Seares: Partly sunny, partly cloudy

Pachico A. Seares

AFTER one session of the City Council, two councilors go into a bar, have a few drinks, then quarrel over who has more charisma, Mayor Ed Labella or Vice Mayor Mike Rama.

They can’t agree and move on to the day’s weather: Is it “partly sunny” or “partly cloudy”? They agree that the weather forecast is usually both PS and PC but neither “Hon” (for “Honorable”) can tell the difference.

So they ask a news reporter who just comes in. He assumes the look of authority, says, “Like glass, which can be half-empty or half-full.”

A waiter who overhears says, “No difference. PS and PC mean exactly the same thing. Both describe cloudiness covering 3/8 to 5/8 of the sky. A mix of sun and clouds. Says the U.S. National Weather Service.”

“How’d you know?” one councilor asks. The waiter says, “Just Googled it.”rece

Moral: A waiter can be more diligent on things that a councilor or a journalist is routinely expected to be.

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Panelo’s ‘fake news’

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo Monday (Feb. 10) said the “confusion” over President Duterte’s action on the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States is about tenses.

Last Friday (Feb. 7) , Panelo told the press Duterte ordered Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to tell Foreign Affairs Scretary Teddy Locsin to send a notice to the U.S. terminating the VFA.

When asked to confirm it, both Medialdea and Locsin said they had not received the order. (At the Senate hearing, Locsin even said he was pushing for the VFA’s review, not termination.) Armed Forces chief Delfin Lorenzana was more blunt: he called Panelo’s information about the supposed order to Locsin “fake news.”

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Mind your tenses

It’s about tenses, all right. At the time, he talked with the President, the move was in the future tense: “will order.” Panelo used the past tense: it was done: “ordered.”

But Panelo dismissed the distinction. Not important, Panelo said in his explanation. What’s important is that the President’s mind is already set.

It is important. Until the President orders Medialdea and Medialdea relays it to Locsin and Locsin sends the notice to the U.S., the action is not complete.

Journalists are “peculiarly sensitive” to tense sequence because they record mostly the past. Theodore M. Bernstein once noted that journalism’s concern is not exclusively the immediate past “but successive layers or planes of past time.”

If you tell a journalist that your girl friend loves you, he will ask, When did she say that? Did she say that before, when?

Those questions delve into the tense sequence alone. He has not yet gone into “context” of what your g.f. said.