POSTSCRIPT / January 29, 2006 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Welcome for Pacquiao spoiled by traffic mess

NEGATIVE SIDE: Amid the delirious welcome for boxing great Manny Pacquiao, not everybody would dare say this in public, but here goes.

Manila Mayor Lito Atienza should have had more sense than to stage the other night that Pacquiao victory program at the cramped Rajah Sulayman plaza beside the Aristocrat resto. He tied up traffic on Roxas Blvd. and nearby streets for many precious hours.

If curses of irate motorists could kill, Atienza would have been floored that evening with no bell to save him. It was not the first time the mayor inflicted a monstrous traffic mess on commuters with a grand palabas at Sulayman.

A good city manager should know that when a pakulo is sure to draw a massive crowd, it should be held at a site big enough to absorb the attendance and far enough from sections with high-density traffic.

This was the same logic behind suggestions for preacher Mike Velarde (before he moved his flock to an expansive site in Paranaque) not to clog Rizal Park and vicinity with his mammoth rallies, or for giant shopping malls in general not to be built beside busy roads.

(This comment does not detract from the admirable qualities of Pacquiao, whose concern for his countrymen springs from the heart of a true Filipino and not from the gut of a politician.)

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INSULT TO CABALEN: Meanwhile, the “Bridges to Nowhere” issue refuses to go away.

British bridge-maker Mabey & Johnson sent me an email on the span that it had built on the Gapan-Olongapo Road across MacArthur Highway in San Fernando, Pampanga.

This atrocious structure that sounds (clickety-clack) and looks (oh, my gad!) like it might fall any time is an insult to Pampanguenos who deserve something better than a rickety bridge put together from left-over parts of other bridges.

Former Public Works Minister Aber Canlas, a true-blue Pampangueno who built a number of quality infrastructure in the province and elsewhere, agreed with the observation that the M&J span at that busy intersection was an “insult” to thecabalen.

As I pass the Lego-like span several times during the week, I know how users and those working near the project feel about it.

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M&J EMAIL: In its email, M&J said: “The installation of the San Fernando flyover in August 2003 was the result of prioritization of government resources as it became available. The San Fernando junction along the Gapan-Olongapo road network is critical and ranks among the highest in development priority as it links the major economic centers of Central Luzon. Thus, when bridging materials resulted from savings of ongoing projects became available, the San Fernando flyover was immediately undertaken upon the initiative of the Philippine government.

“The structure is temporary in location only but not in its ability or capacity to function as a permanent structure. At San Fernando, the use is temporary and lightweight with supports that are also of a modular nature notwithstanding substructures that are not embedded in the ground. This feature enabled it to be erected quickly considering the difficult variable heights at the site and heavy traffic conditions. Our modular system allowed this structure to be built in 12 days and is rated HS25-44 tons (25 percent higher than the DPWH current design standard of HS20).

“At no time did the company claim that the bridge was supplied at no cost but at no ‘extra’ cost as its supply was realized from project savings. Savings refer to the extra bridging panel components not utilized due to the modular nature of our system which allowed the Philippine government to erect more bridges than what was originally intended under the program at the same total project cost.

“The President’s program is the only foreign-assisted project that does not experience any budget overruns or cost variations (e.g., right-of-way issues) from its approved program of work for each bridge installed over the past 10 years under three Philippine presidents.”

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BACK TO LOTTO: Against a flood of email and text messages expressing fear that Lotto draws may not be as clean as desired, trickled in a letter of Manoling Morato. He is again with the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, this time as a director.

The former PCSO chairman/general manager said right off in his opening paragraph that inserting bettors into the Lotto winners list is just not possible under the lottery system in place since his time in 1995.

I do hope he is right. Btw, Manoling wrote me directly — unlike some PCSO officials who reacted to my comments on the Lotto by going upstairs and making sumbong to my publisher, instead of dealing directly with me the author.

In his letter, Manoling simply gave his views. He did not repeat his colleagues’ threat to take action against me for making suggestions. Maybe he can advise the newcomers on the board on how to deal with fair comment and reasonable criticism.

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ROUTINE: Manoling said among other things: “The Lotto is on-line and totally computerized. It is tamper-proof. No less than 126 countries use the very same system we have. Any attempt to tamper and succeed in doing so will collapse the entire system worldwide.

“At 8:30 p.m., the system is deactivated. No bet can enter the Main Computer Center after 8:30 p.m.

“Televised live draw is conducted at 9 p.m. and 20 to 40 minutes later (depending on the volume of bettors), all bets are downloaded. The winner/s are known; and the Lotto Betting Station that sold the winning combination.

“The system is switched on again at 7 a.m. the following day. It is not true that the system is active all night where the possibility of insertion can occur.

“If we did not know by 9:40 or 9:50 p.m. the results of the draw the night before, how can the results be published in the newspapers the following day? The dailies wait for the results every night to catch up with their deadline.”

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LE DIFFERENCE: Pardon me, but what is determined during the TV draw is the WINNING NUMBER — and not the NUMBER OF WINNERS. Please note the difference. Most bettors are asking about the possible insertion of other winners, not the way the winning number is drawn.

Man-made systems are susceptible to failure or tampering. And just because some 126 countries use a certain lottery system does not mean that it is the best suited for our needs.

Talking of systems in another area, the fact that some countries, including our mentor the United States, operate under similar presidential systems is no guarantee that our presidential system is fail-proof.

The PCSO just keeps talking about how great is the computer system handed to them from way back. But its officials seem afraid to grab the bull by the horns and consider safeguards to improve the system’s integrity. I wonder how many of them are competent to evaluate computer systems.

The PCSO on-line lottery system, if I may point it out, is 10 years old. It shows.

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TWIN SUGGESTIONS: With the apparent resistance of PCSO, we just have to reiterate the two simple, doable suggestions proposed in POSTSCRIPT to enhance the credibility of the state-run lottery:

  1. That right after the close of betting at 8:30 p.m., all the bets be copied into a read-only compact disk. The CD is opened before the viewing public right after the televised draw and searched during the show to determine the NUMBER OF WINNERS.

(At present, what is known during the TV draw is the winning number — but not the NUMBER OF WINNERS, which is what we have been talking about all along but which the PCSO prefers to ignore.)

  1. That the bet tickets be printed on quality paper so the numbers and other data on the slips do not fade before the one-year deadline for claiming prizes. The loss or deterioration of tickets is one of the reasons why many prizes are not claimed.

The PCSO could even improve on these suggestions. For instance, they might be able to come up with a better medium than a CD for saving the consolidated bets and playing it live on TV.

Anyway, it was nice to hear again from Manoling. When he says something, I normally listen and believe it.

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NOT FOOLPROOF: Read this email (slightly edited), one of several received from readers and Lotto enthusiasts:

Galahad A. Pe Benito — “Computer manipulation has happened in a tech-savvy country like the United States. In the 2002 Breeder’s Cup, two bettors, with the help of an employee involved in the computer processing of bets, manipulated the results to make it appear that they hit the Pick 6 worth $3 million. Fortunately, they were caught before they could cash their winnings.

“The PCSO must be transparent enough to adopt or consider the suggestions made in POSTSCRIPT as computer fraud is a real and apparent problem that may happen now or in the future.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 29, 2006)

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