The recent water crisis in Metro Manila has got its residents and authority gaga on how to address it. News of almost day-long (week-long for some) water interruption has been a regular in daily broadcasts for more than three months already and the end of it still appears dim.
Notwithstanding that, the people of San Juan City pushed through with their June 24 Wattah Wattah annual celebration.
The feast is marked with people dousing each other with water. This is supposed to be dedicated to John the Baptist who, according to the Bible, baptized a number of converts, including Jesus Christ, by pouring water over their heads as depicted in some paintings. But over the years this occasion has also earned a bad reputation due to incidences of indiscriminate dousing; i.e., local residents who participate in this event don’t seem to care who they drench. In response, the city government, I heard, issued an ordinance limiting the event from 7:00am to 12:00pm.
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A few years ago, San Juan city officials began openly and directly participating in the annual festivities even employing a number of the city’s fire trucks for the event. However, this time, we have a nagging water crisis. Almost everyday, we hear news of lowering water levels in our reservoirs. Sought for explanation why San Juan City still held the festivities despite the water shortage, outgoing mayor Guia Gomez simply said: “We cannot do away with tradition.”
— CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) June 24, 2019
This leads me to the various provisions of Section 4 of Republic Act 6713, aka Code of Conduct for Public Officials. In deciding to go ahead with the annual festivities, I wonder if she considered:
1. Public officials shall always uphold the public interest (paragraph a)
2. All government resources must be employed and used efficiently, effectively and economically (paragraph a)
3. The spirit of the phrase “avoid wastage” in paragraph a.
4. Respect the rights of others (paragraph 4).
It may be true that Mayor Gomez is simply a servant of the people primarily of San Juan. As she stressed in the interview above, even if she did not move to proceed with the event, her constituents will still go on with it. But that is all what she needed to do – not participate.
Knowing the current water crisis and its severity, the mayor should have set an example, as a leader, of sacrificing a tradition to support the need to save water.
Granted that the amount of water “wasted” during the feast of San Juan may be insignificant, it still sends a message of insensitivity. Even the small things count. What’s worse is that the people of San Juan City appeared to have sent that message themselves and they are backed by their leaders.
Indeed, this annual Wattah Wattah should be stopped as it is nothing more than a wasteful tradition, not to mention the activity is itself unscriptural.
I use to be a future Supreme Court justice.