Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Current events essay test

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

What does it say of us when the main story about the President of the Republic that greeted the New Year was about his purchase of a luxury car? Prior to this, there was that hullabaloo over what many people thought were uncalled for partisan remarks during the traditional Vin d’honneur or New Year’s reception at the MalacaƱan Palace.

I know. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s recent purchase of a Porsche has already been roundly criticized by many as being ill-timed, ostentatious, impractical, out-of-sync with the general image he has been laboring hard to portray, etc.

On the other hand, the defense trundled out can generally be summed up in this way: Inggit lang kayo (roughly, we can’t help it if you are envious).

What does it say of us when the main story related to the President’s visit to the queen city of the South to attend a major religious and cultural festival was about his search for a girlfriend (should be a Cebuana, someone suggested)? It’s bad enough that media is obsessed with the President’s love life; must local politicians jump into the fray by offering unsolicited advice for the lovelorn and by playing matchmakers?

Obviously nobody really thought through the various implications of having a bachelor as President of the country– and someone relatively young, with a different set of values. It’s not just the Porsche, the series of dates, the smoking, the barkada, etc.

In a way, I can relate with the President’s woes. Bachelors of a certain age in this country are always asked that question and ribbed endlessly about the importance of “settling down.” God knows I dread family reunions precisely because I know everyone will be asking about whether there is a special “girl” in my life and whether I realize that I am already way past the marrying age. It’s annoying. So I can imagine the President’s disdain, he who has to put up with the badgering from everyone else.

The purchase of the Porsche and the justification provided is typical of people of a specific demographic: Young, single men of independent means. What we have here is a clash of expectations borne out of differences in values and priorities.

What does it say of us when a former vice presidential candidate (actually, he was a Presidential candidate prior to sliding down to the second top post in the land) is given a Cabinet position with the official designation as “troubleshooter?” Does this mean we are truly a country of troublesome people that an official troubleshooter has to be appointed for the role? Oh please, I know we’re not supposed to be literal, but position titles are important, as they are indicative of the value and scope of one’s job.

What does it say of us when our leaders openly and very publicly question the qualities and worth of the newly appointed Chairman of the Commission on Elections not on the basis of qualification or competence, but on the basis of perceived bias against them? In the past, people tended to question a person’s bias for a particular cause putting the discussion at the level of issues rather than personalities.

Today, we have the likes of Mar Roxas and Senator Franklin Drilon openly suggesting that their political futures might become imperiled because of perceived bias against them. I think people can be forgiven for deducing that what these gentlemen really want is an assurance of being favored rather than being disadvantaged although of course they will say that they just want fairness and an even playing field.

What does it say of us when stories of a coup at the Senate become banner material in most newspapers when each and every senator denies having any knowledge of it? The way our senators mimic the proverbial monkeys who saw no evil, heard no evil, and spoke no evil is ludicrously hilarious.

Not that this is the first time something like this happened; in fact this has always been the norm as far as the Philippine Senate is concerned. Changes in leadership in the Senate, quite appropriately referred to as coup d’etat, almost always begin with rumors that are promptly denied by the perpetrators. Of course nobody bothers to explain the attempts at subterfuge when the rumors are proven to be true and the coup d’etat becomes successful.

There must be a better, more proactive way of installing a new Senate President, or paradoxically, ousting one from power. I just can’t imagine how our social studies teachers explain Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s “whoever has the numbers can replace me” statement to high school students!

What does this say of us when a congressman representing, of all groups, teachers and educators, is reported to have verbally abused an airline employee who was just doing her job? We all know that many of our elected officials think so highly of themselves and of their positions that they expect all kinds of courtesies to be extended to them. They expect other people not only to open doors for them, but also to bend over backwards and break rules just to accommodate their whims and caprices.

But what does it say when a party-list representative is the one accused of the abusive behavior? Party-list representatives were envisioned to represent marginalized communities; the whole concept was borne out of the desire to provide all sectors of the country equal access to power. What this validates, once again, is the fact that our so-called party list groups and representatives do not really represent real marginalized communities or groups.

Ordinarily, the Alliance of Volunteer Educators should have already expelled Eulogio Magsaysay. But then again, those in the know are aware of the kind of organization AVE really is, the people behind it, and why they have been able to secure seats in the last three elections. AVE is really a lobby group of a particular business interest that is based in Subic. They have the support of the powerful religious sect renowned for voting as a bloc.

And pray tell, what does it say of us when the wife of the congressman in question takes up the cudgels for her husband, insisting that there is nothing wrong with being called a “menopausal bitch?”

It is a good thing that Sarah Teresa Ocampo is pursuing the case by filing a criminal and administrative complaint at the Ombudsman and grave slander, serious misconduct, conduct unbecoming of a high ranking public official, and direct solicitation of personal favor or gain using his office at the House of Representatives’ ethics committee. It’s about time that someone stands up to the likes of Magsaysay who flaunt their power and influence so arrogantly.

What does it say of us if these trends continue throughout the year?

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