SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - March 23, 2019 - 12:00am

Congress can be quite breathtaking in prowess as when it enacts landmark legislation like the BBL, laws on Reproductive Health and the various statutes alleviating the situations of different sectors. The output this past year has been particularly robust – Universal Healthcare, Rice Tariffication, New Central Bank Act, Revised Corporation Code, New Housing Department, Expanded Maternity Leave, the Corporal Punishment Ban.

In such prolific times, we applaud the institution and its men and women for their efforts. Legislation just looks easy. Reading the procedure in the Constitution for passing laws, you’d think there’s nothing labyrinthine about three readings and majority votes. But that’s an impression reserved for the uninitiated. In Congress, the war stories happen not only on the floor and in committee, but more so behind the scenes. There is always a body count in arriving at consensus. And we’re only talking intra-chamber here.

Its when matters reach a head inter-chamber that things can get dicey. The appeal of Bicameralism was that it allowed for check and balance and prevented abuse. The main downside to it was, well, the likelihood of gridlock. Like right now. Over the budget. 

Good now interred with their bones. Congressional drama may be forgivable in-house but once exported to the public sphere you can’t expect the same elbow room from the people. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez lays it down for us in graphic terms. We have P46 billion less for the first quarter because we are using the 2018 re-enacted budget.“That’s half a billion pesos a day that we are not spending to create jobs, that we are not spending to improve the infrastructure, that we are not spending for better healthcare, better education.”

Weakened government spending means lower national income. Our GDP growth target for 2019 has been slashed from 7-8 percent to 6-6.5 percent. That’s if the budget passes by April. The longer it takes, the lower the growth rate target progressively falls. If it passes in August, the target goes below 5 percent and we shall have wasted the momentum of the past three years. 

The opportunity costs are escalating. They should really fix this. Otherwise, whatever good our representatives have done won’t matter. It will only be this evil that lives after them.

Untenable. The public hearings on the NOT ARTIFICIAL water shortage revealed lack of foresight, lack of cohesion and lack of nerve on the part of those responsible.

Plans are now afoot, from short term to long term. From the immediate activation of deep wells to the longer 50-year master plans that we are all suddenly and painfully made aware of. Of course, such plans were already being discussed says MWSS. The MWSS, it seems, is very good at discussing. 

At the National Water Summit last Thursday, former Agriculture Secretary Dr. William Dar ably pointed out that there was a rainwater harvesting policy which was on the table immediately after the 1997 El Niño drought. It was never invested in by government. He articulated the need for an apex body for all water-related functions. Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles noted that there are 30 plus bodies involved with water resource management without a single, updated repository of water data.

And at both the House and the Senate, MWSS regulators confessed their reluctance to penalize Manila Water for their role in this latest water shortage. Someone had to remind them that regulators shouldn’t be scared to regulate. 

Grain of salt? There was major nervous guffaw when Mayor Sara Duterte introduced Martin Romualdez as the next House Speaker. And then she did the same to Lord Allan Velasco. When the force behind the ouster of a sitting Speaker and the architect behind the national redemption of a fallen President talks about the Speakership, you listen. Her endorsement makes these two gentlemen automatic frontrunners for the seat, alongside Alan Peter Cayetano who continues to set the pace. 

Nang si Hudas … In a matter of days, the streets of Manila will be ground zero for a uniquely Filipino tradition. Holy Monday begins with the Pabasa, the ritual reading of the passion of Christ. 

The practice originated as an adoption of the chanting by Spanish friars, themselves reading from the passion which is an epic poem dating back to 1704.  The style that has survived to this day has been alternately described as pre-Hispanic melodic traditions of the major ethnic groups or reminiscent of the haunting lamentations for the departed.

As each year passes, the devotees of the pabasa shrink in number. Unless the effort is made to secure a closer connection with the younger set, the pabasa is doomed to go the way of other old habits.

Yo, Mateo! The Church is not averse to the faithful improvising on the accompanying melody. Who knows? Maybe using Rap as a music form might perk up interest the way Lin Manuel-Miranda made Alexander Hamilton fashionable. Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice were the Pasyon disruptors of my generation, penning the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

But while it’s still around, we are sure to be made aware of it. For though it may have declined in ubiquity, the remaining holdouts are reaching wider audiences by the simple expedient of using a microphone and improvising a loud speaker. And the wailing drones on through the night. 

One test of how the pabasa will fit in with the changing mores would be if it figures in any complaints from irate neighbors. Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan has proposed a bill limiting the use of videoke/karaoke and other sound amplifying equipment until 10 pm only. Several LGUs have their anti-noise ordinances where complaints against karaoke sessions dominate hotline calls.

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