POSTSCRIPT / March 5, 2006 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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6 of 10 respondents say GMA did the right thing

PREMATURE: As expected, two Senate committees that looked into the alleged misuse of millions in fertilizer funds of the agriculture department implicated President Gloria Arroyo in the mess and judged her as “culpable.”

That is stretching the concept of command responsibility a bit too far. How can the Senate committee on food and agriculture and the Blue Ribbon committee explain this quantum leap in legal logic in their combined report?

The hearings were careening to this conclusion since December, two months after the investigation started. Members were recklessly issuing premature announcements that the primary witness, former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, could be guilty on account of his inability to testify.

They tagged Bolante as the “chief architect” of the “scam,” a double conclusion not yet warranted at that stage. I have no sympathies for this elusive ball, but I think the Senate should have suspended judgment until it heard from him.

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LONG JUMP: After all, Bolante is not to appear as an accused since a Senate committee is not a court of justice but a legislative body crafting legislation. Like other witnesses, he is supposed to be a resource person being asked to help the Senate.

There may have been overpricing and ghost deliveries under the DA’s Farm Inputs and Implements program. And, for all we know, Bolante could be guilty as the panels would have us believe.

But even with that, how can senators make that loooong jump to a judgment that President Arroyo is “culpable” just because she is at the top of the Executive totem pole?

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GOOD MOVE: Many of us members of the Social Security System are happy that SSS President Cora dela Paz was elected chairman of the Equitable-PCI Bank. We are assured that the system’s investment in the bank, amounting to nearly 29 percent of equity, is protected.

The bank — especially its managers, clients and depositors — should be also happy that somebody with rich experience and a steady hand in finance and accountancy chairs EPCIB.

Part of Dela Paz’s credentials is her having served as chair of a top accountancy firm, Joaquin Cunanan & Co./Pricewaterhouse Coopers Phils. She is an internationally recognized expert in International Accounting Standards.

The bank can look forward to a more stable and less contentious board since the government block she heads is the lead group. In tandem with the SSS is the Government Service Insurance System, whose nearly 14 percent share added to that of the SSS makes a hefty 43 percent.

The earlier election of Martin Romualdez as transition chairman for just 90 days arose from a consensus that the bank cannot move on with a chairman propped up by shares that are subject of a sequestration case by the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

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SURVEY RESULTS: I have not completed processing the flood of responses to my survey asking POSTSCRIPT readers what they thought was the reason for President Gloria Arroyo’s issuing Proclamation 1017 declaring a state of national emergency.

But based on more than half of the responses received until yesterday morning, the conclusion is firming up that six out of every 10 respondents did not agree with my proffered reasons. Choosing “None of the Above” (NOTA), they gave their own reasons.

To recall, the question I asked was: “Why did President Arroyo issue Proclamation 1017? Choose the right answer:

“1. A paranoid President Arroyo just overreacted to the destabilization.

“2. The administration was laying the basis or testing the waters for a more sinister scenario in its calibrated response to threats.

“3. It was scaring targeted sectors into behaving.

“4. All of the above. (ATA)

“5. None of the above. (NOTA) There is another reason [Please mention]”

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LIMITATIONS: Many respondents failed to indicate their age, sex and location, so I had a hard time analyzing what percentage were male or female, what age bracket they belonged to, and from what country they were sending their responses.

Some others did not type PROCLAMATION 1017 on the Subject field of their email, as I suggested, so their materials were not automatically channeled to the dedicated folder that I have created. I had to scour my inbox to ferret out the stray responses.

A few respondents embarked immediately on discussing the reasons for the proclamation, forgetting in the process to choose the reason from the list offered. In some cases, I had to email back to ask for clarification. That was time-consuming!

At this point, I must clarify that I make no claims that the survey is scientific. Far from it! Ako mismo, I am saying that the responses do not represent the opinion of a fair cross-section of the adult population.

Note that only POSTSCRIPT readers could participate in the survey. And they are of the type who has access to a computer and the Internet. Surely, that segment is not the average Filipino.

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SAMPLING: Here are some of the early responses:

Raul Ramirez, San Pedro, Laguna. Reason #1. President Arroyo overreacted. Considering the lying and cheating issues were not properly heard of and closed during the aborted impeachment proceedings by the subservient House, the same resulted in serious doubts on the legitimacy of the incumbent government. The “cover-ups” were done for the self-preservation of the GMA regime. She became a “transactional” leader without any moral ascendancy to govern.

Dalton Espino Crobes, Saudi Arabia: NOTA. The proclamation is a solomonic decision at that particular time. Philippines laws are so slow and have no teeth. So GMA and her team were right to use what we call golpe de gulat! What chaos we would have now if the plotters succeeded.

Roberto Artadi, yahoo: NOTA. Proclamation 1017 was issued to prevent the unholy alliance of leftists, rightists, putchists, pure whites and self righteous groups from making use of the 20th anniversary celebration of Edsa-1 to overthrow the duly constituted government and have their self-appointed junta take over government power without the benefit election.

Cesar M. de los Reyes, globelines: NOTA. The coup threats were real. GMA was correct to make the proclamation to show that she is in control. The destabilizers were stopped in their tracks. It would have been worse had the marine contingent been allowed to withdraw support in public view.

Angela Irene S. de Guia, Angeles University Foundation: Reason #1. A paranoid President Arroyo overreacted. The protest rally on Edsa last Feb. 24 could have been the greatest threat to the Arroyo administration. Her reaction showed how prepared she was, but this also showed she is threatened by the same force that installed her in Malacanang.

Armando Marquez Bangsal, emaar.ae: ATA. President Arroyo will cling to the presidency at all costs.

Rex Robles, Saudi Arabia : Reason #2. The administration was laying the basis or testing the waters for a more sinister scenario in its calibrated response to threats. If the President didn’t issue Proc 1017 and the military adventurists succeeded, what do you think those politicians, militants, civil society groups would do? Maybe until now there would be chaos and infighting among rebel and loyal soldiers, stocks and peso are down.

Nathaniel Amores, Ontario, Canada: NOTA. Only the President knows the real reason. Whatever would that be, let history be the judge. If Lee Kwan Yew disciplined Singapore and Queen Elizabeth I put girdle on the wayward Brits, let’s hope GMA can pull a miracle for our country. Otherwise, let’s pray we survive!

Lejaren Rose M. dela Cruz, Angeles University Foundation: Reason #3. She was scaring targeted sectors into behaving. With her calibrated moves and smart advisers, the President may have instigated all that destabilization. Maybe she did it to remain President, more so for her political and self interests.

Michael G. Rayel, soardime.com: Reasons: Because of irresponsible media; real coup threat from both the right and the left; and political opportunists who want to grab power — Cory (lost Hacienda Luisita), Guingona (can’t become President), Hyatt 10 (disgruntled group that misread the signs of the times), the opposition with no viable alternative (a group of people who lost in the latest election but can’t accept the result), but with grandiose delusions that only they can save the Republic.

Archie Bryant C. Sangalang, Angeles City: The President proclaimed a national emergency as a self-defense against the threats the administration was experiencing from the opposition. The country has to strengthen its capabilities to promote security.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 5, 2006)

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