Stop the culture of impunity

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MAMBA

UPON arriving at NAIA Terminal 2 Sunday morning from a business trip to Davao, I saw a young man in a green uniform near the escalator wearing a button pin that says, “May I help you.” True enough, I heard him talk to several passengers offering to bring their carry-on luggage to the arrival lounge. All politely refused, except this lady, who remarked in the vernacular, “What? I don’t know what your problem is.”

I am not sure if the young man heard her because when I glanced back, he continued to offer his services to other passengers. I am also not sure if anyone accepted his offer. However, I heard the lady’s remark and I saw her facial expression.

A simple “No, thank you”, if she didn’t want to be helped, would have made the young man (and her, as well) feel better.

While we Filipinos pride ourselves to be friendly, warm and hospitable, we also have a tendency to be rude, impolite and brash. We are fiercely nationalistic, but we can also be the first to look down upon our own heritage, our fellow Filipinos and our country. We prefer an orderly, lawful and disciplined society and yet, we can easily dismiss, forget or ignore a crime, injustice or sin with a mere “palusot”.


Remember how Congressman Rudy Fariñas summed up impeached former Chief Justice Renato Corona’s defense? “Palusot”, he said.

“Lusot” literally means to pass through, to penetrate, to overtake. Taking into consideration our penchant to play with words, “lusot” has taken other meanings. In street lingo, it has been taken to mean to escape, particularly from messy, controversial and tight issues. It also means to get out using loopholes in the law, rules and regulations. “Palusot”, meanwhile, is the noun form of the verb “lusot”. It can be simply translated to lame excuse.

Those that use “palusot” believe they did no wrong once they are allowed to get away with it. They surmise the end justifies the means despite the laws that have been violated, the rights that have been trampled upon and the people and lives that have been affected. They deem everything is alright as long as they are not caught.

Culture of impunity. “Palusot” culture. It must stop.

On May 13, election day, my husband Manny left after lunch to monitor the elections. As Provincial Chairperson of the Liberal Party, it was part of his job to know what is happening on the ground.

Having been married for 15 years going on 16 next month and having been through 6 elections together (including the recent one), and more prior to our marriage, I am familiar with election violence. However, Manny is not a candidate this time and he is a member of the President’s cabinet. Who would dare cause harm upon the President’s alter ego?

I was wrong. Someone did.

I can still vividly remember when Manny called me up soon after his 4-car convoy was fired upon. “We were ambushed,” Manny said, “by Ambong” (referring to Cagayan Governor Alvaro Antonio). I momentarily looked at my mobile phone. I heard him, he called me up, we are talking to each other, he must be alive. He told me what happened and that, thankfully, no one was hurt. Manny was in the first car. The fourth vehicle that was shot at is bullet-proof. If it wasn’t, lives would have been lost.

Long after our phone conversation ended, I didn’t move from where I was sitting when he called. It seemed my energy has been zapped out of my body. I thought of my 2 young sons. JM is only 9 and Noel is only 4. They cannot be without their father.

I thought of my mother-in-law. She once lost a son to election-related violence. She cannot lose another.

I thought of myself.

When Manny arrived several hours later, he had to remind me several times he’s there with me, with us.

I don’t know what went through in the suspect’s head before, during and after he shot at Manny. I don’t know if he thought of the 2 young boys who would be losing a father, the mother who would lose a son and the wife who would lose a husband. I don’t know if he believed and still believes he can get away with it.

Yes, he can make “palusot”. Yes, he can fabricate stories. Yes, he can continue to lie.

But no, the culture of impunity must end. And it will.

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