POSTSCRIPT / August 19, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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What if Moro fighters bagged an armed GI?

VFA BOMB: The administration should sort out immediately the actual status of American GIs in Muslim Mindanao before one of them is shot dead while supposedly advising Filipino troops or monitoring their intelligence and combat performance.

Just one armed GI getting killed in that arena crawling with Moro fighters is enough to have the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement blow up in the face of the Arroyo administration.

With the government pouring in thousands of soldiers and Moro forces girding for a showdown in their home ground, the probability is high that a foreign soldier would trip and get caught in the crossfire.

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SELLOUT?: “Foreign soldier” is used above as a generic term referring to American, Australian or any other alien military personnel mingling with Philippine troops.

At least US servicemen are covered by the VFA despite its loose ends. But what about the other Caucasians making like GI Joes in Sulu, Basilan and other sectors of Muslim Mindanao?

God forbid, but if one GI is killed in action, how will President Gloria Arroyo — the country’s sole spokesman in foreign relations — explain it to her countrymen and to the world?

The VFA could then be taken as a sellout to the US, or that the White House had pulled the wool over our eyes, or that the President has had bad counsel.

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ALIEN PRESSURE: Malacanang cannot find justification in the fact that foreign operators are also busy on the other side. Alien advisers are reportedly doing for the Moro camp what Americans are doing for Philippine troops.

There are also reports of sophisticated weapons and other materiel being landed for the rebels. This may explain why, as if to compensate for their numerical inferiority, Moros seem to be better equipped. (Aside from being better motivated.)

The picture being conjured up is that the government has lost control of the Mindanao situation. It was lost, seemingly by default, to foreign interlopers and war merchants.

The domestic issue has been allowed to metamorphose into an international concern. So that now, foreign pressure blocs — their prejudices showing — presume to tell us how to approach our own problem.

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‘MY’ GAD: I flinch whenever I hear President Arroyo referring to the armed forces as “my” soldiers. Don’t you?

Is this her idea or was it put into her mouth by a speech-writer or media adviser? It is stilted and false and megalomaniac and hypocritical and, well, it does not ring right.

Also, in some Palace press releases and photo captions, I still encounter references to the President’s husband as “First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo.”

Why is “Atty.” being inserted? Is Mike Arroyo in dire need of a professional title to enhance his person? They can call him either First Gentleman or simply Atty., depending on how the title is to be used, but not both.

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PENSION HIKE: The Social Security System is shouting from the rooftops that it will increase by 10 percent this month the pension of retired SSS members.

This piece of supposedly good news is ho-hum stuff to me. I retired years ago after decades of contributing to the SSS fund as a media practitioner. Yet until now I haven’t seen a centavo of that blasted pension.

Apologetic friends in the SSS have promised me that they would expedite the release of my pension — the fruits of some three decades of media work — that had been held up for more than five years now. Nothing moved.

When I asked what was delaying it, they said SSS records showed that I lacked the minimum number of service years to qualify!

It turned out they could not locate my older service records, including those covering my employment with the Manila Times from 1964 until martial rule was imposed in 1972.

But why should I or any retired SSS member be penalized for the incompetence or inefficiency of SSS management?

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DELAYED BENEFITS: This reminds me of my late father who worked with the then Manila Railroad Co. He was waiting for his retirement benefits from the Government Service Insurance System so he could schedule his operation for kidney stones.

The release of his claim took so long that by the time he got his retirement benefits his kidney condition was already in an advanced stage of deterioration.

The delay was a variation of the same story: The MRR (forerunner of the PNR or the Philippine National Railways) was not remitting his and the company’s contributions to the GSIS.

I was then too young to grasp what was going on. When I look back now, I feel bitter about my father’s untimely death.

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YOUNG DRIVERS: Some friends are complaining of a new policy of the Land Transportation Office penalizing drivers who had submitted a wrong date of birth the first time they applied for a driver’s license.

The minimum age requirements are: 16 years old for a student permit; 17 years old for a non-professional license; and 18 years old for a professional license.

Those who were actually underage when they first got their license and try to correct the error or fraud upon renewal are suspended for one year as penalty. After suspension, the driver is made to start with a student permit.

Complainants are saying that this would not have happened if the LTO was careful or strict with first-time applicants.

But then, if the applicant had made false claims or submitted fake or fraudulent documents pertaining to his age, the LTO has reason to impose a penalty.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 19, 2007)

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