Like sister


THERE are many things shocking and astounding about the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy. There are the multiple stories we continue to hear about what went down, what went wrong with Operation Wolverine, an unfolding that must be infinitely more difficult to hear for the families of those who have died in the name of capture.

There are the stories from the survivors of this operation who talk about having carried their fallen comrades, or fulfilled that last wish to view photos of family on a cellphone. There are the family members’ stories about being in touch with the fallen police commandos, at a time when we are being told they were beyond reach.

There are the voices of our police officials, our senators, Malacañang spokespersons. There is the voice of the President addressing the nation, talking at the necrological service for the 44 police commandos, speaking to the members of the Special Action Force (SAF) grieving for their comrades.

There was the silence he received when he asked the SAF if they had any questions or grievances, anything at all they wanted to tell the President.

That silence was deafening. It still is.

It is difficult to keep one’s eye on the ball. It is a measure of social media, yes. But also it is a measure of media (ir)responsibility – especially online media – for which what is important is getting the most number of hits, getting the most shares.

So expectedly it is the presidential sister’s antics on nationwide TV and on social media that is getting attention, and the only thing surprising is how too many have asked: Why must this celebrity unfollowing people on instagram get so much attention? Why must we know about what she said and did? And then they promptly share that new article about the presidential sister.

But that question is so easily answered by celebrity culture and media complicity. It’s celebrity culture impinging upon the issues that matter. And in that sense it behooves us all to ignore it completely, if not engage with it even as we insist on talking about the more urgent issues of the day. It’s called multitasking, if not self-critical online media use.

The better question of course is: Why do we allow media to do this at all? To have the presidential sister’s name trend, instead of any other hashtag that is about finding truth, that is about demanding accountability?

I tend to think it’s because we all could use the distraction, and the presidential sister is always worth a laugh or two, if not the cuss words we save for the more insensitive, more unthinking, more tactless of our celebrities and politicians. But this presidential sister has the media in the palm of her hand and knows that all mileage is good, no matter that it might be negative to us English-speaking, middle to upper class Pinoys.

Because every morning and evening on weekdays, and every Sunday afternoon, she is speaking in the vernacular to Filipinos across the world, crying about someone finding love, laughing with Boy Abunda about something or other, talking about God’s grace.

You know we can’t win. But maybe if we engage with her antics and consistently fight it, we will cease to be surprised when she crosses a line at critical times like this one. Maybe we can figure out a way to cut through the superficiality and self-centeredness.

Speaking of self-centeredness, it seems to be the theme of the many speeches that we have heard the President deliver, from that speech at the necrological service, to that one he delivered in front of the SAF afterwards, to this one that we heard him deliver tonight, talking about General Alan Purisima’s resignation.

It’s too painful to repeat what is wrong with the way this has been handled by this country’s Commander-In-Chief. But it might be important to point out that it is now more than at any other time that I realize he is Kris Aquino’s brother.

Self-centeredness is at the heart of his sister’s body of work—if we might call a career in endorsements and oversharing a body of work at all. She interviews people not by listening to them, but by comparing herself to them; she asks people questions so that she can refer to her own answers.

The President has spent more time talking about his own experience of loss and danger, than he has answering the many questions the nation is asking, than he has acknowledging the grief and sadness of the families of those who lost to Mamasapano. We now know how he felt when his father was assassinated. How he felt as presidential son during one of those coup attempts against his mother’s government. How he feels now that he has had to accept his friend Alan’s resignation.

It is no surprise in fact that he has received deafening silences after those speeches, save for that one delivered tonight, in front of his cabinet. They gave him applause, almost too loudly, for all of us to hear.

It is entirely possible that the Presidential speeches thus far were envisioned as a way to make the President more … personable, in the way that his sister’s every-teary-eyed declaration about her personal life gives her the ratings her TV shows need.

But running a country is different from hosting a TV show, and between brother and sister it is clear that acting is not in their blood. Because even when the President talks about his sadness, even when he is waxing nostalgic about his father or mother or uh, Alan’s friendship, it is difficult to feel for him.

It might also be because what we expect of him at this point is compassion. Is kindness. Is just the most basic of requirements: an apology.

He might apologize for having known about this operation, and not saying no to it, period, full stop, given the ceasefire agreement in light of the BBL. He might apologize for having failed to appear at the Arrival Honors for the SAF 44. He might apologize for having gone to that Mitsubishi plant inauguration instead of Villamor Air Base.

He might apologize for having spoken about the peace process, before talking about finding justice. He might apologize for having waited for Purisima’s resignation, instead of firing him last week.

