POSTSCRIPT / April 6, 2006 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Is your child protected from cyber sex crimes?

VIRTUAL SEX: Have you bought your precocious child one of those small cameras mounted on personal computers allowing users to video-talk with one another? Has your kid been doing more on-line chatting than using his PC for his homework?

The Internet and such infotech gadgets have spawned a myriad e-businesses, some of them catering to pedophiles and sex perverts.

In a significant number of cases, many seemingly “nice” youths have fallen victims to sexploitation without their trusting parents being able to do anything about it — because they do not know or do not care enough to find out.

Children in the privacy of their rooms have been seduced into undressing or doing lewd acts in front of those PC cameras thinking they were doing it for a friend or a crush. In many cases, the pornography is filmed without their knowledge and end up being retailed to millions of paying viewers worldwide.

While the old telephone is all audio, now computers are audio-visual or virtual presence. Invasive TV goes one-way into the home from outside, but computers have made the trafficking of sexual content two-way. The home, even the bedroom, has lost its privacy.

If it is not a commercial racket, such electronic sexual contact could be a one-on-one case of seduction of minors, or a “fun” activity of friends who engage in virtual orgy via computers.

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BIG FISH: You would be surprised to know who are engaged in this sordid sexploitation.

In Florida, after surveillance the police arrested yesterday Brian J. Doyle, spokesman and a deputy press secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security at his computer at home for allegedly seducing a 14-year-old girl into some sexual situations.

The surprised DHS official did not know that his target victim online was a decoy and that the police have been documenting his alleged seductive advances and propositions with the use of computers.

Good they caught this big fish. But for every sexploiter arrested, how many others get away and continue victimizing youths who are not ready to handle the psychological trap?

In the Philippines, what have lawmakers — when they are not busy politicking and making money — done to update pertinent laws? Are the schools addressing the problem? Are there enough police and prosecution officers continually trained to fight cybercrime?

The Philippine National Police or the National Bureau of Investigation may want to organize workshops for parents, guardians and youngsters on this new form of sexploitation.

Or do we just let the potential victims learn the sad facts of life by themselves?

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PAVLOVIAN: As expected, the resignation Tuesday of Thai Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra amid demands for him to quit and his failure to score a clear mandate in the just-concluded snap elections has found resonance in Manila.

Almost by reflex, the local opposition pressed its demand for President Gloria Arroyo also to resign. Of course, Malacanang countered that there is no similarity between the predicament of the Thai premier and that of President Arroyo.

Like Pavlov’s dogs, our politicos have developed conditioned reflexes that are (yawn) that predictable. The behavior of typhoons visiting these islands is more variable than the knee-jerk reactions of our politicians to issues.

Expect demands for Ms Arroyo to “do a Thaksin” to mount in the coming weeks. For maximum effect, they could keep hitting at the common charges hurled at both leaders — allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Whatever is thrown at her, expect Ms Arroyo to dig in. It could be long-drawn and boring, except if somebody thinks of burning the house to get rid of a mouse.

* * *

SUCCESSION: It is curious that Ms Arroyo wants to prolong her hold on power by shifting in mid-term to a parliamentary system, while Thaksin’s exit was facilitated by Thailand’s being under a parliamentary setup where governments come and go almost like the seasons.

The resignation of this particular President under our system could be problematic, because of the variations posed by the personalities standing on the rigid line of succession to the presidency.

If Ms Arroyo resigns, her foes will have to make do with Vice President Noli de Castro. And if they do not like him, is it fair to demand the wholesale resignation of the two top officials of the land just to force a special election, although Ms Arroyo is the only original target?

Waiting in the wings is the Senate President, who is third on line and the one tasked to call an election for a president if there is a vacancy. If Franklin Drilon the incumbent is not presidential enough in the eyes of the self-appointed kingmakers, what do we do with him?

In Bangkok, when they want to get rid of their Premier, they simply elect a new Parliament whose members then choose a new Prime Minister who forms a new government.

If that parliamentary setup were existing in Manila, removing Ms Arroyo would be less complicated. She wants that easy exit route adopted?

* * *

LAKESHORE: If you are driving north on the North Luzon Expressway, you will notice to your right as you approach Angeles City a palm-lined serene-looking community called Lakeshore.

Watching over it in the horizon to the east is the legendary Mt. Arayat (called by Capampangans as Bunduc Ayala, sometimes suspected as being the Mt. Ararat in the biblical story of Noah’s ark).

Do not let the peaceful ambience fool you. Some businessmen behind that project are now locked in a controversy that has spilled into Congress and the media. That often happens when it is time to count the money, and it is now time.

A Luisito Hipolito has been hitting away at Central Country Estate Inc. (CCEI), owner of the subdivision, reporting various alleged violations of law by some of its officers, including the supposedly questionable conversion of the agricultural land for the project.

Hipolito was identified by CCEI officials as a broker for the joint venture between CCEI and the Sta. Lucia Development Corp. (SLDC) for the development of Lakeshore in Mexico, Pampanga.

* * *

COMMISSION: Some sources at Lakeshore said everything went well with Hipolito and CCEI until he demanded from the latter his commission — something like P5 million at two percent — for brokering the venture.

But CCEI said that under the joint venture contact, any commission is to be paid by Sta. Lucia and not by CCEI. Still, he filed a collection suit against the corporation. He is also reportedly demanding that he be given 48 hectares as his share.

Officials of CCEI said that any commission is only for lots already developed. After five years, they said, no part of the subdivision has been developed. (I wonder what those structures I see when I pass that area are. — fdp)

The controversy became so ugly that a congressman was even mentioned as poised to deliver a privilege speech to launch an investigation into the allegedly illegal land conversion. The supposed speech is still being awaited.

* * *

PAMPANGA BECKONS: Anyway, if you have time when you pass by, exit and drive around Lakeshore and size it up yourself.

You might even get off and stroll beside the man-made lake, take pictures or have some refreshments. At the very least, enjoy the fresh air.

There have been other developments in Angeles, San Fernando and Mabalacat since the flow of lahar from Mt. Pinatubo subsided five years ago. Pampanga is definitely on its fast way to recovery.

In fact, it is one growth area that people with money should look at, especially with the development along the corridor connecting Clark Field in Pampanga and Subic Bay in Zambales and Bataan.(More on this later.)

The North Luzon Expressway has made travel to the region safe, pleasant and economical. Our only advice to city dwellers is to leave behind their bad driving habits once they enter the Balintawak toll plaza. And do not taunt the hidden cameras catching speedsters.

* * *

MEMORY MAN: I was surprised at the number of inquiries on the lectures of Dave “The Memory Man” Coffill, who I mentioned last time as scheduled to conduct a workshop yesterday at the Angeles University Foundation in Angeles City.

I do not know Coffill’s schedule since I am not the handler of this powerful and entertaining speaker, but let me pass on some information on this man known as America’s best memory training speaker and trainer.

He is based in Tucson, Arizona. For more information, visit the website www.UltimateRecall.com. His more popular products, in CDs, are: Master Your Memory, $130; Mastering Numbers & Playing Cards, $40; Ultimate Performance System, $25; and Master Names Now!, $25.

Sorry if this looks like an ad. It is not. I was just impressed by him.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 6, 2006)

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