POSTSCRIPT / July 18, 2006 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why PLDT net growth has been painfully slow

WEE ROAM: Now I know why the net growth of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. has been sluggish, and why it has been left behind by better managed telecommunication companies.

I went to the PLDT main business center in Makati at 2 p.m. yesterday planning to have its touted We-Roam gadget installed in my IBM X-41t laptop-tablet so I can have non-stop roaming and emailing virtually from anywhere (if the ads are to be believed).

The We-Roam lady was not at her assigned lobby desk. The guard said she was there earlier, but had not returned from lunch. Can I talk instead to her backup or the supervisor? The guard said he was not sure if she had any alternate.

Another guard who overheard us volunteered the information that the lady in Window #2 also handled We-Roam business. Are you sure?, I asked. He said Yes. I lined up behind two others who were already there waiting and soon others stood behind me.

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SLOW DRAG: The pacing in the entire PLDT business center was excruciatingly slow for a company that boasts of convergence (whatever that is) and of breaknet-speed Internet connection.

When the staff took calls, they cradled handsets under their chins like we used to do in newsrooms 20 years ago. The PLDT never heard of headphones or similar gadgets nor noticed that a horde of impatient customers was waiting?

The Window #2 lady clerk took all of 30 minutes to complete a P500 transaction with a subscriber ahead of me who simply wanted a caller ID gadget for his home phone. At that turtle pace, it would take PLDT forever to earn P1 million in gross sales.

When my turn came, I told the lady I wanted We-Roam for the laptop-tablet I was carrying. She said she was not very familiar with that item and would have to call another woman on the fifth floor.

I volunteered to just go upstairs so the three people waiting behind me could move. But she insisted on calling the fifth-floor woman who tried to explain the We-Roam program to me over the phone.

(I wanted to ask why she did not sit behind a desk at the lobby instead of hiding on the fifth floor, but I ended up offering to see her upstairs so as not to tie up the line and make customers behind me wait.)

* * *

TIME WASTED: Window #2 lady then instructed me to go to another building (I think she called it Cojuangco Building) where the elevators to the fifth floor were. At the Cojuangco lobby, I was asked for my ID. I said my driver’s license was in my car parked some blocks away.

Can you not talk to me even if I have no ID, I asked the fifth floor lady on the phone when the lobby clerk called her. She said it was policy. What are you afraid of?, I asked. The guard can frisk me for a gun or bomb. It was policy, she said.

She finally said she would just come down. After another long wait, she emerged from the elevator and handed me some papers for We-Roam applicants. I wanted to just throw them away, but I could not spot a trash bin in the lobby.

I said Thank You and left. It was 3:30 p.m. and my column deadline was 6 p.m. I had wasted 90 minutes converging on PLDT.

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STOP RUNNING: There should not be any serious problem for former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, who is being held at the San Pedro immigration detention center near Los Angeles after his temporary visitor’s visa (B1-B2) was invalidated.

All he has to do is stop running away, tell the truth and face the consequences. Then, and only then, would the full impact of “The Truth Shall Set You Free” hit him like the blinding light that felled Saul on his way to Damascus.

If it is true (as President Gloria Arroyo said) that hundreds of millions in fertilizer funds administered by Bolante were not misappropriated, and if (as Bolante said) no laws or rules were violated, what is the problem?

On those assumptions, Bolante should not be afraid to step forward and make a clean breast of everything.

Of course it would be a different story and Bolante would be evasive if in fact there have been serious violations of law, or if he feels somewhat obligated to protect some important people who had inveigled him into some dubious poll operation.

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LIBERATION: If that were his sad plight, my unsolicited advice to him is: Faced with a choice between cleansing your name and covering up for some people, between serving the interest of your family and that of others, the choice is — or should be — clear.

Bolante can learn from the ordeal of former election commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcellano, who had to hide amid accusations that he had helped President Arroyo cheat in the 2004 elections.

On the run, Garci was like a rat scurrying away with every rustle in the wind. But when finally he decided to return to Manila to face his inquisitors, the critics’ circus tent collapsed.

It was the same liberating experience for former Manila congressman Mark Jimenez, who volunteered to fly back to the US and face charges that he made illegal contributions to the Democratic campaign chest of then President Bill Clinton.

Jimenez admitted his mistake, plea bargained, came off with a shorter jail term, and returned to Manila intact. The Republican hounds are no longer snapping at his heels that now have found rest.

That is the saner and less stressful route that I suggest Bolante take. He should think of himself and his family rather than of others who had simply used him. He would then discover that, indeed, the Truth shall set him free.

* * *

BAIL BOND: With many media reports on Bolante being skimpy, speculative and at times confusing, here is a comment from reader MYU88 using an aol address (I used to have his full name, but a virus has gobbled up my address book). He wrote:

“All the newspaper articles speculating on why the bond (reportedly $100,000) was so high missed this point. When Bolante arrived in the US, his visa had been cancelled by the US embassy in Manila.

“Therefore, he had no visa to enter the US. He was then placed in EXCLUSION proceedings, not removal or deportation proceedings where the burden of proof is on the alien to prove why he should be deported.

“In Bolante’s case, he has the burden of proving why he should be allowed into the US. When people are in exclusion proceedings, they are NOT normally entitled to bond. If it is given, the bond is usually very high.”

* * *

MARBLE MINE: This is some fight to watch. Bulacan Gov. Josie dela Cruz is on collision course with Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Angelo Reyes. Both are tough.

She been waging a high-profile, obviously well-funded campaign against a big mining company that has secured the rights to quarry rare tea rose marble in a mineral reservation area in Biak-na-Bato in the province.

The governor apparently wanted to pressure Reyes to rescind the quarrying rights obtained by Rosemoor Mining and Development Corp. in 2002.

She reportedly caused the erection of a billboard at the Bulacan capitol and the running of print advertisements attacking the supposed inaction of Reyes. The billboard had a countdown on the number of days that Reyes has been supposedly sitting on a decision on Biak-na-Bato.

In reaction, Reyes widened last July 12 the area of conflict to cover all other mining activities in neighboring areas, some of which are reportedly favored by the governor. He froze all mining permits in the area. Nadamay na silang lahat!

* * *

LIKE LAFAYETTE: I heard that Dela Cruz was fuming mad at Reyes’ shotgun blast, because it did not only suspend the quarrying of her avowed enemy, RMDC, but also put a stop to all quarrying being undertaken by firms that are her known allies.

The secretary started investigating reports that the governor had illegally issued small-scale mining permits, a function that the DENR secretary said was his exclusively. The firms had been reportedly raiding RMDC’s area.

In his suspension order, Reyes required RMDC to first show that it has put in place all the environmental, social, safety and health measures. This action is similar to his handling of the case of the Lafayette mining firm in Rapu-Rapu in the Bicol area.

Like Lafayette, Rosemoor has been ordered to fully comply with the terms of its permit, including the payment of all taxes and royalties, before it can resume operation.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 18, 2006)

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