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Statistics

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Last week, Argentina became the first nation to be censured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because of doubts concerning the credibility of its economic data. Specifically the Washington-based lender alleged that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government is not addressing reports it understated inflation figures that analysts say are actually more than double the 10.8 percent official rate.

Argentina has been locked in a battle with the IMF since 2001 when it defaulted on a debt of $95 billion. Since 2006, the government has not allowed the Fund to review its finances and relations grew even more tense when senior staff at the national statistics agency (Indec) were replaced. The shakeup led to greater doubts about Argentina’s inflation and gross domestic product (GDP) data.

The IMF which some experts say is a “dictatorship” has given Argentina up to the end of September to take “remedial measures” to improve the accuracy of its data. Failure to do so would result in sanctions such as suspension of voting rights and no more access to loans. The final step would be “compulsory withdrawal.”

Is this a question of statistics?

Closer to home, the Philippine National Police (PNP) recently declared that there is no such thing as a crime wave in the country. In a press briefing at Camp Crame, Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. came out with statistics indicating that crime incidence in the capital region actually dropped by 60 percent in the first months of 2013 compared with the same period last year. Cerbo said that a total of 1,218 index crimes were recorded in Metro Manila in January, compared with 3,021 reported in the same month last year. Index crimes refer to cases of car theft, murder, homicide, physical injuries, rape, robbery and burglary. Cerbo credited the drop in index crimes to the implementation of the gun ban and checkpoint operations carried out by the police.

I hope to God Almighty that Cerbo is making an accurate assessment of the crime situation. But when the average citizen reads of criminal activity carried out with boldness and impunity right in the heart of the metropolis, I am afraid that positive statistics will have to be complemented with positive actions and results if the PNP is to gain the trust and confidence of our people.

When I served as a member of the board of judges for Metrobank’s “Ten Outstanding Police Officers,” one of the comments I made to the candidates was that police crime statistics keep improving through the years, but somehow the situation does not seem to have kept pace with those figures.

Is it a question of statistics?

Someone said, “There are big lies and small lies and white lies. And there are statistics.” My golfing friend added, “And there is the preferred lie or as other golfers would put it, the improved lie.” (Lie refers to the golf ball’s position while in play on the course.) In professional golf, moving the ball is considered cheating. But among amateurs, it is acceptable when mutually agreed upon.

Still on statistics, our pastor in his homily yesterday revealed that senior citizens have been asking him why priests no longer attend to family events as much as in the past. In the 1970s, when Irish priests were the dominant group in church activities at Carmel, they were very visible at family gatherings. In later years, it became difficult to find a priest even for confession or some religious program.

His explanation was that in the 1970s, there was one priest for every 18,000 parishioners. A few years later, the ratio rose to one priest for every 26,000. Last year, the ratio jumped to one priest for every 49,000 churchgoers. Just to give a better idea of the figures involved, he cited Araneta Coliseum data. For a basketball game between Ateneo and La Salle, the dome would be filled to the rafters up to 24,000 including a standing-room crowd. For ordinary games, 18,000 would be a maximum figure.

How can one priest possibly attend to the needs of 49,000 parishioners? And there are no prospects that this 1:49,000 ratio will improve in the years ahead considering that we have been exporting priests to other countries instead.

So he threw out this challenge. Our Church is not the Church of the Pope, the cardinals, the bishops, or the priests. You are the Church and it is up to you to make it what you want it to be. For once, I was hearing something sensible from the pulpit, words and ideas I could understand and relate to. My Church has a future because of pastors like him.

* * *

“Six Spanish tourists raped in Mexico!” This should be a wakeup call for security forces in holiday destinations around the country. If such an incident took place here, the slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” would take on new meaning. If it can happen in Acapulco, a favorite watering hole for the rich and famous, it can also happen here and it has happened before on a smaller scale. I recall that in the past, a British tourist was raped by her guide. She made sure he was caught and punished and she returned for his sentencing after the trial.

* * *

Ten years ago, I wrote an article on “The United States Navy in the lives of Filipinos.” I related the story of Eleanor “Connie” Mariano, a 48-year-old medical doctor who was appointed chief physician at the White House during the Bush and Clinton years.

Mariano was born in Clark Air Base, Pampanga, in 1955. Her father served in the US Navy as a mess steward, along with four other Filipinos, who were her  ninongs  in baptism. After getting her degree from the Uniformed Services University of Medicine at Bethesda, Maryland, in 1981, she also joined the US Navy.

She joined the White House Medical Unit in 1992, serving President George H. W. Bush until she was personally selected by incoming President Clinton to be the White House physician and director of the Medical Unit. In 1999, Mariano was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, the highest military position occupied by a Filipino-American woman. At the ceremony honoring her, Mariano told the audience, “I am pleased to stand before you today as proof that Filipino-Americans in the Navy no longer have to go through the kitchen, the backdoor, or the garage. I came to the White House by way of the kitchen. I come from a family of Navy stewards. At that time, and for many years, the only way Filipinos were able to serve in the Navy was as stewards.”

Last week on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” Connie Mariano was once again in the news. She referred to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a “medical time bomb” (Christie has the body of a sumo wrestler), “I’m afraid he could die in office.” This did not sit well with the governor, who retorted that perhaps she should shut up and not make statements about someone she had never met in person.

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