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Saturday, May 17, 2014

DON’T you hate waking up in someone else’s bed after a hard night’s drinking and not knowing the person next to you? How about crawling at least a kilometer from the guardhouse to your house with the security guard constantly offering to call a cab to take you home? Or having your neighbor tell you to get inside because you’re sprawled in the garden where everyone in the dawn rosary procession can see you.

Mind you, these never happened to me. But I heard these things can occur when you’ve had too much to drink.

There’s not much empirical data on alcoholism in the Philippines. Maybe this is because our society doesn’t consider drinking a problem. But I do know, for a fact, that beer and liquor firms are some of the country’s top earners. I don’t see San Miguel Brewery and Destileria Limtuaco being in the red, do you?


And aside from being easily accessible, there is no stigma attached to drinking. At parties, it’s not uncommon for an adult to offer a drink to a child. And when the child takes that first sip and winces at the taste, the adult usually laughs. Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe it was just at my family’s parties. But that was how I remembered my first encounter with alcohol. And I hated it.

Now, isn’t that ironic. Don’t you think?

So why am I talking about drinking and alcohol? It was that piece of news about a Cebu City vehicle getting clamped by Citom on Pelaez St. near a beerhouse last May 10 that got me thinking.

Not only did the driver leave the vehicle parked by the roadside overnight, which is illegal, he also left an empty beer bottle inside the multicab. His most serious offense, though, was using a government vehicle outside office hours without permission. Guilty!

Job-order employee Severino Cardente, to his credit, immediately confessed to these misdemeanors. Then again, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who took the vehicle. He did drive three members of the local school board to an official activity in Barangay Labangon the day before. No need to play pretend.

According to the investigation conducted by the City Legal Office, Cardente, who refused to be interviewed, did go to a beerhouse in the area because he had a family problem.

Couldn’t he have just taken public transportation? Maybe that wasn’t the first time he used a government vehicle to deal with his personal problems.

Which leads me to more questions. Was he alone in the beerhouse? If not, who was he with? And what happened to his three companions? Did they all go home “after work?” One of them did leave his bag and his ID in the vehicle. That should tell you something. And why did Cardente insist that his superior didn’t know he took the vehicle for a night spin?

I for one don’t think Cardente was alone that night. Our society frowns on people who drink alone. And I’m speaking from experience. As an observer, of course. It’s the one time our society shakes its head and lets out a tsk, tsk, tsk. So no.

So what really gives?

Well… there is that tiny matter of the City owing millions for gasoline and diesel.

Mayor Michael Rama also did say that “no one is above the law. There will be no exception given when they violate traffic laws.” And violate Cardente certainly did. Nineteen to be exact, dating back to 1999. And he owes P5,200 in accumulated fines.

But did Cardente deserve to get the axe? Here’s what we know of the guy: He drinks. He has a family problem. He’s not afraid to admit responsibility. He’s loyal to his superior. He’s probably still nursing a massive hangover. He’s a lousy driver. But hey, at least he doesn’t drink and drive.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 18, 2014.


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