Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Irresponsible MIS-information

A few weeks ago, I was tasked to sit in a meeting attended by members of a certain Barangay. The meeting was initiated by a Redemptorist Priest conducting Mission work in the parish. It was a task that was simply given to me due to an absence of another officer so I had no idea what the meeting was all about. Coming to the venue, I was given the usual reception and sat in front.

At first, I was bored with the meeting. I did not see the point of me attending that meeting while they discuss matters about their GKK (for Gagmayng Kristyanong Katilingban). To my surprise, towards the end I was to witness something so disconcerting that I had to expose it even if only through this blog.

One of the pressing issues in my present area is the putting up of a Coal Powered Power Plant. That barangay that I went to was the Barangay where this structure was to be constructed. As part of the military, we had no business taking sides on any of the contradicting issues that surround the project. And so sitting there while this priest was discussing his obvious bias against the project, I had to remember my uniform and keep silent despite the prodding of my heart.

The priest talked about how this project will destroy the environment and all other negative effects of the said project. Admittedly, all of what he said had valid grounds. The thing that bothered me is how he disguised his intention into an exposure of the truth for the people to be able to decide for or against such project without the slightest mention of the other side of the issue. When one of those in the audience asked if he offered any alternative means for the people in that locality to improve their lives he had none. He just had this constant jabber on how this project can be bad for the locality.

I particularly did not like how he took advantage of the people’s little knowledge on the issues. Yes, he was convincing, but he was simply scheming to sway people to support his cause. In reality, he was not giving the people the opportunity of an informed choice rather he was brainstorming him to support his bias. This is what disgusts me.

I would have appreciated him if he did not bring the name of the Catholic Church. I have a very high respect for the clergy because I believe that they are supposed to set the morality of society. To be honest, most of the values that I have as a person are Christian in origin. But meeting him makes me realize that those who have decided to dismiss faith as an integral part of their life had valid ground. I feel that, as a priest, he had more responsibility in providing the people with the right information for them to decide intelligently. Listening to him, I felt that he had no concern to address the true concern of the people; his only goal was to stop the construction of this controversial power plant, very unbecoming of a priest.

Again, I reiterate that I had no issue for or against the putting up of that power plant. I feel that my responsibility is not to the power plant but to the people that I serve. I believe that it is my responsibility, as a public servant, is to allow the free flow of ideas related to that matter. Whatever the outcome, it will be because it was the true choice of the people rather than a victory of those who had better brainstorming methods.

You see, like soldiers, the priesthood has this moral ascendancy to the people. When we do something, we have some form of effect on the people that we interact with. The kind of person that we are has a big impact on the people that we serve. I believe that is the reason why we are expected to become leaders. This vocation will never escape leadership thus the importance of responsibility.

Going back to that incident, it was not responsibility that was shown rather it was purely taking advantage of one’s moral ascendancy to put forward a selfish interest. Whatever the issues are, I think that each person will choose what will benefit them. Our job is to help them make good choices by providing them the right information without any bias. When that audience asked what alternatives are being offered by the priest to improve their lives, it was a clear manifestation that he was indeed weighing his options before making a choice. I believe the people who attended that meeting would have done the same if only they were provided with the necessary information.

In the time when people had no idea what lies beyond what we know now as the Atlantic Ocean, a lot of theories came out. Some said that there were giant monsters beyond it; others claimed that it was a dead end to the edge of the world. It took one brave explorer (I think its Christopher Columbus but I am not sure) to sail through it and discover what he would call the New World. Going back to his native country, he realized that he had that responsibility to provide the information of his discovery to the people. That information allowed the Early Puritans who wanted to escape persecution to decide to travel to that New World and establish the first colonies of what was to become the United States of America.

The outcome of the Power Plant project is something that we will never know now. But like how it has always been in history, information becomes an important factor. In an age where information is everywhere, I think there is more responsibility to provide it to the people that need it. More importantly, I think there is greater evil in denying information to those who need it.

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