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BONG AUSTERO: A NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT

MANILA, APRIL 1,
2013 (MANILA STANDARD)  By Bong Austero - The week that just passed was supposed to be a season for contemplation as it saw the unprecedented rise to power of a new pope who has been largely seen as an embodiment of simplicity and humility.

And given the fact that weíre approaching the holiest season in all of Christiandom, we kind of expected people, particularly those with a lot of influence in this country, to be in a more sober and reflective mode.

Nope, we didnít expect people to dress up like penitents and flog themselves in public. But one wishes they didnít indulge in very public, very ugly quarrels either; or at the very least, didnít try to make their personal travails into some kind of national issue of gravest import.

Itís tempting to just relegate the latest dramatic emotional hara-kiri of the presidential sister and the bitter exchanges of accusations between Senator Chiz Escudero and the parents of his latest squeeze- actress Heart Evangelistaóas just another example of the overblown sense of importance of the rich and famous in this country.

I know what youíre thinking. No one is forcing people to sit up and watch these people make utter fool of themselves. Unfortunately, we all know looking away is not an option in the same way that we canít take our eyes off a road accident. Not when itís on primetime television, anyway. Not when itís in all media platforms. Not when the stories are on front page of the major dailies. And definitely not when the people involved are supposed to know better.

Escudero is a strong contender for the highest post in the land and the fact that he has a moist eye on the Presidency has never been kept a secret.

He also happens to be a frontrunner in the midterm senatorial elections. One expects someone of his stature to behave with more circumspection.

He could have apologized immediately to Evangelistaís parents (thatís what normal boyfriends do to the parents of their girlfriends, particularly when they are not married yet).

He could have kept his peace and maintained his dignity. But he aggravated the whole controversy by choosing to address the issue during the heat of the campaign as merely a case of overprotective parents who didnít approve of their daughterís choice of boyfriend.

That was like calling the aggrieved parents of your girlfriend as a couple of shallow and manipulative nuisance.

The presidential sisterís riveting public confession on both ABS-CBN and GMA7 Friday night was unfortunately an ill-advised show of power.

She knew she would command an audience and that the networks would give her preferential treatment because of her stature as a major celebrity and, letís call a spade a spadeóas a presidential sister.

The presence of the three other presidential sisters was purportedly meant to show public support for an embattled sibling, but the visual message was inescapable.

In the words of our househelp, ďkulang na lang ang Presidente sa frame (the only person missing in the frame is the President).Ē

The painful question is: Did they really have to go that far to respond to accusations made by a bumbling, hardly-coherent ex-husband?

The networks tried to project an impression of fairness, but there was very little doubt as to who clearly had the advantage. The deck was clearly stacked in someoneís favor.

And boy, did they seize that advantage in the name of protecting a five-year-old son.

At the heart of the issue is what is supposedly best for a child. I agree that more than anyone else parents are in the best position to determine what is best for their children. However, there must be limits to the extent to which parents are allowed to interpret a little boyís statements and actuations.

Thatís just too much responsibility being assigned to a child. I dread the thought of this child having to go through life with the guilt that what he said or did as a child caused a major conflict witnessed by millions of people.

The tragic thing is that they really didnít have to go through all that. If people reached out to each other and didnít allow things to spiral out of control the way ordinary people in this country do, we could have saved everybody the embarrassment.
 


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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