POSTSCRIPT / January 10, 2013 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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U-turning bullets used in Quezon shootout?

NOONG ARAW: Stopping the misuse of government vehicles goes beyond banning their use of “wang-wang,” the sirens and such devices that are turned on to sort of part the Red Sea traffic so the VIP ensconced in air-conditioned comfort can pass ordinary mortals unimpeded.

Too often, to the point of irritation, we still see red-plated official vehicles being used by Ma’am for shopping, ferrying the kids to school, picnicking in resorts, or waiting for Sir relaxing in a glitzy night club or a darkened massage joint.

We came upon this feature of staff writer Filemon V. Tutay in the Aug. 19, 1950, issue of the Philippines Free Press, telling us how it was noong araw, before moral decay ate into the bureaucracy.

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JUST TOO MANY: Titled “Too many official cars,” Tutay’s 1950 article (shortened to fit space) provides a frame for comparison to 2012 “Daang Matuwid” days:

Some time ago, Vice President Fernando Lopez was taken to task by Rep. Cipriano Allas, of Pangasinan, for allegedly using seven government cars. Quite naturally, Lopez was stunned. He has been vociferous against graft and corruption in the government and equally vocal against extravagant spending of the people’s money, and here he was being charged with something which he has openly condemned as against public policy.

“After recovering from the shock, Lopez dictated a letter telling the Pangasinan legislator that since he became vice president, he has been assigned only one official car, a model 1946 Packard which President Quirino used when he was vice president.

“He also informed Allas that the other Lopez cars, while also bearing No. 2 plates, are his own private property and are being operated and maintained with his own personal funds. In addition the public should know that Lopez is using a privately-owned jeepster for official purposes. He pays the salary of its driver as well as its maintenance expenses.

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VEEP’S CARS: “At a recent Cabinet meeting, President Quirino directed Budget Commissioner Pio Joven to assign another official car to Lopez because when Quirino was vice president he also had a small official car besides a big Packard. Obviously, the additional car was for the use of bodyguards. But, as everybody knows, Lopez does not have bodyguards. The vice president’s aide rides with him in his only official car.

“Only two weeks ago, Lopez wrote Commissioner Joven and asked that the big and expensive Packard car assigned to him be replaced with a ‘smaller and cheaper one, like a Ford or a Chevrolet.’

“Not that Lopez does not love expensive cars. But he does not want them at the people’s expense. Among his private cars are a Lincoln Continental and a new seven-passenger De Soto, for the use of his family, and a huge Cadillac, which is reserved for the use of his guests in Iloilo.

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STAGGERING COST: “But back to the charge of Representative Allas. Undoubtedly, he was motivated by the best of intentions and Lopez complimented him for it. But, to use football parlance, Allas kicked off with the wrong foot. He should have looked around a little closely and he would have found that this government is indeed top-heavy with so-called official cars.

According to Primo Villar, chief of the Motor Vehicles Office, the government is now operating and maintaining at least 4,000 vehicles. Budget Commissioner Joven himself estimated that the government spends an average of P6,000 a year on each of these cars.

“That means that government expenditures on official cars alone amount to the staggering total of around P24,000,000 a year. And that does not include the purchase price of the vehicles.

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CUENCO BILL: “Due perhaps to our sadly depleted finances, high government officials finally awoke recently to this scandalous situation and decided to do something about it. Commissioner Joven initiated a move to limit the use of government cars to as few public officials as possible, and to sell such vehicles as are found in excess of those needed for official purposes.

“Rep. Miguel Cuenco, of the 5th district of Cebu, was quick to take the cue and last week introduced a bill ‘defining the officers who shall be entitled to use government motor vehicles or to receive an allowance in lieu thereof and providing for the sale of excess government motor vehicles.’

“In the bill’s explanatory note, Cuenco said: ‘It is of common knowledge that government cars are being used by relatives and friends of public officials in going to schools, night clubs, theaters and markets. Such cynical contempt for the principle that public property must be used only for public purpose must be stopped.

“‘To minimize, if not totally stop, this scandalous misuse of public property and the consequent drain on our national coffers, this bill which would limit the use of such cars to only the highest ranking officials of our government is being introduced. The Cabinet is empowered to determine what other officers and what government services may use government cars or to grant such officers an allowance in lieu thereof.’”

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U-TURNING?: Talking of motor vehicles, this point about the recent Quezon shootout puzzles me: If it is true that the gang’s SUV sped past a PNP-AFP checkpoint and was thus fired upon, why were the bullet holes in its front and windshield? Police and soldiers now use U-turning bullets?

Who is investigating this latest eruption of the culture of violence that is building up in this country? The police should not be investigating themselves.

Is anybody interrogating SEPARATELY and IMMEDIATELY all members of the PNP-AFP team that wiped out the gang allegedly consisting of guns-for-hire and jueteng operators?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 10, 2013)

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