POSTSCRIPT / September 8, 2005 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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What is truth? Can we ever find it in the streets?

ANGELES CITY — “What is truth?” Pilate asked Christ when the Nazarene was brought before him during the last stages of His Passion (John 18:37-38). The condemned Christ did not bother to reply.

Christ had told him that His kingdom is not of this world. “You are then a king?” the Roman procurator inquired, to which Christ said, “Yes, I am a king. I was born for this. I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.”

A worldly type, Pilate must have sensed that very moment what was right under the premises and was anxious to do it — if only it would not jeopardize his own interests. The politician in him ended up compromising.

Groping for a way out, Pilate asked the Man standing before him “What is truth?”

What a tragedy — he was already face to face with Truth incarnate and yet was still blind to it!

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IT’S NOT THERE: A motley crowd, led by politicians trying to resurrect their waning careers, was marching and shouting in the streets the other day.

They were demanding that they be shown the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on the impeachment issues raised against President Gloria Arroyo and dismissed by the House of Representatives.

Alas, accommodating the agitated crowd with a proper reply was an exercise in futility. Even if truth were standing before their very eyes that day, the marchers probably would not recognize it.

Truth is what the protesters think it is. Anything that does not correspond to their idea of truth is a lie. They have defined truth in their closed minds, and it has hardened in their hearts.

They spilled into the streets looking for the truth. They will never find it there.

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PARADING CADAVER: Of what use are our established institutions and due processes if we do not respect them?

We always invoke the Constitution, yet reject it when its processes threaten to go against our interests. We turn away from the truth when it does not correspond to our preconceived notions.

A losing candidate files an election protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, the only proper forum for challenging the victory of a president-elect. If the loser dies, taking his protest with him to the grave, his followers insist on shopping for another forum for the dead issue. But there is no other venue under our system.

The opposition files an impeachment complaint against the president under rules that the opposition itself had approved. When the complaint is eventually killed by majority vote, the losing minority pulls its cadaver to the streets for a noisy public viewing.

Why do we obey the rules only when they favor us? Why should we resort to the bedlam of the streets when we have formal forums governed by well-established rules of procedure?

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BIG TO-DO IN NUYOK: Some wet blanket might ask: If we cannot find the truth in the streets of Manila, can we find it in New York?

You see, our mission to the United Nations is busy preparing for the historic role that the country will play in upcoming UN assemblies and meetings set Sept. 12-16.

President Arroyo will fly to Manhattan to head the Philippine mission in its stellar role in UN proceedings this month. Notable among these are the High-Level Plenary Meeting for the 60th UN General Assembly and the Security Council Summit.

After shaking off impeachment charges in the nick of time, President Arroyo is well on her way to becoming the first Filipino president, the first Asian leader and the first woman head of state to preside over a summit of the Security Council — the third to be held since the United Nations was established in 1945.

She will chair the meeting to be attended by the likes of George W. Bush of the US, Tony Blair of the United Kingdom, Jacques Chirac of France, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Hu Jintao of China.

This is the fourth time the Philippines is serving as an elected member of the Security Council. A charter member of the UN, the Philippines was an active non-permanent member of the Security Council in 1957-1958, 1963-1964 and 1980-1981.

The agenda of the Security Council include the Volcker Report on the Oil for Food Program, as well as the situation in Liberia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sudan, Iraq, Guinea-Bissau, the Middle East, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

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RP INITIATIVE: President Arroyo will also preside over an informal meeting of the leaders of member-states supporting a Philippine-led initiative on interfaith cooperation for peace and attend the ASEAN-UN Summit.

She will address the General Assembly in the general debate where she will define the Philippine position on key issues of global concern.

The British beat us by a step when they announced earlier the summit in pursuit of the anti-terrorism measure they are trying to push. As a result, their move seems to have created the impression that they were the ones who initiated the summit.

Actually the summit was a Philippine initiative that has been in the works since a few months ago. This ties in neatly with our being the president of the Security Council for September — the busiest month in the UN calendar.

It would be a long time before we get to sit in the council again. Terrorism was just one aspect of the outcome document that the Philippines was preparing.

* * *

OTHER TASKS: Ambassador Lauro L. Baja Jr., Philippine permanent representative to the UN, has said: “A successful Philippine presidency of the Security Council in September, including a possible summit meeting, will cap our two-year membership in this vital UN organ.”

This would be the second time the Philippines will hold the rotating presidency of the Security Council since assuming its elected seat in January 2004.

It will not just be President Arroyo busy representing the country. House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and Senate President Franklin Drilon will be there to attend to their respective assignments.

Baja said at least 16 heads of states or governments supporting the Philippine initiative on inter-religious dialogue, first proposed by De Venecia last year, will attend the informal summit on interfaith cooperation.

The summit is an offshoot of the successful Tripartite Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace held last June 22 and chaired by Foreign Secretary Alberto G. Romulo. (The secretary is also scheduled to preside over a thematic debate in the Security Council on “The Role of Civil Society in Conflict Prevention and the Pacific Settlement of Dispute.”)

In the General Assembly, the Philippines will advocate the debt for equity proposal of De Venecia. “The vision has been gaining wide reception and acceptance in various fora,” Baja said.

* * *

CRIME DOWN: Back home, we had yesterday the police chiefs of Angeles and Pampanga reaching out to the community with the message that the police would not be able to do their assigned job without citizen involvement.

Senior Superintendent Leonardo A. Espina, Pampanga police director, zeroed in on the drugs problem, asking the youth and other residents to report any suspicion that a laboratory making illegal drugs (such as shabu) is operating in the neighborhood. He gave pointers on how to spot one.

Senior Superintendent Policarpio C. Segubre, Angeles police chief, reported that despite lack of personnel and logistics, the local police have been able to reduce the incidence of crime in the city and improve their crime solution efficiency.

The two police chiefs were the resource speakers at the weekly Kampus Kapihan at the Angeles University Foundation here.

* * *

ASSURING STATS: Espina said the ideal police-to-population ratio was 1:500, or one policeman for every 500 inhabitants. For lack of resources, the actual ratio in Pampanga, he said, was 1:2,800.

But he pointed out that this handicap has not prevented the provincial police from reducing the crime rate to 4.2 percent per 100,000 population per month. The international standard, he said, is 14.52 percent. New York’s record, btw, is 27 percent.

Segubre, whose area (Angeles) is outside the Pampanga police’s jurisdiction because it is a chartered city, reported that there were 569 significant crimes committed in the city in the year ending June, compared to 632 (or a drop of 63 cases) over the corresponding previous 12 months.

Among the index crimes, used as parameters in evaluation the crime situation, theft ranked first with 94 cases, followed by robbery and physical injury at 65 each. He said his outfit’s crime solution efficiency was 92.26 percent, meaning nine out of every 10 cases had been solved.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 8, 2005)

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