Malacañang does not need to downplay or even apologize for the “wheelchair joke.” Having been shot at several times and living with a bullet in his neck, a president who has actually survived a life-threatening condition is entitled to some light moments. Taken in this context, that joke actually speaks truth to power, and accurately portrays how corrupt Filipinos use health-related tactics to advance their interests.
Take Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a former president, as an example: She used to choke the airwaves with PCSO-sponsored TV commercials showing her helping our sick countrymen as if the PCSO funds were her personal largesse. On the ground, PhilHealth cards imprinted with her image were widely distributed to the needy public. Tugging at our heartstrings and playing to our altruism, the tactics worked to secure her political survival. So, it was almost inevitable that Arroyo herself would resort to wheelchair-bound theatrics to elicit our sympathy. And now here comes her attempt to pass a “medical parole” bill. This is another indication that she could be laying the groundwork for further use of her supposedly serious medical condition.
Actually, the joke here is we are being made to believe that after years of living in luxury, Arroyo is now so incapacitated that she cannot even show up in court for her arraignment. The sickening thing is that the natural sympathy we feel toward actual persons with disabilities or health issues is being used as a shield against public accountability. That is not funny at all.
—SOLIMAN DELARIARTE, firstname.lastname@example.org