POSTSCRIPT / March 8, 2005 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Cellphone firms pocket unused prepaid credits

VANISHING CREDIT: Finally, a senator is questioning the legality and fairness of cellphone companies’ forfeiting the balance of pre-paid phone card values that are not used within a restrictive short time.

Sen. Manuel Villar, finance committee chairman, has filed a resolution asking the public services committee to look into possible violations of RA 7295 that provides that rates of telecom firms “must be fair, reflective of a fair return on their investments, reasonable and are not distorted such that the public is adversely affected.”

A Globe Telecom callcard load of P100 must be used in 15 days, otherwise its balance at the end of that period is forfeited. If no more credit is loaded in 60 days, the SIM card (subscriber identity module) of the phone is deactivated and becomes unusable.

A Globe load of P300 or P500 must be used in 60 days. Any unused balance after that period is forfeited, and if no more credit is loaded in 120 days, the SIM card is deactivated.

Smart Communications, on the other hand, has set a 60-day deadline for using up a prepaid load of P300, P500 or P1,000, and a three-day limit for P30 auto-load, six days for P60 auto-load, and 12 days for a P115 load.

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POOR USERS HIT: The deactivated SIM cards of phones using pre-paid loads cannot be used again. The user has to buy and install another SIM card, which carries another phone number, to continue using his phone.

Villar said the time limit on the use of prepaid cards is too short and restrictive, especially for low-income users who are usually people with tight budgets.

“Forfeiting too soon the stored value of their prepaid phone cards or permanently deactivating their SIM cards is like taking away their hard-earned money,” he said.

The forfeited unused credits in deactivated pre-paid cards are included in the phone companies’ operating revenue. “I would like to know whether such policy or practice violates certain laws,” the senator said.

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WINDFALL: “Considering the number of prepaid-card subscribers have reached millions, we can assume that the unused values that get forfeited also reach millions or even billions of pesos,” he said. “In this case, the telecom companies’ gain becomes the phone subscribers’ loss.”

Smart reported operating revenues of P4.99 billion in 2003 — of which P4.09 billion, or 82 percent, came from its more than 10.7 million prepaid subscribers. On the other hand, Globe reported P8.08-billion revenues from nine months of 2003 from its more than 7.4 million prepaid subscribers.

Phone user Mon Ramirez of dpmasia complained in an email: “Why do we have to use up, say, a 100-peso prepaid card in 10 days or a 30-peso e-load in three days, or P10 per day? If we don’t, the load is lost. The telcoms earn from the unused load; the consumer paid for the load it was not able to use.

“This practice prevents us from making tipid since we must use all the load before the expiration date. It is like buying a school pad that we must use within a specified date or else it disappears.”

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HISTORICAL NOTES: My mentioning Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, cited for his slaughtering pigs and splattering their blood on horrified Moro captives in the early 1900s when the US tried to control what it called the “Moro province” elicited some reactions from readers.

Pershing is also remembered for his asking for the development of the .45 cal. pistol (to replace the then Wild West-type revolver as sidearm for US forces in Mindanao) with enough power to stop a rushing Moro juramentado in his tracks.

Dr. Conrad G. Javier of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, said in an email: “The story behind the request of Gen. Pershing for a much stronger (and heavier) pistol to stop the formerly unstoppable on-rushing Moro rebels early in the 20th Century’s Philippine occupation by the US Army is entirely true. You find this historical event permanently etched in almost all US Army Training Manuals and other War historical books.

“My father who was a WWII USAFFE Medical Corps officer (a major and a survivor of the Bataan Death March and Concentration Camp in Capas) was issued as .45 cal. pistol which was given to all officers. The story of how this type of pistol came to existence is one among his favorite pre-war (and post-war) stories. It could also kill a carabao with just one shot to the head (or body) and to a person except the extremities.”

Reacting to my saying the Pershing story may just be another urban legend, reader Rey said: “Contrary to your disclaimer, the Pershing tale may not at all be urban legend. Think ‘Abu Ghraib’”!

(Abu Ghraib is that American-run prison in Iraq where, it was documented, Iraqi prisoners were subjected to unusual, humiliating and inhuman treatment.)

Reader Manuel Diaz brings out another facet of Pershing’s life. He said: “General Peshing had a love child in Zamboanga, a daughter. The name of the mother was Joaquina Ignacio. This was brought out during the confirmation hearing in the US Senate of Gen. Pershing. His confirmation was saved by an affidavit by Private First Class Zeller Shinn who subsequently married Joaquina Ignacio. Zeller Shinn died mysteriously on a boat on his way back to the United States.

“All these are on file in the Congressional Archives of the United States. Pershing never acknowledged his daughter who, according to some, died in a cholera epidemic in Zamboanga. But others believe that she survived and took the family name Shinn.”

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.45 CAL PISTOL TRACED: From Mars B. Tagayun come what appear to be authoritative notes on the .45 cal. pistol culled from

“The Colt Model 1911 was the product of a very capable person, namely John Moses Browning, father of several modern firearms.

“The pistol was designed to comply with the requirements of the US Army, which, during its campaign against the Moros in Philippines, had seen its trusty .38 revolver to be incapable of stopping attackers. An Ordnance Board headed by Col. John T. Thomson (inventor of the Thomson submachine gun) and Col. Louis A. La Garde, had reached the conclusion that the army needed a .45″ caliber cartridge, to provide adequate stopping power.

“In the meantime, J. Browning who was working for Colt, had already designed an autoloader pistol, around a cartridge similar to contemporary .38 Super (dimension-wise). When the Army announced its interest in a new handgun, Browning re-engineered this handgun to accommodate a .45″ diameter cartridge of his own design (with a 230 gr. FMJ bullet), and submitted the pistol to the Army for evaluation.

“In the selection process, which started at 1906 with firearms submitted by Colt, Luger, Savage, Knoble, Bergmann, White-Merrill and Smith & Wesson, Browning’s design was selected, together with the Savage design in 1907. However, the US Army pressed for some service tests, which revealed that neither pistol (Colt’s or Savage’s) had reached the desired perfection. The Ordnance Department instituted a series of further tests and experiments, which eventually resulted in the appointment of a selection committee, in 1911.

“Browning was determined to prove the superiority of his handgun, so he went to Hartford to personally supervise the production of the gun. There he met Fred Moore, a young Colt employee with whom he worked in close cooperation trying to make sure that each part that was produced for the test guns was simply the best possible. The guns produced were submitted again for evaluation, to the committee.

“A torture test was conducted, on March 3, 1911. The test consisted of having each gun fire 6,000 rounds. One hundred shots would be fired and the pistol would be allowed to cool for five minutes. After every 1,000 rounds, the pistol would be cleaned and oiled. After firing those 6,000 rounds, the pistol would be tested with deformed cartridges, some seated too deeply, some not seated enough, etc. The gun would then be rusted in acid or submerged in sand and mud and some more tests would then be conducted.

“Browning’s pistols passed the whole test series with flying colors. It was the first firearm to undergo such a test, firing continuously 6,000 cartridges, a record broken only in 1917 when Browning’s recoil-operated machine gun fired a 40,000 rounds test.”

“On March 29, 1911, the Browning-designed, Colt-produced .45 automatic pistol, was selected as the official sidearm of the Armed Forces of USA, and named Model 1911. That original pistol was very similar to the pistols produced today.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 8, 2005)

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