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Be sober, be rational

Three recent controversial issues – local, national and international – need a dose of sobriety and some rational thinking before these issues get the better of our reason.

At the local level there is the issue of the stalling of the Bus Rapid Transit project by the intervention of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino. That we are confronted with seemingly conflicting statements from officials of  the National Economic Development Authority and the Department of Transportation while we await official action on this matter, only goes to show that it's all the public relations machinery that's doing the action for now coming mainly from Dino's side. To what extent this translates into official action remains to be seen.

At the national level, Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista is beleaguered by allegations of unexplained wealth raised by no less than his estranged wife who claimed she has obtained documents that may (emphasis on the word "may") prove the Comelec chief  lied in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

Bautista, for his part, said he could explain the wealth shown in the documents his wife has obtained. That he is wealthy is hardly surprising. Bautista was a top-notch lawyer with a lucrative practice prior to his accepting the Comelec post. The Ateneo and Harvard-educated lawyer also has his legions of defenders who attest to his good character. So we wait now how the official investigation unfolds. Meanwhile, we cannot avoid being drawn into the juicy part of the controversy involving quarrelling spouses.

I hope we remain focused on the main issue which is the Comelec chief’s alleged unexplained wealth. Some would like to tie the controversy to past elections under Bautista's watch and raise doubts on the democratic process. So be it, but let an impartial and credible investigation proceed first. There should be no rush to connect Bautista's predicament to conspiracy theories about the 2013 and 2016 elections.

In the international scene, United States President Donald Trump unwittingly amped the level of the possibility of a nuclear war in the Asia-Pacific region with his threat of "fire and fury" against North Korea. That must have sent North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un chortling in his seat at the thought of provoking the most powerful (and most verbally impulsive) leader in the world.

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Let's just hope that these two leaders are sensible enough not to drag all of the Asia-Pacific closer to nuclear war. The international media quickly seized the opportunity to generate public concern or even fear. In fairness to the media, they have asked experts in diplomacy and international relations to speak in order to put these threats in context.

What these three events teach us is that it can be very easy to get carried away by our own biases or fears in the face of controversial issues. This may cloud our ability to see things for what they really are now.

For another, there will always be vested interests that, wittingly or unwittingly, tend to lead others into their own agenda and influence the public's feelings. Presidential Assistant Dino, for example, seems bent on proving that he is consequential in Cebu because he happens to be within earshot of President Rodrigo Duterte. (I wonder if Duterte is getting tired of accommodating unsolicited "suggestions" from his election patrons.) This week Dino had his chief of staff send DOTr's statement to media late at night which announced the putting on hold of the BRT project, stating vaguely that "a review must be undertaken and that concerns raised must be addressed, so as not to cast any doubt on the integrity of the project."

Cebuanos who are getting tired of Dino's antics want to hear from the president himself about the fate of the BRT. Yet what Dino seems to be getting for now from either the president himself or the president's top men is what is called in Tagalog "pampalubag-loob"; in English, "conciliatory statements"; in Cebuano, "atik-atik."

Things indeed still remain to be seen on the BRT issue. Dino may yet pull through beyond just a public relations stunt and totally stop BRT in its tracks. Or Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña may yet beat the odds faced by the BRT with his trademark tenacity and political astuteness.

This is an exciting contest to watch – sadly while it leaves Cebu City's welfare, particularly the state of its roads, up in the air.

ianmanticajon@gnail.com.

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