POSTSCRIPT / March 24 2005 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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How to shame crooks lording it over society?

WALANG-HIYA!: A “shame campaign” is being suggested by the Hong Kong expert advising the government on how to fight corruption.

Maybe Tony Kwok, the expert credited for reducing corruption in the former British colony kept alive by a consuming love of money, still has to learn more about the psychology of the Filipino as a Crook.

For how do we shame the crooks in and out of government who are “talaga namang napakawalang-hiya”? (“truly shameless” is not enough to capture the full meaning of the deprecatory phrase.)

Shaming crooks in our society is as easy as coaxing crocodiles to shed their thick hides.

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STARTING ‘EM YOUNG: Have you heard of children asking their parents the source of all that money keeping them in the best schools and sports clubs, driving the latest car models, wearing the most expensive signature clothes and toting the latest gadgets?

Have you heard of matrons asking their husband or boy friend where he gets their six-digit monthly allowances, the mansions scattered in the best villages, the endless mahjong money, the fortune spent for cosmetic surgery, health and beauty shops, foreign trips and shopping sprees?

Not only the members of the family have been coopted. Even relatives clinging to the extended family system have been lured to dip into the gravy — thereby dulling their sense of shame.

In fact, the children are assiduously tutored and trained to take over the “family business” — be it hardball politics, illegal logging, smuggling, drug dealing, and such.

Many politicians who have amassed millions in bribes, commissions and other fruits of corruption have become so addicted to it that they loathe to see the “business” slip from their hands.

Now, how do we shame these crocodiles to shed their hide?

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NO PRESSURE: The point of peer pressure and community censure hardly has any effect on crooks and the fast operators.

What I have seen is the intense green of envy in the eyes of the peers of those who have “abilidad” to make money. The boys are “bilib” and defer to their friend who has all the money they need for whatever.

Civic organizations and religious groups, and even the church, approach the fat guys for donations. And the latter oblige with impressive sums, sharing with the least of their brethren the fruits of their labor.

To illustrate: A smart one operates a string of motels for flagrant illicit sex. Raking in millions, he makes sure he donates to the church and the right foundations — and earns official protection and a papal award to boot.

Now, tell me, how do we shame the crooks?

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WOMEN’S FEET, TOO: How would the Washing of the Feet be reenacted around here today, Maundy Thursday?

In Boston, Massachusetts, Archbishop Sean O’Malley has decided that he will wash the feet of women and men during the Mass on Holy Thursday. Last year, he angered some Catholic women by washing the feet only of men.

The archbishop has made sure he consulted the Vatican. The latter responded that although the “liturgical requirement is that only the feet of men be washed,” he could make whatever decision he thought was best for his parishioners.

This time, O’Malley has decided that including women’s feet in the ritual washing would be best for his flock in Boston. How would it be in da Pilipins?

According to the rubrics for Holy Thursday, written in Latin, the priest washes the feet of men, “viri,” to recall Christ’s doing the same thing to his apostles. Any modification of this rite requires permission from the Holy See.

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TERRI’S CALVARY: I am surprised that in this largely Catholic country, there is hardly any mention in the media of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman in Florida who lies dying in a hospice after a court ordered her feeding tubes pulled out.

Her husband Michael secured the court order in an action that provoked widespread objection and expressions of concern. Her parents are moving — with frantic assist from the US Congress and President George W. Bush no less — to put back the feeding tubes.

All sorts of arguments, pro and con, have colored the scene. The husband, for instance, is being accused of wanting his wife to die finally, after 15 years of clinging to life, so he could collect on the insurance.

Terri’s friends tell stories of her responding when they would visit and tell her jokes. She is not dead, they insist, and it would be cruel to kill her.

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SPECIAL LAW: The US Congress hurriedly passed a special law to allow Terri’s parents to file suit and ask the court to put back her feeding tubes despite the opposite action of her husband who is legally her guardian.

With its spotty attendance, the Senate president just asked for a voice vote and quickly banged the gavel, for approval, upon hearing the “ayes” from the floor.

In the White House, President Bush was rubbing his hands as he awaited the enrolled copy of the special bill for Terri’s parents. When the bill reached his desk Monday morning, he promptly signed it.

When the parents went to a federal appeals court, the judge conducted a hearing, then adjourned. Yesterday, he handed down the bombshell decision denying the appeal of Terri’s parents to insert back the tubes.

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VATICAN VIEW: In the Tuesday issue of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper warned that Terri Schiavo’s case may obscure the fact that a person is being condemned to die of hunger and thirst.

The paper points out that Terri “is not being denied medicines, special treatments or palliatives, but that which for basic reasons of humanity would not be taken away from the most vile and miserable being.”

An attorney for Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, told the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, that the 41-year-old woman might die before they could get a chance to fully argue their case that her rights are being violated.

In its article, L’Osservatore Romano said that amid the exchange of accusations, appeals and judicial surprises in the case, there is a risk of losing sight of the crux of the problem.

“There is a woman in a Miami hospital who is about to die of hunger and thirst,” says the Holy See newspaper.

“A person — not a ‘vegetable’ — is slowly dying while the world watches impotently through television and newspapers,” the paper said. “Her real drama, instead of inspiring a wave of generalized mercy and solidarity, is suffocated by the indecent quest to arrogate to oneself the right to decide on the life and death of a human creature.”

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ESSENCE OF LIFE: “To what chilling eugenic mentality belongs the principle, according to which, life — even if it is diminished and suffering — depends on a judgment of quality expressed by other people?” asks the Osservatore article written by Francesco Valiante.

He continues: “Who can judge the dignity and sacred character of a man’s existence, made in the ‘image and likeness of God’? The doctors whose professional deontology in this case more than ever should make them bring out of their memory chest the known principle ‘to cure if possible, always to care’? Terri’s parents, who gave her life 41 years ago?

“Or her husband who one day promised ‘to love and to honor her, in health and in sickness’ and who today has become her coldest and most merciless executioner?

“Terri’s slow and heartbreaking agony is today the agony of the sense of God, Lord of life. It is the agony of love that knows how to bend down to the frail and needy. It is the agony of humanity.”

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GRAVE ERROR: Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of the US bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said, “Terri Schiavo is not terminally ill; she is a woman with cognitive disabilities.”

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said at the Vatican he heard with “disconcert and sadness” the news that US District Judge James Whittemore in Florida rejected the urgent request by Terri’s parents to have her feeding tube reinserted.

“I must confirm the moral judgment which does not change: It is an illicit and grave act,” Bishop Sgreccia told Vatican Radio. “It is especially grave, as it seems that the decision over a person’s life or death today is a court issue.”

“Therefore, I confirm the negative judgment, not only on the fact that food has been taken away from her, but also on the decision that tries to legitimize such a thing. I hope that these examples will not be followed by other similar decisions,” the prelate added.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 24, 2005)

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