POSTSCRIPT / January 9, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Chain Binay, Aventajado to stinking garbage dump

WHY can’t President Estrada resign? asked one of our readers. And he provided the answer. (Read it at the tailend of today’s column.)

* * *

ANOTHER reader signing as Everyone Everywhere shared with us her piece entitled “Meditation on an Epiphany” just as we were about to write about that unfortunate incident last Thursday at the impeachment trial wherein three taxpayers were driven out in shame from the Senate session hall for looking at a senator perorating on the floor.

I have seen the face of the Devil:
so brilliant that she is blinded by her own lights;
so proud that she considers everyone to be beneath her;
so self-righteous that she has to mouth
her own adherence to law, etiquette and decorum
and, yes, her other virtues of impartiality and humility;
so vain and envious that she lashes out,
dripping with sarcasm and scorn, at those she perceives
to have more of what she lacks: beauty and youth
and social standing and breeding and principle;
so crass that she considers money to be the drum
that everybody must march to — specially those
favored with allegedly-better education;
so ill-bred that her soliloquies are meant
more to show off than to enlighten, her histrionic outbursts
more to cut down than to discipline;
I have seen the face of the Devil.
And her name is Me (Ego).
“Primum dementat Deus.”

With that, we shrank from our own discussion of the incident.

* * *

WE attended yesterday a press conference of Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She was asked what, if any, she was doing in preparation for the possibility that she would become President if the impeached President Estrada were removed after conviction.

Arroyo said she and the United Opposition were finalizing an alternative program to be carried out in case she replaces President Estrada in a constitutional succession.

She gave the priorities and broad lines of that program being pieced together by experts on various fields. The defining difference between this alternative program and that of the Estrada administration is in its implementation, she said.

* * *

THERE is the danger that the preparation of an alternative program may again be used by the Estrada administration to picture the Vice President as itching to take over the presidency even while the guilt or innocence of the incumbent president is still being determined.

On the other hand, Arroyo could be painted as neglectful of her duties if she, together with the rest of the opposition, did not make any kind of preparation. She is caught in a damn-if-she-does-and-damn-if-she-does-not dilemma.

* * *

THERE is also the other point of the opposition being in dire need of leadership, of a rallying figure, as it navigates the treacherous political waters churned up by the gales of the impeachment process.

Being the highest elective official in the opposition and having garnered in her own right in the 1998 elections a number of votes that even surpassed the 10 million of Erap Estrada that year, Arroyo is the logical unifying element in the opposition.

For her not to respond to the call of duty would be fatal not only for her but also for the opposition. But in so responding to the call, she risks being misrepresented by Estrada propagandists as prematurely lusting for the presidency.

* * *

THE Vice President’s problem is one of perception. The propagandists of President Estrada have shown themselves to be more effective in setting her up before the public as lacking the delicadeza to just wait for her turn.

It is bad form in Filipino society to be seen as itching or lusting for somebody else’s position.

That, plus other issues like a dubious identification with suspected jueteng lord Bong Pineda, had eaten into the acceptance or approval rating of Arroyo — if popularity surveys trotted out by Malacañang are to be believed.

* * *

AFTER picturing Arroyo as no better than President Estrada, Palace propagandists questioned the wisdom of removing Estrada via impeachment and replacing him with Arroyo.

Pressing the point, erstwhile presidential spokesman Ernesto Maceda was less subtle in his driving home his thesis that the impeachment trial has thus been reduced in the minds of senator-judges to a choice between Estrada and Arroyo.

This Maceda line, of course, is crooked, considering that the personality of the Vice President is, as we said last time, irrelevant and immaterial to the guilt or innocence of Mr. Estrada.

* * *

THE impeachment trial has pushed aside all other news and major concerns from the front pages of newspapers and prime time on radio and TV.

This is unfortunate since we have right in our midst in Metro Manila a bigger time bomb ticking ominously. This is the garbage disposal problem that has ballooned into crisis proportions.

The garbage crisis was not something that suddenly reared its ugly head. The appropriate government agencies responsible for finding a long-range solution had more than one year to plan and prepare for the Dec. 31, 2000, closure of the main dump in San Mateo.

* * *

WE have not heard any good explanation for this monumental failure of Chairman Jojo Binay of the Metro Manila Development Authority and Secretary Robert Aventajado of the administration’s flagship projects who were tasked to look for a solution to the garbage problem.

At this late date, Binay and Aventajado cannot offer any excuse for their criminal neglect. As if to flaunt their lack of concern and sense of shame, they are now rushing for the exit to run in the coming May elections.

Binay wants to go back to his more lucrative job as Makati mayor after a forgettable performance as MMDA chairman. Aventajado, on the other hand, thinks so highly of himself that he now presumes to run for senator.

* * *

INSTEAD of being allowed to run for public office, Binay and Aventajado should be thrown into the garbage pit and chained there until they produce a feasible solution to the stinking problem.

Their negligence and incompetence should not be rewarded by their being elected to office.

We are amazed that until now, with the garbage problem getting worse by the day, Binay and Aventajado are not being made to account for their having bungled the job.

* * *

ON the brighter side of the environment picture, 1,142 sick and disfigured trees in Metro Manila have been restored as normal healthy members of the green belt lung of the polluted metropolis.

They were cured, rehabilitated and reinvigorated from May to December 2000 under the Oplan Sagip Puno program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

* * *

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Antonio H. Cerilles said 411 of the cured trees were in Barangay Philam in Quezon City, 379 at the Rizal Park, 146 in the Rain Forest City Park in Pasig City, 123 in Lagro Elementary School in Quezon City, and 83 along North Avenue in Quezon City.

The 379 cured trees at the Rizal Park were among the more than 500 trees in the 54-hectare park that were given silvicultural treatment by tree doctors.

Cerilles said curing included the removal of water sprouts or excess lower trunk branches; treatment of injured and damaged root system, treatment of wounds and cuts, pruning of branches and dead twigs, and the removal of nails, wire cables and other posted materials.

* * *

IT has been estimated by scientists that an average 50-year-old tree in the city provides at least P1,919 worth of air conditioning, P1,972.50 worth of erosion and storm water control, at least P1,972.50 in wildlife shelter, and at least P1,315 in air pollution control in one year.

A single urban tree is also estimated to be worth some P1.5 million after living its half-century lifetime.

The Sagip Puno program of the DENR was participated in by local governments, socio-civic and non-government organizations, the academe, private volunteer groups and individuals as well as other cooperating government agencies.

* * *

AND why can’t Erap Estrada resign?

Answer: Because that would be one intelligent thing to do.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 9, 2001)

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