POSTSCRIPT / May 3, 2005 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Who's unfair in GMA's ban on used-car imports?

BAN SOUGHT: President Arroyo wants Congress to pass a law banning the importation of second-hand or used cars to protect, she said, the local automotive industry from unfair competition.

A Malacanang press release explained that “leaders of the automotive industry had appealed to the President to stop the importation of secondhand vehicles to protect the viability of the local industry.” And she obliged.

She talks of importation of used vehicles as unfair to local distributors. Of course any competition that grabs away their sales is unfair to them.

There is no debate that, generally, a new car is better than an old one. It is also true that a new car is more expensive and that many buyers cannot afford new models.

Now if Malacanang insists on this class legislation favoring car distributors/dealers, the Palace should give car-buyers the money to pay the difference between the cost of an old and a new model.

The President issued EO 156 in December 2002 stopping the importation of used vehicles, but the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court struck down the order as unlawful. Now she wants Congress to provide the legal cover.

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WHO IS UNFAIR?: But are car dealers fair to buyers of their brand-new cars?

We have this doctor friend who bought last May 2002 a brand-new Pregio van covered by a warranty for 75,000 kilometers or three years, whichever came first.

But when the van malfunctions, he is given the run-around. In one instance last March, to fix the defective starter, the van was kept in the casa (shop) for almost one month, and when it was returned as supposedly repaired, it continued to malfunction and had to be brought in again for more tinkering.

The owner is afraid they might be dragging service so they could announce later that the three-year warranty has run out.

This is a common story among car buyers. This happens, because the government is more concerned about protecting car dealers than consumers. That is because car dealers have more clout and logistics than we consumers have.

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UNBUNDLE PRICES: If she truly cares for consumers, President Arroyo should certify to Congress a law that would require car distributors to post the ex-factory price of motor vehicles (if locally assembled) or the landed cost (if imported completely built up).

This is done in more civilized and more consumerism-oriented countries, and where pertinent officials are not on the payroll of big car manufacturers.

This would enable us consumers to know how much tax and charges are tacked on by the government, how much profit is added on by the dealers and other merchants along the distribution line.

This is a deterrent to profiteering. As it is, the only limit is the point of satiety of the fat car distributors/dealers, which is sky-high.

This is similar to the unbundling or breaking down of our electricity bills into its component charges so consumers will know where the money goes — how much goes to the power generator, the distributor, the government, et cetera.

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CONSUMER BIAS: While at it, the President might also want to order her Secretary of Trade and Industry to adopt a strong bias for consumers in relation to car distributors.

The same department should also keep a tight watch over promos that promise this and that but do not always stick to the spirit of their come-on spiel.

The van we mentioned above is covered by such a promo. But there seems to be lack of coordination between the distributor and the dealer, with the former reportedly hesitating to honor the promo commitment of the dealer.

And then, who watches over the service in the casa where good parts are replaced on the say-so of technicians who are pushing slow-moving parts or who swipe parts and put your good ones in other vehicles?

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TAX AVOIDANCE: Talking of fairness, is it fair for one big distributor, a close friend of the Palace, to have escaped paying more than P1 billion in excise taxes by merely putting in 10 seats in his five-seater sports utility van to make it appear as a tax-free Asian utility vehicle?

How come there is no attempt to force this big fish to cough up the revenues denied the government? Ganoon ba sila kalakas? I thought the government is scrounging around for cash?

Now, President Arroyo tells us consumers to stop buying imported used cars competing with the brand-new cars of his friends in the industry!

Recall what the well-loved President Magsaysay said: Those who have less in life should have more in law.

Under the present dispensation, it seems that those who have more in life have their President rewriting the law in their favor.

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AIR POLLUTION: If the intent of the President in banning the importation of used vehicles is to reduce air pollution from smoke-belchers, there are other measures she can take to achieve that.

Actually we already have the necessary laws for clean air. The problem is that the Arroyo administration does not seem to pay attention to them. Ano ba talaga ang gusto ng pamahalaan?

A glaring case in point is the rampant smoke-belching of buses on Epifanio delos Santos Ave., the metropolis’ main traffic artery. Have the authorities given up on this? Looks like it.

As a daily user of EDSA, I have noticed what seems to be an arrangement that the heaviest smoke-belching buses are allowed to ply the EDSA route at night on the belief that their smoke would hardly be noticed in the dark.

If the intention of the Arroyo ban on imported used vehicles is to fight air pollution, how come she is exempting second-hand buses from the proposed ban? Are they less of a threat to clear air?

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MIKE AT WORK: The PR boys of First Gentlemen Jose Miguel Arroyo are undaunted. They keep trumpeting his activities, with emphasis on his do-good projects, despite, they said, “coup rumors, destabilization moves and criticisms.”

Okay lang siguro. The PR dictum is: Do good and talk about it. In fairness to the First Gentleman, I am passing on the information on his good deeds.

Last Monday, he visited Reynaldo Lazo, the first beneficiary of his “Bagong Bato, Bagong Buhay” free kidney transplant project. The patient is recuperating at the Philippine General Hospital and is ready for discharge soon.

The 30-year-old mechanic from Tondo and his sister-kidney donor, Rosalinda, 40, were surprised to see Mr. Arroyo at the hospital. Lazo’s siblings thanked the First Gentleman.

Suffering from end-stage renal disease, Lazo used to undergo hemodialysis twice a week. The expenses drained the family’s meager resources, so they turned to Mr. Arroyo.

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OTHER BENEFICIARIES: The patient’s parents, Felix, 71, and Arsenia, 66, cried when they first met Mr. Arroyo.“Malaking utang na loob po ang ipinagkaloob ninyo sa aming pamilya,” they said. “Hindi po namin makakalimutan ang lahat ng kabutihan ninyong ginawa at ni Pangulong Arroyo.” (We are very grateful for the assistance you provided our family. We will never forget all the goodness you and President Arroyo have done to us.)

The private funds of the FG (First Gentleman) Foundation shouldered the transplant cost, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office paid for the three-month anti-rejection medicines, while the PGH provided the medical expertise and facilities.

The First Gentleman’s free kidney transplant project was launched at the PGH last February. He has similar projects at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute. Forty indigent kidney patients have already benefited from his free kidney transplant project.

Also last Monday at PGH, he provided financial help to five more hydrocephalus and meningocoele patients identified as Mary Rose Gabilan, one month old, from Pasay City; Ralph Porbos, one year, Antipolo City; Kimberly Patricio, four months, Sariaya, Quezon; Jomari Laniojan, two years old, Dasmarinas, Cavite; and Romeo Tabuzo, 31, Tangos, Navotas.

Since August 2004, the First Gentleman’s mission at PGH has aided 47 indigent hydrocephalus, meningitis and meningocoele patients.

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JUST DO IT: But as I see it, it is better for the First Gentleman to remain invisible and inaudible amid talk about his alleged activities having to do with raising millions, some of them for his foundation.

If he did something worthy of praise, the press release should not come from him but from the beneficiaries or whoever else, a third party, who is moved enough to call attention to it.

Like a light kept under a bushel, such good deeds will surely be seen anyway without his or his rah-rah boys trying hard to publicize them.

Sir, just do it. Quietly.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 3, 2005)

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