Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The flippant Mr. Ermita

I do not know if the press secretary is concurrently her spokesperson. The few times the former gentleman from the boundary of Bukidnon and Davao opened his mouth since his surprising appointment, he just succeeded in creating more enemies for "his" president. Remember when he disputed survey findings, to the point of calling the men and women behind Pulse Asia as "incompetent, irresponsible, and unpatriotic"?

He even fired off a letter to my friend Pepe Miranda, and when the latter failed to answer after a few days, as if a letter from her majesty’s press secretary had to be treated with utmost dispatch, he decried Miranda’s lack of a response over media. I have not bothered to ask Pepe if he did respond, because if I were in his place, I wouldn’t give her press secretary my time of day. But Pepe the Batangueño is infinitely more conciliatory than this happy warrior from Laguna.

In any case, if her press secretary pretty much sounds like a screech rather than velvet before the public, their Boss Woman in the stinking palace beside the stinking river can always fall back on her smooth operator, her executive secretary no less, Eduardo Ermita of Balayan in Batangas.

I do not quite recall any executive secretary who has made it habitual to face the press each week in a press conference of sorts. His predecessor Renato de Villa, also a Batangueño from San Juan, hardly faced the press during the short stint before he realized he had helped create a political monster. Neither did his successor, Bert Romulo. Before them, Ronny Zamora would occasionally answer questions from the Malacañang beat, usually the "ambush" variety. After all, speaking for the president is the domain of the press secretary, if the president did not have an official spokesperson.

But Eduardo Ermita apparently loves to hear himself talk, and see himself preen over the television cameras. Always nattily attired in crisp barong or spiffy business suit with his cravat appropriately knotted, the guy exudes an air of confidence, as if he was capable of explaining every presidential scandal, every presidential gaffe, every presidential tantrum, every questionable decision, away, and smoothly. Always unflappable, always serene-looking, always so sure of himself, yet unfortunately, always so flippant.

Whether in English or in Tagalog, the Batangueño folksiness comes out. And while most Batanguenos can get hot behind the collar easily, this one does not. Must be the softening influence of Visayans on the west coast, of velvet upon steel, of ‘te over ala eh.

Take just the latest examples. When the vice mayor of hermosa Zamboanga wondered aloud why American troops never seem to leave the country, even if their presence is supposed to be covered by the "Visiting Forces" Agreement, Ermita hushes him up by remarking that Americans "look alike" kasi. You could not distinguish Sarah Palin’s son if you saw him and Dick Cheney’s grandson, if he has any. Pare-pareho ang hitsura nila. "They come and go. They are replaced every now and then. They leave, contrary to the critics’ impression that they have not left," her majesty’s executive secretary flippantly explains away. As if he kept tab of their identities, their whereabouts, their comings and goings.

Reminded that such prolonged and continued stay constitutes an infringement upon our sovereignty, Ermita is dismissive–"That’s just the opinion of one person." One person or many, the point is the same: Do we at all value our sovereignty? Do we at all care whether our international covenants are followed by foreigners or not? Clearly Mr. Ermita does not care. National sovereignty and territorial integrity are mere trifles as far as he and his boss woman are concerned.

Which is why the man they assigned to head the Western Mindanao Command, Nelson Allaga of Esperon’s cabal and Garci’s scholars, when asked about the continued presence of GI Joes in and around his command, berates: "Eto na naman kayo – ano ba ang personal na galit nyo sa Amerikano?" Nothing flippant there, but ignorance of the worst kind, an inability to realize that he is a soldier of an independent republic. If he had been working in the French Legion, his field marshal would have summarily removed his epaulets in front of his command.

Then once more, the flippant Mr. Ermita, asked to comment on the erudite qualities of his boss woman’s choice for deputy national security adviser, El Duque de Nueva Segovia en el Baluarte de Ciudad Fernandina, Senor Don Luis Singson "El Chavit", compares the latter’s qualifications with the newly discovered "pit bull" of the Republican neo-cons, Sarah Palin of Wasilla in Alaska. Singson has far more experience than the mother of five from the frozen tundra, he rightly boasts.

"Imagine, a 44-year old lady who is governor of Alaska for only two years and yet was thrust into the national scene as a vice-presidential candidate?" Ermita wondered in amazement. While El Chavit, mientras tanto, has run for senator of her realm (and mercifully lost) and has been governor of Nueva Segovia for as long as anyone and his mother could remember. Por eso, Senor Ermita, why didn’t La Gloria choose her to be his running-mate in 2004, instead of that newsreader from ABS-CBN?

Mr. Ermita conveniently forgets that Sarah Palin, despite her mere two-year experience as chief executive of Alaska, is an anti-corruption crusader, much unlike what a judge in Nevada described the new NSC deputy–"a demonstrably corrupt governor from the Philippines".

Mr. Ermita believes that El Chavit is highly qualified for his new posting. I agree. With a pre-med graduate, Norberto Gonzales, as national security adviser, whatever is wrong about a licensed embalmer becoming his deputy? Pathology plus necrology makes for excellent national security in the realm of the Dona’s Never-Never land. Throw in that jesuitic Archie Intengan, with his theology of justified violence, and you have the perfect brew for the queen who would reign forever and ever. Such excellent credentials for bloody company.

At the end of all arguments about the fitness or lack of the same, Ermita can always claim that appointments of whomever to whatever and wherever are explained by "presidential prerogative". The flippant Mr. Ermita mistakes prerogative for the more appropriate description – presidential whim.

But thank God for the smallest mercies, a friend reminds me. Remember when Prospero Pichay was promised the post of administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, with its billions in forced OFW contributions? Well, when everybody and his mother raised a howl, the Boss Woman reconsidered.

"She’s not that heartless, after all," chides my friend. Naawa rin sa pondo ng mga OFW. And so to LWUA (sounds the same anyway) goes Prospero. Wait till the Doña instructs her minister of the purse, Nonoy Andaya (who wants a new district carved out of Camarines Sur because el Segundo principe has robbed him of his family fiefdom), to infuse "katas ng VAT" for LWUA. Matutuwa na si Prospero.