I can all fellow Cebuanos, let us unite against Sulpicio's brazen act of profiteering.
Sucking up to Sulpicio
MANILA, Philippines—The aggressiveness of Sulpicio Lines only goes to show that we do not have the rule of law, only the rule of lawyers. The shipping line has lashed out by filing suits and motions before the courts, to keep investigators at bay and tie up potential critics in litigation. Everyone knows the sports dictum that a good defense is a good offense, but this is ridiculous: Sulpicio is trying to dribble itself out of any accountability.
To God alone belongs the blame, Sulpicio says, and on its side it has, as proof positive of divine exculpation, the moral endorsement of one of God's very own shepherds. Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, filled with Christian concern for the poor little rich Go family, the owners of Sulpicio, hopped over to tug at President Macapagal-Arroyo's skirt to give a little concession to keep the Gos from starving to death. It was, of course, no little concession that the bishop was interceding, with child-like innocence, to obtain. For what the President conceded, as a result of Pueblos' pastoral concern, was for Sulpicio to be allowed to continue the mainstay of its operations: cargo shipping.
The Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Cebu added the weight of Mammon to the intercession of God's shepherd, by endorsing Pueblos' request. The businessmen didn't specifically endorse Pueblos, of course (it would be too patently a commercial conspiracy to do so), but in essence, they endorsed the Butuan prelate's logic by pleading financial hardship for themselves. If they were deprived of access to Sulpicio's cargo holds, it would be catastrophic for themselves and thus for all Cebuanos. To borrow Louis XIV's phrase, the province is ourselves.
The Butuan bishop appealing for presidential clemency, echoed by the commercial sector declaring humanity is secondary to their bottom line, all points to a culture that confuses one's own interests with the public good. In this, public officials are no different from the bishop and the Gos' commercial chums.
The Gos, after all, had already obtained the satisfaction of witnessing Cebu's congressmen ganging up on government bureaucrats instead of zeroing in on the shipping firm. The Gos, after all, are among the movers and shakers in the island province, thus clergy, merchants and officialdom are merely protecting one of their own. The appeals made by clergy and business councils, combined with the alacrity with which Cebuano congressmen focused on national government agencies while forgetting to take to task a prominent commercial family from their province, show that the bottom line will trump social justice every time.
To borrow a line from Inquirer columnist Randy David, the reason all this can happen, of course, is that the public allows it, following the lead of our very own institutions. Officialdom has known all along that our weather bureau is understaffed, under-funded and ill-equipped; government officials know we have no real Coast Guard to speak of; and maritime insiders have long been grumbling about the head of Marina being a know-nothing do-nothing who owed his job to crony influence. And yet Congress is shocked--shocked!--at it all.
And the public? It had trusted its loved ones to a shipping line expected to have learned the lessons of its tragic past; and to authorities meant to keep commercial greed in check. And now that it wants to recover their dead and give them the benefit of Christian burial--and an answer, at least, as to how and why their loved ones died, Sulpicio responds by unleashing a storm of court cases and injunctions, and a list of bureaucratic requirements to tie up families with red tape for a generation to come. If Sulpicio must pay, it will only do so after it has maximized interest on its insurance payoffs.
The public, in the end, is all bark and no bite. No one, it seems, is prepared to deprive Sulpicio of income to pressure it into at least submitting to a thorough investigation and the kind of management shakeup that should be the minimum fallout from a tragedy of this scale.