Rock of insincerity
It was not really surprising that Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s first hearing as chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs would target militant groups, a thorn in the side of his patron, the President.
Under the guise of investigating the alleged recruitment of minors by leftist groups, the former chief of the Philippine
National Police attempted to project himself as the new child advocate in town. Which would have been fine, if not for the irony, or — in the words of Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate — the hypocrisy of it.
As the newly minted senator presented anguished mothers making heartfelt pleas for the return of their daughters who were supposedly recruited by groups like Anakbayan, one had the thought that such incidents were best left for families to privately deal with rather than through a public inquiry.
The two female students deemed missing would surface, after all, to clarify that they had voluntarily joined activist groups, and that family differences were at the root of their decision to defy their parents and join those organizations.
But because Zarate presented one of the “missing” girls in a press conference at the House of Representatives while her mother was making her plea at the Senate committee, Dela Rosa puffed himself up into a sanctimonious balloon, then huffed out the line that ended up as the meme of the week.
“What kind of parent are you?” Dela Rosa demanded of Zarate. “You’re also a parent. If you’re a responsible parent, you know the mother was crying, don’t you have pity on the mother? You should have helped, you should have brought the child to the mother.”
Which, one could argue, was a valid point — except, unfortunately, the students themselves said they did not want to be associated with their parents’ public appearance on behalf of Dela Rosa’s patent agenda to muscle the police and military into schools.
As Alicia Lucena, one of the students, said in a Facebook post: “Para sa AFP at sa rehimeng Duterte (To the AFP and Duterte administration): Don’t you dare use me and my family to cover up your inutility and rotten administration.” Lucena is 18 years old, which makes her an adult capable of making up her own mind.
More to the point, Dela Rosa acting as an adult concerned for the welfare and safety of so-called wayward kids proved to be too laughable a premise for many.
Former representative Neri Colmenares was quick with a retort: “Anong klaseng parent ka? Nais mong ibaba ang criminal age of responsibility para makulong ang mga bata. Anong klaseng parent ka? Maraming minors ang namatay sa antidrug campaign na pinamunuan mo (What kind of a parent are you? You want to lower the age of criminality so that children will be jailed… Many minors were killed in the drug war you administered).”
Indeed, call it karmic coincidence — maybe the heavens were sending a reminder? — but Dela Rosa would debut as Senate committee chair proclaiming that his “heart bleeds” for the minors recruited to join the ranks of militant groups, and endorsing heightened military and police presence in universities a mere two days before the second anniversary of the death of a minor whose killing under the drug war he ran would forever be a bloody stain on his police badge.
The death of a defenseless Kian delos Santos, 17, on Aug. 16 two years ago in the hands of Caloocan policemen, captured on CCTV, so horrified the public that President Duterte was forced to suspend “Oplan Tokhang.”
Just as sickening was the odious behavior of Dela Rosa, then the PNP chief, and others in the police force following the incident. Showing not an ounce of sympathy for the dead child or his family, Dela Rosa instead gleefully peddled disinformation to malign the boy and his kin. Kian, he declared, was a courier for his father, the drug user, and his uncles, the pushers.
None of those public accusations would pan out. Three cops would eventually be found guilty for Kian’s murder, but the Caloocan police chief was even promoted after waiting out the firestorm.
Dela Rosa’s newfound zeal to protect children, his big to-do about proper parenting in the guise of keeping children away from the dangers of activism and critical thinking, falls flat in the face of the gruesome death toll of dozens of minors that have been killed in the drug war.
Just last month, that war’s chief barker and former mascot also infamously chirped, in describing the death of 3-year-old Myca Ulpina in a drug buy-bust operation, that, well, “Shit happens.”
A rock of insincerity and pretense is sitting in the Senate.
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.