POSTSCRIPT / September 26, 1999 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Dignity for Estrada’s officials or the people?

DIGNITY is not conferred on a person by his riding a luxury vehicle, lalo na if he does not own it and if taxes have not even been paid on it. Dignity is not put on in the first place, as if one were waxing a dilapidated jeepney.

The dignity of a Cabinet official even suffers when he is caught appropriating for his personal use a vehicle of another person who is unable to use it himself simply because he has not been able to pay the proper taxes.

We’re glad that President Estrada declared that his reason for giving his Cabinet members impounded luxury vehicles for their personal use was to boost their dignity. Let’s join the President in focusing on the word “dignity.”

* * *

ARE the President and his apologists trying to give the impression that he is that concerned about the dignity of the human person?

Well, Erap Estrada should park incognito along any major street in his native San Juan during rush hours. He should see for himself how workers and students cling to jeepneys overloaded to breaking point. Through the heavy pollution, he should see spent workers crammed into buses like Jews being packed off to the gas chambers. He should see how the scenario degenerates when it rains.

Will President Estrada please tell us afterwards if there is dignity in the way the common commuter scrambles for public transportation? Is he concerned at all about the poor tao’s dignity?

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BUT it’s all right. After decades of being subjugated by the ruling class, we have gotten used to third rate essential services. We have gotten conditioned to seeing officials (public servants kuno) leading a grand life that their masters, the people, can only dream of.

Since President Estrada insists on perpetuating this anomaly of the servant elevating himself high above his master, we think he should at least be consistent and stop mouthing that line about “Erap para sa mahirap.” It’s more like “Erap ay pahirap.”

* * *

BUT Mr. Estrada insists that his Cabinet officials need the luxury vehicles. He sounds like he owes it to them. Somebody should remind the President that there is a big difference in the situation of Cabinet officials and ordinary commuters.

Cabinet officials knew what they were getting into. They knew the demands of the office, their salaries and allowances, and, in the case of some of them, how much grease money could be coaxed from the office.

They knew all that and were in a position to decide whether to join or not to join. They did not need that government post. Joining the Cabinet was/is supposed to be at a great personal sacrifice. The Cabinet is not intended to be a milking cow – except probably to those with criminal minds.

On the other hand, the average worker accepted his low-paying job not out of choice, but out of necessity. It was most likely the only job available at the time. If it does not pay much, or if the employer cheats him of his legal wage, he usually has no choice.

If only for this, the President should look after the dignity of the ordinary worker or commuter before adding to the already bloated perks of his Cabinet officials.

* * *

THE President and his boys cannot justify their use of impounded luxury vehicles by pointing accusing fingers on officials before them who had committed the same crime.

We’ve zeroed in on this lame excuse in an earlier Postscript, pointing out that previous violations of a law do not make present or future violations excusable.

If once upon a time, former President Ramos, for example, had used or authorized the use of luxury vehicles impounded by Customs, that does not disqualify him from criticizing Mr. Estrada on the same issue.

If a former president committed the same mistake, this would even make of him an expert witness of sorts. He knows from experience the evil consequences of this wrong official act. We should listen to him.

If we insist that “he who is without sin cast the first stone,” all criminals would go scot-free. If we gag all sinners, there would be a sepulchral silence all over this benighted nation.

* * *

NOW we know that STAR readers don’t just read the paper. They are alert, well-informed and ready to wade into a discussion that catches their interest.

This was confirmed to us when we fielded conflicting views on the question of when the next millennium would start. We asked “Will somebody please clear the confusion?” We were swamped with arguments back and forth from readers.

We started with the suggestion that the next millennium will begin on Jan. 1, 2001, not on Jan. 1, 2000, as generally assumed. While some readers agreed, there were many more – such as early writers Commodore Carlos L. Agustin and Dr. Rodolfo F. Florentino — who said we were wrong.

Although we began to wobble in our position, we insisted that 2000 was part of the outgoing millennium and that 2001 was the start of the third. This prodded more readers to join the debate.

