POSTSCRIPT / April 12, 2001 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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They now sing the ‘pasyon’ to tune of Voltes V & Anak!

HOW long will the people put up with the dilatory antics of ex-President Erap Estrada and his lawyers?

By throwing one technical obstacle after another to his speedy trial, Erap is unwittingly admitting his guilt. If he were innocent as he had claimed, he would demand that the trial start right away so he could clear himself.

But no, he tells his lawyers to search everywhere for legal loopholes that could delay the moment of truth. The guy is scared shitless and the only logical explanation is that he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

* * *

THE Supreme Court has said repeatedly in a language clear enough even for Erap to understand that it would not tolerate his trifling with the judicial process, that he better cut out the delaying tactics.

The learned justices of the Sandiganbayan cannot miss this message of the high court. They must take the cue and tell Erap and his lawyers to stop insulting the tribunal with their clumsy dilatory motions.

The Sandiganbayan must draw the line and take judicial cognizance of Erap’s oft-repeated statement that he has been waiting anxiously for his day in court, that he is ready to speedily prove his innocence.

Otherwise, let’s just endorse Erap’s crimes against the people to the Alex Boncayao Brigade…

* * *

ERAP is crying “double standard” with the Supreme Court’s refusing to entertain more motions to stall the start of his trial at the Sandiganbayan.

He is demanding, quite irrelevantly, why his case is going forward while there appears to be no progress in the prosecution of past officials linked to the PEA-Amari and the Centennial Expo scams.

Somebody should tell the groggy defendant that the Amari and the Expo cases are completely irrelevant to the prosecution of his cases. Erap should concentrate on his own defense and not waste time kibitzing on other people’s problems.

* * *

WE once used this “why me?” line of defense which seems to be a favorite of Erap lawyer Rene Saguisag.

Tagged once for allegedly speeding on the scenic Highway 280 in the US West Coast by a California Highway Patrol (CHIP) who had crept up from behind us, we asked why he was picking on us when there were others in our covey who were also running past the then 55 miles-per-hour speed limit.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get them, too,” the officer said without looking from the violation ticket he was writing.

* * *

“DON’T worry,” we’re tempted to tell the complaining Erap. “We’ll get them too.”

But honestly, we doubt seriously if the Arroyo administration would be able to prosecute the officials linked to the Amari and the Expo scandals whose stink haunted the Ramos regime.

We have to show the world that, finally, we mean business. Even prosecutors and judges are influenced by a new administration’s show of resolve. An administration’s betraying lack of interest, as it is with the PCGG, is one sure way of consigning the cases to oblivion.

It is important that the new dispensation arrest and detain the former President, if it is shown that there is probable cause in the plunder cases. The picture of a former President peering through prison bars could signal the reawakening of the Filipino.

* * *

WHILE the managers of the North Luzon Expressway were busy counting the millions exacted from motorists who dare to use the unsafe tollway, a cash-starved police force is engaged in a no-nonsense enforcement of traffic rules in Tagaytay City.

It is so easy for the Philippine National Construction Corp., NLE managers, to make the North expressway a special zone of safety and discipline because the 80-kilometer road, which is fenced on all sides, is a controlled area.

In contrast, the highway passing through Tagaytay is wide open, with side roads providing exits for wayward motorists. Yet the local police under Chief Inspector Sheldon Jacaban are able to improve safety and impose a measure of discipline by their no-nonsense enforcement.

Officials and managers of the PNCC should hang their heads in shame. Somebody again beat them to it.

* * *

IT has been shown in Camp John Hay and the Subic Free Port, which are controlled zones, that Filipino drivers can be disciplined if there is an earnest conscious effort to do so.

The North expressway fenced off from Balintawak to Mabalacat, Pampanga, is also a controlled area. It must be just as easy to convert it into what we’ve called a special Safety and Discipline Zone (SafDiz) modeled after John Hay and Subic.

