POSTSCRIPT / March 15, 2011 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Japanese discipline rules despite disaster

WHAT, NO LOOTING?: Three days after a magnitude-9 killer quake devastated Japan, triggering Pacific-wide tsunamis and a likely nuclear plant meltdown and then consigning millions of Japanese to darkness, thirst and hunger in the wintry cold, I still have to read reports of widespread looting.

This Filipino watching 3,200 kilometers from Ground Zero finds awe-inspiring this disciplined behavior of a huge population in distress. Let us pray that they stay that way — and that we learn from them.

In adversity, the Japanese are now reaping the fruits of having been taught, and drilled in, discipline and resilience since childhood.

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SPARTAN MEALS: In Japanese grade schools, where lunch is free, pupils (and their teachers) are sometimes served nothing but vegetables. Nobody openly complains, because it has been explained to them that they have to get used to occasional Spartan meals.

The pupils are told that there could come a time when, for some reason, they might have to subsist only on something less.

This calamity dealt them by Nature is one of those unexpected times. Now the instilling of that value or attitude seems to be paying off, thanks also to the way their government is responding to their needs despite the destruction of infrastructure.

There could be scattered deviations from this disciplined behavior, especially with the intensity and duration of their post-quake suffering, but these could be written off as aberrations.

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WALK WITH BUDDIES: There are other things we can learn from the Japanese public school system.

Every child must be enrolled in the nearest school – “nearest” meaning within walking distance. This way, big numbers of students going to and from class need not take public or private transportation, thus alleviating the traffic problem.

The children do not walk to school by themselves. They are grouped according to their home addresses. They assemble at a designated place and move out together when everybody is accounted for.

After class, the teacher sees to it that members of the same flock walk home together. They are made aware that they are responsible for one another. The group has to make sure nobody is missing.

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CONSTITUTIONALITY: The Supreme Court has nobody to blame but itself for the frequent calls for the impeachment of its justices, or some of them. One reason is that sometimes the tribunal strays beyond the issue before it, making its rulings open to sniping.

For instance, in the case of the 16 new cities that were created by laws whose constitutionality has been questioned in bunch by the League of Cities of the Philippines, the Court should have confined itself to the issues.

The core issue is the constitutionality of the cityhood laws. That should be a simple cut and dried question, because it involves merely a comparison of the questioned laws and the Constitution, as well as determining if the criteria set by law for creating a city are satisfied.

It was that simple, but the Court, for reasons that only some of its more enterprising members know, jumped into the quagmire where the parties were quarreling — over money, the billions that go to cities and other local governments as Internal Revenue Allotments.

Thus distracted, I think the tribunal faltered and ended up flip-flopping. It reversed its supposedly final decision so many times I cannot now remember now many.

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JUDICIAL EDITORIAL: Going into the motives of the parties, the Court concluded: “It all boils down to money and how much more they (LCP members) would receive if respondent municipalities remain as municipalities and not share in the 23 percent fixed IRA (internal revenue allotment) from the national government for cities.”

The same money argument was brought forward by the new cities, whose executives pointed out that while the LCP wanted the new cities to hurdle the P100-million income limit many of its members are themselves hard put raising the amount to meet the requirement.

But the supposed motive of the complainants is quite irrelevant here. All parties have motives. To insert the point that the LCP objection arises from a desire to block newcomers who would share in the IRA pie of cities is quite irrelevant.

It is tricky writing a court decision to read like an editorial, an opinion column or as a pastoral homily. In this cityhood case, constitutionality is the main issue, motives and sermonizing only secondary.

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LAGGARD CITIES: Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, whose Borongan town was one of those elevated to cityhood, is smarting from the LCP complaint.

He said: “Lost in the public protestations of the city mayors is the fact that while they want the new cities to hurdle the P100 million income limit before the 16converted cities could join the ranks of the LCP, many of its members are hard put raising the amount.”

He said that there are 59 LCP members who have incomes below P100 million. Seven of thesecities are headed by city mayors who are in the forefront of the protest against the decision.

The seven cities and their respective incomes: Dipolog, Mayor Evelyn Uy, P85,503,262; Roxas, Mayor Allan Celino, P85,397,830; Bago, Mayor Ramon Torres, P74,305,000; Alaminos, Mayor Hernani Braganza, P44,352,501; Calapan, Paulino Salvador, P41,870,239; Himamaylan, Mayor Agustin Bascon, P15,808,530; and Sipalay, Mayor Oscar Montilla, P9,713,120.

If one is to heed the contention of these city mayors that the P100-million income requirement be strictly followed, Evardone asked, would it then be logical for the LCP to drop these LGUs from its rolls of affluent localities?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 15, 2011)

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