Majority of Postscript readers still believe that the third millennium starts in 2000, at the first tick of the clock after midnight of Dec. 31, 1999. The majority had many interesting and, we have to concede, convincing argument that this is so.

I am inclined to now agree with them that the next millennium starts Jan. 1, 2000.

* * *

HERE’S a condensed sampling of some of the letters on the new millennium:

Eugene Torre: “Isn’t it that a split second into January 2000 is officially the beginning of the 21st Century? If year 2000 is still part of the 2nd millennium, then isn’t it only proper to label next year still the 20th Century?

Dr. Joselito B. Bringas of Bangued, Abra: To make things clearer, the question we should ask is when do we start counting? Meaning is there a year such as 0000? Or more precisely was there a Jan.1, 0000? Or was the beginning really Jan.1, 0001? If the start of the first millenium is 0000, then the second millenium should start at 1000 and the third at 2000, and so on. However, if we start at 0001, it follows that the next millennium starts in 1001 and the next in 2001, and so on.

(John Cyril Almalbis of Angela Village, Las Piñas City, said substantially the same thing.)

Ian D. Harrison of Pasay City: You were going so very well (10 out of 10 ) with your straight line analogy, but, alas, with the statement “In the same way that 1000 is the last year of the first millennium…,” you seem to have unwittingly assumed as true the very thing that you are trying to demonstrate as true.

The essential logic is contained in two statements earlier in your straight line analogy: (1) The part marked 0-1 is the first inch… and (2)…and not with the next 10 inches that start with the 10-11 part.

The deduction from the first statement is that the mark 1 represents the end of the first inch. Similarly then, the mark 2000 would represent the end of the two thousandth inch. Using year marks in place of inch marks, the year mark 1 (that is, midnight between Dec. 31, 0000, and Jan. 1, 0001) would represent the end of the first year.

Similarly, the year mark 2000 (midnight between Dec. 31, 1999, and Jan. 1, 2000) would represent the end of the two thousandth year. And there you have it.

Abelardo Manalac: If both Commodore Agustin and Dr. Florentino and you can agree on which year to designate as the first year of the first millenium (FYFM), then the confusion is easily cleared up, because this is really the root of the problem. Is the FYFM Year 0000 (Jan.1, 0001, to Dec.31, 0000) or is it Year 0001(Jan.1, 0001 to Dec.31, 0001)? If you all agree that it is the former, then the two gentlemen are correct. If it is the latter, then you are right.

Dan Dalida: Just like the civilized world has accepted officially that February has 28 days except on a leap year, the civilized world also accepts the fact that officially, year 1999 is part of the 20th Century and so are the years that start with the two digit of 19 except 1900. Therefore, 2000 is the official end (point) of the 20th Century as the number 2000 itself signifies, and not 1999. In line with this official acceptance, it is valid to accept that 2000 cannot be a part of the 21st Century simply because as an end point, the first two digits of year 2000 are not 21.

Mark D of What do you mean by “our chronological age is some fraction of time, but certainly not zero”? Why do you disagree that our age at birth is zero? With regard to “starting your second year of life,” I agree with your opinion. The explanation of Dr. Florentino is quite simple to understand. The other explanations are quite confusing, though not all. In counting the first millennium, do we include zero? How about when counting, should zero be included? Do you consider zero a number?

Peary Y. Aleonar Jr. from the office of Rep. Ernesto F. Herrera: When we’re talking 2000 or 2001, actually, we’re talking Anno Domini. That’s where and why the count’s supposed to have started, right? So, was Domini born Dec. 25 (granted), Anno 0 or Anno 1? Make the ruling from there.

Bobby Baines of It’s amusing how an issue can bring up different views. If you look at it, all your senders were correct with regard to their reasoning on the year 2000. It is a matter of perspective. Maybe it can be cleared up when the point of reference is established. When you compare it to birthdays, then your reference is “at the end” of the year. So if you’re celebrating the 2000th year, then it will be correct to say that it’s also the beginning of the new millennium. On the other hand, as in your view, your reference is “at the start” of the year and throughout.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 26, 1999)

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