THE phrase "in near fistfight" teases the reader who must wonder where the protagonists have been brought in their confrontation.

Questions surge following the story that said Gonzalo Malig-on and Briccio Boholst "almost came to blows" when they argued Wednesday over the stoppage of the concreting of a Mandaue City street, Rep. Nerry Ruiz's project. Malig-on, her chief of staff, protested against the cease order issued by City Administrator Boholst's chief, Mayor Jonas Cortes.

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The two lawyers almost came to blows, the news report said. How did eyewitnesses come to that conclusion? Did Malig-on and Boholst tell each other "Sumbagay ka (Wanna box)"? What was the overt act that made people say they were about to trade punches and maybe wring each other's neck?

When do you say a basketball team almost won, Mayon almost erupted, or the star in a telenovela almost lost her virginity?

Didn't happen

"Almost" is defined as "very nearly but not completely."

It's "all but": all but the winning, the eruption, or the end of the heroine's sexual innocence.

The bottom line: It didn't happen.

Is that news? It described the nature of the confrontation between the rival camps' aides. It lent color to the story.

The news was that after the near-slugfest, tension was defused and the Cortes and Ruiz camp agreed to discuss how the project can be jointly implemented.

Both Nerry and Jonas insist they're serving public interest when they pursue their competing projects.

Are they? When precious public resources are wasted by duplication and delay, the answer is: not quite but, maybe, almost.

(paseares@yahoo.com)