SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - June 29, 2019 - 12:00am

Intermediate. Transition. These are synonyms for our column title, from the latin term limen meaning threshold.

These past months, we’ve all been in this stage: commencement exercises, the Bar and other licensure exams, the culmination of appointive and elective terms of office. What follows? Liminal moments. Like when the sun is to set or just about to rise.

In provinces, cities and municipalities across the nation, we’ve been in transition between administrations. In most, however acrimonious the battle between principals, the aftermath has been peaceful and cordial. 

This has been our strength as a people and the beauty of our democracy. The peaceful transfer of power is one of its cornerstones and key objectives. No scene embodies this image better than the symbolic turn over in the country’s capital from Manila Mayor Joseph E. Estrada to incoming Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso. After a grueling campaign and differences of opinion famously argued in media, it was reassuring to witness the abundance of humility and magnanimity on display between once hard hearted and unforgiving warriors. They sat down and embraced for the good of the City they love.

Game of Thrones. The Constitution is silent on how a House Speaker, arguably the most powerful position in the Legislative branch, is selected. In the beginning, even in the US, the leader of the House was chosen by a show of hands. Merit was the overriding qualification. Party affiliation was hardly the crucial consideration it is now. 

In time, the party caucus was where decisions were made and Speakership battles morphed into scripted coronations. The leader of the Majority Party was the leader of the House. In ordinary conditions, the leader of the party is installed. 

But these are extraordinary conditions. The party leader has been marginalized. His replacement has run out of terms. There is no recognized top man/woman in the majority party. For the first time in a long time, we have an open race. 

If merit were the only qualification, one aspirant would lead them all. But those days are gone. The party decides and that decision is oft capped with a Presidential blessing. 

So shame has left the building as aspirants strive daily and publicly to outdo each other toadying up to the man. Times like these, you wonder how the House can ever truly be independent. 

But President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is not biting. It has thus been an education watching the presumptives find their way. There is the purported money for votes; punishments for exercising independent discretion; PR campaigns in the guise of manifestos, personal statements and even outright hijacking of the Presidential voice. We are seeing how it takes a combination of coalition, caucus, consensus and chicanery to win the prize. This is Realpolitik at its finest (or worst). The best man win. Or worst.

Spoil the child to spare the man. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commenced a crack down on illegal retail sales of e-cigarettes. Over 1,300 warning letters and civil penalty complaints were issued to retailers selling these products to minors. According to the FDA: “youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached epidemic proportions.” 

Helping adults move away from combustible cigarettes is the avowed policy of promoting the use of e-cigarettes. But US authorities acknowledge that this work should not come at the expense of the children. Failure to act now would mean surrendering an entire new generation to nicotine addiction. This to them was a “clear and present danger.”

Responsible cities across the globe are taking a stand against e-cigarette use among the youth. Just last week, the City of San Francisco took the initiative and became the first major US city to ban the sale of e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and similar devices which do not have FDA approval. This effectively covers all e-cigarette sales in the City as the FDA has not issued approvals to any brand, at all. 

Self mutilation. The impact of nicotine on the developing brain is markedly different from how it affects the brains of adult users. The US Surgeon General’s 2016 report confirms that e-cigarette use among adolescents harms brain development, alters nerve cell functioning and increases the risk of minors smoking real tobacco. 

Most kids don’t even know they’re consuming nicotine when they drag on the e-cig, thinking they vaped only flavoring. What actually enters their systems, when they use the nicotine pods of products like JUUL, is the nicotine equivalent of a pack of cigarettes. Truly, this is a gateway product for tobacco use. 

Even without its US FDA approval, JUUL has launched its products in the Philippines. Our very own Philippine FDA is in the process of crafting regulations for the sale of these electronic nicotine delivery systems. But the Department of Finance is considering the option of a total ban because, precisely, of the uncertain health implications. At least 45 countries, including neighboring Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have banned these devices outright.

Guilty pleasures. We didn’t even know it was there. My son and I entered the Montblanc boutique in Ginza, fully intending to window shop only. We ended up staying half an hour, leaving like we had just found grail pens. The delight came from indulging ourselves at the Ink Bar on the 2nd floor. Imagine 26 bottles of high grade ink in different shades, hues and even scents (!), all decked out on a standing desk/bar. Behind each 30 ml. bottle was its own testing instrument on a pen stand. Twenty-six pens in a row, each a 145 Classique Meisterstuck with Medium nib. On the wall shelves, 20 more bottles in different shapes and sizes. The staff was friendly and inviting, urging us to try their product. There are only two of these bars in Asia. The other one is at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. For the fountain pen obsessed, these Montblanc ink bars are meccas.

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