After President Aquino was pressured to put a stop to the random opening of balikbayan boxes by the Bureau of Customs to look for something to tax, Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina did not even sound apologetic. He was quoted saying, “Why can’t we not be honest?” He was even blaming OFWs for this insensitive, intrusive, greedy act of opening balikbayan boxes. It’s as if it is the latter’s fault for being victimized.
But this is not the first time an official of the Aquino government made such an inane comment.
Take its response to criticisms of not being able to solve the worsening traffic. In September 2014, in a talk before the Filipino community in Spain, President Aquino said, “When you come home and you’re caught in traffic, just remember that people are running errands, not just loitering around. That is a sign of economic growth.”
This inane comment was repeated by Interior Sec. Mar Roxas recently, “This is a problem in a sense that arises from prosperity. Because there is money. Because there is economic activity.”
So it is not surprising that, when pressed regarding what the government is doing about the traffic, Transportation Sec. Jun Abaya blurted out: “Traffic is not fatal.”
Also in 2014, when the Aquino government was being criticized for not solving the deteriorating conditions of the MRT commuter trains, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said, “Yung MRT lang ba ang puwedeng sakyan doon sa mga rutang dinadaanan nito? Baka naman puwedeng matuklasan yung iba pang mga options.” (Is the MRT the only public transport that could be ridden along its route? Why don’t we try to discover other options?)
But the worst, most insensitive, inane comments came from Pres. Benigno Aquino III himself.
In October 2014, when Aquino was asked whether he would visit the wake of transgender Jennifer Laude, who was killed by American soldier US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the president responded by saying, “I don’t attend the wakes of people I don’t know.”
Early this year, when President Aquino met with the relatives of Special Action Forces policemen who were killed in a military operation in Mamasapano, he was reportedly asked by the relatives why reinforcements came late, he responded: “Kayo ba kapagkunwari itetext nyo friend nyo, ‘Kita tayo sa MOA,’ ganun lang ba kadali sa inyo na pumunta dun?” (How about you? If you send a text message to a friend asking him or her to meet up with you at the Mall of Asia, would you be able to go there quickly?)
When asked when justice would be attained for their fallen loved ones, Aquino responded: “Ano gusto nyo gawin ko, kunin natin ang fingerprint ng mga kalaban? Aba madami iyun, para malaman natin sino pumatay sa mga kamag-anak nyo?” (What do you want me to do, get the fingerprints of the enemies to determine who killed your relatives? They are too many.)
Aquino reportedly added: “Namatay rin ang tatay ko, alam ko pakiramdam niyo kaya patas na rin tayo ngayon.” (My father was also killed so I know how you feel. We both suffered, not only you.)
So that is how Aquino treated the relatives of fallen SAF officers who conducted a military operation that was doomed to fail, on orders of the president. Well, he did not even attend the ceremonies of the 44 SAF officers, when their bodies were brought to Manila.
One of the worst of all time was when President Aquino arrived at Tacloban City, three days after Super Typhoon Yolanda totally devastated the city, as well as several municipalities in Samar Island. When a resident, Jeff Manibay, a convener of One Tacloban, corrected the sanitized reports Aquino was getting regarding the number of casualties, the availability of clean water and the peace and order situation, and pointed to young businessman Kenneth Yu Uy (recently deceased) who was shot at in a mugging attempt, as an example of the deteriorating peace and order situation, President Aquino reportedly addressed Uy and said: “Eh buhay ka pa naman, di ba?” (Well you are still alive aren’t you?)
These insensitive acts and comments – including the shame campaign the Bureau of Internal Revenue did in a televised advertisement where it sweepingly accused medical doctors of not paying their taxes – are not isolated events. These are also not mere momentary slips of stupidity. These show the Aquino government’s insensitivity, its refusal to listen to criticisms, and its contempt for the ordinary Filipino.