POSTSCRIPT / January 24, 2006 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Not true: M&J bridge built at no cost to gov't

SAN FERNANDO — For the nth time, I saw again yesterday this rickety Bailey bridge thrown across MacArthur Highway at the Gapan-Olongapo Road intersection in this capital city of Pampanga.

Again, I caught myself asking why our President Gloria Arroyo inflicted this clickety-clack bridge on her cabalen and the thousands of commuters passing daily this major crossroads of Central Luzon.

(To catch my drift, please visit and drive over or under this atrocious structure assembled by the British firm Mabey & Johnson for the President’s bridges program in her own home province.)

The temporary bridge, put together Lego-style by M&J, is an insult to the proud people of Pampanga. We may not be as vote-rich as Cebu, but we deserve something better than an ugly span that looks and feels like it might fall anytime.

The big question still is: Why is the Arroyo administration building temporary spans all over, even in places where there is no urgent need for them, when it can build at the same cost real steel bridges that could last a lifetime?

Is it because there is more money to be made on these structures — whose builder, incidentally, is reportedly being investigated by British authorities for alleged overpricing and other suspected hanky-panky?

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SECOND SERVING: Somebody talking to me for M&J said the San Fernando bridge was erected after their firm realized some savings on other projects. With their big volume, unit cost of the bridges has dropped, resulting in savings.

He said that that bridge was built at no cost to the government — meaning the city of San Fernando, the province of Pampanga, and the Strong Republic of President Arroyo did not spend a centavo on it.

But being able to build something with the use of savings is not enough reason to gift Pampanguenos with an ugly Bailey bridge reminiscent of the quickie spans and steel matting of World War II.

Pampanga was neglected during the term of its favorite son, then President Diosdado Macapagal. It was explained to the local folk that Cong Dadong attended to the others first, because he did not want to be accused of favoritism.

His own hometown of Lubao had to wait. But he begged his cabalen to be patient, assuring them that he would also invite them to the dining table for the second serving.

Problem was there was no second serving. When he ran for reelection in 1965, the poor boy from Lubao lost the presidency to Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Fast forwarding to the present, I wonder if we could be ushered, finally, to the promised second serving during the present term of Cong Dadong’s darling daughter Gloria and rise above Bailey-type temporary fixes.

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R.P. PAYS FOR IT: Re that boast that M&J built that blasted bridge here at no cost to the government, that is misrepresentation. That is simply not true.

If my reading of the documents on the bridges program is right, the British government lends to the Philippines the money to build the bridges. Whatever M&J spends for the program is charged to the loan, which we pay back.

It is not true that the Philippine government does not spend for a bridge. A bridge costs money. The expense that is advanced by the UK government, as in the San Fernando span, is charged to the loan, which we pay.

In the normal course, while the UK spends for the span proper (and charges it to the loan), the Philippine government’s counterpart spending is in the direct expenses for the building of the approaches and the concrete columns, if any.

There was no direct government expense in the San Fernando bridge, because there was no need for building approaches or concrete columns. It was not because M&J, out of the goodness of its heart, shouldered also the expenses normally borne by the government.

But, I repeat, the money that M&J spent in building the span proper is charged to the UK loan that we will pay.

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SOLO LOTTO WINNER: I received a number of email good-naturedly thanking me for, our naughty readers said, keeping the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office on notice that we are closely watching its Lotto operations.

I had a good laugh when three readers said that last Sunday’s SuperLotto draw turned up only one winner for the P150,478,099.20 jackpot because we were breathing down the necks of PCSO managers.

It has been noticed that whenever the pot bulged with more than P100 million, there were usually more than one winner. This has given rise to suspicion that some insiders with the right access insert right after the draw some bogus winners so they could grab part of the jackpot.

With the Lotto draw shrouded with security, if not secrecy, outsiders are not able to verify if no such after-draw insertions are made.

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C.D. COPY: So some readers suggested, and POSTSCRIPT supported them, that the consolidated file in the system’s server listing all bets and related data be copied into a compact disk (CD) right after the close of betting before the 9 p.m. draw.

It was suggested that that CD be taken to and displayed at the televised draw, then opened right after the winning combination is drawn. Then and there, the public gets to know how many bets there were, how many won the jackpot and where the bets were placed.

This is not a perfect control mechanism, but it will help prevent possible after-draw insertions of bogus winners. It will help improve the image, and probably the sales, of the Lotto.

There is also, I repeat, our other suggestion that the PCSO upgrade to better equipment and better paper on which to print bet slips so the numbers and other data on the slips do no fade before the one-year deadline for claiming prizes.

(Prizes not claimed after one year — and they amount to multimillions each year — go to the social fund of the President and used without the usual audit required of public funds. Wow!)

None of these two suggestions has been adopted, although they are simple and doable. Why?

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PACQUIAO FOR SENATOR: Somebody told me that the coup d’etat scheduled for last Sunday was postponed (not called off) because of the televised Pacquiao-Morales fight in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The soldiers mobilized for the coup reportedly put down their guns in the meantime to join the crowds watching the grudge fight on TV and cheer with every blow that the Pacman from General Santos landed on the terrible Mexican.

If only for that, Pacquiao should be given a medal or something.

Imagine, he was able to quell, albeit momentarily, a planned power grab and unite his countrymen and boost their morale – an achievement that not even President Arroyo and her husband have been able to do.

And, have you noticed that Pacquiao now speaks in vastly improved English? Even when asked a question in Tagalog, he answered, you know, in English. For a while there, you know, I thought he was going to talk on, you know, remote TV to his proud mother in, you know, stetside English.

But if you ask me, Pacquiao could make a better senator than some of those entertainers who had strayed into the august halls of Congress. With his newfound fluency, I dare say he would put to shame one of our cinema stunt men who had leaped and landed in the Senate.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 24, 2006)

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