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02:04 AM September 13th, 2011

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September 13th, 2011 02:04 AM

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim last week reminded city officials to stop placing their names on government property and billboards announcing government projects. During People’s Day last Friday, Lim ordered the enforcement of a memorandum issued by Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo prohibiting the placement of politicians’ names and pictures on government project billboards and other government property.

Lim’s order serves as a reminder of President Aquino’s message in August last year that government project billboards put up with taxpayers’ money should not be used to publicize government officials and politicians. Aside from Robredo, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson has issued a similar order.

Actually, elective officials find the billboards carrying their names and photos an effective and inexpensive means of obtaining free publicity—at the expense of taxpayers—for themselves for the next election. Some of them, like the mayors of Quezon City, Makati City, Pasig City, have even engraved their initials on street lampposts and ceramic planters.

The move to take out the names and pictures of government officials from project billboards and similar articles has been supported by private citizens and the media. Typical of their comments are that of Evelyn R. Singson, a former president of the Management Association of the Philippines, who said that people should not be beholden to any public official for just doing his duty as a public servant, and Inquirer columnist Randy David, who called the practice “the new narcissism.”

The move to expunge officials’ and politicians’ names and photos from project billboards and other things could get more teeth if a measure filed by Sen. Francis  Escudero making the practice unlawful and penalizing violators with one-year imprisonment and a fine of up to a million pesos is passed. Collecting taxes for government projects and then announcing these projects as if they were personally funded by certain government officials is just too much.

Suicide

And suicide is painless/It brings on many changes/ and I can take or leave it if I please…”

These words from a song featured in the TV series M*A*S*H, one of the most celebrated series in the history of the medium, came to mind with the commemoration of World Suicide Prevention Day last week. Suicide actually is not painless, particularly when it is committed by hanging or by using weapons such as a gun or a knife. But suicide is often resorted to by people suffering from depression and a lot of pain in their lives.

Last week, the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation said that the Philippines has the highest incidence of depression in Southeast Asia and cited data from the World Health Organization that showed there are 93 suicides for every 100,000 Filipinos. The 2004 Philippine Health Statistics showed that children as young as 10 years old were killing themselves. For that year, the Department of Health registered 42 suicides among 10- to 14-year-olds; 261 suicides among the 15- to 19-year-olds; and 335 among those in the 20-24 age bracket. The Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health in the Philippines recently reported that five died of suicide every day, or about 150 every month. All these figures are very alarming and indicate that something has to be done to arrest the “trend.”

These suicide figures are intriguing, considering that Filipinos are regarded as a fun-loving, light-hearted people who tend to leave almost everything to God: “Bahala na” (roughly translated, “Leave it to God”) is an everyday expression. But it must be the grinding poverty and the hopelessness of the situation in which they find themselves every day which make some people depressed and turn to thoughts of suicide.

The philosopher Nietzsche said that “the thought of suicide is a powerful solace; by means of it one gets through many a bad night.” But sometimes the thought is translated into action. Before the irreversible deed is committed, let us, relatives and friends, look after depressed people, cheer them up and have them treated to prevent them from leaving for that “undiscover’d country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”

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