When you are engaged in an argument, my grandfather told me, never do it with a woman, a columnist, and a priest. Because of their own peculiar medium, they naturally have the last word.
Of course, a woman has that exterior of vulnerability. Her tears can tear one down.
The columnist has his op-ed and that is his domain. He can cut, mince, and dice you for all he cares. Of course he may grant you some penultimate space, but he has the last word. A libel charge is medal to crow about.
A priest? He has the best of both worlds. He has the aura of authority and his pulpit awaits him 24 hours a day. Come hell or high water, he has an audience that fills to the brim.
This is the dilemma we found ourselves in when we embarked on a province-wide information campaign this first week of December, 2008. Since the Comelec has given us a bare 23-day information campaign drive, the period can barely scratch the endothelium of the voters’ brains. Thanks to the radio-TV medium and, of course, the kind auspices of major national newspapers which carried the plebiscite’s legal intramurals in the Supreme Court, our sleepy Quezonians pride themselves nonetheless that they are abreast of it.
Because of the oft repeated appeals of the likes of Manolo Quezon and Juan Mercado in their PDI columns about the spate of local government creations from Cebu to Novaliches City to Shariff Kabunsuran to Tayabas City to Quezon Province, calling them the “brainchildren of Congress going berserk,” the mainstream media picked the issue up as something that has far reaching implication.
Quezon del Sur: Petri Dish of Dynasties
The division of Quezon is a microcosm of local dynasties who were rejected in the recent elections and looked at their legislative powers and asked “what we can’t do directly we can legislate nonetheless.”
There is no doubt that Bishop Emilio Marquez rooted for the son of Bondoc’s Danny Suarez during the last elections. The good bishop openly used his pulpit to promote the well-oiled candidacy of the young Suarez.
The ostensible reason was that the other candidate is a Freemasonry member and belongs to a different faith. Are we seeing Rizal’s Father Damaso redux? His homilies before and after the elections betrayed the state of mind of the good bishop. This was politics at its worst. Of course, his bet failed to muster enough votes and just like the father, the good Bishop sulked. For good reason. He is no longer the prince of Gumaca diocese. His being the capo of the Lucena diocese, a good 300 meters from the Capitolio, pained him because its occupant is not his friend.
Friendship to the good bishop means a common religion, social stature, provenance, and similar roots. Among his benefactors, the Suarez family counts heavily in his roster. Because she is her kababayan, he is a close confidante and fierce advocate of Rosario Magbuhos, a known Catolico cerrado from Lopez. He is a formidable defender of the lady ever protective of her franchise. From the lady’s own account, the new bishop of Gumaca, one Bishop Famadico, declined her monthly tithes. Bishop Famadico, showing fraternal sense, and all the priests of Quezon Province were in solidarity with Bishop Marquez.
Once Quezon del Sur is confirmed, the Suarez family can now lay claim to the new territory.
RA 9495: An Irrelevant Bill
By some divine serendipity, Erin Tanada of the 4th district resurrected his father’s 12-year old pet bill and later on christened as RA 9495, creating Quezon del Sur and renaming Quezon Province to Quezon del Sur. The young Tanada however disclosed that he refiled the bill in 2004 in its original form. He did not anymore scrutinize the bill whether it had some imperfections. All he did was to shepherd the law in the labyrinthine congressional process. He trusted his father’s horse sense on the soundness of the law. He forgot that when the bill was drafted by the elder Tanada in 1995, Quezon Province was much different from the Quezon Province now.
In 1995, the province was devastated by Typhoon Rosing, a powerful storm that left the province with more than a hundred dead and thousands homeless and hungry. Rosing cut Quezon in four parts, one in Calauag, the second in Lagnas, Sariaya, the third was in Sampaloc and the last in Tignoan, Real. Lagnas Bridge in Sariaya was a total wreck such that traffic in both directions was rerouted to the nearby dry creek.
