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Cheap stunt

If it looks like a setup, it probably is. But I’d really like to know who dreamed up that cheap PR stunt that involved President Noynoy Aquino supposedly collapsing and cracking his head, thereby requiring stitches on his shiny bald pate – and hinting darkly of serious concerns about his health.

The alleged incident did not only elicit a quick reply from Aquino himself, it also allowed him to body-slam his critics – who had not weighed in yet on the matter – and to talk about the efficacy of his endorsement in next year’s election. How Aquino hitting his head ended up being a question of the efficacy of his endorsing candidacies is just one of those non sequiturs that the current President is famous for.

One friend who is as confounded by the whole stunt as I was, initially, put it succinctly: Aquino did not collapse, but his administration is on the verge of doing so.

As far as I can make out, this whole non-issue of Aquino’s collapse started with a broadcast reporter’s tweet about the incident, complete with a denial from one of his estimable spokesmen, Edwin “Dawende” Lacierda. (Dawende, by the way, is Lacierda’s cutesy Twitter handle and not some libelous nickname I invented for him.)

Then the President, who took nearly a week to speak in public about the Mamasapano incident, came out with guns blazing during the same weekend that the reporter’s tweet was posted. And boy, did Aquino make hay about an issue that, in all likelihood, his own publicists dreamed up.

“Those who believe reports like these, our elders advise: Don’t be misled by gossips,” he said during the ceremonies for the opening of a new portion of the South Luzon Expressway. “Should we trust the enemies of the straight path whose extreme and irresponsible desire is to sow confusion and conflict?”

If the President makes such a big deal about a clueless reporter’s indiscreet and unverified tweet, commenting on it during a totally unrelated event, you can bet that this thing is not what it seems to be. My guess is, Aquino and his propaganda minions are test-driving a new propaganda strategy intended to gain sympathy for a President, who is beset on all sides by salivating critics who want nothing better that to see him fail to complete his term.

But like the revival by his sister of reports about his supposedly steamy love life, this time involving the newly-crowned Binibining Pilipinas-Universe title-holder, I think this gimmick isn’t going to gain the traction that the palace propaganda geniuses think that it will. Aquino is just too deeply enmeshed in problems of his own creation to be rescued by such obvious stunts intended to gain him sympathy and win back the people’s affection.

Of course, if Aquino continues to subsist on his unhealthy diet of Marlboro Lights, regular Coke and pork rind chicharon morning, noon and night, people will always wonder about his health. It’s just sad that in his desperation to improve his plummeting ratings and his diminishing endorsement power, he has to resort to such pathetic publicity stunts.

* * *

The death of longtime former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the acknowledged “father of modern Singapore,” elicits mixed feelings amongst politically-aware Filipinos. On the one hand, Filipinos are very much aware (and envious) of how Lee single-mindedly brought a backwater Third World port and impoverished island-nation to elite economic status; on the other, we also recall both the Flor Contemplacion execution two decades ago and the late strongman’s remark that what ails this country is “too much democracy.”  

But not a lot of Filipinos know that Lee is personally responsible for the building of the world-class General Santos City airport, which the Singaporean leader conceived as a quick-reaction point for American forces that could come to the city-state’s aid, in case the “Malay sea” that surrounded Singapore threatened to wash over it.

 It was Lee who lobbied the Americans to fund and build General Santos airport at a time when the United States still had military bases in the Philippines; the US eventually built the airport, but for purposes of its own which had to do with its plans to focus on Mindanao and to have as little to do with the national government in Manila (which kicked out its bases) as possible.

But it is to Lee’s credit that, because he was always looking beyond his own state’s borders and thinking about regional repercussions of all his actions, GenSan airport exists today. Would that we, in the future, elect a leader with such foresight and cross-border vision.

But it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to name the GenSan airport after the man who conceived it, never mind if he was the head of state of another country. Hey, if the government can bring back the name of Clark airfield (which was named after an obscure, low-level American serviceman who never even set foot in the Philippines) to erase the name of Diosdado Macapagal, it can honor a great statesman and leader who set the bar for righteous rulers in this neck of the woods – and who dreamed up the airport, as well.

Topics: Jojo Robles , lowdown , opinion , robles , pinoy , pnoy , editor in chief , cheap stunt ,
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