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At Large

Heartbreak and bashing

One’s heart just has to break after news of the twin bombings inside and just outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Jolo, Sulu.

It is a tragedy by any measure: around 20 dead (the final number keeps shifting) and 112 injured. The first bomb went off in the middle of Sunday Mass, and when first responders, law enforcers and fleeing Mass-goers gathered outside, further mayhem awaited them when a second bomb, believed stored in the compartment of a motorcycle, went off again.

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The questions ring ominously, as do the facts on hand. The targets of explosions this time were members of Jolo’s tiny Catholic minority, showing how both Christians and Muslims are victims of Mindanao’s violent history. The bombs went off just days after Sulu voters rejected the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). This brings into question the holding of the second phase of the BOL voting, as well as throwing a cloud of doubt over the viability of Bangsamoro unity and the enduring peace that many had anticipated with the BOL’s passage.

Indeed, this is what’s meant by throwing a monkey wrench into a complex process. We can only hope and pray, and hold on to our fragile hopes, that the deaths and destruction in Jolo will not derail the decades-, nay, centuries-old struggle to bring peace and progress in the whole of Mindanao, and finally unite our troubled archipelago.

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In this “silly season” leading up to the May senatorial elections, one expects all sorts of attacks and counterattacks on candidates of all stripes. But Sen. Bam Aquino seems an incongruous target. Not only does he bear an illustrious surname, he also bears an uncanny resemblance to his uncle Ninoy, a revered figure in our political history. And, given his impressive academic background and the waves he created in civil society involvements, it wasn’t at all surprising that he would find himself embroiled in the world of politics, particularly in the Senate where he has been one of the hardest-working senators.

But come to think of it, maybe all these reasons are precisely why he has become a target of online bashers, who attack him for being, among other things, a “credit grabber.”

The online warriors have gotten on Bam’s case for his claim of authorship of the free college law, which requires state-run universities and colleges to offer free education for basic college courses. This, despite the senator’s chairing of the committee on education when the measure was passed by the Senate.

The prospect of free college education is certainly popular among young Filipinos, their parents, friends and families. Maybe that’s why everybody seeking public office wants to ride on the bandwagon, seeing the appeal to voters young and old. And, certainly, the senator has as valid, if not the most valid, claim on its authorship as anyone. But don’t take Senator Bam’s word alone for this.

You can also take the word of Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, a “veteran” member of the Senate. When the free college law was signed into law by President Duterte, Lacson was the first to congratulate and give credit to Senator Bam for his “hard work.”

And in the face of contrary claims by other candidates, Lacson went on the record in his Twitter account, proclaiming that “before anybody else from the Senate grabs credit, Sen Bam principally authored/sponsored the free tuition bill, now a landmark legislation.”

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Later, in a separate interview, Lacson reiterated his position, saying that as principal sponsor and coauthor of the free college law, Senator Bam put in the requisite work to shepherd it through the Senate floor. As principal author, said Senator Lacson, Senator Bam did much of the hard work of holding committee hearings and seeking consensus from all stakeholders. Eventually, Senator Bam had to defend the measure in the plenary where he had to field questions, even on the smallest details, from his colleagues.

That doesn’t strike me as “credit-grabbing.” And Lacson doesn’t strike me as the sort who would rush to a colleague’s defense just to make nice. So, bashers, give credit where it’s due!

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TAGS: At Large, Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Jolo twin blasts, Rina David
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