Why did TOYM snub Benhur Luy, the greatest young hero of 2013?

Marlen V. Ronquillo

Marlen V. Ronquillo

Who was the young Filipino who did most for the country this year in terms of changing things for the better? Who exhibited the most courage under extreme pressure? Whose statements have driven Philippine officialdom to radically and profoundly alter the budget process without much debate? Whose chubby and smiling face—a profile of truth-telling—revealed the SARO-for-Cash scandal that is yet without precedent in the annals of official corruption?

And shocked a nation that thought it was already immune to lurid and outsized stories of congressional kickbacks in particular and official corruption (top-level) in general.

The answer? Benhur Luy, never mind the efforts of some Catholic priests under Janet Napoles’s payroll to cast doubt on his integrity as the principal witness in the most explosive corruption scandal in contemporary times. Priests, historically, have been employing ad hominem attacks to defend the corrupt wealthy against charges from truthful and honest peons.

Yet, for his epic efforts to expose a side of official corruption whose scale and level of greed was never known before, Benhur Luy was not among the young men and women honored this year for their outstanding contributions to Philippine society. And for missing the very obvious—that Luy should be top exemplar for our youth- we have to ask this question: Why?

Profound impact on society through community service. The young awardees were supposed to have achieved this. Place the individual TOYM awardees across the name of Benhur Luy and what do we get? All of them, the awardees, do not deserve to shine the shoes of Luy. Nor comb his often unkempt hair. Luy did service at the highest level, the national arena. How can a basketball player who is often on the bench compare with Luy and his policy-altering testimony? That comparison is a bit rude but it has to be made. Phony politeness has not taken this country anywhere. What we need are extreme dosages of truth-telling like what Luy has been doing at an heroic level.

This is also non sequitur but we have to state this. Who was the young man who spoke headlines this year? Benhur Luy, hands down. Who was the young man whose determined and smiling demeanor while doing the toughest of tasks dominated the upper fold of the front pages of the country’s major newspapers?

What kind of positive and epic contributions from the young men and women in the country were the TOYM judges looking for? The TOYM body can’t operate on the guile and on the pretext that nobody had nominated Luy. They should have frozen the nomination process and demanded that Luy be on the list of nominees. So they could have been given him the Number One ranking.

Young and tough and truthful. Unafraid, rather. What more can we ask of Luy?

Now, we have to get answers to this question. Why was Luy snubbed by the TOYM body? We know the answers.

He is part of the Great Unwashed, the likes of you and me. Luy did not go the right schools and does not have the academic background so loved by the TOYM body. He did not go to the local version of Oxbridge.

Luy is not the public face of success and does not smell success—at least from the reckoning of polite Philippine society.

Luy, while the face of truth-telling, does not have the kind of phonetics so loved by the TOYM body.

Luy is chubby and short and occasionally looks grubby. He looks better in a bullet-proof vest than in a natty barong tagalog. He will sweat profusely with a suit.

In short, like you and me and like most Filipinos, he has the face and feel and look of the blue-collar Filipino, the Everyman. Polite society does not recognize such species and does not vest them with awards.

On what undergirds the snub, on why the young man whose bold testimonies and zealous record -keeping of bribes forced lawmakers to scrap the P24 billion-a-year pork, (an earthshaking change that was not imaginable a year earlier) was not given the recognition due him by polite society, we, too, know the reasons.

This is still the same society that Rizal wrote about in his novels earlier, full of phoniness and great pretensions.

People with rough edges, the likes of Luy, those who lack the polish and pedigree, never get recognized even with their huge, positive impact on society. This is true across the board and across all sectors. More often than not, awards go to actors who cannot act, journalists with the most turgid prose and who can’t write themselves out of a jam, political leaders with the savviest PR. Outsiders and arrivistes need not apply for recognition.

Benhur Luy can, however, take comfort in the fact that to the ordinary Filipino, the Everyman, he is the whistle-blower as superman and the avenger. He has slain dragons. He has changed the budgetary process. He is the public face of courage and truthfulness.

By consensus, all of us in the club of the Filipino Everyman, hold Luy in the highest of esteem. He is our Young Filipino of the Year.


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  1. Benhur is a class by himself. He can not be the usual young man who has contributed much to the country after he has worked with scammers Janet Napoles and several government officials. He is a class by himself. A special award has to be given to him and to Attorney Baligod his counsel as well. The two demolished the long practiced PDAF which is the bullet train for the corrupt legislators and their confreres!

