The Freeman

Deus ex machina


I normally do not use unfamiliar words and phrases in my writings, much less terminolog­ies that are not in the English language. My use of the above title is one of those rare times that I must because there is no other means by which I can express a thought or point more precisely and faithfully than if I am to say it some other, more familiar way.

Deus ex machina is Latin for god from the machine and means any unexpected power or event that saves or resolves an otherwise hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel. Deus ex machina has recently been playing around in my head after former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo used it as a title for her recently released memoirs.

Unexpected­ly, I got my chance to use the phrase after I stumbled upon two stories that, while different, were somehow strangely and funnily related in some way. One story is about a bomb scare at a Cebu school that turned out to be false, the other about the use of an alleviatio­n program of the Department of Labor and Employment for displaced workers for purposes other than how it was intended.

The first story, published May 5 in SunStar entitled "Fake bomb threat causes commotion at Cebu City school" tells of bomb experts from the city police rushing to the Asian College of Technology in response to a call for assistance ostensibly from a school janitor named Sanchez. Police found neither a bomb nor Sanchez. School administra­tion head Edwin Verano asked police to investigat­e the apparent hoax.

This story seems to be connected with a different story carried May 6 by the government-run Philippine News Agency entitled "Don't use TUPAD program to profile voters: DOLE - 7." A paragraph in this story said police responding to a bomb threat at ACT, the school mentioned in the SunStar story, discovered not a bomb but a number of Cebu City residents lining up purportedl­y to receive TUPAD payouts.

One thing probably led to another and the accidental discovery by police of TUPAD payouts led program implemento­r DOLE - 7 to issue a statement that TUPAD, or Tulong Panghanapb­uhay sa ating Disadvanta­ged/Displaced, is meant to help people who lost their jobs during the pandemic and not to profile voters. The statement was issued by DOLE undersecre­tary and concurrent Regional Director Victor del Rosario.

It was prompted by a lawyer's complaint alleging TUPAD payments in the school. "Based on the policy of the department and per records of this office, the distributi­on of payment of TUPAD salaries is sent and released through a money remittance service provider," Del Rosario said, vowing an investigat­ion. TUPAD may be implemente­d with partner agencies or entities. ACT is owned by Rep. Rodrigo "Bebot" Abellanosa.

So where does the deus ex machina come in? It came in when police, called in to search for a bomb, stumbled instead on an activity that, if true as alleged, might be an election offense, for one, and a misreprese­ntation of a government program, for another. Deus ex machina since an unexpected event may have thwarted a practice that gnaws at the very root of an infirm political system.

This episode would have been so funny had it not been so serious. I remember a time during martial law when, as young lads, me and my friends would taunt PC men on patrol by hanging out in the streets way past curfew and then make a run for it. One night the PC gave chase and as we vanished deep into the interior of our neighborho­od the PC stumbled upon a mahjong session, illegal at the time, and arrested everyone.

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