I can just imagine how hard it must be to be in the shoes of President Noynoy Aquino at this point in time. Amidst a crisis the country is facing, here come a people who have been nosier more now than in the decades past; a people that have their eyes peeled for every action, every word and probably every thought of the President. It’s a case of damn if he does, damn if he doesn’t!
Forty four young men belonging to the elite Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) died during the weekend. They died in line of duty to serve a warrant of arrest to a couple of notorious international terrorists in a terrain they were not familiar with and in a place where guns may be more valuable than lives. As muddled as the botched covert operations were the reasons or justifications given. But all eyes, all ears, and all fingers pointed to the President.
He did not categorically answer who gave the marching orders to PNP-SAF to conduct the operations in Mamasapano, Maguindanao when all the people wanted to hear was for him to say “I am responsible.” He chose to be at a car plant inauguration rather than be at the arrival honors for 42 of the 44 slain SAF members. In both instances, the President became the breakfast, lunch, dinner and merienda staple of the people who feasted on his blunders.
So, at the National Day of Mourning on January 30, 2015, people waited at the Necrological Services for the “Fallen 44”. They waited for the President to arrive at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig and they waited for what he will say. He was not the only one who got to say some things though. The Commanding Officers of those slain were also able to share their thoughts, sentiments, words of comfort for the families and encouragement for their fellow troopers. I like what former Rep. Teddy Locsin, Jr. tweeted: “Who can match the simple eloquence of brothers in arms, those who share the same dangers?” Then the cry for help of a wife of one of the slain men echoed loud and clear. It tore the hearts of many who watched and heard.
It’s amusing how netizens formed their own thoughts and judgments as to what the President will say long before he said them. Many are die-hard anti-Noynoy and anti-government while there are a few who are definitely yellow-blooded supporters. This is a free country so people are free to express themselves. I just cannot understand how some people, educated they may claim to be, who would go to the extreme of wishing the President dead instead of those fallen 44. I think that is beyond mature thinking because clearly, those who wish that do not have the gall to run a barangay let alone a country. I think those people who think they have the answers to the ills of our country should let go of their smartphones and tablets, leave the comforts of their air-conditioned condos and cozy homes in imperial Manila and come to the hinterlands of Mindanao and see for themselves if it is easy living here.
I have to admit, I also had wishes about what the President would say. I wished he would simply say, just like the Pope when he went to Tacloban, that he was late, or he was absent at the arrival honors but he was there to condole with the families at the Necrological Services. Estoy aqui. Nandito ako. I am here. And then I wished he would also ask for a moment of silence for the fallen 44 and say a few words to ease the grief of the loved ones and then leave.
I wished. But I didn’t get what I wished for.
The President started fine with his speech when he said: “Isa po sa pinakamahirap kong tungkulin bilang pangulo ay ang pakikiramay sa mga nawalan ng mahal sa buhay. Sa pagharap ko po sa inyo ngayon, aaminin ko po, hindi ko mapigil tanungin ang aking sarili: Ano nga ba ang masasabi ko, para kahit papaano, ay mapagaan ang kalooban n’yo?” But in his desire to probably express that he empathized with the bereaved, he rattled off his own experience with his father’s death. For Pete’s sake, when will his speech writers stop using such reference to the President’s past and his family? After a hopeful long breath in the beginning, I could hear a sigh of disgust in cyberspace that accompanied the many reactions to that part. They rang so loud that they drowned the expressions of his sympathy and promise to help bring the perpetrators to justice, to assist the families and to make sure that the troopers did not die in vain.
The President should have stopped here: “Gusto ko pong sabihin sa inyo na damang-dama ko ang pakiramdam ninyo. Nauunawaan ko ang bawat pamilya ng ating kapulisang nasawi sa engkuwentro nitong nakaraang Linggo. Ako man ay nawalan ng mahal sa buhay nang biglaan.” We already know what happened in the past, he should have transcended that time and fast-forwarded to the present and told the bereaved families that he felt for them, that he was one with them in their sorrow and that he truly cared for them.
Well, the President was there. He showed up! Never mind that he crossed his arms over his chest while he prayed or that he wasn’t as dramatic with showing his sympathy or even in quoting the Scriptures or that he was robot-like in delivering his speech. What else is new? At least, he was there. He was finally present.
There was this part of his speech which we should all watch out for: “Umasa naman po kayo na ang pangalawang target na hindi natin nahuli noon, ay makukuha din natin. At kilala n’yo naman po ako, kapag nagbitiw ako ng salita, tinutupad natin. Number 1 po sa listahan ng dapat nating gawin ay ang pagdakip kay Basit Usman. Inutos na natin sa kinauukulan ang pagpaplano ng mas mahusay na operasyong hulihin ang taong ito. “
If Usman will be captured in the future, hopefully in President Noynoy’s term, he can say this like Col. Jessep said in “A Few Good Men”:
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