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POSTSCRIPT / December 12, 2000 / Tuesday
 
Only a Spiegel retraction can clear Erap on ransom
By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

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THE expose of the German press, especially the prestigious Der Spiegel (The Mirror), that President Estrada and Secretary Robert Aventajado got 40 percent and 10 percent commissions, respectively, from ransom paid for some hostages of the Abu Sayyaf is most damaging to President Estrada.

Coming as it does in the midst of Mr. Estrada’s impeachment trial, the expose — fairly or unfairly — reinforces the impression developing around the world that we have a first-class thief for a President.

We think only a retraction by the German press of its report and/or a denial by the Abu Sayyaf can clear the President. The filing of a libel suit may discourage further negative reports on the same subject, but it will not effectively cleanse his image.

The expose based on German secret service investigation gives credence — fairly or unfairly — to talk in Manila that some high officials got some commissions from the ransom payments.

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UNTIL the time we were writing this column, prosecution witness Emma Lim in the impeachment trial of the President appears to be holding her ground under the grilling of presidential counsel Estelito Mendoza.

Not that our opinion matters, but our impression is that Lim (a staffer of Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson) is telling the truth about handling jueteng collections and delivering some money to Malacañang.

However you maul it in intense cross-examination, however you intimidate a witness, the battered truth manages to rise and be recognized.

We realize that the first few days of presentation does not show the complete picture and may make it appear that the scenario being painted by the prosecution is a haphazard misrepresentation of the truth.

That’s how it usually is when a party is still laying the basis. At that early stage, the picture will necessarily be incomplete. We’ll have to wait till the other pieces fall into place.

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THE cross-examination of Lim was punctuated by surprisingly candid responses to searching and sometimes tricky questions of Mendoza.

She was asked, for instance, if she was not afraid doing all those money errands involving millions — considering that the handling of illegal jueteng payola may involve her in a criminal activity.

The witness confessed that she was indeed fearful, but added that she had to do it since the money was intended for our President!

When it is evident that a witness is telling the truth, it is not always wise to embark on a lengthy cross-examination. This could give the witness a chance to strengthen previous testimony and even add details to information already given on direct examination.

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WE continue today the publication of more of the responses to the Postscript survey asking our readers the question: Is President Estrada leading the nation (1) Forward, (2) Backward, (3) Sideward, (4) Upward or (5) Downward? or (6) NOTA, or None Of The Above? The respondents were asked to give a very brief explanation.

We froze the tally Saturday night, although more responses kept coming. At that time, the results showed 4 percent saying that President Estrada is leading the country forward; 52 percent that he is leading us backward or downward; and 43 percent that he is not leading at all.

Sorry, but for lack of space, the many others who also responded to our survey could no longer be accommodated.

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LEO Renier, Silang, Cavite: Downward. Erap would never have passed for a managerial job in any corporation. And we expect him to manage a government? Others are using the poor guy for their benefit, because he is naive to think that it is a matter of being the superman who defeats all his enemies at the end of the movie. In a global economy, the world can no longer afford this type of head of state.

Milagros H. Villadarez, grepa: NOTA. Mr. Estrada is not leading us, period! The people are confused and the nation is divided because of him.

Ernie Uson, Manama, Bahrain: President Estrada is leading the nation backward. Just take bingo, lotto and jai-alai shown everyday for the past two years on “people’s” television. It’s obvious bingo; lotto, jai-alai and Bingo 2-Ball are what Erap wants for the future generation of Filipinos.

Noriel S. Javier, Okinawa: Leaders should lead from the front. Erap is leading us backwards. How can he have time to lead while he’s busy with his personal interests, not the nation’s?

(Name withheld on request), Ligao, Albay: Downward. My father was a jueteng operator before martial law. He was also a “sabungero” and my mother to this day still plays mahjong everyday. A brother (who is a department head in a big hotel) is addicted to lotto, so I know whereof I speak that gambling erodes the values of people. My brother considering that he is gainfully employed — is always in debt. He is still renting an apartment and has to run to creditors during enrolment time. Luckily out of 13 siblings only two are gamblers — both having financial difficulties despite gainful employment as well as having problems with their children. Estrada has institutionalized gambling.

