POSTSCRIPT / December 2, 2004 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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After the hue and cry, we settle back and forget

ETERNAL SCRIPT: Here we go again….

In the wake of hundreds drowning in flash floods, being buried in mudslides or crushed by logs and forest cuttings set loose from denuded mountainsides by torrential rains, and with thousands of sick and starving evacuees crying for help, we will again witness:

  • Angry editorials in media condemning the rape of the environment, particularly illegal logging, and demanding the speedy prosecution of the culprits.
  • The President calling an emergency meeting where officials in the disaster areas are called from the field and given instructions while cameras record the momentous event.
  • The President declaring a pro-forma state of calamity, releasing millions of pesos in emergency funds, and warning profiteers.
  • The President ordering massive relief operations although she did not have to, because the appropriate agencies have already moved into action.
  • The President flying to the calamity areas to survey the damage, distribute goods and condole with the victims.
  • Field teams and local officials reporting lack of food, medicine, water and other basic needs, and the President ordering the proper agencies to act on the reports.

And a few days after the last typhoon exits and the flood recedes, after the debris is cleared, the dead are buried, and uprooted families trek back to their houses (if any) and pick up the pieces, the whole thing will be forgotten like a bad dream.

That is, until the next calamity — and we then go again through the same routine in a never-ending loop.

* * *

MEDIA, TOO: No wonder in this country we have a council headed by a Cabinet secretary that is tasked, I think, with “coordinating” disasters! Somebody has to make sure all the actors follow their respective routine and recite their lines.

Talking of organizations, why not a no-nonsense civilian commission dedicated to keeping track of all presidential orders (including those mentioned only in press releases), following up their execution, and publishing a periodic monitoring report?

The media are wont to do this, but you know how it is. After a few “what ever happened to…” articles, media also get tired and give up.

* * *

MEMO PAD: If memory serves, then President Marcos always had somebody with a notebook trailing him and jotting down everything he says to callers and those asking for help.

A delegation called on him about some problem. Mr. Marcos surprised the group by saying he had ordered just that morning that So and So do this or Such and such be done in connection with precisely that problem.

Just between us, no such presidential order had been given. But his master delivery gave the harried citizen an assurance that their President had sensed their plight even before they told him and had acted on it.

It was a neat trick that worked in most cases — because of the sure follow-up straight from the Palace. Thanks to the aide with the notebook.

* * *

YES MA’AM: Lack of follow-through seems to be one of the problems bugging President Arroyo.

The President calls a big meeting, says this and that should be done, and everybody says “Yes Ma’am.”

When those in the chorus disperse and go back to their plush offices, many of them get afflicted with amnesia. How can anybody follow through something that he has forgotten?

Who makes sure all presidential instructions are recorded and carried out with dispatch?

* * *

DACAL PUNG SALAMAT: Neophyte senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid warmed our hearts when he said he was taking a big slice from his “pork barrel” that, with other resources, would be used to extend relief to the calamity victims in Nueva Ecija.

He said that a team, with his son Pampanga Gov. Mark Lapid leading it, would go to the neighboring province that was among the areas worst hit by flash floods.

The senator recalled that when he was governor and Pampanga was ravaged by steaming lahar spewed by Mt. Pinatubo, the people of Nueva Ecija were among the first to come to the rescue of his distressed cabalen.

* * *

RELEASE IRAS: Malacanang can help the affected towns and provinces by releasing to them their internal revenue allotments that seem to have been snagged in an extra-fine sieve at the Department of Budget and Management.

Pursuing this point, Interior and Local Government Secretary Angelo T. Reyes said he would personally coordinate with DBM Secretary Emilia T. Boncodin to work out the speedy release of the IRA of Quezon, Rizal, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, as well as of Manila, Pasig, Marikina, Malabon and San Juan.

Budget records cited by Reyes showed that Aurora has a total IRA of P229.5 million this year; Nueva Ecija, P695.7 million; Bulacan, P806.8 million; Quezon, P761.5 million; and Rizal, P585.5 million.

May pera naman kaya? Malacanang insiders told us there is money, at least for partial release of the IRA for priority local areas.

There is no good reason why the money would not be available, since the IRA consists of taxes already collected and reserved by law for specific local governments.

* * *

BACK TO THE BIBLE: The US presidential election is over, but you just have to read this item taken from an AOL (AmericaOnLine) message board and bounced around the globe. Just promise to keep a straight face.

The topic was the debate over gay marriage, with President Bush citing Leviticus 18:22 calling it an abomination. There was a lot of conservative vs. liberal bashing and Christian vs. non-Christian bashing, message after message after message. It was getting pretty boring. And then along came this gem, posted by

Dear President Bush,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination…end of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

  1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7 . In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15: 19-24). The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
  4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
  5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
  7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
  8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27 . How should they die?
  9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
  10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev. 24:10-16)? Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 2, 2004)

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