POSTSCRIPT / June 30, 2013 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Ballsy just a victim in Czech extort tale?

WOBBLY TALE: On the face of it, I do not believe the black propaganda that presidential eldest sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz had tried extorting a bribe from a Czech company interested in a contract to supply coaches for a Metro Manila light rail line.

To me, having known this prim and proper daughter of Ninoy and Cory Aquino, it would be out of character for her to demand a bribe from a would-be contractor and thereby ruin the name that the family had nurtured all their lives.

In the second place the story that was planted in the media, attributed to unknown sources, is so lacking in details that would give it the ring of truth.

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TRAVELING TROUPE: The general line of the rumor is that two years ago Ballsy and her husband Eldon Cruz traveled with some friends to Prague, where the Philippine ambassador happened to be the friend of another brother-in-law (not Eldon) of President Noynoy Aquino.

Then and there, the rumor goes, the group talked with Inekon Tram, a Czech firm, allegedly to assure its getting the supply contract if it paid the visitors from Manila certain bribes, including advances running to as much as $20 million!

Those peddling the story added that the Czech ambassador in Manila, Josef Rychtar, is about to drop a bomb by giving details of the supposed extortion attempt. (He would do this country a favor by talking officially and publicly about the alleged extortion.–fdp)

The group is reported to have included Pete Prado, a former official of the Department of Transportation and Communications during the term of President Cory Aquino, and engineer Steve Psinakis, a son-in-law of the late Eugenio Lopez Sr.

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SMART OPERATOR: Members of the First Family should be careful with whom they are seen and under what circumstances, especially when business deals are likely to be discussed.

Costly mixups happen even to us newsmen. Some smart operator invites us to a trip or dinner or an outing with the boys. Unknown to us, he had been talking to somebody, the host, about a deal that he had been led to believe needed media support.

Since we are normally polite despite our sometimes rough projection, we manage to smile and be nice to the host — which demeanor could be interpreted to mean that the goods (which the operator had pocketed) had been delivered.

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A HUNCH: This point about being careful with whom one is seen also applies most especially to judges and justices.

I have friends who had joined the Supreme Court, for instance, who have had to live almost the life of a recluse, curtailing their social life, turning down requests to stand as sponsor for a wedding, etc., just to avoid having their socializing throw irrelevant color to their decisions.

In the administration of justice, perception is just as important as the trial and the decision.

In this alleged Inekon deal, assuming there was an intention or an attempt to extort from the Czechs, some smart operator could have used unsuspecting members of the travelling group. Just a hunch.

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CHINA BULLYING: In the face of brazen violations by China of our territorial integrity, this worried Filipino agrees with the plan to give the United States, Japan and other allies access to bases in the country.

Without a credible navy to defend our seas, we have been forced to watch helplessly every time China grabs islets, shoals and fishing grounds, sometimes as close as 120 nautical miles from our shoreline.

A Palace spokesman said the plan — which coincides with the United States “pivot” to Asia shifting 60 percent of American naval might from the Atlantic to the Pacific — has yet to be approved by President Aquino.

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WHAT’S ACCESS?: We urge the Commander-in-Chief, in consultation with the Senate, to flash the green light after (1) the term “access” is defined, and (2) we ascertain the strategic plans of our allies as they affect us.

The constitutional ban on foreign military bases will not be much of a legal problem. Under the plan, as discussed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, no foreign bases will be created or given to foreign armed forces.

We have long found a way around the prohibition. Under then President Ferdinand Marcos, all military installations were converted into Philippine bases, with the Philippine flag flying over them and a Filipino commander running them.

If any foreign military contingent were allowed use of a section of a base, that part was called a facility. Neat solution.

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JOINT EXERCISE: This time the main consideration for allowing “access” to the foreign personnel is not commercial or economic but security. We need them to bolster our deterrent and defense capabilities.

Other details, such as criminal jurisdiction, can be discussed and ironed out within an agreed timetable even while foreign personnel are operating from Philippine bases.

Even now, for instance, without having to be held back by criminal jurisdiction issues, the Philippines is holding a joint naval exercise with the US in areas close to the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal off Zambales that China has occupied.

While the exercise will not push the joint presence to a confrontational situation in the vicinity, it helps send the message that the Philippines is not exactly lame and alone.

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PINOY’55 WINNERS: We congratulate and send our warmest fraternal greetings to our Pinoy’55 brods who have won seats in the May elections!

The brods honored them yesterday in a testimonial lunch at the Avalon Tower in Cebu City. They are: Rep. Florencio “Boy” Flores’65 (Bukidnon, 2nd Dist.); Gov. Eduardo “Ed” Firmalo’67 (Romblon); Gov. Hilario “Junjun” Davide III’81 (Cebu); Board Member Peter John D. Calderon’78 (Sangguniang Panlalawigan, 2nd Dist., Cebu); and Vice Mayor Emerito D. “Tito” Calderon’80 (Samboan, Cebu). Gov. Davide will take his oath at noon today.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 30, 2013)

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