POSTSCRIPT / July 26, 2007 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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SONA projects explains why GMA looked weary

SOCIETY COLUMN: Many segments of the State of the Nation Address of President Gloria Arroyo last Monday read like a Society Page column.

The 4,600-word text was peppered with names of people strung together with projects and projections. Some of those named were recognizable, but there were a number who may need a little introduction.

You would recognize those in the opening acknowledgment, such as Joe de Venecia, Manny Villar, Noli de Castro, Fidel Ramos, Reynato Puno, Sonny Belmonte, Ramon Magsaysay and Diosdado Macapagal.

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NAMES: Check how well-informed you are. Try putting a tag on each of the other persons cited by President Arroyo for some remarkable thing they must have done for her or the country:

Ananias Cuado, Demetrio Tabelon, Nelson Taladhay, Joseph Fernando, Heherson Pagulayan, Nestor Bautista, Joseph Lomibao, Arturo Marcaida, Peter Uy, Arturo Pasacas, Glenn Saludar, Nur Jaafar, Cely Carreon, Glenda Ecleo, Sim Datumanong, Au Cerilles, Rolando Yebes, Digs Dilangalen, Ros Labadlabad, Victor Yu, Evelyn Uy, Sammy Co, Boy Daku Plaza,

Edel Amante, Leo Ocampos, Aldo Parojinog, Hermie Ramiro, Bobby Dimaporo, Lawrence Cruz, Oca Moreno, Tinex Jaraula, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Migz Zubiri, Johnny Enrile, Nene Pimentel, Joben Miraflores, Jerry Trenas, Art Defensor, Neil Tupaz, Rahman Nava, Monico Puentavella, George Arnaiz, Mayor Hagedorn,

Ben Evardone, Lalo Matugas, Mian Mercado, Loloy Romualdo, Gwen Garcia, Nitoy Durano, Benhur Salimbangon, Lina Seachon, Tony Kho, Bong Bravo, Governor Dalog, Telesforo Castillejos, Nani Braganza, Vic Ortega, Caloy Padilla, Bongbong Marcos, Lito Lapid, Dick Gordon, Ricky Reyes, Bong Revilla, Raffy Nantes, Warren Ambat, Danny Suarez,

Tessie Oreta, Dodong Gullas, Baldomero Olivera, Robert Buendia, Wilson Alba, Ivy Ventura, Mara Villaverde, Hester Mana Umayam, Janine Santiago, Melvin Barroa, Luigi John Suarez, Amiel Sy, Diona Aquino, Mar Roxas, Ferge Biron, Teddy Boy Locsin and Ed Angara.

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GOOD P.R.: Citing people in a positive way is good public relations. People love to hear their names. More so if their names are, by presidential mention, forever etched in a historic document.

As the TV camera focused on the lightly made-up face of President Arroyo, I could not help noticing that she had aged. What else would happen when one is surrounded by a skeptical citizenry, obstructionist opposition, overly critical media and a second-rate Cabinet?

As she trotted out figures and reported on a long list of projects she had initiated, followed-through and completed, one realizes that Gloria Arroyo has been working really hard.

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BETRAYAL?: Elsewhere, Stradec (to supposedly “crusading” taxpayers) is doing the nation a big favor by challenging in the Supreme Court the P6-billion compromise agreement between the Philippine National Construction Corp. and Radstock Securities Ltd.

The ad paid for by these “concerned” taxpayers purports to be a bugle call for civic society and well-meaning activists to join the battle between good and evil at the High Court. The goal is to make so much fuss to make the compromise deal untenable.

What dictionary are Stradec’s friends using? They seem to equate betrayal of public trust with a deal that allows PNCC to pay only a third of what the court has ruled it owes Radstock. That is a third — P6 billion of more than P17 billion — of a debt that has gone unpaid for a quarter of a century.

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UGLY ROW: Financial experts stress that settlement of PNCC’s debts is a big step toward turning around the listed firm. In fact, the PNCC is also settling its debts with the Philippine National Bank and the government.

On the other hand, Stradec is supposedly doing the country a favor if it is handed PNCC, including its core business unaffected by the compromise, for the princely sum of P1.2 billion, the equivalent of the bid it tendered six years ago in an auction deemed a failure because no offer met the government’s floor price.

My activist friends, when asked if they were joining Stradec’s crusade and its taxpayer pals, started laughing.

They pointed out that Stradec is a company that has hogged headlines because of an ugly ownership squabble that saw charges of financial mismanagement flying all over.

Stradec has been involved in other cases, concerning other firms, for the same or similar problem. It also surfaced in the stock exchange case of one long-dormant stock ( Pacifica) suddenly showing signs of life in what is now being probed by the Securities and Exchange Commission as a possible insider-trading deal.

* * *

PLASTICS KING: Stradec’s court case is curious. It is reportedly being pushed by “plastics king” William Gatchalian. His link to Stradec is via the failed public bidding, where he was part of a consortium as a partner of a Korean firm.

Gatchalian has also been in the news lately involving protests by Department of Public Works and Highways officials who are dismayed at the possible delay of the Iloilo flood control project.

One of Gatchalian’s listed firms (Philippine Estates) had 10 hectares used for the Iloilo project. Late last year, the DPWH approved the provisional payment of P180 million for the land.

That means P18 million per hectare, a figure that is ringing alarm bells among good governance advocates.

* * *

OUTRAGEOUS: That is not all. Gatchalian’s firm has also filed with an Iloilo court a pleading asking P2 billion for the 10 hectares!

That translates to P200 million per hectare. The figure has real estate moguls falling off their seats, because it would mean a value far higher than the going rate today for top-end prime developments in Metro Manila.

Indeed, the Iloilo deal is so outrageous, according to many observers, that activists are girding to troop to Congress calling for an investigation into the affair.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 26, 2007)

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