POSTSCRIPT / December 17, 2006 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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GMA is sick? It may be passive paranoia

OLD TRICK: The government warning that leftist provocateurs are set to disrupt today’s prayer rally at Rizal Park is something to worry about — not because it is true, but because it could mean that government operators are laying the basis for their own plan to sow violence.

This is an old trick, and it sometimes works.

Rally organizers must take steps to thwart it. In some past rallies, participants were asked to stick together with their friends or neighbors or co-workers. Today, they should be wary, and take pictures, of strangers joining them.

Taking off from the sad experience of the sleepy apostles in Gethsemane, rally participants must watch as they pray.

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IT’S PARANOIA: President Gloria Arroyo seems to be sick, or almost. She seems to have contracted the same insecurity, the same paranoia, afflicting many people around her.

She should snap out of the spell of her political advisers who have been “shielding” (read: “isolating”) her from the people so they would appear useful and indispensable to a president dependent on them.

The President is being conditioned by her advisers to think that the voices of protest welling from the crowd are actually coming from the Left plotting to grab power.

Sure, the Left has not abandoned its aim of seizing state power. But much of the pained protest we hear nowadays –in the streets, in coffee shops, board rooms, in the homes, in media – is not communist chatter, but part of a democratic dialogue.

By this time, and with her vast resources, Ms Arroyo should know how to operate on parallel lines, and be able to discern the true sentiments of the people without depending on routine intelligence and the whispers of courtiers.

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LEADERS, LISTEN: At the Vatican last Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI told ambassadors to the Holy See he was convinced that leaders of nations will avoid conflicts and wars if they listen to civil society and respond to its needs.

But the Pontiff pointed out that this requires understanding political commitment as “a service to persons” and not as a way of guaranteeing privileges and power to a few.

He said that leaders must pay greater attention to their people, seeking more effective solutions to resolve situations of distress and poverty and to share goods as equally as possible.

Leaders, he continued, have a duty to eliminate deep dissatisfaction in the political, economic and social spheres, because “this could lead people to think that society and its decision-making classes ignore them, and that they have no right to enjoy the fruits of production.”

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PEOPLE PRIORITY: The Holy Father said: “Such injustices can only lead to disorder and engender a kind of escalation of violence.

“The search for peace, justice and understanding among everyone must be a primary objective and calls for leaders of nations to pay heed to real-life situations, committing themselves to suppressing everything that opposes equality and solidarity, especially corruption and the hoarding of resources.

“I know that a certain amount of courage is needed to remain firm in the face of difficulties when the aim is the good of individuals and of the national community. Nonetheless, in public life, courage is an indispensable virtue to avoid being swayed by partisan ideologies, by pressure groups or by thirst for power.”

Benedict XVI concluded by recalling a key point of the Church’s social doctrine: “The good of individuals and of peoples must always be the priority criterion in decisions regarding social life.”

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BATTLE ROYALE: Talk in the court circuit have it that if members of the Government Service Insurance System should lose P1.116 billion of their funds, a wily lawyer and an “enterprising” former justice of the Supreme Court are to blame.

People I talked to say that this duo has been shepherding “personalities” in and out of the court to give GSIS a beating over outlandishly priced lots that are not even in posh Forbes Park, Dasmarinas or Ayala-Alabang.

But knowing how the GSIS protected and then got the best deal from its members’ investment in a big bank, this attempt to raid GSIS funds under the guise of administering justice would not come to pass without a battle royale from the state pension fund.

Last month, the GSIS petitioned the Supreme Court to stop Branch 71 of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court from garnishing P1.166 billion of GSIS funds deposited in several banks.

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FORECLOSED LOTS: A lower court and a private respondent are demanding that the GSIS pay P1.116 billion for 78 lots mistakenly foreclosed in payment of a loan gone sour.

How the lower court arrived at the lots’ monetary value has been a mathematical mystery. What takes the cake is the fact that the GSIS is being made to pay for the lots when it has already returned them to the private respondent, except for 15 of the 78.

Rosario Enriquez-Santiago, the private claimant, took over as claimant from her husband, Eduardo, when he died. Prior to that, Eduardo took over as petitioner in the case filed by Jose Zulueta and Soledad Ramos seeking to recover the lots mistakenly foreclosed by the GSIS.

Zulueta and Ramos were the ones who obtained various loans from the GSIS and were unable to pay. However, mistakenly included among the properties foreclosed by the GSIS to cover payment of their debts were 78 lots in question.

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S.C: ORDER: The Supreme Court ruled in that case originally filed by Zulueta and Ramos that the GSIS should either return all 78 lots or pay their monetary value.

In the execution of that SC order, however, the Pasig RTC seemed to want double indemnification for Santiago. Common sense tells us that, if ever, the GSIS should be made to pay only for the 15 lots that it has failed to return — certainly not P1.166 billion.

The Pasig RTC had brushed aside repeated motions by GSIS to stop the garnishment of its funds, ignoring a provision of its charter prohibiting that, ass well as a pending appeal before the Court of Appeals.

The GSIS also blamed part of the confusion on the Court of Appeals, which reportedly said that the GSIS should no longer mind the issue over the 78 excluded lots and just pay up.

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GARNISHMENT: The CA ordered the Pasig RTC to carry out the execution starting with the amount of P400 million while the total fair market value of the 78 excluded lots was still being determined.

The GSIS had asked the CA to reconsider that order, arguing that it should be credited with what it has already reconveyed out of the 78 excluded lots. The CA thumbed down the petition.

But even as the GSIS was exhausting all legal avenues to be allowed to reconvey the excluded lots to satisfy the SC judgment, the Pasig RTC initiated the garnishment of the P1.116 billion from GSIS bank accounts.

The sheriff, according to the GSIS, started initiating the writ of execution five days before the GSIS received a copy of the writ.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 17, 2006)

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