Defending and pretending
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2018 - 12:00am

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III became the great defender of legislative prerogatives when he spoke out against House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s rant versus congressional inquiries.

Many were surprised when Speaker GMA, a former president,  vice-president and No. 1 senator, publicly indicted the congressional information gathering function. “No legislation happens, just harassment.” It was an indirect rebuke of her own House.

She could not have been dead serious. Now I know how Harry Roque or Sal Panelo must feel, when walking back what the Boss has misspoke. Yes, Virginia, she was just being the great pretender. 

Messing with the mechanism. The need for information is the foundation stone of legislation. Without the effort to obtain it, from a reluctant bureaucracy and an even more stubborn public, there would be no data on which to base policy crafting decisions. 

What GMA really meant, she would later clarify, is that we pivot during this remainder of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s term from policies to their implementation. Its time we harvest the fruit of our efforts. 

But we heard her. She was airing a grievance against the perceived abuse of the congressional investigation power.  

The Speaker is joined in this advocacy by another former vice president, also a potential speaker, Jejomar Binay. Vice president Binay has publicly called for stricter rules and the observance of proper decorum. Interestingly, the speaker and the former vice president are survivors of congressional inquiries of a common tormentor, former congressman and senator Alan Peter Cayetano.

This congressional privilege is, by necessity, wielded by individuals. Unavoidably, we are hostage to the personalities of the actual legislators – their wisdom and discernment; convictions and discrimination. For as long as human, and not artificial, intelligence is behind the investigations, no rule, restriction or inspired procedural device can hope to guarantee against abuse or misuse of the investigative power. But to limit it or, worse, to prohibit it altogether is a price too high to pay. The free and unfettered debate among members of Congress is critical in the forging of a consensus on popular values. This will not be possible without the capacity to gather information through the power to investigate.

Deaths in Saranggani. Up to 84 people from the B’laan tribe have showed symptoms of the measles this month. Already, 18 of them have died. As of this writing, the Department of Health (DOH) is awaiting confirmation if the fatalities were caused by the virus so as to officially declare a measles outbreak. Only one of the 18 is confirmed to be from measles.

The DOH released an alarming statistic: 2,843 vs. 277. This is taken from their official survey on the country’s measles incidence in 2018, compared to the same period (January to October) from 2017. The figures represent a shocking 926% increase. How is this possible?

Measles globalization. To be fair, there is an increased incidence of measles around the world. In the US, after their Center for Disease Control and Prevention declared that measles had been eliminated in 2000, they declared outbreaks in 2014, 2015 including one in Disneyland. These outbreaks, however, were determined to be tied to imported measles strains. Top international provider? The Philippines. Even in Europe, in certain countries the measles incidence has reached outbreak proportions. 

The biggest contributor to the resurgence of measles is the changing attitudes toward public health. I belong to the generation that actually had measles. But recent generations never got to experience it so there is an anemic understanding of the critical need for vaccination. At home, this wavering is made worse by the Dengvaxia debacle.

This phenomenon of vaccine refusal is shown in studies to be associated with increased risk of measles in uninoculated persons. What is important now is that the DOH be resolute in constituting the task forces needed to pursue house to house immunization, specially in areas where there are clustering of susceptible people.

The warrior is Chief. Lucas P. Bersamin is the 26th Chief Justice. Chief Justice Luke has served in the Judiciary for 32 long years. He is the President’s 7th appointment to the Court. All seven, plus appointee No. 8, Associate Justice Rosmari D. Carandang, have come up from the ranks. With this trend of elevating members of the lower appellate tribunals to the highest court, PRRD succeeds in declogging the arteries of advancement in the Judiciary. This opens up the flow of opportunities for promotion and serves as a renewed push for needed recruitment to the bench.

Chief Justice Bersamin is admired and respected across the three branches, in the legal profession and in the academe (a leading light in remedial law). Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III welcomed the appointment of a man whose expertise he became aware of back in 2008 through his help on the Dangerous Drugs Board. To Senator Grace Poe, he is brilliant and fair.

Well done, Mr. Chief Justice. Kudos to the University of the East College of Law, his alma mater for law, and to the University of the Philippines where he obtained his political science degree.

Oblation ovation. Speaking of … The University of the Philippines men’s basketball team returns to the UAAP finals for the first time in 32 years. Their last visit there was in 1986 led by the triumphant triumvirate of Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano who steered the team to the championship over the favored UE Red Warriors of Jerry Codinera.  

Once again, the Maroons arrive as underdogs. But, clearly, they enjoy the momentum going into the best of three with the defending champions, the rested Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles.

Congratulations UP president Danilo Concepcion and the UP community; congratulations Ateneo president Fr. Jose Villarin and the Ateneo community. As a proud graduate of both institutions, I savor or belabor the outcome, either way.  These are the kinds of dilemmas to be enjoyed!

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