POSTSCRIPT / September 14, 2010 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Dengue victims dying while gov’t awaits data

ACTION NEEDED: Many of us would like to see decisive government action in stemming the spread of dengue fever. I am not comforted by press releases of the Department of Health that the incidence nationwide will soon taper off.

I am alarmed by the swelling figures, now nearing 70,000 cases since January, or almost double that of the same period last year. The death toll has passed the 500 mark, compared to 369 last year.

With the neglect of public health, we cannot be sure that the next dengue victim will not be a member of our family. All we hear are DoH guidelines on how to avoid dengue, but blah-blah is not enough.

Dengue victims and their families — President Aquino’s “bosses” — are asking, “Where is the government? Has it gone again to an emerald resto?”

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LOW PRIORITY: Doctor friends say that many victims in government hospitals now share beds in the wards (and contaminate one another?) and that some patients await treatment lying in the crowded corridors.

As if this were not bad enough, medical personnel complain that Malacanang has cut down drastically the budget of public hospitals, except for two medical centers for soldiers.

Relatives of dengue sufferers complain of the difficulty in buying blood platelets for intravenous intervention. In desperation, many patients resort to drinking boiled tawa-tawaherbal concoctions. Some wear magical “anti-dengue” bracelets!

Aside from the unsettling statistics, the most alarming sign is – as in the Aug. 23 hostage fiasco — the apparent absence of systematic government action in preventing the spread of the mosquito-borne disease.

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WAITING FOR WHAT?: Still, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said there was no need to declare a state of calamity based on statistics the government has been receiving.

Based on partial DoH reports last week, Cagayan has 566 cases, followed by Nueva Vizcaya at 479. In densely populated Quezon City, the number of cases is rising fast.

But Coloma said there is not enough statistical basis yet to declare a national calamity, and that they were awaiting more data.

Why wait? Dengue victims do not need a declaration of a calamity. All they need is prompt and effective treatment and government preemptive response to the spreading dengue threat.

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GO TO COURT: What is Sen. Frank Drilon, chair of the finance committee, trying to do – aside from squeezing publicity from his inquiry into earnings of officials in government-owned and controlled corporations and government financial institution?

Instead of shaming and ruining the reputation of people with the use of inaccurate data, Drilon should just file the proper criminal complaints — if he has found any basis at all.

If he wants to amend the pertinent laws and rules, he can write the Commission on Audit for data, and then ask, also in writing, all accountable bureaucrats, for their reaction.

This may not give Drilon the publicity he seeks, but it is faster, fairer, more formal, and not liable to fly off the hook.

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CUNANAN CASE: Take as an example the case of former Social Security System Chair Thelmo Y. Cunanan’s availing himself of the stock options offered by Philex to the members of its board (who include SSS representatives).

Let me pass you on to Christine O. Cunanan, Thelmo’s daughter, for a straight explanation:

“The figures released by Drilon in a (recent) Senate hearing were not accurate. Over the past three years, former SSS Chair Thelmo Cunanan availed himself of the stock option offered by Philex to the 11 members of its board of directors (of which he was one, representing SSS and duly elected by Philex’s stockholders).

“He exercised his option to purchase over three years a total of 4.5 million shares, paying for them with his own funds, through a loan from HSBC, at market prices varying from P1.09 per stock up to P3.08 per stock.

“Out of these shares, he sold through his stockbroker 1.2 million shares in several transactions over a three-year period: Shares sold in 2007 — 365,000 shares; sold in December 2009 — 895,700 shares.

“The selling prices in 2007 varied from P8.3 to P10.75, and from P15.50 to P15.75 per share in 2009. Total value of these sale transactions was about P17.6 million. If the cost of buying these 1.2 million shares, which is about P2.3 million, is subtracted, we see that Cunanan ended up with P15.3-million earnings, NOT P66.6 million:

“* Payment by TYC for sold 1.2 million shares via an HSBC loan — P2.3 million.

“* Value of sale of 1.2 million shares when sold over a four-year period — P 17.6 million.

“* Pre-tax net value received by TYC over four years — P 15.3 million.

“The confusion of the Drilon committee arose from its erroneous assumption that Cunanan sold his 4.5 million shares and then turned around and immediately sold them at the prevailing market price of P19.50 per share then. This was not the case.

“As shown above, he sold only 1.2 million shares and at much lower prices than P19.50 per. He has kept the other 3.3 million shares to bequeath to his children, but as shares come and go, their prices fluctuate. This is a gamble all stockholders make. Today Philex price per share is only P9.20.

“There’s also the issue of whether Cunanan should have offered the purchase of these shares to the firm he represents, the SSS. But Article 8 of the Philex Corp. Stock Option Plan states that these stock options are “non-transferrable” and “no rights may be transferred, sold, exchanged, pledged, disposed of or otherwise hypothecated or encumbered by a Participant or any beneficiary thereof.”

“If he did not avail of them, the SSS could not have availed of them either, because of this non-transferrable provision.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 14, 2010)

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