Someday it will be remembered as “the strategic inflection point” of the 2016 presidential race—the moment when the nation grasped the utter vileness of the Trillanes-Cayetano-Pimentel project of character assassination in the Senate, and when the people began to see, however dimly, the shimmering possibility of a Jejomar Binay presidency.
To spell it out for everyone, it was the historic moment when the insufferable Trillanes described Vice-President Binay as “kulay mahirap, and asal mahirap” ( poor-colored and poor-mannered), thinking extravagantly that he was delivering thereby a killer blow to Binay’s presidential hopes.
To the dismay of those paying his retainer, instead of a killer blow, he delivered, in fact, the equivalent of a benediction on Binay’s candidacy, while he simultaneously impaled himself on his words (or sword unjumbled), as had happened to Brutus and Cassius in the tragedy of Julius Caesar.
In this country, where some 50-80 percent of the people are poor and constitute the masses, you can’t denigrate the poor without suffering huge consequences. Especially a politician. It has happened to one woman who denigrated OFW domestic workers, because as a Filipino she felt like one of them when traveling abroad, and she then called for controls on the employment of Filipino domestics abroad. The ensuing outrage was fierce, she had to apologize profusely to save her job or her living.
I will discuss shortly why I consider Trillanes’s intended putdown of Binay as a benediction-cum-harakiri. But first let me explicate the ins and outs of “a strategic inflection point,” and why it is worth the trouble of comprehending.
A point of major change
In business management, the strategic inflection point is a concept first brought to the attention of the business world by former Intel CEO and business pioneer Andy Grove in his 1996 book Only the Paranoid Survive.
Grove describes strategic inflection points as representing what happens to a business when a major change takes place in its competitive environment. Think of it as the point at which a trend or curve changes direction from positive to negative or negative to positive.
Some examples of strategic inflection points often cited are (1) the switch from film to digital cameras, when it became apparent that so many people would prefer the convenience of digital cameras over film cameras. At the time it happened this was not so clear because digital cameras were very expensive and the image quality was poor.
And (2) the switch from physical newspapers to online publications, when people saw the many benefits of accessing a huge variety of news sources and publications on one device. Yet just a decade ago, it seemed that most people would prefer forever reading the physical edition of a newspaper.
In hindsight, strategic inflection points are easy to spot, and the course of action is clear. But in the moment, it’s difficult to know if we are looking at a fundamental change in the direction of the curve — or whether it’s just a hiccup that will soon go away.
Because we are only in the preliminaries of the 2016 presidential race, it’s difficult to see at first the course-changing effect and repercussions of the Trillanes boner. But these soon became apparent when his words went viral and the pundits and commentators took it up.
What really happened
Trillanes uttered the fateful words during an interview with the media after he and other members of the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee inspected a sprawling property in Rosario, Batangas, which he insisted belonged to Vice President Binay.
The interview was quickly posted on Youtube and shared in social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. I’ve watched the youtube post, and I can confirm that Trillanes said, eyes glaring and nostrils flaring, the following:
“Nakita natin ‘yung karangyaan nitong lugar na ito at gusto ko ngang maipakita na ito, dalawang pagkatao nito ni Vice President Binay na nagpapakita siya na mahirap siya, kulay-mahirap, na asal-mahirap, pero ‘yun pala mayroon siyang sikretong mundo na, ito nga, na karangyaan. So diyan niyo makikita ‘yung pagbabalatkayo ng taong ito
[We have seen the luxury of this place, and it shows the two personalities of Vice-President Binay. He projects himself as poor, because he has the complexion and the manners of the poor. But it turns out he has a secret world of opulence. You can see Binay’s masquerade here.]
Reaction to the video was instant and sweeping.
Netizens were offended by trillanes’s choice of words.
The terms “kulay mahirap” and “asal mahirap” angered the netizens who slammed the senator for the slur.
“Being poor is nothing to be ashamed of. Sen. Trillanes’ is so offensive. Talk about being two-faced,” one netizen posted on Twitter.
Another netizen asked: “Pag maitim ba mahirap na agad? [Does being dark mean being poor?] Respeto naman Senator Trillanes. [Have some respect Senator Trillanes.]”
A blogger also asked: “Asal mahirap, kulay mahirap, hiyang hiya naman ako sa sinabi ni Trillanes. Siya kaya? Asal mayaman? At kulay mayaman?” [Manners of the poor, complexion of the poor, what Trillanes said shames me so much. How about him? Manners of the rich? Complexion of the rich?]
Others called Tillanes “matapobre,” the Filipino word for the rich looking down on the poor.
In the same video, a visibly fuming Trillanes was also seen shouting at Chinese-Filipino businessman Antonio Tiu when the senator and his group were initially refused entry by caretakers of the Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park.
“Anong gimik na naman ito? [What are you up to this time]?” he asked Tiu when the businessman arrived at the farm.
When asked to comment on the slur, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, Binay’s spokesman on political concerns, said that Trillanes’ attitude only showed that he “thinks lowly of poor people.”
Realizing belatedly how damaging to himself his careless words have been, Trillanes tried to explain away the slur by saying that Tiu had set him up. This even though, he uttered the words in an interview with the media, whom he had brought with him to cover the ocular inspection.
The way this looks to me, it’s like the toothpaste squeezed out of the tube. You can’t put it back again.
Trillanes’s credibility is toothpaste now.
Binay benefits from slur
Ironically, the object of the slur is the one now benefiting from it.
Trillanes has inadvertently turned Binay into a man of the masses, a Filipino everyman who looks and acts like most of us. It’s not exactly beatification as I naughtily suggest in my title; but the sense of this being god-sent is unavoidable.
Binay’s tormentor may have given him a most powerful message for his forthcoming campaign. He is a man of the people.
And he can go around the country boasting that he got it as a gift from Trillanes, while the senator was doing his worst to crucify him. And he can replay the YouTube video ad nauseam.
Talk about an underdog coming out on top. This is it.
It isn’t Jejomar Binay who is dark, it is the ignoble mission of his detractors in the Senate, who take money from plutocrats to assassinate his character and his reputation.
Darkness of the heart is much harder to whiten than skin.