POSTSCRIPT / June 11, 2009 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Flu cases underlisted, but still top in region

SELF-CURE: The Department of Health reports that the number of Influenza A(H1N1) cases in the country has climbed to 77, the highest in Southeast Asia.

Those are just the cases monitored by health authorities. In this country where people often resort to self-help within their modest means, we assume that many more flu cases have remained unreported.

Many sick people afraid of the high cost of treatment and medicines do not bother to report their health problems to the authorities. Bahala na lang.

To flush out the rest of flu victims, the government should ask patients to step forward, assuring their families that the government will foot the bill for anybody taken to a medical/health clinic or to any hospital.

(What ever happened to the law sponsored by Sen. Mar Roxas meant to bring in cheaper medicines through parallel importation and the generic copying of medical formulations whose copyrights are about to expire?)

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TOP SECRET: Press Secretary Cerge Remonde assures the people that his boss President Gloria Arroyo would not declare martial law, a move that her critics say she might resort to in a desperate attempt to remain in power beyond her term.

How would Cerge know? No offense meant, but I doubt if President Arroyo would confide to minor players in case such a dark plan, indeed, has been lurking in her mind.

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POLITICO’S STINK: The multi-sector rallies yesterday against Charter change are the foreshocks of a bigger tremor building up in reaction to the moves of allies of President Arroyo to tamper with the Constitution to protect/promote their interests.

The President and her boys better read the signs well, or pay very dearly for any error in judgment.

It was galling to see politicians — especially presidential aspirants — who had invited themselves to the rallies. They rode on the wave of opposition to the moves to rewrite the Constitution through a Senate-less constituent assembly.

Organizers should be careful not to dilute the purity of their intentions by allowing the stink of politicians to rend the air.

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FAILURE OF ELECTION: The usual words of caution — We should be wide awake when joining rallies and street marches. If the administration’s critics can organize protest actions, it has as much capability, even more so.

Depending on the political winds blowing during the election period next year, it could happen that after a substantial compliance with the constitutional requirement for holding elections, there could be a violent turn of events leading to, well, some unrest.

God forbid, but if events lead to widespread confusion, never mind if most of it is contrived, there could just be declared a Failure of Election.

If marches and counter marches materialize in the streets, with the nation twisting in the winds of anarchy, where do we position ourselves in the confusion?

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PRE-NEED WOES: There are many things that planholders and beneficiaries of pre-need plans have to be thankful for with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But actually, the corporate regulator — touted as the champion of the victims — has contributed to the woes of planholders. Both the distressed firms and beneficiaries have been victims of wishy-washy SEC policies.

Sample: Unable to cope with huge losses amid growing public distrust on pre-need plans, one company made public its predicament and its readiness to settle its obligations early.

The mainly family-owned firm said its trust fund was eaten by the global meltdown. Because it could not build up fast its fund to cover claims, it invited planholders to accept a non-conventional payment formula.

At the same time, it advised the industry regulator, the SEC, of the option.

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FORMULA OFFERED: Through its Non-Traditional Securities and Instruments Department, the SEC wrote the company last March 31:

“We have again received complaints from your planholders after our 18 March 2009 meeting informing us that the alternative settlement option (60 percent by way of dacion en pago and 40 percent cash in cash) being offered to them is of such tenor that it is the only mode of settlement being implemented by your office.

“…Any settlement changing the terms and conditions of the original plan contract cannot be implemented unless it is with the knowledge and consent of the planholder.”

The firm said that among those who demanded early payment, 96 percent agreed to the settlement scheme, giving it space to meet the demands considering the limited trust funds available.

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LICENSE FROZEN: While claims were being processed and negotiations continued with planholders for them to accept the alternative formula, the SEC suspended on April 20 the firm’s license. At that time, the firm had already voluntarily stopped selling plans.

Curiously, the suspension order came after SEC officials were dressed down by senators then investigating the Legacy group scandal.

The firm said the SEC order complicated the situation and induced panic among planholders.

On May 6, the SEC directed trustee banks of the troubled firm to first seek clearance from it before paying claims. This froze the trust funds, putting on hold all claims and demands for settlement by planholders.

The SEC action was reportedly prompted by “strong suggestions” made during another Senate hearing.

To protect its clients and the trust fund, the firm went to court to seek approval of a rehabilitation plan involving a staggered payment scheme. This delay has inconvenienced planholders.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 11, 2009)

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