With relentless day and night enforcement of traffic rules, drivers entering the North expressway could be conditioned to respect it as a zone of safety and discipline. Soon we would have drivers not only sticking to the rules, but also advising their passengers to buckle up, refrain from tossing out litter, and so on.

* * *

BY disciplining motorists, the PNCC would be contributing to their education as law-abiding citizens. This discipline, when reinforced, could spread to other aspects of responsible citizenship.

This is one of the reasons why we’re excited about making the North expressway into a SafDiz. We know it is feasible and easy to carry out. It does not require too big an outlay.

The small police team in Tagaytay was able to do it. There is no reason why the giant PNCC cannot also do it, or even improve on it, considering that the North expressway is under its control and the PNCC has the resources for making it a model SafDiz.

This Holy Week, which draws a great number and a wide variety of drivers to the highways, should have been an excellent time to launch SafDiz at the North expressway. We’ve missed that one, but we can still do it. If there’s a will.

* * *

TALKING of road safety, we suggest that local officials in Pampanga advise the platoons of flagellants carrying crosses or flogging themselves on the highway not to hog the road and block traffic.

It used to be that flagellants, the real penitents, covered their faces and preferred the lonely paths as they sought to atone for their dark past by attempting to imitate the suffering Christ through physical purging of their sinfulness.

Many flagellants in Pampanga now wear uniform crimson robes, walk their calvary in peer-groups, do not bother to cover their faces, hog the busy streets and have a coterie of assistants, some of them even taking video films.

* * *

CITY creatures who want to gawk at this modern-day aberration can drive over to Pampanga, exit from the NLE, seek out the old provincial roads and bump (not literally, we pray) into groups of flagellants.

We’ve taken some foreigner friends to savor these bloody spectacles in response to their desire to imbibe some local color. Most of them found the gory scenes bizarre and too showy.

For more gore, you can visit this Friday barrio Cutud in San Fernando, the capital city of Pampanga. Here, several Christs — usually including one or two women penitents and a stray Caucasian — are crucified at noon in a dry, dusty section of what used to be rice fields. Ask around and the local folk will gladly give you directions.

(Caveat: Since we have not checked, it might turn out that this year’s high-noon crucifixions may have been scuttled — although we doubt that.)

* * *

IF you’re afraid to fry in the sun and want something tamer, come around in the evening. Sample the traditional “cenaculo,” a term that we also use to refer to what Tagalogs call the “pabasa.”

How do you locate the “cenaculo“? The loudspeakers spread around will lead you to the place.

The “pabasa” is the marathon chanting or sing-song reading of the account of the passion and death of Christ. This is done in the houses of some families with a “panata” (vow) or at a public “cenaculo” where anybody may sit, listen and partake of some refreshments. Residents contribute to this common expense.

Don’t be scandalized if you chance upon one “cenaculo” where Christ’s story is recited to the tune of some contemporary ditty. An entire article, or even a book, could be written on some imaginative Capampangans’ singing the “pasyon” to the catchy music of Voltes V or the enduring strains of Freddie Aguilar’s “Anak!

* * *

YOU might note that I do not spell Capampangan with a “K.” I’m one of the holdouts who insist on the traditional orthography.

The letter “k” was a later importation, actually an imposition by outsiders who had wanted to “Tagalize” our language, dilute and destroy its unique character and make it look and sound like the other dialects.

I believe that the young should be exposed to the beauty of their original mother tongue before it was Tagalized (actually bastardized). This way, they would become even more proud of it and their ethnic roots.

* * *

ONE is sometimes awed, ethnic consciousness stirring in him, upon coming upon a line spelled like this: “Qñg leon, qñg tigri ecu tatacut, queca pa?”  (I fear neither lion nor tiger. Why should I fear you?)

How insipid, how uninspiring would the same line be when spelled and read in its latter-day bastardized version: “King leon, king tigre eku tatakot, keka pa?” Shades of “Lion King” notwithstanding, this second line pales in comparison to the traditional version.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 12, 2001)

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