The landslide in Calauag was cleared in just 24 hours. Thanks to the close cooperation of the local government and civic organizations in the town. We have the TV footage for that, courtesy of TVG Patrol of Noli de Castro. Rosing left South Quezon’s communication facilities in shambles. Landlines were swept off. Without losing hope, Kabalikat Civicom, a local amateur radio club, went to the forefront by “throwing” SOS messages to another radio group based in Pagbilao. Kabalikat was able to contact the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer and in no time at all, the Provincial Engineer, Provincial Social Worker, and the Provincial Governor. A good number of heavy equipment of the province at that time were placed in several locations in anticipation of the typhoon. At that time, Department of National Defense’s Disaster Coordinating Council was on top of the situation. Remember that the sitting President then was FVR, a hands-on President. Much or practically all of the structures built from the pork barrels of the congressmen then were either blown off or destroyed by the typhoon. That was testament to the quality of the buildings erected thru the pork barrel. The storm notwithstanding, the old reliable Gabaldon buildings in all the towns of the 4th district remain mighty and standing.
Intervention by the Religious
In Candelaria, Mayor Bong Mailiwanag’s main beef with the bill is that he has no quarrel with the creation of the new province (Quezon del Sur), just leave the Quezon after Candelaria intact. In other words, no one should mess up with his address without his consent. His consent, he said, is expressed in the Constitution that proscribes multiple subject matters in one bill.
Mayor Bong recalled the ordeal suffered by Galileo Galilei from the hands of the Catholic Church during the Renaissance when he published his theory that the earth, and other planets, revolve around the sun contrary to the Church’s understanding then that the earth is the center of the universe. After 400 years the Church eventually apologized to Galileo and in fitting tribute to the Catholic man of science, erected his monument inside the Vatican. In the same manner when the Catholic Church spurned and ex-communicated Christopher Columbus when he claimed that the world is round, contrary to the clergy’s teachings then that the world is flat. Stung by the criticism, Bishop Marquez countered and by some secret reckoning that he alone knows and not discussed in some entries in the Wikipedia or where else, that Galileo was chastised because he said that the Church was “mistaken in its interpretation of the Bible.”
Expanding on his argument, he said that today the Church has shed much of its conservatism. It now harbors the belief that “one day in the seven days of creation may mean a billion years.” The good Bishop defended the Church position on Columbus and said the Church at that time should not be faulted because the “flat theory was the prevailing belief.” He did not say that the false notion was in accord with the Church teachings. The good Mayor hadn’t had the last word. He just walked away en route to Lucena to appease a divided Mayors’ League. It becomes clear therefore that starting off from a purely civil matter, the good Bishop in a jiffy morphs into the ecclesiastical.
Clerical Black Propaganda
A certain Ricardo Matias with an email address as firstname.lastname@example.org has circulated just tonight, December 10, 2008, the following:
Kakatawag lang po ng aking kaibigang Pari dito sa aming bayan at ako po ay sobrang nalulungkot sa nangyari sa Real, Quezon kanina.
Ang Parish priest po ng Real na si Fr. Osee Molde ay sinuntok at minura ng mga tao ng NO. Ang sabi nga po ng Pari ay mga tauhan daw po ito ni Gobernador Nantes. Pagkatapos siyang suntukit at dagukan, sinabihan siya na DEMONYO KANG HAYOP KA. YES KA PALA!!! Ang sinagot daw ng Pari ay, ako bakit mo ako ginaganito, meron akong Karapatang Pantao! Pagkasabi niya noon, siya ay sinagot ng Hayop ka, bawal ang NO!
Ang tao daw pong sumuntok at nag mura sa Paring ito ayon sa nag kuwento sa akin ay sakay sa RED PLATE NA SASAKYAN ng PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT.
Di ko po kilala si Father Osee. Pero sabi po sa akin ay ito daw po ay late 50’s na ang edad. Makapal ang salamin. Awang awa po ang Paring nag kuwento sa akin.
Kung kaya po nilang gawin ito sa isang Pari, Alagad ng Diyos. Ano pa po ang kaya nilang gawin sa isang ordinaryong Tao.
Nananawagan po sila sa mga Kapulisan. Sana po ay may gawin agad na aksiyon. Takot na ang mga tao. Pero bakit po nangyayari ang ganito. Tulungan ninyo po sila.
