WEARIED by all the sad and confusing stories coming out of martial law and the Marawi crisis, I decided to go to the movies on Thursday—for the opening of the latest super-hero (or super-heroine) blockbuster, “Wonder Woman.”
I needed the change of focus because of the way the Philippines has lately become the land of the bizarre—bizarre happenings, bizarre scandals, bizarre policy decisions, bizarre bad guys, bizarre public opinion surveys, and also, bizarre media which, all told, had sapped my spirit.
To my pleasant surprise, the new “Wonder Woman” is wondrous to behold, better than her previous incarnation in Hollywood. I was enthralled and moved by the statuesque and beautiful heroine, who is played by the Israeli actress Gal Gadot. She is quite a presence on the screen, as worthy of stardom as Robert Downey (Iron Man), Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Chris Evans (Captain America) and all the other male comic superheroes who have taken the box office by storm.
Sadly, I had to watch “Wonder Woman” without the heroine in my real life —my wife, who, as it happens, is now travelling in Europe for a whole month, doing her own kind of writing. I had to enjoy Gal Gadot and her exploits with only my son for company. She would have been thrilled to know that Gal Gadot and her character may help to restore my faith in the tremendous capacities of women.
Wonder Woman made me reflect on the not inconsequential fact that we have had redoubtable women leaders in our public life. Indeed, we have already had two women Presidents, Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Lately, however, we have watched with much disappointment the shortcomings and missed opportunities of our current women leaders—such as Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno. No one has come close to having the elusive quality of gravitas.
In the quiet of a movie theater and for a couple of hours, a comics heroine appeared more able to show that a woman’s compassion, empathy and wisdom are a good alternative to the sometimes brutal leadership of men.
Specimens of weirdness
I count among my specimens of weirdness (“bizarreness” sounds awkward) the following random happenings in our national life:
1. Our President, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, proclaims martial law and suspends the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao (our entire southern region) from a land far, far away, Russia, while he was making a state visit to the land of his idol, Russian President Vladimir Putin. He did so without consulting with his top defense and security officials, most of whom had also gone to Moscow to join him.
2. The martial law proclamation, Proclamation 216, was dutifully sent to the Congress—to the Senate and the House of Representatives for scrutiny and possible revocation. Both houses rushed to extend their approval and support for the proclamation. But then upon scrutiny, the President’s martial law report, which was supposed to lay the case for the proclamation, did nothing to justify the emergency edict.
3. The AFP, through the Philippine Air Force (PAF), in a determined show of force and the hope of effecting shock and awe, launched a series of bombing runs to rout the Maute terrorists and reduce them to “shock and awe.” In its latest bombing run, the PAF accidentally bombed instead the ranks of government troops, killing 10 of them and injuring many others.
4. A lone gunman tried to rob and then burn down the Resorts World Manila Hotel-Casino in front of the Manila International Airport on Friday morning.
The incident caused 37 deaths, the gunman included. Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation because of the burning floor of the casino.
PNP Chief Bato de la Rosa quickly concluded that the incident was not a terrorist attack because the gunman did not kill or threaten. He was chased away by casino security.
He retreated to his hotel room in the Maxim Hotel beside the casino.
He burned parts of a floor in the casino, resulting in the death of 37 people, including the gunman, who burned himself to death.
The gunman’s self-immolation looks like a fortunate twist for a change. It is not comparable to the suicide bombings perpetrated in the Middle East.
Suicide bombings, if resorted to by local terrorists, will drive the AFP and PNP nuts.
5. The more DU30 curses and blasphemes, cracks jokes about raping women, the more, we are told, Filipinos are amused. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that it is your wife, your daughter, your sister, or cousin or friend who is being raped, and I dare anyone to say that DU30 is lovable for his cracks about rape.
Friendly fire or fog of war
For whatever solace it may offer to victims’ families, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says that it was a conventional bomb, not a precision-guided missile, that killed 11 soldiers in the incident that marred the military’s bombing of Marawi City.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año has created a board of inquiry to investigate the bombing mistake. The pilots involved in the incident have been disallowed to fly any aircraft.
The friendly fire deaths brought to 171 the number of people killed in Marawi since gunmen waving black flags
of the Islamic State (IS) group began rampaging through the Muslim majority city last week.
Another term that has gained currency with the military to describe the bombing mistake is “fog of war.”
In the fog, many Maute militants escaped the military dragnet, despite checkpoints set up all over Marawi. The military narrative is that there were about 500 militants at the start of the crisis. Today, the AFP believes there are only between 50 and 100 militants still in the city.
Adding to concerns about the rising threat of IS in the country, Lorenzana said militants from Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia were among the dead in Marawi.
Perhaps most bizarre of all in the land of the bizarre are the publicopinion surveys that purport to reign over our public life.
Our public opinion survey firms, notably SWS and Pulse Asia, use weird methods to measure public opinion. They conduct highly deceptive polls.
The entire world conducts public approval surveys to determine how individual citizens approve of a leader’s job performance. From a survey asking respondents whether they approve of a leader’s job performance, foreign pollsters produce their standard approval ratings.
SWS conducts satisfaction surveys to find out whether citizens are satisfied with public officials, as though a President is like a dish or a food product you consume. No other survey agency in the world conducts a satisfaction survey.
Pulse Asia is equally deceptive with its surveys. Instead of offering approval ratings, Pulse Asia comes up with its trust surveys, which purport to measure whether Filipino national leaders enjoy high or low trust with the Filipino public. Because of ambiguous questioning, survey subjects invariably enjoy high public trust in Pulse Asia polls.
Significantly, neither SWS nor Pulse Asia conducts surveys on public sentiment about live public issues. They hide in the shadows when issues are raging.