There’s the Rub


Our reactions to the developments from the incarceration of Gigi Reyes reveal a world of perspectives. The Sandiganbayan now wants Reyes’ doctors to explain why she was suddenly moved to the Philippine Heart Center.

What happened, apparently, was this: The Sandiganbayan rejected Reyes’ plea to be detained in Camp Crame along with her, well, boss, and sent her instead to Camp Bagong Diwa. There, upon learning she would be sharing quarters with nine female communist suspects, she suffered a panic attack. She feared that her fellow inmates, who probably harbored a hatred for her boss, courtesy of his role during martial law, posed a threat to her. She felt dizzy and unable to breathe, and her heart began palpitating wildly. She was taken to the prison clinic where her blood pressure registered elevated levels.


From there, she was brought to the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital. Last Friday, she complained of chest pain and was rushed to the Heart Center. There she has remained, her doctors at Taguig Hospital worrying that her symptoms might owe to a deeper source than mere anxiety, and figuring that the Heart Center had the equipment to make the determination. (Reyes was brought back to Camp Bagong Diwa on Monday night.—Ed.)

There have been noises about the public needing to show some Christian charity, if not magnanimity, but the reaction generally has been less than sanguine, ranging from cynicism to pique. The cynicism comes from a public inured to the spectacle of the accused suddenly developing all sorts of afflictions when they are about to be put in the dock. Janet Napoles was way ahead of Reyes there. The public reaction has been: But of course they should be afflicted that way. That is what the threat of jail, quite apart from the fulfillment of it, is supposed to produce.


The activists supply the pique, given particularly that one of their own has suffered a tragic pass from neglect, which strikes a contrast with the authorities’ solicitous attendance to Reyes’ needs. Andrea Rosal, the daughter of Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, was pregnant when she was arrested by authorities in Caloocan, and as a result of the indifference of her jailers as alleged by her comrades, she miscarried. They have no reason to feel sympathy for Reyes’ plight.

Others are sympathetic as well for quite another reason. She is a common criminal, they say, she should be treated as one. She should be thrown in the company of fellow common criminals.

That is the part I find a weird perspective.

I’ve always wondered why the opposite hasn’t happened. Why her inmates haven’t suffered a manic attack in lieu of a panic attack, why they haven’t demanded to be transferred to other quarters in lieu of a medical facility, at the prospect of being forced to share a toilet with her, at the prospect of being forced to breathe the same air she breathes. The injury that Reyes fears could be inflicted on her is nothing compared to the insult that was inflicted on the nine suspected communist members. Why should they be thrown in the company of a common criminal? They are not, they are uncommon criminals—if at all they can be presumed to be so.

Reyes and her prospective inmates are by no means the same. They are not of the same order, class, or genus. They are not inferior to her, they are superior to her. They are not que asco, she is. Theirs is a political offense, hers is a rascally one. However you regard their cause, you have at least to give them respect, grudging or otherwise, for fighting for their beliefs, for sacrificing for their beliefs, for being willing to be jailed or even killed for their beliefs. However wracked in body and soul Reyes is—and her three senator-companions are—you at least have to hold them in disapproval, if not contempt, for turning their back on their oaths, for betraying the public trust, for being jailed despite doing all they can to escape the law.

Reyes’ nine prospective inmates are accused of being rebels, she is accused of being a thief. They are not the same.

What I find weird is our natural tendency, or instinct, to look at things from the point of view of the “big people” who have suffered adversity, particularly in this apparently epic way. Doubtless, it is the fault of the media, too, for dwelling on their pain, for squeezing every bit of drama or human interest from their fall from very high to very low. But our attention is naturally drawn to them, the others are just background, the others are just extras.


Frankly, I don’t know why the political prisoners don’t stage a strike—never mind a hunger strike, they are constantly in that state anyway—to shift the attention to them and dramatize a fundamental iniquity. That iniquity is not just being treated differently, though there is that, too: The ease with which prisoners like Reyes—and Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla—can be relocated or made more comfortable after complaining of dizziness or an invasion of cockroaches do contrast with the stark difficulty of suspected rebels getting some antenatal care while in prison.

But more than that, that iniquity is being lumped together psychologically as well as physically with suspected crooks. With the sympathy unconsciously, unwittingly, perversely being channeled to the crooks: Kawawa naman sila, they have fallen in life, they now have to break bread with hardened criminals. In fact, kawawa naman the political prisoners, they have spent their lives dedicated to the principle of “Serve the people” but now have to breathe the same air as common criminals who spent their lives giving life to the proposition “Screw the people.”

In fact, they’re not just common, they’re cheap.

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TAGS: Bong Revilla, Camp Bagong Diwa, Camp Crame, gigi reyes, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Philippine Heart Center, plunder, Sandiganbayan
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