It was that paragon of love for his fellow man, Joseph Stalin, who once said that one death is a tragedy but a million deaths is just a statistic. And when President Noynoy Aquino decided to play the game of large numbers to dismiss the planting of bullets in the luggage of those unfortunate people who had their lives ruined by the vultures working at the airport, he succeeded only in dehumanizing their suffering and pain.
Aquino, of course, has never been known for empathy, which is commonly defined as the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings and emotions. So when he said that only a thousand or so airline passengers out of more than 30 million who use the airport have been found to be carrying bullets in their luggage, he was only acting according to his unfeeling, insensitive nature.
This recourse to statistics is the reason why Aquino is able to say with a straight face that the media is sensationalizing the tanim-bala scandal, because certain people out to embarrass his government will somehow benefit from the controversy that has been generated. (For the life of me, I wonder how Aquino’s theory applies to the foreign media outlets that also widely reported the scam—were the BBC, CNN, the Wall Street Journal and Fox News being manipulated by Aquino’s enemies, as well?)
But what the insensitive President fails to understand is that every one of those thousand or so people, whether they willingly brought bullets into the airport as amulets or had been victimized by unscrupulous scanners out to make a fast buck, suffered terribly. And the harrowing experiences of the White family, whose dream Palawan vacation turned quickly into a remake of the movie “Midnight Express,” or Manang Gloria Ortinez, the Ilocana migrant worker who lost her job in Hong Kong, will never show up in any of Aquino’s numbers.
It is as if, as a friend noted, Aquino tried to justify the massacre of 44 members of the Special Action Force by saying that the national police force can afford to lose that many troops, since the Philippine National Police has 120,000 members anyway. In the like manner, what if Aquino said that the officially tally of 6,000 deaths caused by Typhoon “Yolanda’’ was acceptable since there are 100 million Filipinos anyway—or that the killing of 32 media workers in Ampatuan, Maguindanao didn’t really matter, since there are thousands of journalists working in this country full-time?
Of course, even if the victims of the tanim-bala scam did not lose their lives (remember “buhay pa naman kayo, di ba?”), such comparisons are valid. If Aquino truly cared about the people he routinely calls his “bosses,” you’d expect him to bawl out every last employee of the airport and fire their bosses, starting with that relative of his who says he is the facility’s manager.
But because Aquino is who he is, he can’t even wait for the National Bureau of Investigation to complete its probe of the scam before he opens his mouth to absolve everyone involved. He doesn’t even care if nine senators are sensitive enough to the people’s outrage that they have filed nine different resolutions calling for something, anything to be done at the airport to stop this truly hateful and oppressive practice.
As he nears the end of his uncaring term, Aquino can’t even pretend anymore that he feels the suffering of his countrymen. And if there is any justice at all, he will have to pay for his monumental insensitivity.
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Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas has apparently decided that he should drop all pretense about being uninvolved in the campaign to malign Senator Grace Poe, whose gaudy, consistently high survey numbers he must certainly covet. Roxas has joined the bandwagon of those taking cheap shots at Poe, calling the senator an unacceptable “foreigner President” if the latter is elected in May.
But you have to ask why Roxas is railing about Poe’s supposed ineligibility when he and President Noynoy were, only just months before, virtually begging Poe to join them in their quest to continue on the daang matuwid. Is the Roxas camp in such a state of panic that it will allow its standard bearer to indulge in the gutter politics that is the tactic of choice of its Internet trolls and its other black-ops practitioners?
I don’t really know. All I can assume from this frontal attack on the leading candidate by the chosen successor of Aquino is that Roxas must be feeling truly frustrated by Poe’s ascendancy and his own failure to rise in the poll ratings to a more viable position.
But I guess Roxas is truly acting like his boss, who pretends to be all about good governance and reform but who will not hesitate to hit below the belt when he gets hurt. And I’m betting that Roxas won’t be able to keep saying much longer that he wants a high-level, platform-oriented presidential contest when he continues to languish in the cellar.
I suspect Roxas will soon show that he is really more like Aquino that he wants us to think: the condescending, foul-mouthed elitist who is once again facing the prospect of losing a race that he thought he had already won.