Saturday, January 22, 2005

A little common sense

A little common sense

Posted 02:08am (Mla time) Jan 22, 2005
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A12 of the January 22, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I WAS bemused sometime ago when I read of the congressman who attended a function in the National Penitentiary, mixed with the inmates in a show of democratic fellowship, and later discovered that his pocket had been picked. His expensive Louis Vuitton wallet contained among other things cash in the amount of P7,500, a Treasury check for P50,000 plus, I suppose, his gold credit cards.

A prisoner who was a guest of the State for his expertise in thievery had proved -- anonymously, of course -- that his victim was easy picking although he was a member of the House of Representatives, or probably because of it. I have not heard that the culprit has been discovered or that the stolen valuables have been recovered through the efforts of the prison authorities, who have proved once again their failure to reform their wayward wards.

I remember that as a young student many decades ago, I lost to pickpockets an expensive Parker pen I had naively clipped on my breast pocket while walking along the University Belt in Manila. I reported the theft to the police precinct in Sampaloc, which was much disturbed to learn that the pen belonged to my father who was the president of the Manila municipal board, then still highly esteemed, unlike now.

The following morning, a small boy brought me the stolen pen but was rather vague when I asked where it came from. I surmised he had been sent by the police, who knew where to look and demanded it back from the known and familiar felon with whom they were probably in cahoots. The prison authorities would have done as much to right the wrong committed on the careless solon, or at least lessen their embarrassment, but apparently could not.

What really struck me about this ludicrous incident is why it did not occur to the congressman to take the necessary prudence to protect his wallet, or why he had to carry so much money to that prison in the first place. He knew where he was going and it was not to church, not that a church is safe from pickpockets. If one is in a crowded place, no matter how innocent it may look, he must be especially watchful, particularly if he is carrying a loaded wallet.

When William Holden walked the streets of Manila many years ago, a photographer took a series of pictures of him safeguarding his wallet from possible pickpockets. He did not lose his dollars. Our trusting congressman did not take similar precautions, having more confidence in his convicted countrymen in the chaste confines of the Muntinlupa prison. No wonder he lost his pesos.

What added to my disbelief was that this extraordinary legislator was not among the less endowed members of the House of Representatives. He is a be-degreed fellow who even took post-graduate studies in the United States, unlike some of his colleagues who may not even have finished high school. In fact, he is one of the leaders of the chamber, recognized for his intellectual attainments among other impressive distinctions. He should have known better than to lead the prisoners into temptation.

An ordinary person who may not even be literate would have the intelligence to know that one must be extra careful when mixing with known pickpockets, and in their own turf. This congressman was not that vigilant and easily fell prey to the thief who was more clever if less virtuous than his scholarly victim. At that, all that was needed in that contest of wits was not special erudition but only a little common sense.

The laxity of this supposedly intelligent congressman makes me suspect even more the low quality of the members of the House of Representatives. This master of laws from Georgetown University could be so reckless (or stupid?) as to carry the scent of gold into the lair of felons as if to challenge them to prove their expertise in their life's calling. I can imagine how much more dense his other fellow members can be without the benefit of his superior education.

Offhand, I can mention only a few of the congressmen whose credentials I respect, like Rep. Teddy Locsin of Makati and some of my former Law students. Most of the other representatives must be sitting in the lower House on the strength of other recommendations, like guns, money, or dynasty, and not the gray matter upstairs. Intelligence is not an attribute shared by the general membership of the House of Representatives as its shabby record demonstrates.

This was the body that refused to impeach Luzviminda Tancangco of the Commission on Elections despite the serious charges against her. Fifty of its members recently signed a resolution recommending the pardon of Romeo Jalosjos who is serving two life terms for raping an 11-year-old girl. It is also insistent on retaining its pork barrel privileges despite the repugnance of the whole nation to its unashamed avarice.

And how about the Senate, where once trod the likes of Quezon, OsmeƱa, Recto, Laurel, Sumulong, Roxas, Pelaez, Salonga and other intellectuals? Suffice to remind us of the three misfits who now sit in that once august hall, to taint it with their barefaced presumptuousness and mediocrity. But at least, as far as is known, none of them has foolishly ventured into that risky den of thieves with a small fortune inviting to be picked.


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