Zero hour

BY THE WAY - Max V. Soliven -
Many people have been speculating over the resignation of Defense Secretary Avelino "Nonong" Cruz, who had been La Presidenta’s lawyer and served in her Cabinet for six years and nine months. He did a fine job as Defense Secretary, but he apparently decided when he outspokenly called the Palace-sponsored "People’s Initiative" a "harebrained idea," it was time to go.

Since he used the word "irrevocable" before his resignation contained in a two-sentence 22-word letter to La Gloria, there is no way GMA could have prevailed on him to stay. We praise Nonong Cruz for having put heart and soul into reforming military attitudes and upgrading the Armed Forces’ logistical perspectives. This writer and Secretary Cruz (who formally exits on November 30) agreed on one important thing: that our cash-strapped armed forces must get a budget commensurate with their difficult mission, and not have to desperately live from-hand-to-mouth on a miserly annual budget basis.

Indeed, Nonong endorsed my idea – shared, by the way, by National Security Chairman Norberto Gonzales – that a one-time P100 billion budget be someday organized for our Armed Forces to enable our poorly-armed military to modernize its weaponry and equipment (including jets and night-flying-capable helicopter gunships and fast, well-equipped naval vessels), as well as retrain, and recruit new personnel. Only in this manner could a reinvigorated, finally adequately-armed, beefed-up military be sent into the field to crush Communist and Islamic fundamentalist insurgency, and terrorism, once and for all.

With Nonong Cruz’s departure, the prospect of realizing this dream has dimmed immeasurably. Right now, even as I write, there’s already a mad scramble on the part of retired generals, prominent officials, and assorted wannabes to "apply" for the soon to be vacated post of SND, i.e. Secretary of National Defense.

The President and Commander-in-Chief must choose carefully – and judiciously. (Just look at US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and what his hubris, uncurbed tongue, tactical blunders and ego-tripping have cost the United States in terms of military disappointment and a big mess on the ground in Iraq. Donald’s boondoggles which may cause his patron President George W. Bush and the Republicans tomorrow’s Mid-term Elections).

One of the aspirants for SND who has surfaced early is a well-known Malacañang habitué. I wouldn’t mind his being a homosexual as much as his lack of integrity and his tendency to plot and conspire behind the scenes. There’s nothing worse, I think, than a gay Rasputin. Why put him in charge of all the men and women in our armed forces? Attack from the rear may be a sound military strategy, but putting this kind of character in charge of planning and reform would be simply too much.
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She has other things to worry about at this stage, but we wish La Presidenta would take time out to select a better, more secure venue for the Summit meeting involving her fellow ASEAN chiefs and heads of state than the still-being-hastily-constructed Cebu International Convention Center.

Yesterday, I wrote about the perils of placing the nine visiting leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus their dialogue partners like Japan’s newly-installed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – not counting GMA herself – under a newly-placed roof. Indeed, the way it’s going, that extravagant P800 million Convention Center (CICC) may not be completed at all in time for the ASEAN conference.

Better safe than sorry is an old adage which has stood the test of time.

Incidentally, the now being "rushed" Cebu International Convention Center is in an area of Mandaue City (not Cebu City) which is somewhat rundown and derelict. In fact, there is a squatter colony right behind the proposed CICC. Mandaue Mayor Tadeo Ouano is having the rusty rooftops of the squatters’ shanties painted green, so they won’t be too unsightly. Will he erect a fence, too, to conceal the squatters’ shacks and other unappetizing sights in the neighborhood? I don’t believe this Potempkin Village-type stratagem will be effective. The ASEAN leaders will come away with the impression that our country is on the same par as Darkest Africa.

Mandaue, in truth, has the reputation of launching ambitious projects but not completing them. For example, there’s the P500-million market. At this stage, after two years, mind you, only 20 percent of the market has been accomplished by the contractor. The work certainly has not been speedy.

Recently, the Mandaue government purchased 8,000 garbage bins at a cost of P9,600 each, only to discover later that a bigger bin is available at only P5,400 per unit. If there was an overprice of P4,200 per garbage bin, multiply this by 8,000 units and you get the fantastic "profit" for somebody of P33.6 million! Wow.

A few years ago, when a P1 billion shabu laboratory was raided in Mandaue – it was found to be just a stone’s throw away from the home of Mayor Ouano. The good mayor exclaimed that he had never known of its existence! I suppose he didn’t have 20-20 vision.

Get a venue already established in Mactan or right in Cebu City, Madam President.
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One of our dearest friends, Eduardo G. Carrascoso passed away last November 4 at the "youthful" age of 64.

Ed was always full of optimism, energy and git-up-and-go. It’s a shock that he succumbed to two successive heart attacks. For years, he was a member of our O.B. Montessori Center Board of Directors and brimmed over, constantly, with ideas.

His body lies in state at Santuario de San Jose, Greenhills and will be interred at the Santuario del Sto. Cristo Crypt where his late wife Lily was buried. No definite date has been set as yet but most probably it will be this Saturday since his other son Carlo will be arriving from the USA this Friday. He is survived by his second wife, Maria Cecilia Tirol-Carrascoco and their children (four from his first marriage and four step children).

Ed Carrascoso used to be the NAIA General Manager during the time of President Cory Aquino and after that went into private business.

Ed had just arrived with his wife last October 29 from Singapore where he underwent a medical check-up (due to kidney ailment). He was rushed to the nearest hospital, the Cardinal Santos Medical Center last October 31 when he collapsed after his usual morning exercise. He suffered another stroke in the evening that rendered him comatose until he expired last Wednesday, November 4.

The family’s longtime mayordoma, Lourdes related that there must have been a premonition of death on Ed’s part: He left a very touching letter to his wife dated October 28 thanking her for all her love and care and also thanked those he had closely worked with. This was given to her the day they arrived from Singapore. (This letter is beautifully framed and displayed at his wake, together with his miniature vintage car collection).

On the day he suffered a stroke, Ed even re-arranged the positions of their painting collection, checked on every corner of their house and enjoyed looking at the old family photos on display.

Ed, from those of us who love and revere you!

I’m sure you’re up there in Heaven, at the throne of Our Father, convulsing the saints and angels with laughter at your jokes and upbeat stories! Farewell, dear friend.

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