Malilong: Good faith

The Other Side
Malilong.SunStar file

Unlike mushrooms after a rainy day, that resort at the Chocolate Hills did not sprout overnight. And considering that the natural monument (as declared by then President Fidel Ramos in 1997) attracts hundreds of tourists every day, it is impossible to believe that no one, especially government regulators, had noticed it while it was being constructed or during its early operation when the owner had not yet invested so much into what now appears to be a doomed venture.

In fact, the Freeman ran a series of stories, which were also posted on the Philippine Star website, about the existence of the resort as early as in August last year but government reaction was at best perfunctory and there was none of the vehement condemnation that we now hear from the public of the desecration of hallowed ground. Now everybody acts (“pretends” is too strong a description) as if he is personally wronged, and raring to exact his pound of flesh.

Take the case of the National Water Resources Board. The latest word is that the NWRB has added its cease and desist order to the many that various government offices have issued against the developer. The government that slept on its duties to protect and safeguard our natural resources is now on overdrive.

The NWRB cited the developer’s failure to obtain a permit to extract water from its deep wells as ground for its stoppage order. Reasonable? Yes. But pray tell me, how many deep wells have been drilled for commercial purposes which the NWRB has shut down? How many hotels, condominiums and similar establishments have been served cease and desist orders for operating deep wells without the NWRB approval?

This is no brief for the resort at Chocolate Hills. I don’t know its owners or even a single worker. But it is not fair to condemn them while giving free pass to similar offenders.

The land on which the resort is built is no longer part of the public domain. It is alienable and disposable and is in fact titled in the name of an owner. One of the attributes of ownership is the right to use it. At the very least, the owner enjoys the presumption of good faith when he built his resort especially since he applied for and was granted government approval although admittedly not for all purposes.

The resort’s temporary closure could eventually become permanent. If and when that happens, who will reimburse the cost of development that the owner incurred? Or will he, like the other victims of government neglect and inefficiency, have no recourse but to look up to the heavens and pound his chest?

Speaking of good faith, Brigada News FM co-anchors Juril Patiño and Dennes Tabar invoked that defense in justifying their interview of a four-year-old rape victim. The mother requested the interview, they averred, and they accommodated her because they wanted to help build a strong case against the rapist.

The explanation was not well-received. In fact, it gained them more public denunciation. “Broadcasters express no remorse,” The Freeman headlined its story on the pair’s reaction to the public criticism. I think Juril was thinking like a lawyer, which he is, in addressing the controversy.

Last Tuesday, reported that in fact, Patiño and Tabar are sorry for what happened. Quoting Brigada’s area manager for the Visayas, the website said their broadcasters “have expressed remorse and regret for any harm caused and are willing to accept responsibility for any error made.”

So there. They said they’re sorry even if belatedly.


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