POSTSCRIPT / June 14, 2005 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Christ said: If thy hand offend thee, cut it off...

JUST A BEARER: As expected, some superficial readers thought I was endorsing in my last POSTSCRIPT Joseph “Erap” Estrada as transition president in the event President Arroyo blunders into quitting her post in the midst of turmoil.

I was just reporting that the former President, licking his wounds in detention in his Tanay nature retreat, is busy preparing to emerge as the opposition’s rallying figure in its drive to recapture Malacanang.

Some readers just do not relish reports that do not conform to their biases. They lump the writer or reporter together with what was written and condemn both.

This is a classic example of the receiver of the message mistaking the messenger for the message. Although many a bearer of dire tidings in the past had been beheaded, most of us old hands in the trade take this role-confusion in stride.

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EVERYONE’S TAINTED: Now if I report the objective fact that another former president, Fidel V. Ramos, is qualified to accept marching orders as a transition president, a swarm of anti-Ramos elements will surely descend on me as an FVR advocate.

(In fairness to FVR, he has not said a thing about wanting to serve as interim president, although I am sure he is ready.)

One of our problems when casting about for an alternative leader is that all of the traditional politicians around — aptly referred to as “trapo” or rag — have been tainted beyond laundering.

In fact, everybody who has been in government for at least one payroll period — including the black-robed justices of the Supreme Court — appears tainted in the skeptical eyes of a people that has seen nothing but official corruption all around.

The lack of alternatives from among the incumbents and the ruling elite is one of the reasons why some of us settle, in desperation, for actors and magicians. This is also why our elections have degenerated into mere popularity contests.

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AS JESUS SAID: If there is no credible alternative available at the moment and we are stuck with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo et al., what can she do, in good faith, to salvage her presidency and the country?

Our Lord Jesus Christ says in Mark 9:43-47:

43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:

Never an expert on the Bible, I will not presume to interpret this for the President.

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CUT IT OFF: But as a worldly kibitzer, may I respectfully suggest a few things to cut off for starters:

  1. Congressmen Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo of Pampanga and Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo of Negros Occidental will do the President and the country a big favor if they resigned. Their departure will not be taken as an admission of guilt of anything, but as a voluntary stepping aside.
  2. First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo can do many things to help his beleaguered wife: Dismantle his foundation where “donations” are laundered; order his boys running money-making agencies to resign, and tell the rest to drop all errands having to do with money; and then quietly melt into the background. If he can enter a monastery, that would even be better.

Mikey and Iggy belong to the legislature and are, theoretically, not to take orders from the President regarding their official functions and tenure. They should quit on their own, even at the risk of shedding their parliamentary immunity, and never look back.

In the case of Executive appointees brought in by her husband, the President can dismiss them outright and order a quick mopping-up investigation to make sure they leave with clean hands. A report on their accountability, if any, must be published in two weeks.

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READERS’ REACTIONS: We reaped a bushel of reactions to that Sunday column on Mr. Estrada preparing to play the role of a transition president without a Congress and a Cabinet, but with a backup junta. Here are samples.

Juan Deiparine, Toril, Davao City — Erap as temporary dictator? Sir naman, wala na bang iba? The prospect of Erap and his shady friends (including his goon-like sons) coming back is totally frightening. I think our country deserves better. I do agree that GMA is in the last throes of her government. If she were smart, she should begin to work on as graceful an exit as possible…ASAP! And work out a transition that will not plunge our country into chaos and anarchy. I am not an expert on this, so I leave the mechanics to those who would know better. The only thing I know is that it would take a lot of selflessness and sacrifice from our political leaders. Are they up to it? Whatever it is, I also hope Erap himself will be selfless enough to realize he will be a divisive factor if he puts himself at the center of the equation. He is too controversial to be at the center of power. He could be more statesmanlike by staying in the sidelines and just helping the country pick up the pieces and come together.

Mon Sagullo — If Erap can muster the humility and courage to make a public repentance of his shortcomings as a man and as a politician, then exhibit the resolve to — abolish both houses of Congress; forever bar his family members, up to the second level of consanguinity, legitimate or otherwise, from seeking any position in public service, or to have any dealings with the government; immediately implement the early retirement of all two-star generals all the way up to the Chief of Staff, ditto for the PNP; put a stop to the “revolving door” policy in appointing the top honchos of the AFP and PNP; cap our country’s debt payment to no more than 10 percent of our national budget; place 70 percent of the burden of taxation to the top 10 percent wealthy families; nationalize Petron and Meralco; implement nationalist economic policies; pursue our country’s industrialization; allocate in our national budget 20 percent for education, 15 percent for health, 10 percent each for the AFP and the PNP; enshrine in our next Constitution that no religious group can ever endorse a political candidate or criticize an elected candidate; put a stop to the macabre sight of having a mother and son in the Senate; the tandem of a mayor and his father being a governor…; revert to a two-party system, with all members allowed to switch parties only after seven years of “loyal” membership — all this within 18 months of the revolutionary government, and then for Erap to retire from public view.

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MMDA DEATH TRAPS: I have been among those pointing out the danger posed by concrete blocks and other obstacles scattered by mindless Metro Manila Development Authority managers on EDSA and other thoroughfares.

I move around a lot, and I have seen just too many vehicles crumpled against these MMDA hazards. Little did I know that I would be added to the bloody statistics past midnight of last Friday (actually Saturday pre-dawn).

I crashed the SUV I was driving against one of those concrete blocks, then hit another block as I avoided a bus rushing alongside me on EDSA near North Avenue, Quezon City. I squirmed out of the wreck bleeding profusely.

The front of the car was crumpled and the airbags had popped out, indicating how strong the impact was. The back glass panel shattered. Were it not for the seat belt and the airbag, my face, with my eyeglasses on, would have smashed on the steering wheel. Or my neck would have snapped.

While the AAP (formerly Philippine Motor Association) flatbed carried the wreck directly to the casa where the car goes religiously every 5,000 kms for preventive maintenance, I was taken to St. Lukes. I had a CT scan, tetanus shots and was treated for my head wound (10 stitches), among other things.

I rushed home after treatment to do my Sunday POSTSCRIPT column.

There is something criminal and sadistic with the way MMDA officials toy with people’s lives. These amateurs running MMDA should leave certain thing to professionals.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 14, 2005)

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