Hijacked by ‘epal’
Who is John Bertiz?
Before this week, few had heard of the representative of the party-list ACTS OFW, until Bertiz arrived at his own moment of notoriety via that now-familiar route: a viral video.
In it, a speaker at an event, later identified as Bertiz, could be heard repeatedly shilling a name to the crowd: Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.
“Bong Go ako nang Bong Go. Kilala niyo ba kung sino ’yung sinasabi ko (I keep saying Bong Go. Do you know Bong Go)?” Bertiz asked his audience.
Many audibly answered no.
Bertiz then said, “Huwag na natin ituloy ’to, ’wag nang bigyan ng mga lisensya ’to. Ulitin ko ha, ’yung hindi nakakakilala kay Secretary Bong Go walang PRC license mamaya (Let’s not continue this. Let’s not give these people their licenses. I repeat, those who don’t know who Secretary Bong Go is will not get their licenses today)!”
The crowd could be heard reacting with derision to Bertiz’s crude politicking.
Who could blame them? The event, held at a hotel in Manila, was not a campaign rally, but the oath-taking ceremony of agricultural and biosystems engineers who had recently passed the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) examinations.
Imagine the scenario: These young men and women had spent years of honest, earnest toil to pass their subjects, graduate from school, take the board exams, and now, along with their proud parents, were set to receive their official credentials in a civic ritual meant to welcome them into the professional world.
Their moment of pride and achievement, however, would be grossly hijacked by a program that smacked of sleazy political patronage, courtesy of a speaker representing a party-list not even remotely germane to their field as agricultural and biosystems engineers, and purportedly acting as proxy to a presidential aide with senatorial aspirations, hence Bertiz’s virtual takeover of the event to serve as campaign barker. The crowd’s groans and hisses in the video are entirely justified.
Filipinos have a term for this sort of unseemly behavior: “epal” — usually referring to a person who inappropriately presents himself in a situation or butts into a conversation, and most often applied to politicians and wannabes who resort to means fair, foul or just plain tacky to get their names known to the public.
The online backlash at Bertiz’s “epal” conduct was unforgiving, and the legislator subsequently apologized for the incident: “I take full responsibility for that joke and I really apologize. I didn’t meant to anger, belittle or offend in any way. It was an inappropriate joke and I really feel sorry about it. Secretary Bong Go has nothing to do with the joke.”
He was trying the way of stand-up comedians to work the crowd, Bertiz added.
To be fair, Go, indeed, not having been at the event, comes off a victim as well of his friend’s overzealous hustling.
But the incident, unfortunately, also seems to be of a piece with many other stunts that had been done lately to boost Go’s name — even as the guy himself continues to be coy about his senatorial ambitions for 2019.
Go has consistently denied being behind such moves, and characterizes them as the work of friends and admirers.
“As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I have no interest in running. In fact, I have ordered billboards with my face on them to be taken down,” he was quoted as saying (those on NLEx are gone).
But as to whether he’s running: At the rate things are going for him, and the way his devotees such as Bertiz (important question: What’s in it for them?) are fervidly foisting him on the electorate, with or without Go’s explicit consent — well, one needs no degree, much less a PRC license, to know the answer to that question.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.