  2. Sui Generis III on

    What????????? luy for toym????

    May I remind you that he was detained because Janet Napoles suspected him of running his own scam business. The business of stealing from our government.

    Hindi siya nag prisinta maging witness. Napilitan lang siya ng madiskubre ng NBI yung raket ni Napoles matapos siya ma rescue. Less guilty qualifies him to be a state witness but nevertheless he is guilty.

    Ok lang sana kung nag prisinta siya kaso hinde. Napilitan siya mag witness nung magkabukingan na.Tapos gagawin natin TOYM? Eh ang dami ng nanakaw nyan, milyonaryo na yan sa pera ng bayan. P800,000 + 306,000.00 + 207,000.00 + $13,761.00. Yan pa lang yung alam natin, Ni hindi nga na babalita kung sinoli na nya o nabawi na ng gobyerno yung iba pa. Marunong na sa banking yan kaya sigurado meron hidden wealth yan. 2004 pa nagnanakaw na yan sa pera ng bayan. Isipin nyo na lang kung gaano na kadami nanakaw nyan.

    Masyado siyang naging ganid pati si Janet ninanakawan na niya kaya siya na pina detain ni napoles. At dun nagsimula ang aksidenteng siguro diyos gumawa ng paraan dahil mahilig tayo mag bulag bulagan. puro salita kulang sa gawa.


  3. lourdes r. principe on

    a highly acceptable observation!!! mr. ben hur’s role in exposing the pork barrel fund scam and the people behind this racket has done the country a big favor. without his courage, we would have not known this scam! .

  4. Mr Luy has exhibited courage that I have not seen in other Filipinos. He raises the bar for other Filipinos to strive for. good luck, without such risk nothing will improve for the EVERYMAN.

  5. I really don’t understand Erwin’s comments.??? However, yes, ben hur needs to be praised for what he did and what he went through. If his being a typical pinoy the reasons for him being not given that award, I am sad to say that the mentality of pinoys hasn’t improved in spite of the so many years the Spaniards has left the Philippines. Pataasan ng kilay sabi sa pinoy, kahit walang pera many pinoys want to show off, kahit walang alam, mataas magsalita, that is typically pinoy. Unfortunately a big hunk of us are like that. Only a few have integrity and depth in character. Most pinoys are superficial and aloft and crave for recognition even if they don’t deserve to be recognized. I respect and admire people who inspite of their status in life and lesser educational attainment strive to do what is good and right.

  6. I have suspected long ago that most of the TOYM awardeees lobbied for the award by themselves or through others who have an agenda to achieve because indeed TOYM can be a great credential to bandie around for say a political ambition. Benhur has no such ambition and ,lets face it he is too honest to be an effective political tool so nobody cared to have him in the TOYM realm but I say WHO CARES let them have it for themselves it will not diminish Benhur’s achievements any. But thanks for this column for bringing my attention to this matter that I never cared for in the past.

  7. He could have kept silent, like many spineless Filipinos who witnessed how our public officials plunder our nation’s coffers. But Benhur Luy chose to expose the rampant theft of PDAF funds by members of Congress through the fake NGO’s of Napoles, thus exposing his life to danger.

    For his un-paralleled heroism to our country, I bow my head to Mr. Luy. I only wish that Filipinos would recognize this great service done to our nation by this extraordinary young man.

    • Augusto de Guzman on

      Mr. Ronquillo is 100% right. But to tell you honestly, Mr. Ronquillo, never did I believe these awards from any of the organizations giving them.

  8. How true Mr. M. Luy should have been chosen as one of the Ten. But I think one of the amoy lupa in the person of Efren Penaflorida was already chosen one of the Ten. Anyway the name Ben Hur Luy will go up the Phil History as Whistleblower non-pareil. His chubby face will be the face of truth for a long, long, long time..perhaps even longer than the life of the useless TOYM.

  9. Isabelo S Alcordo on

    I totally agree with the commentator. I consider Luy to have given the greatest service to the nation in our time. He deserves to be awarded “The Presidential Medal of Honor” if there is such an award. Whatever be the outcome of the criminal cases against the thieving congressmen and senators, among others, Luy has already accomplished something worthy of being enshrined in the history books of our nation and listed among Filipinos who acted with great courage in their service to our people.

  10. shame on toym! shame, shame, shame!
    and thanks to mr. ronquillo for stating the obvious!

  11. I don’t think so!
    Everything was the result of the elitist conspiracy gone awry!
    He was just acting his part…