Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The “old” new year

The new year unfolded during what has to be the longest uninterrupted holiday in recent memory. From December 24, 2008, a Wednesday, to January 4, 2009, a Sunday, one long break consisting of twelve days. Employers had to pay huge overtime increments; contractuals paid on a daily basis lost so much survival means. All because we Filipinos celebrate the longest Christmas season in the whole world, and have a historic martyrdom on the 30th of December, just before the new year rings out the old.

Which brings me back to my very practical, but culturally unacceptable proposal, repeated in this space every time the subject of holidays, and holiday economics, comes up. That is, why not lump all the celebrations of holidays during the first half of the year on whichever week coincides with Christendom’s holiest, and all the other holidays of the second half to coincide with Christendom’s merriest? All, except June 12, the national day. Thus, February 25, which commemorates Edsa Uno, and April 9, the Fall of Bataan, even May 1, Labour Day, gets commemorated on the days of Holy Monday thru Holy Wednesday, making for nine days of no work, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. And work, work and work throughout. Break comes back for a two-day or three-day commemoration (if a week-end) of Freedom Day on June 12, and move Rizal Day as well to June 13, proximate enough to his birthday of June 19.

Then, lump the following additional holidays --- Ninoy Aquino’s August martyrdom (a special holiday), National Heroes Day (August 30) and Andres Bonifacio’s November 30 birthday, and commemorate these between Christmas and New Year, thus declaring another nine days of uninterrupted legal break. The only other special holidays would be November 1 and 2, por los santos y los muertos, which morbid though it seems, is actually reunion time for the nation’s families.

Thus, work schedules are all predictable, and only a calamity of major proportions can interrupt pre-fixed work inertia. (Every time I suggest this to my family, my mother says I don’t think like a Filipino, and shrug off my “silly”, though utilitarian idea).

And since this is not likely to be accepted by most, president and legislators included, how about moving the school calendar, this time for school to open on the middle Monday of January, and the first semester to end in the middle of June? Then, after a three-week semestral break, classes resume on the second Monday of July, to end in mid-November, thus making the long vacation coincide with what to most Filipinos is after all the real holiday period --- the longest Christmas celebration in the world? This way, traffic is less unwieldy because Christmas shoppers need not contend with hordes of students, and students need not spend useless time on Christmas parties and Kris Kringles, let alone having to give “obligatory” gifts to their teachers. And balikbayans (they will be with us forever) can be escorted around town and in the provinces by their vacationing young relatives.

Tuition payments coincide with bonus time, which makes the Christmas revelry more austere, and OFW remittance fees less burdensome. Right now, there’s May to June, then October, then the Christmas bash. By moving the school calendar, there’s just the December padala, and then the second semestral tuition come June-July.

Sensible, neh?

* * *

Having given vent to my un-Filipino practicality, I now segue to the topic I chose to begin my new year with --- how “old” it really is. Old because as soon as the barangay kagawads and tanods have cleaned up the mess left by those stupid firecracker addicts, the Speaker of the lower house resuscitates the hibernating cha-cha. The report of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments on the Villafuerte resolution will be the first item in their agenda once Congress re-opens on January 19. And their boss Gloria says she will just think economics, not politics. Oh well, see how “old” the new year is? How many times have we heard that refrain before?

The new year also begins with corruption of the worst kind clinging to the air of this scandal-putrefied regime. Dionisio Santiago, the upright head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, rightly resents how quick-buck artists in the Department of Justice have recommended the dismissal of charges they filed after apprehending three rich kids, hereinafter called the “Alabang Boys” because that is their base of “marketing operations”, these “social users”, ha, ha, ha!

The Philippine Marines officer seconded to PDEA, the guy who caught these rich kids with a hoard of “Ecstasy” pills, Major Ferdinand Marcelino, claimed that he was offered bribes, from an original first offer of 3 million, up to a final offer of 20 million, just to release the suspects. Because the marines officer was unflinching, the “fixers” next worked on the prosecutors of the DOJ. My information is that a slimy lawyer who also “operates” election cases at the Comelec, and is connected to two extremely powerful persons, one a committee chairman in the lower house, and another a defeated 2007 senatorial candidate of Team Unity, was the “broker”. This lawyer used to be fairly decent until he himself became a “social user”, and became part of the retinue of the high and the mighty in the Arroyo regime, with their nightly bacchanals replete with vestal un-virgins in a rented hotel suite in upscale Pasig.

