MANILA INT'L AIRPORT REMAINS ON TERROR ALERT

ILOILO CITY, January 2, 2004 (STAR) The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said yesterday they will maintain a full security alert at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) against terrorist who may take advantage of the holidays.

In an interview, MIAA General Manager Edgardo Manda said they increased their security from the normal 6,000 personnel in three shifts to about 10,000 men, composed of the Airport Police Department (APD) personnel, private security and the Philippine National Policeís Aviation Security Group (ASG).

Manda said that the increase of passengers coming in and out of the airport terminal, both international and domestic, has given the security personnel a more difficult time to secure the areas.

Earlier, the Philippine government received a US advisory warning them of possible terrorist attacks on American soil using cargo or passenger aircraft similar to the 9/11 attacks.

Manda advised travelers to be at the airport terminals at least three hours before their scheduled flights because of the strict security procedures and checks.

At the NAIA Terminal 1, NAIA Centennial Terminal 2, and the Manila Domestic Airport, ASG and private security men inspect all belongings and conduct body checks on all persons entering the terminals.

Manda had been meeting with MIAA officials and managers even during the holidays to ensure all security measures are followed. ó Sandy Araneta

COLUMN: JOSE RIZAL ON THE PRESIDENTABLES By Wilson Lee Flores The Philippine STAR 12/28/2003

Afew days before the 107th anniversary of the dramatic execution of a young writer and medical doctor by the Spanish colonial regime in Bagumbayan, Manila, we received a mysterious call on the cell phone from a man claiming to be JR and who was very disappointed about the tragic-comic state of affairs of the nation which he supposedly envisioned as altogether different. He complained that Philippine society has not changed, that the new colonial overlords often oppressing the people are Filipino politicians who are as corrupt, inept and decadent as the former Spanish colonial masters.

He even claimed that the fictional characters in his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo novels have come to life in our nation today.

Here are excerpts of our interview with the agitated young man.

THE Philippine Star: Since itís the holidays, let us talk about the Metro Manila Film Festival. Would you be watching any Filipino films, and which do you think are the most exciting of these nine films in competition?

JR: Sorry, Iím not much into all these showbiz stuff. I think thatís the problem with your Philippine society nowadays, everyone is so fixated on all these showbiz celebrities Ė from politicians desperate to win elections to consumer companies wanting to sell their products and services. What is worse is your dangerous penchant for voting too many unqualified and unfit showbiz personalities into public office. Itís partly your fault Ė you people in media Ė you keep highlighting all these personalities, their immoralities and scandals. When I see all these celebrities and their confused lives, I am reminded of the frivolous and morally decadent DoŮa Victorina in my novel.

Are you angry that Fernando Poe Jr. is running for president, that actor Bong Revilla is running for the Senate, that Vilma Santos is rumored to be running for Batangas governor or for reelection as Lipa City Mayor among many other actors?

No, no, no. Do not misquote me. Iím not against or for FPJ, I think we have to judge him in the next few months based on his platform of government, his economic policies. They claim he was a good business manager of his film company, that he could unite the deeply divided Filipino nation. I will wait and see before making any choices but I am not biased against him in any way and neither am I for him. One thing is sure, I do not care who becomes president in 2004, but I think his wife Susan Roces would make a great first lady! If she were a bit younger, I would want her to play the role of Maria Clara for a movie project. Vilma Santos is not the same as other showbiz politicians, she seems to have had an impressive record in governance, better than some of your traditional politicians and maybe even better as politician than her husband, the good senator.

Andres Bonifacio was once an actor in traditional Filipino plays, I think in zarzuelas or other folk drama of our era, even the late President Diosdado Macapagal. I am not anti-showbiz, just because I am a medical doctor and writer.

Any advice for FPJ?

First of all, if he wants to become president, he should learn not to wear dark sunglasses indoors. Itís not becoming of a national leader to do that. Second, even if you cannot be an ally of Senator Ping Lacson, at least follow his strict rule of discipline in the Philippine National Police (PNP) Ė do not grow a huge belly beyond 32 incles, like his best friend Erapís big belly. Maintain your daily exercises. A fit person makes a fit president. Third, maintain your clean public image of integrity and watch out for the many rotten politicians now circling you like hungry vultures. They say that birds of the same feather flock together, so do not be too close to corrupt and discredited politicians who cannot win as president but might be dreaming of manipulating him. Donít forget the mistakes of the good Crisostomo Ibarra in my novel Ė he was so trusting that evil people eliminated him. I heard FPJ promise that he will listen to only 10 percent of what these politicians will advice, but the problem sometimes is on this 10 percent Ė10 percent here, 10 percent there, 10 percent cut here and 10 percent share there (laughs).

Since you mentioned Crisostomo Ibarra, with which characters in your novels would you compare possible vice presidentiables Loren Legarda, Gringo Honasan and Miriam Defensor Santiago?

Are you implying that if FPJ is like Ibarra, then Senator Loren Legarda is like Maria Clara because of her mestiza good looks? I disagree. Loren seems more feisty and less gullible than both Ibarra and Maria Clara combined. My advice to her is to be closer to the masses and feel their pulse. I advice her to act more natural and relaxed even in public or on TV.

Senator Gringo Honasan reminds me of the angry Elias in my novel, while it is unfair for political enemies to compare Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago with Sisa. She actually reminds me more of Gabriela Silang, the real-life Ilocano freedom fighter.

What are your thoughts on President Gloria Arroyo pledging on December 30 last year that she would not to run for president in May 2004 as her supreme self-sacrifice inspired by your martyrdom, and then her subsequent change of mind?

