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Harry’s dip with dolphins

How strange that Harry Roque seems not to understand that a high official like himself can’t simply claim being human — “tao lang po” — as excuse for offensive behavior. Before his initial incarnation as Malacañang mouthpiece, he was — or at least he took the stance of — tilting at windmills of power. Now he behaves as one thoroughly steeped in the culture of entitlement animating the privileged. He speaks accordingly, too, explaining himself as though he were addressing idiots.

Roque’s caper at Ocean Adventure Park in Subic on July 1 depicts a dispensation that doesn’t give a damn about its constituents. Thousands of Filipinos desperate to get home and unable to do so despite a ticket to ride and a sheaf of (suddenly worthless) certificates and other papers may be in the throes of despair, yet there’s the former human rights lawyer, artfully posing for a photograph with bottlenose dolphins.

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He’s in appropriate garb, too, and evidently can’t be bothered by the optics of it. And, questioned the next day, he denies that 1) it was a leisure trip (just a “side trip” to a business trip), and 2) it violated the physical distancing protocol concerning COVID-19 (he was only beside dolphins). But the pictures posted online were quickly deleted, suggesting a belated embarrassment — or a futile effort to erase proof of unseemly enjoyment in a period of crisis.

Is the ensuing public censure a bit much? Rather like the censure that met, say, the birthday celebration of the chief of the National Capital Region Police Office? Well, no. The touted hardship, the “sacrifice,” of being in public office — no weekends, according to Roque, for example — must be more than offset by immeasurable perks. Else why would Health Secretary Francisco Duque III stay put and endure the unrelenting criticism of his competence as commander of the Philippines’ fight against COVID-19?

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Roque continues to draw flak for his ocean adventure not only because he knew no better than to patronize captive animal entertainment, as pointed out by the Earth Island Institute, but also because he displayed himself as oblivious to the state of stranded, unemployed, and impoverished Filipinos. Yet he couldn’t have been ignorant of those forced to walk long distances to get to work; surely he has seen pictures of the young and the elderly exposed to the elements at ports and airports for days on end. How fortunate for him to be an “apor” — authorized person outside residence — and to manage to squeeze some “dolphin activity” between unimpeded travel and a trip to check on family business. Idled jeepney drivers reduced to begging in the streets for their keep should be so lucky.

How could Roque not have seen how, in this time of great public suffering, his dip with dolphins would expose to public disgust not only himself but, as well, the man and the administration he speaks for? Either his imagination has failed him, or he’s not as sly as once thought. To think he comports himself as siga, badass.

Of course he issued an apology. But apologies from on high are now quite commonplace — mere pro forma for government officials caught in a crunch and thinking it wise to mouth words meant to smooth ruffled feathers. The NCRPO’s Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said he had no intention of breaking COVID-19 protocols with his mañanita. Cavite Rep. Boying Remulla said he was jotting down notes for the House’s (interminable) hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise and thus couldn’t stand at attention during a flag ceremony. Mocha Uson, deputy administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, said her posting of a photograph fraudulently portraying the government as purchasing personal protective equipment was not fake news but “an honest mistake.” Etc.

There’s also Roque’s confrere, Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin, doubling back and saying he was at the service of Vice President Leni Robredo after having the crust to insult her. And he couldn’t even remember to dun China for the compensation due the Gem-Ver owner and fishermen.

Like Roque feeling badass, but ultimately merely fatass.

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TAGS: Commentary, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus philippines, Harry Roque, quarantine violations, Rosario A. Garcellano
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