Weather report on the President | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Weather report on the President

/ 12:02 AM December 07, 2014

We had been “warned” that the President would no longer be replying to questions about his love life. So the questions put to him during the Christmas luncheon of the Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel media forum focused on legacy questions, such as what accomplishments he was most proud of during his term, and what he would do when he steps down from office (“go around my neighborhood on Times Street, go to the supermarket, visit my neighbors”).

But during the “photo op” with P-Noy and the core group of Bulong women and men, I asked him if I could pose a personal question. “Go ahead, but I’ll decide if I want to answer or not,” the President said. “Is there any truth to a recent item I read about your supposed infatuation with a flight attendant?” I asked. “Ah, that question I’m refusing to answer,” he replied with a smile. “You know,” he added, “when people ask me about the state of my love life, my answer has always been: still Coke Zero.” Well then, I teased, for the New Year, could I wish him at least a Coke One? “We can always wish for something,” the President said as he turned to walk away, “but it doesn’t always come true.”

For sure, there were weightier things on P-Noy’s mind that afternoon. He seemed glued to his cell phone, leading us to speculate that perhaps he was busy getting updates on the progress of the approaching Typhoon “Ruby” (international name: “Hagupit”). Asked how he would “grade” his Cabinet members, some of whom were present at the luncheon, on their preparations for Ruby, P-Noy said: “If I say 70 or 80 percent, they might get complacent, so let me just put it at 50 percent. There is so much to be done.”


* * *


But, the typhoon—and its awful timing—aside, the President sounded rather upbeat about his term and the year or so remaining.

Asked what had made him “happiest” during his term, P-Noy cited the economy, especially the credit upgrades the country had been receiving, and the fact that, per a report of the National Economic and Development Authority, “2.5 million of our countrymen have been lifted out of poverty, and some 1.6 million Filipinos have found new jobs.” It was the sense of “renewed optimism” that was lifting his spirits, said P-Noy.

But when things turn dark and his mood gloomy, P-Noy confessed that seeking refuge in music, a lifelong love, “has become even more important.” And, when “I need to calm down,” he has even sought recourse in religious songs, or, “when I really need to relax,” classical music.

And when all else fails, he said, he starts “talking” to his parents, Cory and Ninoy. “Just last night,” he confided, “I found myself praying to my parents for strength and wisdom, which they used to overcome the crises they faced.” His parents’ lives, he said, “are both an inspiration and a safety valve.”

That’s the weather report so far on the state of the President’s heart and mind. Maybe the best Christmas gifts we can give him are prayers that he would recover his sense of hope and optimism, of which he has plenty for the country and people, but needs some for himself as well.

* * *


From Nov. 25 to Dec. 12, the world is observing the “18-Day Campaign to End Violence against Women.”

A number of activities have been held to call public attention to persistent forms of gender-based violence, from sex discrimination even before birth, to unequal treatment of daughters and sons in families, communities and schools, to different forms of sexual violence and discrimination, to violence and exploitation in conflict-affected areas.

The theme of this year’s observance is “End VAW Now! It’s Our Duty.” It puts the onus of responding and putting an end to all forms of violence against women to the so-called “duty bearers,” men and women in the police, in the military, in the judiciary, whose duty it is to recognize gender-based violence as a form of human rights violation and not merely a private domestic problem, and thus deserving of official action and rectification.

It’s been a long way since the early days when police, for instance, would not even respond to reports of domestic violence, arguing that it was a “private” matter to be resolved between the spouses. And when a marital dispute was put before the barangay council for action and resolution, the complainant-wife would often be counseled to go home and cool off (“isang ligo lang yan,” “you just need to take a bath,” she would be told), with officials expecting the dispute—and the violence—to be resolved all by itself.

* * *

Things have certainly changed a lot since those days.

Earlier this week, I was invited to speak on “Media and Violence against Women” at a symposium in observance of the 18-Day Campaign to End Violence against Women held at the National Defense College of the Philippines.

Other speakers, significantly enough, were women: Liezl Parajas, a lawyer with the Women Human Rights Center of the Commission on Human Rights who spoke on “VAW as a Human Rights Issue,” and Ma. Lourdes Veneracion Rallonza, assistant professor of political science at Ateneo de Manila on “The Role of Duty-Bearers in Eliminating Gender-based Violence.”

I was particularly happy to see quite a number of women among the men in the audience, proof that the work of securing the peace and enforcing the law is increasingly seen as a joint responsibility between the sexes. I was even more gratified to hear retired general Fermin de Leon Jr., president of the NDCP, say that the activity was crucial to gaining an understanding of “the importance of gender and development in Philippine national security.”

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TAGS: Bulong Pulungan, column, president Aquino iii, Rina Jimenez-David, term of office

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