After nearly four days out of the spotlight (some say in hiding), President Benigno Bs. Aquino III finally emerged last Monday, April 4, to attend a public event and perform an official chore.
Many believed that, as has been characteristic of him throughout his presidency, he had disappeared from view because of the tragic events in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, where three protesting/petitioning farmers were killed and scores of others were wounded by police forces, who were ineptly trying to disperse a farmers’ protest and remove their barricading of a major highway in the province. Aquino hid lest he be blamed for the violence.
Since the tragedy took place, Aquino has not said a word in comment – nothing to the Philippined National Police (PNP), nothing to the farmers and their supporters, and nothing to the public – as a way of communicating to all that he at least knew what had happened and would do his part in resolving the sticky situation.
Significantly, the event that brought the President out of hiding was an official function involving the police and the nation’s firemen at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon city.
He led in the distribution of 144 patrol jeeps and 135 fire trucks to police and fire officials.
You would think that on such an occasion, President Aquino would at least take official note of the events in Kidapawan, and address a few words of concern to the public and police authorities.
But no, instead of saying something to reassure people that he is on top of the situation, he used the QC event to heap unnecessary praise on the police and firemen.
In a speech that bewildered many, he told police and fire officials to be proud of being public servants.
He declared that in the more than five years of his administration, a culture of pride has been fostered among uniformed personnel.
He said: “We are in the period where you can say to the nation with heads held up high: ‘I am a fireman, I am a policeman, I am of service to fellow Filipinos.’ ”
The words grated on the ears of many, as they noted how the police had mercilessly gunned down some of the protesting farmers in Kidapawan. Far from serving their welfare, they inflicted violence on them and heaped misery on their families.
The President’s words were doubly wounding because everyone knows that the farmers were only seeking some relief and support from the government because they and their families were being stricken by hunger, on account of the prolonged drought in Mindanao. And government had plenty of rice to spare right there in Kidapawan.
The President was accompanied to the occasion by Interior and local government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ricardo Marquez, two officials who have been under public fire because of their insensitivity to the farmers’ distress. These officials pointedly awarded medals to the police troops that took part in the violent dispersal of the protest.
No words could have been more hollow and unconvincing than the President’s speech at the turnover ceremony. He talked once again about his hypocritical and mendacious straight path program.
He declared that under the straight path, there were no shortcuts, no fat commissions and no haste in undertaking programs and projects for the uniformed service.
Yet under the straight path there has been a lot of violence and tragedies, and there has also been a satanic multiplication of smuggling, the unresolved disappearances of thousands of containers from the port area and an endless parade of thievery and waste of public money.
The new patrol jeeps for the country’s police forces would be meaningful, if they would induce our police personnel and officers to be more attentive and caring for the legitimate needs of our people.
They are a slap to the people when they are used to cover up the truancy of the chief executive of the land.