This blog does not claim to be always right. The blogger has no pretensions about being morally, politically, or ideologically correct. This blog contains random thoughts, rants, raves, hysterical protestations and sporadic thinking aloud by a person who is not out to please anyone or pander to anyone's idea of what is acceptable or ideal. Feel free to disagree, it is a free country.
Monday, November 23, 2009
This is my column today.
Renato Victor Ebarle Jr. was at the prime of his life; barely 27 years old and just starting to build his career in human resource management. At the time of his death, he was recruitment manager of the Hotel Peninsula Manila. To say that he still had the whole world ahead of him sounds like a cliché but those among us who actually knew him, those among us who were aware of the kind of passion he had for life and for his work, people like me who had the privilege of having been consulted by him on many professional matters, know this with a certain degree of certainty.
I was Victor’s professor in three major subjects when he was in college. In each one of them, he sat at the first row, which said a lot about the kind of person he was. Professors know this for a fact: Bullies don’t sit in front of the class where they cannot annoy anyone.
I was his thesis adviser and he and his team spent a whole academic school year trying to break new grounds on the question of how person-job fit in the recruitment and selection process affects certain attitudinal and performance outcomes. It was a thesis topic a little bit complicated for undergraduate students, but he and his team were out to prove they were capable of doing something bigger. He eventually went on to pursue a career related to his college thesis.
When the newscasts mentioned his name as the victim of that tragic incident that happened Wednesday evening last week, I refused to believe it was really he. I tried to convince myself it was someone else; must be another guy who just happened to have the same name, I told myself. Going into denial was the general reaction among people who knew him. No, it couldn’t be Victor was the same lament that got posted and reposted in Facebook, Friendster and other social networking sites. The denial was improbable, but so were the circumstances around his death.
Many people including the police and media kept referring to the tragedy as road rage as if doing so could explain why someone’s life was suddenly snuffed out by an assailant who—it seems pretty clear by now based on the psychological profile being drawn publicly about him—should not have been allowed to drive a vehicle in the first place. There is simply no way to deodorize the tragedy. Renato Victor Ebarle Jr. was murdered.
Ebarle Jr. really didn’t seem like someone who would be involved in something so senseless. I had close interactions with the guy for a number of years and never, not even once, did he mention or give any indication that he was the son and namesake of a high-ranking government official who worked just a few rooms away from the President of the Republic of the Philippines. In fact, many among us learned that his father worked as undersecretary at Malacañang only last week.
There’s this baseless and therefore grossly unfair insinuation that there was something more to what happened other than it being a tragic case of Ebarle Jr. being in the same place at the same time with someone else with a dark past. The facts as presented by those who witnessed what happened are pretty straightforward. There was a traffic altercation. Thereupon, Ebarle’s car was blocked by the assailant’s car (bearing diplomatic license plates), who then alighted from his car and pumped bullets into Ebarle Jr.’s chest and arms like he was a sitting duck at a shooting gallery.
The victim of that incident was Ebarle Jr. and there was no way he could have provoked his death. The tragedy was not a consequence of a proverbial pissing contest between two scions of highly influential people—one the son of a high-ranking government bureaucrat, the other an economist of the Asian Development Bank with diplomatic immunity and privileges. Many will see this as an attempt at defense by a former mentor, but I say this with conviction and with utmost objectivity: Ebarle was not a brat. He was not the typical offspring of ranking government bureaucrats who walked with a swagger, called attention to himself, flaunted his connections, and got involved in mischief. He was soft-spoken and almost painfully shy. Everyone who knew him personally will attest to this: Victor was a gentle soul and he looked like it, too. He never cussed, never ever figured in a brawl, never got drunk in public, and never bullied anyone.
There is this speculative drivel being passed around that the tragedy is being blown out of proportion and given way too much media attention because the victim’s father happens to be a government official with direct ties to the Office of the President. Like many others, I also felt uncomfortable with the pronouncements of certain Palace officials who hinted at using the full powers of the Presidential Management Office to get the assailant at all costs.
But on second thought, why shouldn’t the government or the Office of the President be concerned with the death of young people like Victor? We all should feel outraged and the fact that his father is a government official should be irrelevant. The circumstances that attended the tragedy are more than enough to be outraged.
In a country where tens of thousands die every day, many for reasons that are also just as inconceivable, there is the temptation to dismiss the death of one more young person to statistics. We really shouldn’t allow ourselves to become numb and desensitized to senseless tragedy, particularly those that could have been avoided with just a little more responsible oversight—paternal or otherwise.
The truth is that there are just too many people who drive around as if they own our streets. There are just too many people who drive around in cars with diplomatic plates, or with special plates assigned for certain government or elected officials, who expect everyone else to pull over and kowtow to them as if they were monarchs. What is even infuriating is that very often, these cars are driven by relatives—wives, children, mistresses, friends—who expect, nay, demand, that whatever imagined perks and privileges due to the registered owners or assignees of the cars are also afforded to them as if rank, functions and official business were also transferable.
The sad thing is that it seems we’re supposed to accept that road rage is a phenomenon that happens spontaneously; something that cannot be avoided. I can already see the line of defense forthcoming: That road rage happens to the best and the worst of us, that it is a medical condition, that it is involuntary. I will not discount the possibility that all these are contributory factors to road rage, just as traffic congestion, extreme heat, or the sight of a half naked model peddling underwear on a billboard are potential antecedents of road rage. Actually, road rage is a complicated thing but all empirical evidence point to one thing—it can be stopped and managed.
Besides, I refuse to accept that Renato Victor Ebarle Jr. died simply because of road rage. It happened because there was another person on the road that night who either had unspeakable evil in his heart or simply should not have been allowed to drive a car, particularly one with diplomatic plates on it.