This is nothing new. The clear objective of this propaganda is to create a scenario that the NO is going at nothing just to win the plebiscite. We were in Infanta from 1 to 5pm today December 10 and no untoward incident such as this was reported. Mayor Grace America met us in the town plaza teeming with people who were obviously campaigning for NO. This is not incredible because just like the Suarezes they have the 3rd District as their bailiwick. Don’t fault the Governor if the 1st District goes with him in the plebiscite. We saw Mr. Peter Cortez, the husband of Mrs. Amor Orinas-Cortez of Calauag and he never mentioned about the said alleged manhandling. Of course it is sympathy that the YES is trying to collect from this alleged sad incident involving a man of the cloth. Since the Governor is of different faith, but a Christian nonetheless, the fabricator of this yarn is indeed an amateur. As to the red plate? This is just connecting some comic dots. As to the email address, it is fictitious. Try emailing it and anything sent to it bounces.
Not Well Researched
Congressman Erin confessed in Candelaria (arriving at two hours past the appointed time), that because the lowly congressman is mired in mundane requests from his district instead of seriously attending the crafting of the best articulated bill, they usually end up with mediocre creations. He admitted that he just copied verbatim from existing laws similarly creating new provinces. To ensure that the law will pass the eagle eyed scrutiny of the Supreme Court, Congress plays safe by inserting the all-encompassing Separability Clause.
But here’s the hitch. By inserting Section 55 where South Quezon appears to have an equitable share from the real property taxes collected from the North, is misrepresentation at its best. He frowns on “misinformation of the other side,” whereas he marshalled his arguments laden with misrepresentation and obfuscation.
As a lawyer, he knows that RPT is a situs tax. Its nature and characteristics are fixed by our statute and jurisprudence even before the advent of the Local Government Code. The LGC merely codified and restated archaic municipal laws including real property tax, a feature of local taxes. Moreover, the bill is short on economic foundation. All he was mouthing of was the vague standard of human resource index. By claiming that Aurora surpassed Quezon in hri is proof enough that Quezon del Sur once confirmed is on the road to paradise. All other sound economic studies like multiplier and trickle down effects espoused by Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Nobel Prize winner in Economics were conveniently ignored. Not only that. How about the actual experiences of new provinces whose birth pains extend to decades if not centuries? How about the annual data published by the Commission on Audit that Quezon Province is No. 7 in financial standing of all the 81 provinces of the country?
It was reckless of him to say that the temporary restraining order issued by the High Court freezing the proclamation of the plebiscite results is the main Decision itself and adds “it never touched on Section 55, and therefore the Supreme Court believes (the law) is perfectly legal.”
By shifting on another tack, he justified Section 55 to mean not sharing from the collections from the North but empowering the South to collect from transmission lines of power plants who happen to traverse the length and breadth of their territory. Smiley conveniently forgets that his argument all the more fortifies the theory of the NO proponents that RPT is just a territorial tax. Taxing electrical posts and transmission lines and other fixed power accoutrements is an old doctrine (circa August 7, 1935) that dates back in the Davao Light and Power Co. Inc., cases. Taxing these taxpayers doesn’t need the authority of Section 55. A specific Book on RPT in the LGC suffices. Danny Suarez boasted that they can never be wrong because he said they complied with the requirements of the law. He has to be extra careful because he said one piece of legislation costs the taxpayer P200M. Faced with RA 9495, we regrettably elected incompetents who enjoy spinning us on their palms. By juxtaposing the points raised by these two gentlemen, it looks like they are tearing each other down.
But getting the good Bishop to join the Suarez group is a casting coup, no doubt. It gives the YES a good headway. The undecided might be swayed. His simple presence is enough to convince the lost souls. There is no need for him to detail his arguments. Just appear on stage in full battle gear: a Cossack and a pink cap and a ring adorned with a sparkling rock, Christ was bereft of when he walked the earth. His appearance confirms the saying that “there is nothing fair in this world.” Of course, he justified his presence as an exercise of his rights as a citizen. But he can climb the stage in civilian apparel and not in a cleric garb. By simply being there he amends the rules. Or, there is no mistaking his interpretation of the issues. While he can always dismiss the legal gobbledegook with the dismissive phrase “Well, I am not a lawyer!” the fellow on the NO side can’t say “Well, I am no Canon Law expert or a priest,” to that effect.
The NO henceforth will be throwing out of the window the words misrepresentation, misinformation, bad faith, distorting the truth. While the YES has a heyday mouthing these phrases against the lost souls of Raffy Nantes.
Yes, nothing is fair in this world. Not even by the good Bishop’s standards.