Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Begging for trouble

This is my column today, October 28, 2014.


The public nightmare, which is the government mishandling of the murder of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, continues.    
Marc Sueselbeck, the German fiance of Laude, was prevented from leaving the country over the weekend on the strength of a hold departure order issued by the government.  Apparently, Sueselbeck broke laws and challenged Philippine authorities when he climbed the perimeter fence of the Joint US Military Assistance Group inside Camp Aguinaldo and shoved Technical Sergeant Mariano Pamittan who was manning the gate.  Sueselbeck allegedly wanted to come to the aide of Marilou Laude, sister of the slain transgender woman, who was the first to climb the perimeter fence and confront the military men who were guarding Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the US Marine accused of killing Laude.
It must be stressed that Pamittan did display maximum tolerance and professionalism, which was the reason why the incident at Camp Aguinaldo did not degenerate into a brawl.  The commendation he received from the military establishment is deserved.
I understand the need to uphold the country’s laws, particularly when these laws are being violated by foreigners right in our country.  However, subjecting Sueselbeck to additional emotional torture at a time when he is mourning the death of his fiancee - and over a seemingly minor transgression that can be dismissed as irrational behavior brought on mainly by emotions and which he has already apologized for—makes the government looks like it’s begging for trouble.  We do have other problems to worry about in this country.  And there certainly are more important issues around the Laude murder that we need to resolve without the added aggravation of a German fiance screaming discrimination and unfair persecution.
 What is ironic is that Sueselbeck was prevented from leaving so that he can face charges, which consequently carry the maximum penalty of deportation.  For crying out loud, he was already about to say goodbye to the Philippines, anyway.  We could have spared ourselves the added complication.  In fact, if government really wanted to do so, we could have barred him from entering the country forever after he left.
This added wrinkle in the Laude murder does not make sense unless we factor in the allegation that this is just another indicator of just how prejudiced our leaders really are.  There is absolutely no empathy being displayed towards the family of Laude or those who see the murder as indicative of something graver.   The President’s dismissive “I do not attend wakes of people I don’t know” is a concrete example of this.
So apparently, Sueselbeck is being considered an ordinary nuisance, not a grieving boyfriend because, well,   transgenders are not supposed to have real boyfriends.  Sexual minorities do not have rights nor are they entitled to respect.
The government, however, is not alone in its penchant for inviting trouble, or at least shooting itself on the foot.
Vice President Jejomar Binay has started to fight back and engage his detractors in a media war.  In the past he was content with just issuing blanket denials and ascribing political motives to the people who have been questioning his integrity as a public official.  In the last few days, however, it appears as if his camp has finally been able to decide on a public relations campaign to counter the serious allegations of corruption and illegal wealth.  Binay is trumping up the class angle – positioning himself as the champion and representative of the masses.  In short, he is changing the nature of the debate.
I am not sure the tack is wise.  It is very easy to prove that Binay and his family are not and have not been living like the poor in the last 30 years.  We’re not talking about properties supposedly registered under other people’s names; the declared wealth of the Binays and the lifestyle of the family are more than enough to prove that by no stretch of the imagination can he be considered poor.
What the Vice President needs to do is to answer the allegations squarely and effectively.  Not all voters expect their leaders to be lily white, but most do want their leaders to be forthright,  decisive, and sensible – traits that one cannot use to describe the Vice President nowadays.  If he truly is clean, then he just has to face the allegations – if not in the Senate, then somewhere else.  The allegations are not going away, that’s for sure.

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