Going out with a bang
There’s a joke that goes like this: A priest sees a woman during Mass sitting completely naked on a pew and smoking a cigarette. Miffed, he walks up to her and says, “I beg to remind you, Madame, that the church is a no-smoking area.”
I remembered this after several congressmen expressed concern about the lax security in Congress, guns being allowed to traffic freely in the House. This was their reaction to ex-Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Benjo Benaldo shooting himself in the heart in an apparent suicide.
Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop, a former top police official, was aghast. “I suggest that we revisit our regulations on carrying firearms. Let us find out if regulations are lacking or the rules are not implemented,” he said, adding that bodyguards routinely flout the circular requiring the surrender of firearms to the Legislative Security Bureau, and that congressmen themselves do not submit to inspection.
Laguna Rep. Benjie Agarao agreed: “There should be stricter rules on gun control inside the Batasan Complex. This is a very serious matter that we have to deal with for the safety of everyone.”
Tarlac Rep. Noel Villanueva agreed as well: “Firearms should not be allowed on the grounds of Congress and its offices at all. If ever there are threats on the life of any member of Congress, it is the duty of the law enforcement agencies to provide the needed security.”
Rep. Sherwin Tugna said Congress needs to address the issue immediately given that the President is set to deliver his State of the Nation Address there later this month.
Only in the Philippines will you find congressmen complaining that Congress has a definite gun problem when one of their own tries to shoot himself in the heart in his office. Of course I’m perfectly happy that they should discover the blight of the proliferation of guns, even if the discovery should be provoked only by concerns for their own safety, and even if it should owe only to this bizarre reason. It’s enough to make you believe, along with Nandy Pacheco, that heaven works in mysterious ways.
The problem in this particular case is not the proliferation of guns, it is that a representative has tried to commit suicide in the not-so-very-hallowed halls of the Batasan. What are the congressmen saying—if guns did not teem in Congress, Benaldo might not now be in the hospital? Now, let’s see:
He could have tried to hang himself inside his office, or outside his window, which would have presented a ghastlier sight. Or he might have mixed insecticide in his coffee on his last supper, or lunch, the favorite way of going of the despairing poor who cannot afford quicker-acting and less painful poisons, which would have been quieter but would have presented an equally ghastly sight to the office cleaner who would be greeted by the froth in his mouth. Or he might have flung himself from the rooftop of the Batasan, but which would have presented a still ghastlier sight with his brain splattered all over the cement below.
All of which would not have been very Solon-like. But which serves to show that his preferred method of departing this world was purely incidental. Maybe poetic, telling his colleagues pointedly, “Those who live by the gun perish by the gun,” but still incidental.
Quite incidentally, this is the second time we’ve had a government official end his life, or try to, by shooting himself in the heart. Angelo Reyes was the first to do so, and succeeded. He did it at the cemetery in front of his mother’s grave to beg her forgiveness for the stain he had brought upon the family honor. Benaldo thankfully failed in his attempt, though his shooting himself in the heart probably also carried a similar message. His wife had apparently been hinting in the social media of domestic violence. And he had just lost his seat in the elections. People who are heartbroken do not particularly mind dispensing with what is left of it.
But it’s not very comforting to know that the people who make our laws have a talent for missing the point. Still, like I said, I’ll take my blessings wherever they come, however they come. If the congressmen find that some kind of gun control, or at least policing the movement of guns, is the lesson imparted by Benaldo’s suicide attempt, then well and fine.
My only caveat of course is, why limit the thing only to Congress? It’s not just Congress that’s heir to the problem, it’s the rest of the country. It’s not just in Congress where bodyguards refuse to deposit their guns in the security booths, it’s not just in Congress where congressmen refuse to be routinely inspected by guards. It’s in malls, too, it’s in buildings, too, it’s in hotels, too, it’s in restaurants, too, it’s in all sorts of public places, too. I wouldn’t mind it if the people doing this go on to shoot themselves in their hearts, like Benaldo. It would greatly improve the quality of life in these parts. Unfortunately, they do not, they prefer instead to shoot at other people’s hearts, and heads.
The proliferation of guns is a blight, and it doesn’t take the attempted self-destruction of a congressman to see that it’s so, or that the blight extends well beyond the manicured grounds of Congress. In a way, it’s not without poetic irony that the congressmen should catch a glimpse of this even if from the weirdest source since they are the ones that have always posed an obstacle to gun control, crushing any initiative along that line with a ruthlessness they reserve for their bitterest foes. Heaven forbid—though heaven forgive me, too, for not being able to wish this more ardently—that the next incident turns out more homicidal than suicidal to make them realize their folly.
Let it not be said that Benaldo didn’t go out of Congress without a bang.