AFTER more than five years of laboring under a government led by a man who somehow manages to display diffidence and arrogance at the same, one would think we, in the media, would have had time to become inured to his outrageously offensive complaints of “sensationalism” nearly every time he perceives the press to be reporting bad news only to cast him in an unfavorable light. But President BS Aquino is truly one in a million, and continues to astonish us with his insensitivity and rude self-importance.
In Malaysia on Sunday, on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, Aquino used what little time was made available to speak to the Philippine media gathered to cover the just-concluded Asean summit to complain about the “tanim-bala” or bullet-planting extortion scheme at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, a story that dominated the headlines for a couple of weeks prior to the APEC summit, and an issue his government has yet to satisfactorily resolve.
Yes, on a day that, if Aquino should have had anything to say to this country’s fourth estate, it should have been an apology for allowing to lie dormant (if not actively blocking progress) in the Philippine court system the case of the brutal slaying on Nov. 23, 2009 of 58 people – at least 34 of them journalists. Instead, the President decided to complain that the “tanim-bala” matter was being “sensationalized,” describing it as a scheme to discredit his administration. His complaint implied that the media was complicit in the effort to make him look bad.
Making the ludicrous and utterly false claim that “only two or three” victims of the extortion had complained about it, Aquino used the same asinine logic as his hopeless Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya offered, that the number of cases (between 1,200 and 1,500, according to reliable statistics gathered by law enforcement agencies) was very small compared with the number of travelers passing through NAIA every year, and thus, the matter was being blown out of proportion and must be an effort to discredit him.
Enough is enough, Mr. Aquino. You are a public servant, and moreover, you are a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines bound by the same laws as the rest of us – including libel. Your careless statements, beyond betraying, certainly not for the first time, an overweening sense of entitlement, are a serious allegation against many parties. You made the charge, so please explain to us how a 56-year-old grandmother who has spent most of her working life as a domestic helper in Hong Kong – thanks in no small part to your poor record of creating job opportunities in our country – is part of a conspiracy to make you look bad. You please explain how an American missionary, a young man doing God’s work and whose first introduction to the Philippines was an encounter with thieves in uniform, is part of that same conspiracy. And you explain how the media, whose job it is to inform the public of matters which certainly may have a direct, personal impact on them, is a willing conspirator in this same incredible plot.
You made the accusation, you present the evidence to prove it, or withdraw it and apologize for your self-centered recklessness.
The time for honoring yourself is not just long past; it never existed in the first place. Enough is enough, Mr. Aquino.