Now suppose the plain users and pushers were of the “lumpen” variety, operating not in the toney digs of Alabang but in the warrens of Tondo, do you think fix-cals would solicitously go through the contortions of “due process” and “excessive force”? Hell, they wouldn’t bother.

That’s what “patas ng laban”, Ping Lacson’s battle cry, is all about. Poor boys, my dears, are not as “equal” as the “Alabang boys”. They fry quickly, while the rich are able to fly.

Which is why I wholeheartedly support PDEA’s Santiago, when he rues that justice should be “parehas”, and the fight against drugs should be pursued without quarters. As far as I am concerned, traffickers and pushers should all be executed (if we could only bring back the death penalty), and users, “social” or whatever else, should be locked up in jail. Johnny Midnight was a schoolmate, and I feel sorry he has a son who is in deep shit, but the law is the law, my friend.

* * *

The “old” new year is likewise bedevilled by the Pangandamans, pere et fil, cabinet secretary and a mayor, who think that mauling a golfing pere et fil is par for the course.

Sure there was an altercation, because Pangandaman junior wanted to catch up with his father in the previous flight, and the De la Paz family questioned their golfing etiquette. “Hindi mo kami kilala?”, Nasser Jr. allegedly thundered. And then the mauling began, with bodyguards getting into the act.

Nasser Senior, the secretary of agrarian reform who dares not touch Hacienda Bacan of Mike and Iggy and Marilou Arroyo, just watched, charged the De la Paz sister. What the hell is he father, then golfer, and last but not least, Numero Seis for? Now Secretary Pangandaman appeals to the public to stop “vilifying his family” in blogs that have gone around the world.

Once more, hindi patas ang laban, in a society where the rich and the powerful “are not like you and me”, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald. Based on first impressions seen on television interviews, it does seem like the elder De la Paz is “ma-angas”, the kind to protest loudly, perhaps with some hints of arrogance even. But Pangandaman is supposed to be the “wiser”, and the better-placed in our polity, if not in our society.

In far more decent times, Ramon Magsaysay, president, asked Fred Ruiz Castro, a cabinet member, to resign because the latter made a wrong presumption of presidential intent. A small mistake, and off he had to go. Ruiz Castro accepted his fate with absolute grace, and was later appointed a Supreme Court Associate Justice by Ferdinand Marcos.

Of recent vintage, there was Peter Garrucho, the first executive secretary of Fidel V. Ramos, who early in the term of his boss, issued a tax break to gold miners without clearance from the boss. Regretfully, FVR had to let Peter, a decent man, go. Peter regained his bearings, and has since foresworn public service, going back to the corporate world.

Of even more recent vintage, young Arthur Yap, the newly-appointed agriculture secretary of the 2004-“proclaimed” GMA, resigned his post without second thoughts when his father was charged by the BIR for tax evasion on a land purchase where they were the buyers, not the sellers. GMA tried to coax Art out of instant resignation, but he nonetheless insisted on clearing his family’s name first. After the system cleared them of the tax evasion charges, he was re-appointed to the same portfolio.

If Nasser Senior and Nasser Junior want vindication from an altercation that should not have been, bruised egos notwithstanding, the way to that is clear --- make an offer to resign. That is the honourable way, no matter how unfair they may think it to be.

* * *

On the assumption that we are able to muddle through with this “old” new year, economic crisis, natural calamities and political disasters notwithstanding, and the system holds until another farce of an election presents regurgitated “hope” for new beginnings in 2010, we will begin writing in this space, starting Thursday the 8th of January, a series on each and every one of the ten presidential hopefuls, followed by a piece on Gloria’s options, and thereafter, a review of the political system that keeps us all bottled up, hopeless and helpless ever, in a benighted state.