Mindoro.

The City Council of Calapan, where the proposed facility intends to operate, is urging the ERC to dismiss the application of Ormeco to register its contract with Power One. Through its legal officer Dante Manzo, the council wants the ERC to deny the issuance of a certificate compliance and approval to Ormeco.

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ROW OVER ZERO TARIFF: Our bishops, in shepherding their flock, lament the growing mistrust of once-revered institutions.

One case, involving the galvanizing industry, may illustrate why and how the credibility of our courts could be affected by a perceived uneven hand in the handling of the case.

Parties smarting from what they believe to be an injustice are complaining of a Makati trial court ruling, they said, “heavily in favor of the petitioners seeking the lifting of zero tariff on imported hot rolled coils (HRCs),” a raw material in the manufacture of galvanized iron.

The petitioners — Puyat Steel, Sonic Steel, Tower Steel — claimed they have suffered “irreparable damage” because of the grant of zero tariff on imported HRCs under Executive Order 237 issued in 2000 by then President Joseph Estrada pursuant to the Iron and Steel Industry Law.

But the other side said the disclosure reports submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission by the three companies indicated the exact opposite of their claim in asking for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against EO 237.

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TRACING LOSSES: The success or failure of any business venture depends largely on efficient management and sound judgment calls by its executives.

With or without tax incentives, a good manager should be able to deliver. Conversely, no amount of tax relief can save a company being managed by incompetent hands.

Tax incentives are merely come-ons to attract more investors. With investments coming in, we will have more job openings, and with more people being gainfully employed, mass poverty is effectively addressed.

I presume that judges know this basic social and economic phenomenon.

The party adversely affected complains that the presiding judge did not require the petitioners to show proof that they indeed suffered financial and job losses because the competition, the Steel Corporation of the Philippines, was able to avail itself of the zero-tariff incentive as a BOI-registered enterprise.

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WHAT DAMAGE?: Lawyers of Steel Corp. cited SEC records showing, they said, that Sonic consistently posted net operating profits from 1998 to 2003 to the tune of over P13.2 million in 1998, P11.6 million in 1999, P16.99 million in 2000, P12 million in 2001, P20.79 million in 2002 and P25.1 million in 2003.

They added that Tower chalked up net profits of P10.99 million in 1998, P35 million in 1999, P42.77 million in 2000, P62.21 million in 2001, P60.46 million in 2002 and P81.76 million in 2003.

For its part, Puyat reportedly registered losses of P110.9 million and P152.27 million in 1999 and 2000, respectively, but was able to turn around its fiscal condition mustering a net profit of P63.48 million in 2001, P239.73 million in 2002 and P14.73 million in 2003.

The judge may want to explain why or how he swallowed the claim of Tower, Sonic and Puyat that they incurred irreparable damage owing to EO 237.

Consider this also: EO 237 took effect in late 2000. If this order was harmful, how come Puyat made a profit of P63.48 million the following year, a record growth of P239.73 million in 2002, then down to P14.73 million in 2003? Records showed that Puyat’s losses came before the advent of EO 237.

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SURVEY: Referring to our modest survey of POSTSCRIPT readers on how they saw the various Post-GMA options being peddled by politicians demanding the immediate resignation or ouster of President Arroyo, we want to point out that our respondents are identified and their addresses recorded.

This is unlike the published results of surveys of some big research outfits. I assure our readers that mine was not a “table survey” where one person or one tight group decided without actual field work what figures to report on the basis of some ulterior agenda.

At the conclusion of our survey, the respondents who wanted GMA to stay dominated the field at 61 percent.

A few of them expressed the caveat that they did not necessarily like Ms Arroyo but wanted her to stay because they dreaded the possible social and political repercussions of her being suddenly removed.

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MORE RESPONSES: For a healthier airing of public opinion as expressed by readers, here are more sample responses. We will try to publish more of them as space permits in future columns.

Carl Cid S.M. Inting, 269D Tojong St., Cebu City: We are in too fragile a condition to gamble right now. Mr. Noli de Castro has been exposed to the most pressing issues affecting the country since his days as reporter and broadcaster. He is therefore not clueless and must even be street-smart.

Vic Gumban, ebgumban@yahoo.com: Gloria should stay on until proven guilty or impeached. Nothing could stop these shady politicians and leftists, who have their own agenda from trying to oust any elected leader. The same scenario will happen to the next presidency if we allow this to happen.

George Villaruel, georvill@shaw.ca: GMA should stay. At least we now have an idea on how she works. Her unpopular decisions are needed, or else our country will be forever in economic turmoil. What if after her, there is another resign movement? We have to drop the mentality of using people power whenever we don’t agree with the president.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 28, 2005)

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