POSTSCRIPT / November 16, 1999 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Chinese dragon breathes down on poor Filipinos!

WE look pathetic being scolded by China for our navy ship that has run aground in the Scarborough area. The big red dragon is breathing fire on us, telling us to remove that ship or else….

Our ambassador in Beijing was summoned by the Chinese foreign ministry and told to tow away that World War II-vintage heap of scrap iron called BRP Benguet out of the Scarborough shoal.

Right in our home ground, a sweating Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon was profuse in his apologies and assurances that we would remove that crippled vessels before Beijing does something drastic.

Not content with our government’s frantic assurance, the Chinese lady ambassador in Manila demanded that Siazon put this down in writing!

* * *

WE have to suffer this humiliation despite the fact that Scarborough is within the 200-km exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and has been a traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen. It is much closer to us than to China.

We want to rally, even with eyes shut, around President Estrada, the sole spokesman of the country in foreign relations. If only he would stand up and tell us what we should do in the face of the belligerent bellowings of the Chinese dragon.

* * *

THE Day of Prayer decreed and led last Saturday by President Estrada and which was shunned by the Catholic hierarchy gives us the ridiculous spectacle of Pharisees building a cordon sanitaire around their (actually our) God.

Put simply, by boycotting the mass prayer, the bishops were trying to tell the flock that (1) Erap Estrada is so big a sinner he does not qualify, like them, to lead the people in supplication, and that (2) it is useless to join Erap in prayer since God anyway will not listen to him and those with him.

It’s really ridiculous. Are the good bishops saying that no one goes to the Father except through them?

* * *

STILL on prayer, read this item culled from the network of Pinoy55, a UP-based international brotherhood:

When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe on those who call evil good,” but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We confess that:

We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.

We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.

We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will.

I ask it in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out in protest during the prayer. In six short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Reverend Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively. The church is now receiving international requests for copies of the prayer from many countries.

With the Lord’s help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and wholeheartedly become our desire so that we again can be called one nation under God, says the Pinoy55 message sent by Jorge B. E. Navarra.

* * *

IN mass communication, there is that element we call “static.” A longer word for it is “interference.” A much simpler term is “noise.”

In journalism, when we send and receive messages, we sometimes encounter noise, we experience interference from outside trying to block, distort or otherwise frustrate the transfer of an idea. That’s static.

In the hands of a skillful and resourceful operator, static can be a knotty problem to the journalist or an entire newspaper industry performing its day-to-day tasks of informing, inspiring and moving people.

The irony is that sometimes the government itself, which is supposed to support and use existing communication infrastructure, is trying to foul up regular mass communication of private media by launching static.

* * *

STATIC could take the form of outright disinformation. Or a barrage of collateral points meant to confuse the issues or discredit the messengers. There could be a deluge of irrelevant stories meant to swamp the unwanted information.

Another ruse is to launch a massive and sustained delivery of other big stories to divert attention from the story lines being carried by the legitimate media. This will explain why some significant stories are prematurely edged out of the front pages by new big stories.

In a milieu where the audience is not sufficiently enlightened (educated), people are easily distracted from the real issues. This is one of the reasons why the media should devote a major part of their time and resources to educating – and not just entertaining – the public.

One thing going for legitimate media is that there are gut issues, such as those having to do with the stomach, that are hard to crowd out of the public consciousness.

* * *

IT is in this context, we think, that we should regard the Crisis Committee formed by President Estrada to salvage his plunging public acceptance rating.

The committee is a well-funded mechanism for anticipating unfavorable media stories and public issues and moving to blunt their negative effects on the presidency. One such device it is expected to use is static.

This is actually an undeclared media war. A sporting gesture from media is to take this as a challenge and not a threat. After all, all is fair… If media can retail or even invent or distort stories, why can’t Malacañang?

If it is any satisfaction to the needling press, at least now we see that President Estrada has been sufficiently disturbed to realize the need for a team to handle what is admittedly a communication crisis.

* * *

LIKE police officers gingerly reminding suspects of their rights before they utter a harsh word or lay a finger on them, a wizened editor has suggested over beer at the press club that reporters also give warnings to their subjects.

The media riot act could run something like this:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.”

* * *

POSTSCRIPT once ran an item about somebody who died after drinking caned soda. Cause of death: A deadly virus in the dried droppings of rats on the can. Here’s a similar item:

A stock clerk was sent to clean up a storeroom at their Miami location. When he got back, he was complaining that the storeroom was really filthy, and that he had noticed dried mouse or rat droppings in some areas.

A couple of days later, he started feeling like he was coming down with stomach flu, complaining about achy joints, headache and nausea. He went to bed and never really got up.

Within two days he was very ill and weak. His blood sugar count was down to 66 and his face and eyeballs were yellow. He was rushed to the hospital, where they said he was suffering from massive organ failure!

The doctor, in ER, transferred him to a bigger hospital and notified all his relatives as he didn’t had long to live. In ICU, a team of doctors was trying desperately to stabilize him. They said that even if by some miracle he pulled through, that he would need a new liver, kidneys, pancreas and bladder.

He died shortly before midnight.

None of us would have ever made the connection between his job and his death, but the doctors specifically asked if he had been in a warehouse or exposed to dried rat or mouse droppings at any time.

They said there is virus (much like the Hanta virus) that lives in mouse droppings. Once dried, these droppings are like dust, and can easily be inhaled or ingested if a person is not careful to wash his hands and face thoroughly, or wear protective gear.

An autopsy was conducted to verify the doctors’ suspicions and tissue samples examined. It was deadly rat droppings, indeed, that got him!

* * *

BE extremely careful to always rinse off the tops of canned sodas or foods, and wipe off pasta packaging, cereal boxes, etc. Almost everything you buy in a supermarket was stored in a warehouse at one time or another, and the stores themselves often have rodents.

Whenever you buy any canned soft drink, make sure you wash the top with running water and soap, or if not available, drink with a straw. The top could be encrusted with dried rat’s urine that could be toxic and lethal!

This incident happened in the States, but it is no less relevant to us.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 16, 1999)

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