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POSTSCRIPT / April 18, 2000 / Tuesday
 
Governor set to corner P2.5-B tobacco fund?
By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

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YOU still want one of those ! protest stickers? Reader jowell with a pacific.net address asks about them and the flash-in-the-pan ! Silent Protest movement.

“Where can I get one of them ! stickers ? Do they have a website?” jowell asks. And POSTSCRIPT answers:

I used to have some of those stickers, given me by Linggoy Alcuaz, but I gave them away. I’ll see if I can still get some for you. Even if you do not stick them on your windshield or bumper, they can be good bookmarks.

News editor Nonnie Pelayo of Today reported that some defense reporters noted that the stickers fade after being exposed to sun and rain. That’s hearsay, but I admonished Linggoy that the stickers might be substandard and that somebody must have made money.

Linggoy said that since they did not have enough funds, they could not get the best quality materials. Nonnie said they must be good if they are 3M. But if they fade or the color runs without provocation, they must be only 2M or even 1M, not 3M, I remarked.

If people overhear us talking like this at Annabel’s and did not know us, they might think all this banter is for real.

That !Silent Majority movement was fun while it lasted. It started as a joke and we were dying with laughter when a major daily took it seriously. (Anything against Erap that paper takes seriously.)

Linggoy, who is not exactly a model of physical fitness, had a hard time waking up real early to read that paper to find out what he was supposed to have said the day before to keep the story on the front page.

It got so stressful that at one point, he said, he asked that paper’s woman editor for the script for one whole week so he could at least have some lead time and a little sleep before radio and TV crews pounced on him.

By that time, we had upgraded Linggoy from No. 13 to No. 3 in the supposed list of supposed 3D (Destabilization, Detcetera, Detcetera) artists in media. That 3D caper was another gas out.

The media handlers of Erap must have been running out of gimmicks to justify their bulging intelligence warchest so they bit that 3D gag thrown their way. Even Erap was game enough to comment on it like it were for real. Okay talaga si Boss Erap!

No, I don’t think Linggoy has a website. But he has a parking site at Annabel’s on Morato St., QC. There, you can see him and the rest of the troupe every Thursday morning trading Erap jokes and market testing one of those hilarious loose (bowel) movements so loved by gullible tabloidy broadsheets.

* * *

TO those who want to see and ask Linggoy for stickers but are not sure who he is in the Annabel’s crowd, here are some clues:

He is the flabby (short for flabbergasted) one who talks endlessly and has at least four cellphones tucked under his belt to prevent his pants from slipping down.

He usually sits at the long table with both seats beside him empty. You see, many of the boys do not want now to be photographed with him after word got around that a panicky Press Undersecretary Ike Gutierrez listed Linggoy’s media friends and had the intelligence tail and background-check them.

When Erap finally vacates Malacañang in 2004, Ike could make a living writing detective whodunits. As a friend, we’re willing to help edit them. But meantime, he has to invite us for coffee first.

* * *

WE nearly forgot. Tomorrow is the birthday of Erap. Happy birthday, Mr. President!

Do not believe the black line that it will be a one-week marathon affair because the celebrator has to show up in several places like he was making a penitential “visita iglesia.”

In the spirit of Lent and the Christian virtue of charity — plus taking the cue from a forgiving Senate Majority Leader Kit Tatad — we sincerely wish Erap all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Not only on his birthday tomorrow, but on all days he is called upon to make a decision.

We have been taught that all the man has to do is ask humbly for these gifts and they would be his. Lalo na siguro if this is preceded by a firm, honest resolve to do good.

* * *

JUST a small detail that we’re sure Erap is not even aware of.

Remember the Pabahay sa Kinabukasan that presidential crony and Bingo mogul Dante Tan built last year in Tanay as a birthday gift to the President?

This consisted of used cargo containers that were converted into good-looking dwellings, clustered in a model site and given to homeless families.

Since Tan was in a hurry to complete the lagging project in time for last year’s April 19 birthday of the President, he got topnotch contractors who immediately went to work round the clock.

It has been one long year, and some of the contractors are crying on our shoulders that Tan has not paid them. What’s this? Year-oldregalo sa Presidente hindi pa bayad? By bingo, nakakahiya!

* * *

IN Ilocandia, tobacco farmers are also waiting to be paid their fair and legal share of a P2.5-billion fund raised from the taxes collected on Virginia tobacco produced in the region.

For the past seven years, the money has been distributed under a formula laid down under RA 7171 — 30 percent to the provincial governments, 40 percent to the municipal governments, and 30 percent to the congressional districts.

The tobacco fund as apportioned under this formula is regularly included in the budget law. The sharing formula is also embodied in the Tax Reform Act of 1997.

With the coming 2001 local elections, however, an Ilocano governor close to President Estrada tried cornering the money by working out the issuance of Memorandum Circular 41 diverting the fund releases only to the governors.

* * *

THE planned hijack of the tobacco fund naturally raised a big howl among Ilocano farmers, echoing all the way to the halls of Congress.

Rep. Grace G. Singson of the 2nd district of Ilocos Sur (the biggest producer of Viginia leaf in the North), recently delivered a privilege speech on the scheme, saying that tobacco farmers need the money now since destructive rains devastated their crops last year and this year.

The lady solon said it was unfair to the farmers for the Department of Budget Management to withhold the funds despite her already getting a release order from President Estrada. She accused Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno of giving the farmers the run-around.

* * *

REP. Sergio Apostol warned that releasing the money only to the governors would be illegal since RA 7171 which lays down the legal 30-40-30 sharing, cannot be brushed aside by a mere memorandum of the President or the caprice of the budget secretary.

Although the law already provides for the proper sharing, Diokno exercises unusual veto power by deciding – under the pretext of looking after the budget — which entity gets what amount and when.

Singson said her being with the opposition Lakas-NUCD may have something to do with the withholding of the funds for farmers in her district. She deplored the political use of the tobacco fund that the law intends to benefit farmers without partisan considerations.

She said she knows that President Estrada sincerely wants to help the farmers, but that someone close to Malacañang wants to change the setup under RA 7171 and has been misinforming the President to get what he wants.

The machination to corner the P2.5-billion tobacco fund, the lady solon said, is preventing its being used immediately. Not a centavo has been released for almost a year now.

* * *

FELIPE B. Miranda, President of Pulse Asia, will present in a media-academia briefing this morning in UP Diliman, Quezon City, the summary findings from the polling group’s Ulat ng Bayan survey conducted last month.

The survey ran nationwide from March 15 to March 29 and interviewed 1,200 respondents using a multi-stage probability sampling design.

The survey probed public perceptions, opinions and sentiments relating to: Material conditions, and quality of life of people; the public’s urgent personal and national concerns; performance ratings of government officials and institutions, with emphasis on the President and his administration; public safety, constitutional change, oil price increases, the proposed oil exchange, and showbiz personalities as public officials.

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PERSONAL Postscript: This restless journalist wants to learn how to produce, launch and manage killer websites. Is there a good course/workshop around? We have an exciting project in mind and want to gear up for it. In preparation, we have completed a course in HTML and, ehem, have related expertise. We can produce routine webpages, but we want to create something really pamatay! Suggestions will be appreciated.

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