BOO CHANCO: HERE WE GO AGAIN

MANILA, August 18, 2003 (STAR)  DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco  - No wonder this country is crippled. We keep shooting ourselves in the foot. That court decision to suspend BSP Governor Paeng Buenaventura definitely reinforces our already tattered image not just to investors but to the world. Once again the judiciary has caused serious further damage that sets us back some more.

But donít blame MalacaŮang for this one. I heard that the foreign PR consultant they hired in connection with the recent state visit of Ate Glo to the United States precisely advised the President to make more use of Paeng in foreign business roadshow presentations precisely because he is credible. The consultants did their survey of the target markets for Philippine investment missions and Paeng came out strongly as the one public official they would listen to from the Philippines.

Locally, Paeng is also the most credible of governmentís economic managers. Paeng and the Bangko Sentral have consistently topped surveys that measure confidence in various government agencies. When some politicians tried to make Paeng a scapegoat in the money laundering debates, Paeng came out more credible than them.

Other than the damage to our business climate, the other repercussion of that court ruling is the damage to the credibility of the Bangko Sentral as an effective regulator of the local financial sector. It is bad enough that the Banco Filipino case is hounding even the family of the late Central Bank Governor Jobo Fernandez, now this Urban Bank thing.

From what I know of the case, I still believe that Paeng did what he had to do in Urban Bank. It was a tough call but he had a duty to perform. It is also terrible that career BSP officials are being treated unfairly in this case. Now BSP officials will be afraid to do anything until a bank crisis is obvious and by that time, a lot of damage would have been done. It is not healthy to have a BSP that is largely a paper tiger.

I know Paeng would love to retire soonest. But this is no way to cap an illustrious career. What happened to Paeng will also discourage decent professionals from accepting such an assignment in the future. This would leave us to the tender mercies of people whose intentions would be less than noble.

Paeng does not deserve this. Neither does the country.

Cruel medium

Live television coverage of the Oakwood mutiny investigations has caused serious damage to the mutineers, the government and the investigators. Television is not a new medium, but it seems people in the limelight who should know better donít know how to use it to advantage.

As I said in an earlier column, television is a warm medium. You canít be abusive, you canít lose your temper, you canít grandstand. Those who appear on the screen are effectively guests in peopleís living rooms or even bedrooms. You can be emotional to a point but you must always be polite.

This is why the mutineers, notably LTSG Antonio Trillanes, that heartthrob of a young Navy officer, are fast losing their appeal. They were too hot during the Senate inquiry. At one point ANC had to bleep some of Trillanesís words when he angrily reacted to the line of questioning of Sen. Noli de Castro. He was too angry. I thought his head would explode.

Yet, I didnít think Sen. Noli was out of line. There was nothing wrong for Sen. Noli to ask how come the vehicles were in the name of the navy officer when the vehicles were supposed to be the business of the officerís mother. Thatís a legitimate question and the senator did not insinuate he stole money from government or anything like that. The navy officer was too defensive.

In fact, I think Sen. Noli was one of the most prepared of the senators. His questions were short and based on documentary evidence he has gathered. He did not deliver lectures like some of the other senators. Sen. Noli also did his homework, as if he were preparing for an episode of his ĎMagandang Gabi, Bayan.í

It was just as well that the mutineers failed to attend the hearing the next day before the Feliciano Commission. They have to review their performance. They have to be less abrasive. Their performance at the Senate scared some people about the state of their mental health. How could they be trusted with guns and other weapons if they are as angry as they came across on the television screen?

Here is one e-mail I received from a concerned reader.

I spent part of the morning and this afternoon listening to the televised coup hearings. It has been a chilling experience. These officers showed themselves to be gullible, egoistic, illogical, incoherent, wildly out of touch with reality, histrionic almost to the point of hysteria. In short, LUNATICS!

If I had a subordinate displaying these characteristics, I would be extremely alarmed, and send him off for professional therapy. Until this hearing I didnít fully realize why some people have been proposing that entrants to the PMA undergo neuro-psychiatric examination. One officer said that he was in Mindanao for eight years Ė way too long; there is such as thing as combat fatigue.

There must be something wrong also with the way PMA molds the thought processes of its students. If they had succeeded in their coup, I shudder to think what might have happened; maybe we would be another Liberia.

Blackout

That massive blackout in the Northeast United States is not surprising. Remember I wrote in this column about the danger of such a thing happening when I was vacationing at Washington DC last June. Even then, power industry officials raised the warning that the power transmission system feeding into New York and the Northeast region have long needed not just expansion but more important, upgrades to meet reliability standards.

"We are a major superpower with a third-world electrical grid," Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico told The New York Times. He served as energy secretary in the Clinton administration. "Our grid is antiquated. It needs serious modernization." At least in our case, we have a good excuse for the inadequacy of our grid. We are third world.

We should take a lesson from what happened to the American Northeast. We are dependent on a transmission system that needs to be expanded and modernized. Government does not have the financial resources to do that, which is why they are trying to privatize Transco. They, notably Congress, should move quickly on that if we want to avoid serious problems down the line.

Remember that most of the major power plants are now out of Metro Manila. We may have excess generation capacity now but unless we have the right facilities to transmit, sayang lang lahat yan.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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