He might apologize for being the Commander-In-Chief that has no answers, two weeks since that Mamasapano operation turned tragedy.

In a country run by the Aquinos, apologies are apparently never in order.


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  1. 1> I think his “showbiz” speechwriter also authored some cheezy lines

    Eddie Garcia mouths in his action films, even comedy films.

    2> Re the “sister” , I can’t change channels fast enough when she comes out,
    specially for commercial endorsements.

    A pity since I used to love Chowking siopaws !

  2. PNoy and Kris are excellent specimens of persons with psychological and psychiatric problems, based on their behavioral patterns and can be affirmed by the personality problems of Josh Salvador. Their other siblings, Balsy, Viel and the other sister is not exposed to the public so folks do not know if they too bear the same problems. Both however are already confirmed mental cases.

  3. If it weren’t for Binay, I would have called the President to resign. I guess, I just have to wait for next year’s election.

  4. Aquino will never apologize. He only sees the death of the 44 policemen as a danger to the BBL, which will stop his Peace Award bid if it is not passed by March. After March, it will be too late, the peace nominee list will be trimmed down to finalists without considering the BBL as an Aquino accomplishment. Without the BBL there is no chance for Aquino. That is what he is focused on. He does not care about the 44 deaths. Take no action on the BBL until after May.

  5. Who else will they take after if not the parents who raised them? The coarse and vulgar brother and sister act of Kris Aquino and her kuya is just a reflection of their lack of breeding. That one of them is president and the other Queen of Media is a national embarrassment that will take forever to shake off. We are the laughing stock of the world and we don’t know it.

  6. lou evangelista on

    Thank you Ms. Santiago for this fine article. Better than an apology that wouldn’t come across as sincere PNoy should just speak the truth, if he can muster the courage. As for the other sibling, the less spoken about her the better for our health.

  7. Imagine a world without a Kris Aquino in it. It will be a notch higher in terms of good taste, manners and decency. On the downside her absence will mean one less cure for those of us who are afflicted with constipation. She’s quite good at irritating the sh*t out of people.

  8. The current president is merely a product of media, he had no notable accomplishment prior to the presidency and the nation has paid dearly ever since he has been the president.

  9. I wonder how the other daughters of the late Cory Aquino feel about their siblings PNoy and Kris. I heard they are quite Godly people.

  10. Unfortunately saying I am sorry can have a repercussion opposite to what the apologist wanted. Remember what happened to Gloria after she was convinced that the Filipino is a forgiving people and all that she had to do was apologize and look remorseful on tv and what did she get instead the ridicule of even one of the prominent personalities who convinced her. In any case pnoy can do whatever he wants I could no longer care less if he makes a bigger ass of himself by apologizing he is a complete and total failure beyond any redemption for me.

  11. muriel magtanggol on

    You hit the nail right on its head…AN APOLOGY, a sincere apology is something we may never extricate from this commander in chief who assumed responsibility for something not even he could admit!

  12. Roldan Guerrero on

    A PERENNIAL BACHELOR who never had any experience of raising a family, now declaring the fallen SAF 44 as his Children, calling himself the father of this nation, whom he first refered to as his BOSSES! Until now i could not find the right word to describe the personality of this man. But I may at this time say that his physical appearance shows what kind of individual he is. He is the ugliest, worst performer president ever elected in this country thus, having me now conclude he is not at all fit to do the job. BSA HAS TOTALLY SELF-DESTRUCTED! For GOD`S SAKE AND FOR THE FILIPINOS, PRES. MAMASAPANOT, STOP MAKING LIES NOW AND GET DOWN IMMEDIATELY, PLEASE SPARE THIS NATION AND THE FILIPINOS AS WELL FOR LEADING TO A FAILED STATE AND SUFFER MORE TRAGEDIES FROM YOUR HANDS.

    • i really can’t find the right words to describe this President of ours… If I do, I’m sure it will not be published anyway… One thing is sure though.. his lies, deceptions, black soul, unfeeling heart, ineptness, incapabilty in governance, etc. etc. etc. makes him one good candidate for a cartoon character, together with his itchy sis named Kris! duhhh…

  13. Your article is very well written. Comparison between the Aquino brother and sister is right on target: they are both morons.

    • PNoy is DOM as in Dirty Old Man, which sister Kristeta likes so much, Philip and Joey. Poor James at nasabit ka sa pamilyang ito. No apologies needed. Sayang, hindi pa sila nadale nun naambush sila kuno.