Joselitov L. Esmeralda, Makati: I’d say backward, because of the inconsistencies of the government, especially the President himself.

Vicente J. A. Rosales, Mandaluyong: NOTA. Because there is no sense of direction. If we move at all, it is, at best, in circles or, more accurately, erratically — as in Brownian movement in physics.

LOUPASETES, using cs address: Erap pulling (as opposed to leading) the whole country in a downward and backward spiral. The Philippines has been the classic case of an economic intensive care unit patient that continues to be ravaged by incompetent, corrupt and immoral president.

Rnonuevo, New Jersey: Downwards and down and down. I can’t fathom why people elected him president. He’s an incorrigible liar, boozer, womanizer, gambler and irritatingly stupid. This guy has no qualification to show except being popular with the masses. And you’re expecting him to uplift our lives. Get real! Erap is the problem. He is also the solution.

Josephine V. Banaag, UP Diliman, QC: Downward. A good leader by his behavior inspires people to become better citizens. Even without the juetengate, he has shown that he doesn’t have what it takes to be president. It seems like he only wanted the title and the perks but not the responsibilities. His degenerate lifestyle and incompetence brings to the fore qualities that we must reject in our future elections.

Jojo Almin, Kawasaki, Japan: Mr. Estrada is leading our nation forward and he won’t let a day pass without doing anything to improve our economy. That’s why Erap formed an elite group of economists to do the job he is supposed to do, while he sits and relaxes having a drink, with his favorite mistress while inside his preferred mansion.

Aida Aguas, US: Erap is not leading us to anywhere. He has, on the contrary, shown that he is not a leader nor a public servant. He appears to be a follower puppet of the Chinese characters and Imelda, Danding, Velarde, the gambling lords, his mistresses. Now, he uses government funds and media to disseminate negative information about the previous administrations. How come they did not include Marcos in that “documentary”?

Dominador C. Mungcal, Paranaque: NOTA. He is leading us to be gamblers and he leads by example.

Danilo C. Gimolatan, New Jersey, US: Backwards. President Aquino brought back democracy to the people and returned the country to the rule of law. Then President Ramos came and gave us sound economic policies. Then the hero of the silver screen came who cannot even articulate a simple policy. His administration’s accomplishments are as follows: Sound policy in gambling, crony capitalism, smuggling, collection of mansions for his collection of wives. Where are we heading to? Backwards!

Sionee de Guzman, Old Balara, Quezon City: NOTA. Erap doesn’t even understand the real meaning of the word “leader,” so how can he possibly lead us anywhere? For the 2-1/2 years he has stayed as President, he spent all his time on alak, babae, sugal and corrupt practices! He’s everything that a leader is not/should not be! He’s not worth emulation by our children!

Proceso S. Carlos, Los Angeles, US: Erap is leading the country to nowhere, he is just an actor and has no knowledge as a President. Erap is not sincere or honest, he is using the masa as his shield to enrich himself and all the people who are mga sipsip. Blame the masa, akala nila mapapaganda ang buhay nila. May lupa at bahay ka, pero wala ka namang pera, paano ka mabubuhay, walang pera, walang pagkain?

Ana Olivera, Angeles City: NOTA. I don’t think that President Estrada is leading the country at all. He’s only a president on paper. I’m not even sure if he is working.

Bart Reyes, Mandaluyong: NOTA. Kupad Kapal Kakahiya. Erap misleads the nation.

Mdelpilar, Chicago: NOTA. Not only because he doesn’t know how to lead the nation, but because he is the one who is being led to nowhere by his “sly and wily” advisers, his “notable” friends and kumpare, kamag-anak and even his “presidential mistresses.” He himself is misled.

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