Callous, lackluster and lazy

By Artchil B. Fernandez

BBM marked his first 100 days in office with controversy and resignations of several officials. These developments set the tone of his presidency and what Filipinos can expect from his administration in the coming years.

Over the weekend, pictures of BBM, his wife, son and cousin went viral in social media. The pictures showed them having a good time at Singapore Grand Prix. Inquiries on the veracity of the pictures were met with stony silence from Malacañang.

But silence and denial is no match to truth and reality. Malacañang in the end was forced to admit that indeed BBM flew to Singapore to watch Formula One (F1) Grand Prix.  Troll farms and fanatics went overdrive to justify the (not so) secret trip.

It was “productive” weekend BBM’s propagandist trumpeted claiming he was in Singapore to affirm “deals made during his last state visit and he continued to entice investments in the Philippines.” They tried to portray his attendance to the luxurious F1 Grand Prix as a “working” activity.

Simple logic and common sense are enough to puncture the pathetic excuse. If the Grand Prix sojourn was a “working” visit as claimed, why the secrecy? There was no advance public announcement for the visit which is the usual practice, and why was it shrouded with sinister silence? Why did it take days for Malacañang to confirm the trip and did only when proofs and evidence are beyond denial? Only last month BBM made a state visit to Singapore. Why did he return so soon unannounced?

Viewed from different vantage points, BBM and family’s trip to Singapore was pure leisure devoid of any business aspect. They were there for pleasure and enjoy watching the elite motor racing event. General tickets for the event cost up to SG$1,288 (P52,840) for a three-day pass, while hospitality packages cost up to SG$9,898 (about P406,000) – using Singapore dollar (SGD) 1 = Philippine peso (PHP) 41.12 exchange rate.  It was an extravagant and frivolous junket.

The Grand Prix trip of BBM is scandalous since few days before he flew, Super Typhoon Karding wreaked havoc in large areas of Luzon. The Department of Agriculture headed by BBM reported that 108,594 farmers and fisherfolks were victimized by Karding.  The damage was placed at 3.12 billion pesos. At the time BBM was enjoying the F1 Grand Prix, 46,000 people were still displaced by the super typhoon.

What made BBM’s Grand Prix venture disgusting and outrageous is he never visited the victims of Super Typhoon Karding even for a photo op to distribute relief goods and medicines and to comfort those affected. He inspected the damage by air and gave a flimsy alibi that he did not land so as not to disrupt the work of local officials.

In time of grave calamity the presence of the leader of the land is a source of comfort and strength to the suffering people. The leader should be the first to show solidarity and empathy by being with the people when tragedy struck. A frivolous display of having a goodtime by a leader while the constituents are in distress not only leaves a bad taste but is callous, insensitive, and heartless.  If the heart of the Marcoses truly bleeds for the people, they could have donated the millions they spent watching the Grand Prix to the victims of Super Typhoon Karding.

BBM’s Grand Prix (mis)adventure generated numerous memes and jokes. The following is an example of a joke circulating in social media as quoted by Manuel L. Quezon III’s Inquirer column, The Long View.

“What is the state of Philippine democracy, Lee Hsien Loong was asked. ‘I believe they have a strong party system,’ he replied. ‘Do you mean a one-party system like we have here?’ ‘Oh, no, not at all,’ the PM replied, with a hint of a smile. ‘Oh, a strong multi-party system, then, requiring robust coalition-building and power-sharing?’ The PM shook his head, and smiling broadly, replied ‘No, just a strong party system. Our ambassador in Manila told me the new president, since June 30, has had: a thanksgiving party, a birthday party for his mother, Madame Imelda, a birthday party for a close former senate colleague, a party for his wife the new First Lady, a birthday party for himself, a happy time at the Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifier, and even managed a photo finish at the Eric Clapton Concert in New York. And I just invited him to join the party here for our Grand Prix, and of course he said yes.’”

The joke sums up everything about BBM’s leadership – callous, lackluster and lazy. His was seen more in parties than in attending the business of governance. Inflation this month reached 6.9 percent and the peso further plunged to another historic low, 59 against 1 US dollar. Nothing was heard from BBM how he will combat the economic hardship facing the nation. He was instead shown enjoying an elite car race.

Then there were the sudden resignations of several officials. The bungling Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles resigned (or fired) as well as COA chief Jose Calida, both for “health” reasons. Controversial former executive secretary Vic Rodriguez left the cabinet for good with the abolition of his supposed new “chief of staff” post. These sudden departures indicate an instable leadership wracked by inner turmoil and conflict.

BBM won the election by projecting that he is the answer to the malignant crisis besetting Philippine society and will restore the non-existing Golden Age. What Filipinos got instead is a party-goer, a person who prefers revelries, elite car races, and having a good time than governance and solving acute social and economic crisis. If his first 100 days in office is an indicator, it is now apparent the goal of the Marcoses is only to return to power, enjoy its perks and continue with their lavish lifestyle. Filipinos can go to hell for all they care.