POSTSCRIPT / November 4, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Press Freedom mural at NPC resto violated

ALTERED ART: An artists’ group is complaining that the 8-ft x 32-ft mural that the National Press Club commissioned it to paint on the history of press freedom in the Philippines had been violated while at the club premises in Intramuros.

After the mural was unveiled last Oct. 26, the members of the “Neo-Angono Artists Collective” discovered that their work of art had been “hideously edited” without their knowledge.

They expressed “outrage, revulsion and protest” against what they said was “the total lack of respect of the NPC for the integrity of the commissioned artwork, as shown by the slipshod alterations they caused in several parts of the mural.”

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MURAL EDITED: The alterations allegedly done on the mural included:

1.The erasure of a big portion of the newspaper held by the central figure, containing the statement of the International Federation of Journalists regarding the perceived effects of the anti-terror law on press freedom, and its replacement by a bird-monster in a cage.

2. The alteration of the headline of the newspaper that Jose Rizal is holding from “Press Freedom Fighter’s Son Abducted” to “Press Freedom Fight Is On.”

3. The change of the tattoo on Andres Bonifacio’s left arm from the alibata “K” to a red heart pierced by an arrow.

4. The erasure of the name of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines from the banners of rallyists, and the alteration of some media figures on the mural.

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CENSORSHIP: The neo-Angono artists said they believed that despite the NPC’s disavowal of responsibility, the alterations were made with the club’s authority and consent.

“We rail against these modifications not only because of the slipshod work and poor artistry but more so because of the censorship that is clearly at work here,” the artists’ group said.

It added: “Isn’t it ironic that an institution such as the NPC would cause the censorship of a work that they themselves commissioned purportedly to promote press freedom? Isn’t the freedom of expression of the artist bound up with the very press freedom that they supposedly uphold?”

Those who want to see the original mural can visit the website www.neo-angono.com. They can then compare it with the tampered version at the “Headline” restaurant at the NPC building in Intramuros.

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WORLD MEDIA: At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to focus during the World Communications Day in May 2008 on “the media at the service of truth.”

The Pope chose as theme “The Media: At the Crossroads Between Activism and Service. Seeking the Truth in Order to Share It With Others” for the 42nd World Day, to be celebrated in most countries on May 4, the Sunday before Pentecost.

Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said: “The theme chosen by the Holy Father calls on us to reflect on the role played by the media and especially the increasing risk of their becoming self-absorbed and no longer tools at the service of truth.”

The Pope’s message for World Communications Day is traditionally published in conjunction with the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers.

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EMAIL SERVICE: We in media receive an overload of letters asking for help on a variety of problems. But these problems are usually beyond our expertise or competence to solve.

It is then a relief to know that the Government Service Insurance System has created an email service attending to inquiries and complaints of its 1.5 million members and pensioners.

Members can ask about their records, loan applications, benefits, et cetera, by emailing crmd@gsis.gov.ph. Pensioners can inquire about their monthly checks and related matters at pension@gsis.gov.ph.

GSIS President and General Manager Winston Garcia said that emailed inquiries will be resolved in 10 working days. He said that GSIS personnel who fail to beat the 10-day deadline will be charged administratively.

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A.M.C. LIMIT: I can imagine pensioners and members of the Social Security System looking with envy on their counterparts in government.

State personnel who have served at least 15 years and are at least 60 years old can now retire without worrying about income in their old age. Garcia said GSIS stands firm on its policy of removing the ceiling on pension benefits.

The GSIS used to allow only a maximum of P14,400 in monthly pension, regardless of the length of service and the compensation of an employee qualified for pension.

The old pension ceiling, called the Average Monthly Compensation (AMC) limit, had resulted in less income for GSIS pensioners. It was based on the salary that the member received in the last 36 months before his retirement.

But with the removal of the AMC limit — a policy initiated under Garcia — pension-bound members now have the chance to get up to 90 percent of their AMC.

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BONANZA: A retiring member who has at least 15 years of service, with corresponding premiums paid, stand to receive pension equivalent to 37.5 percent of his AMC plus P700.

The amount increases by 2.5 percent for each creditable year of service in excess of 15 years with a maximum pension pegged at 90 percent of AMC — which can be reached if a member has at least 36 years of creditable service.

Thus, a retiring employee who has an AMC of P25,000 and 36 years of creditable service would be entitled to a monthly pension of P22,500. What’s more, Garcia said, the benefits of retirees are tax-free.

There will be cases where pensioners getting 90 percent of their average salary may be earning more in retirement than when they were still employed, because they receive their pension without deductions.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 4, 2007)

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