POSTSCRIPT / January 3, 1999 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Lighten your burden; toss out your garbage

HAPPY New Year! If you have not thrown out the garbage of the old year, if you have not cleared the cobwebs of your old self, do so before you do anything else. It is difficult, if not impossible, to move on with that extra burden.

But this is easier said than done. Those who have tried cleaning out an old cabinet full of memories and dear little items know what we mean.

Clearing the cabinet of your life could be much more difficult as it may mean digging into the past, lingering awhile over some details, disturbing old wounds, and disrupting the lives of some people close to us.

Some people think they are solving overpowering personal problems by eliminating themselves. Afraid to face the situation and look for solutions, they kill themselves. That’s an escape, not a solution.

Others weighed down by a heavy domestic burden uproot themselves and start anew in another country.

But running away like this may not always work—because it’s like trying to outrun your shadow. The gnawing problem lurks within us, may in fact have taken possession of us, and no amount of traveling or emigrating will provide an escape or a solution.

* * *

SO if, like many of us, you’re stuck where you are — and you want a fresh start with the new year, we think the better alternative is to face the problem squarely.

The prospects of grappling with the problem may intimidate you. That’s normal.

What you can do is close your eyes, surrender to the Lord, pray and proceed to dump everything into the garbage bin. And forget about what you’ve just dumped into the past.

Your drastic action may bring you some unpleasant consequences or put you in confrontational situations with other people. Again, that’s normal.

Regardless of the flak you may encounter, stick to your decision of dumping everything. Don’t look back. Look ahead and move on steadily.

* * *

THE resolve of President Estrada to make good his inauguration promises on poverty, crime and the cleansing of government—will come to naught if the resolution does not filter to his associates and subordinates and down through the bureaucracy.

There is a widespread attitude in high echelons of government, including some people close to Mr. Estrada, that their being in power is transitory but may just end anytime.

As a result, we see some of them in a mad rush to make money. Not just peanut money, but big bucks.

How will President Estrada arrest this dangerous drift? Can he rein in the predatory instincts of some of his men?

* * *

AT this point, it is most appropriate to remind ourselves and our government officials of Section 1 of Article XI (Accountability of Public Officers) of the Constitution which says:

“Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

This is not just one of those flowery lines that we hang in frames to decorate our offices. It is the bedrock of public service.

It embodies the expectations of the citizens of their officials. It is also the yardstick that we would like to use in passing judgment on the Estrada administration.

* * *

THE admonition alone that public officers “…lead modest lives” would do wonders for our country if followed in the spirit.

The greed and the corruption that we see among many officials are a consequence of their drastically altered lives and the resulting rise in their material requirements.

High on the agenda of many new officials is to acquire a new late-model car, a new mansion in an exclusive village, a new wardrobe, a big pile in the bank and a mistress or two.

Instead of continuing to lead modest lives, public officials shift to high gear upon assumption to office and allow themselves to be driven by avarice.

Will President Estrada move to bring back morally in public office? Is he occupying high enough a moral ground to be able to enforce the admonition to lead simple lives?

If he cannot lead by example, he is doomed. His administration is doomed. This country is doomed.

* * *

A NEW official whose businesses and properties had been sold or mortgaged to raise campaign money will have to hustle and recoup the millions that he dad spent—and amass profits several times over during his term.

Another candidate who had a winning form but not enough money had to tap moneyed supporters whom he will later have to pay back in terms of juicy contracts and special treatment.

These officials got into that situation because our election laws are not conducive to the running of simple, inexpensive campaigns.

You expect such officials to remain honest?

* * *

A TOP official is so vulnerable when it comes to women that he gets ensnared so easily and so often.

One problem is that his legitimate income is not enough to maintain all his women. Taking advantage of his predicament, some associates help him keep all the ladies and his children by them well provided for.

These moneybags will have to recover their expenses somehow. In fact, they are likely to keep their patron forever dependent on them so they can perpetuate their lucrative hold on him.

How did this official get into this mess? He has not been leading a modest life as the Constitution dictates.

* * *

WAY back in June, right after President Estrada announced that he would cut pork out of the national budget, we wrote that he would not keep that promise. Yet he kept repeating that promise.

We said that as it is not all black and white in the world of politics, it would be naïve to expect the President to insist, much less succeed, in scrapping pork barrel altogether.

What was more reasonable to expect, we said, was a compromise, in the spirit of moving the country forward with the cooperation of Congress. Besides, whether executive or legislative, most of our officials have the same appetite.

We pointed out that Mr. Estrada was then hot on the subject as he was still fired up by his spectacular “landscape” victory. Expect him to cool a bit later, we said, adding that the Palace conniving with Congress would just rename park barrel.

Sure enough, the old Countrywide Development Fund under which congressmen got P12 million and senators P18 million each disappeared and in its place was a P5.4-billion Rural-Urban Development Infrastructure Fund, which is nothing but the same stinking pork ready to be stolen.

* * *

WE know that renewal in the new year means forgiveness, maybe even unconditional forgiveness.

But this corner thinks that child rapist Leo Echegaray should be given the supreme penalty due him as confirmed by the Supreme Court. We think his execution by lethal injection scheduled tomorrow should proceed.

We don’t feel right that a number of sectors, including the Church, have expressed compassion for the doomed rapist, asking for commutation or outright pardon, yet not saying much for his poor victim.

Where is justice in this world if we drown in an outpouring of sympathy for a man who raped his own 10-year-old daughter, but hardly move, or even say a few words, of comfort for the girl?

Let Echegaray go and forget about our justice system.

* * *

WHERE is the $150 million that the private sector allegedly promised to produce for the holding here of the World Expo 2002?

We can’t rely on pledges, as experience has taught us in similar projects in the past that the government will be left footing the bill after the supposed pledges fail to materialize.

President Estrada was right in asking that the money be placed in escrow before the government commits its name behind the project. We have until Jan. 25 to inform the Paris-based Bureau Internationale des Expositions of our intentions.

The Japanese business group that reportedly promised to put up the money wants some concessions, including being given a big tract in the reclaimed area where they would put p a building and earn back, with profits, their investment.

Why should we give in to this quid pro quo of doubtful legality when we are not that convinced about the wisdom of hosting a World Expo that’s likely to mean huge losses? Maybe those Japanese think we’re that desperate for the Expo.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 3, 1999)

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