Monumental fails
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - March 16, 2019 - 12:00am

Governmental Fail. On behalf of government, MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty has acknowledged fault for the current water shortage faced by millions of Metro Manila residents in the East Zone. Ty was by no means pinning the blame on the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. The acknowledged cause, dwindling supply for rising demand, is due to the absence of an alternative water source to the Angat Dam in Bulacan.

It was really just a matter of time … as in time bomb, ticking until finally exploding. Several administrations knew this. It was President Ferdinand Marcos that first conceived of a solution in the Kaliwa-Kanan-Agos River Basin in Rizal. The original plan was to build two dams on the river. The present incarnation is to build in stages. The smaller Kaliwa low dam first, followed by the larger Laiban dam later. 

This project was dribbled from one administration to the next. President Cory deferred it; FVR reviewed it; Erap revived it; GMA cancelled it; PNoy approved it though it failed to take off according to Ty. Under Digong, we are finally seeing the project push through. Its been part of the Build3 infrastructure program as early as 2017. 

Unification of powers. One of the metrics for identifying a nation as a failed state is its inability to provide basic services. If this were the only measure, then we may be seen as a failed state because of this water shortage and the crisis becomes a double tragedy. Indeed, commentators routinely refer to the Philippines as a failed state, if not a weak or a fragile one. 

But you wouldn’t know it if you could see the way our three great departments of government have been moving. Executive, Legislative, Judicial – all are on the same boat on this. Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo stressed that while Malacanang has not come to any conclusions on the crisis, the same is being investigated. He did not hesitate to add that concessionaire Manila Water would be held accountable if at fault. He dropped bombs like “mismanagement” and “inefficiency”. MWSS said Manila Water “miscalculated” the supply and demand numbers.  

Kaliwa Kanan. Consumers deserve an explanation from the President himself. This is not just a health issue but also a security nightmare. All the conspiracy theories, including the latest on by-pass valves from Angat to Manila Water’s treatment plants being deliberately shut, are creating unwanted destabilizing effects. Even Malacanang’s order yesterday to open the waterways “or else” needs to be explained. Why such an order if, according to Ty, Manila water had already been receiving its allocation from Angat? And then here comes MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco declaring that the President is getting wrong advice from his people. 

Congress has also scheduled its own probes Monday and Tuesday. Nice to see our representatives taking an active interest in our tribulations. Thank you for setting aside your own trials in aid of re-election. Given the urgency of the investigation, we expect to see a full house on both days. There might even be enough for a quorum to tackle the proposed special session on the budget stalemate.

The Laundromat. A legislative inquiry should shed light on what needs to be done, both short and long term, and provide us with a complete picture instead of the bits and pieces we’re getting from different sources. Senator Grace Poe presents excellent insights on the absurdity of what is happening given that water security is the lifeblood of an agricultural country like ours; given that we are an archipelago and that we annually harvest enormous amounts of rainfall. 

Equally important, the investigations should pinpoint where accountability lies. If water at Angat dam is at normal levels, then why the deprivation? For the concessionaire, it would be an opportunity to explain to an irate public how their business, impressed with public interest, has acted under the circumstances. In particular, they are being called out by MWSS for the delay in their Cardona treatment plant coming on stream. 

The hearings should also educate us on why ODA loans from China which typically bear interests double that of Japanese ODA were preferred. And, again, we should hear from the indigenous first peoples, the Dumagats and Remontados, who shouldn’t bypass this larger stage to reiterate the threat the Kaliwa dam project poses to their very existence.

The courts also play a role as consumers explore the possibility of damage suits for fault/negligence of Manila Water. Inevitably, a petition for a writ of kalikasan will be filed directly with the Supreme Court to question the project’s legality. 

Masquerade. Another miscreant disguised as a priest has been charged with sexual abuse of a minor. In Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, a parish priest was accused by a four-year-old girl of rape. 

As it was, the incident was disturbing enough. But the diocese’s immediate reaction made it doubly distasteful. The bishop gave a statement emphasizing the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. In short, they didn’t believe her.

Christian dogma about the truth and wisdom of what comes out from the mouths of babes should have been sufficient basis for the Church to act against this person. After all, they themselves inflicted him on the faithful. The asylum they are known for should not be confined to the physical protection of the place of worship. They should have offered the spiritual embrace of the diocese and the strength of their moral authority to assure the victim that they believed her. It’s like adopting a policy of erring on the side of the parishioner. The law of man requires that guilt be proved. Shouldn’t the law of the church supply a presumption of truth to accusations from the mouths of innocents? 

If this were a test case of the Church’s resolve, post Vatican summit, to ferret out the truth and to disabuse minds on their propensity for covering up, then it was an ecclesiastical fail.

RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE WATER CRISIS
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