Sorry, I will make no comment on partisan politics. GMA may have reasons for changing her mind. I will follow what ex-President Cory C. Aquino told you. I will also not endorse any presidential candidate. However, give President GMA a break this Christmas. Donít always be too cynical and harshly critical of everything she does. True, she lacks charisma and is guilty of being too political, but letís not be hypocrites Ė who among her rivals are not too political as well? Even FPJ might become very political when he gets the hang of it. Since I am an optimist on the Philippine future, I will still give GMA the benefit of the doubt because she is extremely hardworking and determined. She is a strong woman, look at the way she has survived all the bric bats, kitchen sinks and political bombshells thrown at her, yet she is still undefeated, undeterred and smiling. I just hope that she will apply her obstinate determination to win the May 2004 election on the countryís battle to win against massive poverty, lawlessness and social instability.

Any advice for GMA?

I hope I will not see her dancing that silly dance of otso-otso on the campaign trail, just to look and feel showbiz for the masses. I heard if she does the otso-otso, FPJ will do the Spaghetti dance! Please have mercy for the Philippines! We may be poor, but at least we still have some dignity left! I did not die for my country in order for the rest of the world to laugh at our kind of democracy, with leaders who lower the dignity of public office in order to get more votes. I think she should focus on her strengths, and not try acting like another person that she is not.

For the sake the countryís future, she should revamp her official family and weed out a lot of the inefficient bureaucrats and political animals who drag down her popularity and efficiency. Even the controversial President Marcos knew how to use the best brains and administrators to man his regime, men of integrity and managerial expertise like Rafael Salas, Bong Tanco, Cesar Virata and others. She should keep people like Lito Camacho and rid her government of the political animals. She should have more Cito Lorenzos and other people with management expertise, not propagandists and recycled controversial officials.

What about reports that Christian evangelist Brother Eddie Villanueva of Jesus is Lord (JIL) movement will this year proclaim his presidential bid on December 30 in historic Malolos, Bulacan?

Brother Eddie has dramatic timing for his proclamation, on the day of my martyrdom. Does he consider running for president self-sacrifice or martyrdom (laughs). Throughout my life, I had clashes with the religious leaders because I am for separation of church and state. My advice to this idealistic and eloquent Brother Eddie Villanueva is to reach out beyond his core constituency in his political campaign. I heard he is a very good man, that he was a former communist youth leader who became a religious leader of social idealism. I donít know Brother Eddie well enough to assess him, but my unsolicited advice to him is this Ė read my Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo novels.

Any advice for Raul Roco?

I heard this guy Raul Roco is a poet, an intellectual and a good lawyer. He reminds me of the intellectual Pilosopong Tasio in my novel, but he is bigger lang in physique. My advice is for him to become more daring, to be a risk-taker, to make his campaign more exciting. His strong criticism of government will define his leadership and his public image as a possible reformer. I am very happy to see that at least, Roco is not degrading the presidency by doing an otso-otso or a Spaghetti dance.

Any comments on the campaign of Senator Ping Lacson?

Senator Ping Lacson strikes me as a very resolute man of strong character. He is very driven, and that is good for leadership. You know why GMA hates him so much? Itís because both of them are so exactly alike in determination Ė so resolute, undeterred by political black propaganda and the most vicious attacks. However, former US President Jimmy Carter recently told Larry King in CNN that one of the most important talents of a politician is good timing, and Carter said that Senator Hillary Clinton seems to know that 2004 is not perfect timing for her to run for President or Vice-President. I know Senator Ping Lacson might get mad at me, but I recommend that he reconcile with FPJ and go back to the Senate for now.

Maybe he can serve as Secretary of Interior in the future or Secretary of National Defense, or even as Senate President if the opposition wins.

Who is the Quiroga of Philippine society today?

Maybe Lucio Tan, since both of them are very smart and economically influential. Donít get me wrong, I did not depict Quiroga as a bad person, thatís just the way he is because he was not really liked by the Spanish political, military and religious leaders, but he had to survive that negative environment. They didnít like him, but they needed him like their Santa Claus because he was very efficient and practical. There had been speculations that I patterned Quiroga after the 19th century Chinese taipans Don Carlos Palanca Tan Quien Sien or Don Mariano Velasco Chua Chengco, but we writers create fictional characters based on our fertile imaginations.

Any advice to ex-presidential daughter Kris Aquino?

You know, I think I might have met one of her Cojuangco ancestors during my trips to Central Luzon in the 19th century. Kris Aquino is as much a mystery or puzzle to me as modern-day Philippine society is.

There are just so many shocking surprises. She is a nice, beautiful girl with good genes and her dad Ninoy Aquino was brilliant. I recommend that she goes back to school for perhaps Public Administration at UP or even at Harvard to get away from married guys in showbiz who court her. Additional education will also prepare her for her political ambitions. Before, I had written about and praised the brave and virtuous women of Malolos. I hope that Kris Aquino will realize that as a popular public figure, she is a role model for the youth of our nation, that if she indulges in scandals, she will irreparably damage many youngsters nationwide who might insist on emulating her.

Any words of wisdom for Kris on her tumultuous love life?

My final piece of advice to Kris is for her to look for a single unattached guy to get married to. You know if I had not been born in a different era or married Josephine Bracken, Kris Aquino would make an ideal wife to this nationís national hero, kasi she is eloquent, beautiful and projects well on television. Ma-drama pa.

Tell Kris Aquino to settle down with a nice guy, not with married guys with a questionable past! I saw the movie Mano Po 2: My Home and she looked very good as the bride of Christopher de Leon, why couldnít she be like that in real life and let the rest of us in the Philippines live happily ever after?

* * * Thanks very much for your messages to wilson_lee_flores@hotmail.com or wilson_lee_flores@newyork.com or wilon_lee_flores@yahoo.com or PO Box 14277, Ortigas Center, Pasig City


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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