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Aquino didn’t have to go to the wake but …

06:12 AM October 27, 2014

No, President Aquino did not have to attend Jennifer Laude’s wake. He cannot attend every wake of every high-profile crime victim, even someone whose death has sparked an international crisis.

But add PNoy’s response to why he does not plan to visit the Laude family in their time of grief to a growing list of his jaw-dropping public statements.

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“In general, I don’t attend wakes of people I don’t know,” Aquino said. “I’m not comfortable in trying to condole with people who don’t know me.”

What was so hard about saying any of these instead:

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“First of all, I’m deeply sorry for Jennifer Laude’s family’s loss. Right, there is no plan for me to attend her wake.”

Or: “What happened was a great tragedy. We will make sure that justice is served. No, I do not plan to attend.”

For many Filipinos, including me, his response strikes a chord. After all, many of us attended his father’s wake, and that of his mother’s, even though we didn’t know them personally.

Presidents are known to attend wakes of people they don’t know. I remember PNoy’s own mother, Cory Aquino, doing just that when she was president.

In many cases, it’s either a politically savvy move or a PR stunt, a way for politicians to show, or pretend to show, that they care. For Aquino, paying his respects to Laude and her family could have been an opportunity to make a courageous statement at a critical time.

A citizen of his country has been murdered. The suspect is a member of an ally’s military force. It’s an ally he may need as he takes on a bully in the region. But that bully, China, is pushing hard to paint him (and the Philippines) as nothing more than a US stooge, a puppet of Washington. And at home, there are those who also see Aquino as incapable for embracing a path independent of Washington, a leader whose vaunted courage in taking on a regional bully is based on nothing more than a foolish hope that the Americans would actually do the fighting for the Philippines.

Showing up at Laude’s wake would have sent the message that Aquino also has the courage to declare that, while he is prepared to take on China, his people’s welfare, especially those of the most vulnerable, is more important than a military alliance with an ally.

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Besides, that ally, the United States, known for being the dominant factor in Philippine politics, already sent a strong signal that it wasn’t going to play games just to save a marine accused of murder.

Even before the US Military turned Private Joseph Pemberton over to Philippine authorities, US Secretary of State John Kerry already said: ”Whatever charges there are, whatever infractions have been affected by any American anywhere, we believe in the rule of law, and we believe in our agreement. ….

“The people of the Philippines who are gracious enough to permit an arrangement whereby we meet mutual interests with this kind of a force’s presence need to know that we’re not seeking a special privilege, that everybody’s rights will be appropriately protected.”

Aquino could have affirmed that message himself at Laude’s wake. Unfortunately, PNoy just isn’t comfortable about doing something like that.

Instead of grabbing the chance to reframe the country’s long complicated relationship with the United States, PNoy gets pinged by a clever Facebook post poking fun at his “I-don’t-attend-wakes-of-people-I-don’t know’ statement.

The Facebook post shows a photo of the hundreds of thousands who attended Ninoy Aquino’s funeral in 1983.

“Mahiya ka naman sa tatay mo,” the post says.

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On Twitter @boyingpimentel or @benpimentel

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TAGS: Cory Aquino, Diplomacy, foreign relations, Jennifer Laude, Ninoy Aquino, PNoy, President Benigno Aquino, Sec. John Kerry, transgender slaying, US-PH relations, Visiting Forces Agreement
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