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You were wrong, Mr. President

You were wrong,
Mr. President

Ronald Roy

​ Until Friday last week, former Senator Noynoy Aquino had never been great shakes wherever we bumped into each other, whether in some pub or bistro, or even when he came to a Roy wake two years ago. The nice thing about his persona was that he always seemed an approachable guy who would be delighted to discuss with anyone the biggest sports story of the day.
​ He hasn’t changed much since, even if he was now the most powerful Filipino in the world. This would be evident to those who had come last Friday to the residence of the late Sen. Magnolia Antonino just five blocks from where I live in New Manila.
​ When an eerie hush suddenly fell upon the living room where Tita Mags—my moniker for her—lay in state, we all knew President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III had arrived. Donned in a black T-shirt bearing that ubiquitous yellow ribbon above his left chest with a matching pair of black trousers, the President silently headed straight toward the casket to pay the traditional last respects.
​ After some moments, he turned around, flashed a smile at everybody, and the cameras commenced clicking away. It seemed like the picture-taking session with anonymous fans would never end, until Judy Araneta-Roxas, Mar’s mother, decided to pull him away.
​ I had been reminiscing with Judy for sometime in the formal dining room about our family ties—nurtured in the post-war days of Manuel Roxas, her father Amado Araneta and my dad Jose Roy—when she told me not to leave my seat as she was going to sit Noynoy beside me at the huge circular good-for-twelve table where he would join a small company of six.
We rose to our feet when the President moved forward to shake our hands. Somehow I knew I would enjoy a light moment with a typical Atenean. As expected, the anti-wangwang campaign and the forthcoming SONA were the main topics not only at our table, but also among Nueva Ecija politicos who had come in droves for a final glimpse of one of the province’s most loved daughters.
​ When it came to media matters, the President told me he had decided not to read the Daily Tribune anymore, implying he didn’t wish to add to his headaches. This was the opening I was waiting for.
​ I said: “But you must regard the paper as an institution for good government. Accept it as you would a dependable friend who would never lie to you no matter how hurting the truth. The Daily Tribune is the small David of media that fights—without fear or favor—the Goliaths of corruption, injustice, abuse and deceit.”He lowered his gaze, his brows furrowed in deep concentration, until someone asked if he expected GMA to come to Congress for his SONA. I think I heard him mumble: “Bahala siya sa buhay niya.”
​ Then another typical kalog from Ateneo, erstwhile VP candidate Sen. Mar Roxas, arrived. Occupying a seat facing Noynoy, he banteringly blamed the latter for forcing him to develop the felonious habit of “following behind a speeding ambulance wangwanging its way thru heavy traffic.” I then said tongue-in-cheek: “There you are, Mr. President. Don’t you realize you have placed innocent lives in jeopardy?” (Laughter)
Shifting to a most somber expression, the President looked me deep in the eye and replied: “I realize I have even practically made myself an open target in the streets. But I must do it.” That to me was the most significant statement of the evening. Suddenly he was again the President, sounding decisive and authoritative.
​ Then I saw him working his cellphone. I asked him if he was texting his girlfriend and he answered with a wink: “Not now, later. I think the signals here are bad. I cannot reach my speechmakers for some news on the SONA which must have undergone its eighth revision by now. I’ve ordered them to prune the sordid details of the previous administration’s performance record in order to shield the nation from any further shock than necessary. And boy, will you guys be shocked!”
​ An assistant whispered something from behind, and he excused himself for a cigarette break. The whisper was a cue of course. I knew he wouldn’t be back because Presidents don’t stay too long at wakes. As he walked out of the dining area, I wondered if this boy next door who had often stared at my beautiful wife—hahaha, a regular guy indeed—while talking to others would ponder my unsolicited advice that he consider reading the Daily Tribune regularly.
​ I would have wanted to tell him more, but he was already gone. He was somewhere in the metropolis quietly winding his way through the rain-drenched avenues of the night.
​ You were wrong, Mr. President. I was not shocked. I was devastated. Neither did I applaud. Do we applaud the horrors of economic genocide? (Email: arnydolor@yahoo.com, cell # 09186449517, landline # (02)7106701)

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