Senate hearings should bring out the truth
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-11-27
Rappler reproduced the statement of the SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority) “in the interest of truth and fairness” and “contrary to some very damaging reports which have recently appeared in media.” Other than Rappler, We’ve yet to see this faithfully reported and recognized as an important development.

Salient points quoted from the SBMA statement: 

1. There is no evidence that toxic, hazardous or domestic waste have been dumped in the water of Subic Bay. The US Navy contractor Glenn Defense Marine discharged beyond the 22-kilometer minimum set by international maritime convention MARPOL.

2. However, SBMA continues to coordinate with the Philippine Coast Guard in the final determination of violations by Glenn Defense Marine on the issue of permits, manner of discharge, and other possible violations of the Philippine environmental laws.  Subsequently the imposition of necessary sanctions will apply.

3. To prevent recurrence of incident, effective November 17, SBMA has temporarily suspended Glenn Defense Marine operations with regard to the collection and disposal of ship sewage in the sea using sea vessels. This applies to all other waste service contractors as well…All such sewage are to be collected directly from the ship at the pier and transported by accredited land-based haulers to be treated in accredited waste treatment plants.

Of course, this ran counter to the Senate hearing called by Senator Loren Legarda where she had declared that Glenn Defense was guilty of environmental violation. 

Read a copy of the entire proceedings and you’ll see how she conducted blitzkrieg questioning which seemed to be designed from the very beginning to prove herself an environment champion and the lead advocate and promoter of the Clean Water Act. 

Despite the fact that the hearing was called in aid of legislation, Loren chose to do away with all “legalities” and legal talk. What resulted were sound bites that made it easier for popular understanding. 

Interestingly, the losing bidder to the contract to service the US Navy — Global Terminals Development Inc. — was present but was introduced, not as the head of the entity that lost the bid to service US Navy ships, but as the VP of the Subic Chamber of Commerce and its “environment committee chair.”

After declaring that she did not want technicalities and opening statements, Loren proceeded, zooming in on the questionable sample taken by Subic Water, a private sewage contractor operating in Subic from which the Subic Ecology Center based their findings. Its analyst disclosed that he was a forester, not a marine expert.

The hearing proved to be a great opportunity to grandstand on environment issues so it was not surprising when Loren reacted with surprise when SBMA issued a statement last Friday that didn’t reflect her conclusions. She was quoted by a daily that she suspected that “lobbying” was involved.

Indeed, the question must now be asked: Who is actually guilty of lobbying?

Why did Loren call for that hearing without even getting to the bottom of the issue, the personalities involved, and the behind-the-scenes schemes? She made conclusions on the basis of the testimonies made that day. She presumed that the questioned samples of ship sewage were sound enough evidence to prove wrongdoing. 

When the representative of the Subic Ecology Center introduced himself as a forester, why did Loren not even question this? Is the Subic Ecology Center authorized to draw samples in the first place? Is this not the task of the Coast Guard, not inland authorities?

Did Loren know that Rose Baldeo Siy, the head of Global Terminals Development Inc., had represented herself as an environment officer and vice-president of the Subic Chamber? 

If there indeed are infractions committed by Glenn Defense, this has to be evaluated properly and impartially by the right authorities — with no ax to grind or an agenda to pursue. A senator running under the platform of the environment and wanting to promote her Clear Water Act would likely be tempted to grab the opportunity to project herself favorably, even at the expense of truth.  

Media fell into this trap too, to save face perhaps after making an inaccurate report and then later on trying to justify that their original report was accurate. 

There’s reason to believe that the attempt to discredit Glenn Defense could be malicious. But the repercussions of this attempt have extended and provided attention-seeking senators, anti-Americans and leftists organizations material for an extravaganza. 

If indeed Glenn Defense must answer for some violation, it must be based on well-studied and impartial investigation, not a blitzkrieg, sound-bite seeking inquiry.

Any inquiry or investigation requires perspective. Trained investigators know better than to believe just anybody making an accusation against a business rival. One cannot find the real problem in one rapid-fire questioning, followed by a sweeping generalized conclusion.

How many losing bidders have we already witnessed making false accusations against the winning rival? Is this part of our crab-mentality culture? Losing bidders are in the same league as losing candidates in elections who cannot accept defeat and will do everything to win back what was lost — at the expense of decency and progress.

Senate hearings should only pursue the truth and nothing but the truth.

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must never unwatched go.”

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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