POSTSCRIPT / December 14, 2006 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Are Cha-cha lessons to be lost on GMA?

SHUTOUT: It says here that media coverage of the President of the Strong Republic has been disallowed for the moment. No plausible explanation was given by the Palace.

That is unfortunate, because encounters with the press kind are a valuable learning process for both parties, especially at this time. The President can also learn from the dialogue — if she is attentive enough.

For instance, by studying carefully questions being posed, the President may yet discern the sense being conveyed by the people through the media — that insisting on Charter change at this time is doing the nation more harm than good.

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UNITY PRIORITY: One message being beamed to the President, through the press, is that the attempt to rewrite the Constitution for personal gain is dividing the nation at a time when the priority should be to unify it, bind its wounds and give it livelihood.

With the Malacanang-House cabal pushing self-serving Charter change before the May 2007 elections, the opposite is happening.

The nation lies bleeding in a respectable hospital, yet the Arroyo-De Venecia ambulance wants to pick it up from the ICU and rush it, leaky tubes and all, to a hospital that still has to be built, equipped and staffed.

There is nothing seriously wrong with the present hospital (while not perfect, the presidential system has served us well enough for decades until…), but it is better for the moment than one that is still in the fickle mind of politicians drugged with power.

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THEREFORE?: The conclusion should be clear enough by now — even for a President distracted by the furies of conflicting interests swirling around her.

The inescapable conclusion is that the President better order a halt to that divisive campaign for Charter change (Cha-cha) before next May, be it by People’s Initiative, Constituent Assembly or Constitutional Convention.

Give it a rest. Drop everything and, instead, attend to at least two priorities:

  1. Press the relief operations in the areas devastated by typhoons and other calamities.
  2. Take mitigating steps to make this Christmas at least tolerable for most Filipinos in the lower economic rungs.

There are just 10 days before Christmas, so “Tama na yang Cha-cha! Mag-Merry Christmas muna tayo!”

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MISGUIDED ZEAL: Even casual observers who normally do not pay attention to politicians noted early this week that the House majority devoted an eternity and an ocean of saliva perorating about a Constituent Assembly tailor-made for them.

They have not shown such devotion and persistence in crafting laws that are of direct and immediate benefit to the people.

Would it not have been compelling if, during that marathon Con-Ass session last Tuesday, all the Bicol congressmen rose as one and moved to transfer the session to Naga or Legazpi? Or even at the foot of Mt. Mayon!

That way, the alleged representatives of the people would have seen the state of calamity there and realized the urgent need for less talk and more action, for less selfishness and more service.

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CONTAGIOUS DISEASE: But it is not all with politicians. We plain citizens also suffer from warped priorities and a stunted sense of sharing.

In Albay, for instance, where the amount of earth moved around by the typhoons dwarfs all the doomsday scenarios of the anti-mining groups, we do not see the noisy NGOs and anti-mining advocates, the priests and the Left.

This is the best time for them to show they really care. But what I heard is that instead of helping, two priests are going around further spreading gloom and doom.

Fr. Ino Bugaoisan, who has refused to say Mass on Rapu Rapu island, reportedly because the chapel was built by the Lafayette mining firm, has accused the company on TV of causing the tragedy that “Reming” had caused.

He offered no proof, but he was given air time without his allegations being vetted. The combination of runaway advocacy and reckless media at the worst time possible certainly did not help at all.

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon has also been reported as texting media of an alleged fish-kill in Puerto Diaz, the same place that was hit by a similar mercury-in-fish hoax early this year, resulting in 5,000 fishermen not being able to sell their catch.

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WHERE ARE THEY?: Usually voluble Greenpeace is silent. The Left is silent. Actually, they do not have to say anything. All they have to do is send warm bodies to the disaster areas in Bicol, especially Guinobatan, to dig out whatever.

But even that, at this point, is too late. Relief goods are needed instead. If Greenpeace can send its ship to wherever its banners and streamers are needed for its photo-ops, it should be able to send a few bottles of drinking water to the “Reming” victims.

This is not meant to polish the image of anybody, but it should be noted that right after “Reming” left, mining companies sent their own rescue teams to help dig out the survivors and the victims. Being based in Albay, Lafayette served as the overall coordinator.

Mining people were not shouting, by the way. They were just digging, helping, doing the job they had to do.

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OBLATION RUN: If you want to see resistance to Cha-cha in the flesh, go to UP Diliman on Dec. 15. Be there early, before noon, to beat the expected overflow crowd of oglers.

That day, the UP Alpha Phi Omega fraternity will stage the 2006 “Oblation Run,” dubbed the “Ritual Dance of the Brave,” at Palma Hall, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.

More than 20 fraternity members promised to run naked to, according to their spokesman Joselito Narciso B. Caparino, “send our message loud and clear and register our strong opposition, again and again, on any attempts of Arroyo administration to change the 1987 Constitution for self-vested interests of Gloria Arroyo herself and her cohorts in Congress.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 14, 2006)

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