POSTSCRIPT / December 6, 2005 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Politicos must keep out of the SEAG limelight

GAMES THAT BIND: Our politicians should be ashamed of themselves standing beside our athletes who have shown dedication, excellence and patriotism in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games that ended yesterday.

Before the Games unreeled the other week, politicos from both sides of the fence had succeeded in dividing the country and entangling it in endless debate over a variety of political issues, many of them petty.

As the Games progressed and with Filipino athletes giving their best to win medals for the country, we witnessed the nation shunning all political talk and coming together to root for Team Philippines.

Ignoring the politicians, our athletes just persevered, giving their all and harvesting more than a hundred gold medals – and winning the championship that had eluded this country since it joined the Games in 1977.

If the 23rd SEAG proved anything, it was that Filipinos are capable of excellence, of uniting to attain national goals and of rising nobly above the din and dirt of politics.

As we bless the Filipino athletes for bringing honor to us, we beg the politicians to please examine themselves and their divisive, self-serving antics.

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NOT AGAIN!: With Garci-Part II about to be inflicted on us, are we going to commit the same mistake twice

After politicians used illegally tapped conversations to scatter charges and mete out convictions, are we going to let them again play with the public mind that has been conditioned to believe the worst said of government?

Will Garcillano’s coming command performance in the three-ring Congress circus bring closure to the question of cheating in the 2004 presidential elections? Or will it just rake up the same self-inflicted wounds, delaying further their healing?

We must be masochists of the highest order to engage in self-flagellation just as the season of grace is starting to roll in.

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STUBBORN STAND: The same crowds will form in and outside the Garci-Part II circus. Those who had chosen to believe the charges of poll cheating will continue to believe in them, and those who never believed them will remain unconvinced.

In fact, even before Garcillano could testify for the record, many opposition politicians and commentators are already saying that he would just tell lies before congressional committees.

So what is the point in all this?

One camp will not be able to convince the other. We will be back where we started, divided, except that the same wounds being reopened might just deteriorate to gangrene.

We have to recognize the fact that illegally tapped conversations are unacceptable. Much more of dubious value are the spliced tapes or copies of such illegally obtained materials.

If the so-called Mother of all Tapes is itself illegal and devoid of probative value, what more with its many illegitimate children? To insist on using the same discredited tapes will just leave us going around in circles.

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GO TO COURT: This is one of the reasons why it might be best that some interested parties file criminal charges against Garcillano, if only to force the issue and bring order into the sifting process.

By law and their very nature, congressional committees are not the proper forums for deciding with finality the guilt or innocence of anyone accused of a criminal offense, like Garcillano has been accused of a variety of crimes relating to the 2004 elections.

File charges and let the judge(s) decide the cases. If anybody has evidence, let him submit these to the court and let the rule of law prevail.

Or, here is an alternative idea: Spare the Christmas season and all those who believe in it. Postpone the projected Garcillano inquiries/inquisition until after the Feast of the Three Kings in January.

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DIGGING FRENZY: If you see just too many diggings and street repairs in Metro Manila streets already grown crowded with the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy, blame the calendar.

This is a yearly phenomenon. When the calendar year, which is also the fiscal year, is about to end, there is a scramble to spend every peso in the barrel.

Reason: Funds that are not spent will revert to the national treasury — beyond the reach of sticky fingers

So every December we are treated to the spectacle of still good concrete roads being jack-hammered and hurriedly repaved with fresh concrete. Never mind if the scattered repairs cause massive traffic jams.

Do not ask why they repair the good roads but do not touch the badly rutted interior streets.

Work is concentrated mostly on roads that have good foundations, even if they are not really in need of repair or repaving. Smart contractors choose them, because these are easy to work on and they are then able to collect faster.

Of course if contractors collect faster, Santa Claus can then spread Christmas cheer just as fast among officials eagerly awaiting the jingle-bells.

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DÉCOR MADNESS: There is also the annual street decoration madness. As early as November, you will see all sorts of lanterns, lights and Christmas décor being installed on posts, trees, flower boxes, buildings and whatever is out there that can carry some weight.

The big boring question is: Who gets the commission for every parol, Christmas light and such? You know the answer.

So when the engineering or the public service teams return to the boss to report that they had hung such and such number of lanterns and lights, they are told to go back and hang more of them, that they should look for more trees and posts to decorate.

This business of decorating streets is overdone. On Roxas Blvd., for instance, where one side of the seaside boulevard has its permanent globular circus lights, somebody still found those lights inadequate and therefore added giant red lanterns, never mind if the latter look out of place.

Does not the auditor or somebody ever check on this Yule splurging on overdone decorations? But that would be spoiling the fund, rather the fun, that Christmas brings.

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CONFUSING LIGHTS: Do we have safety engineers or someone whose sole function is look for hazards and potential threats to life and limb and correct them before harm is done?

For instance, there is clear danger is hanging red or green lanterns near street intersections where they could be mistaken for traffic lights and cause accidents.

When approaching intersections in the evening, drivers sometimes have a hard time spotting the traffic lights from the confusing array of decorative lights.

But this might be an unnecessary word of caution, because many drivers do not bother with traffic lights anyway and just pass through anytime they think they should, whatever lights there are or are not.

As we keep saying, in this metropolis, traffic lights and lanes painted on the roads are only for show. They are persuasive, not coercive.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 6, 2005)

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