It is very unfortunate that there are people who are unable to display compassion for victims of natural disasters simply because they are of a different political persuasion, like what recently happened when a callous tweet by a retired advertising executive ridiculed the Davaoeños who were reeling from the effect of the recent earthquakes that hit Mindanao.
In her tweet written in the Tagalog vernacular, the advertising executive said the earth now wants to swallow the people up which is why they should ask for forgiveness, and that the president – who hails from Davao, should “seriously prepare for the afterlife,” adding that it was getting “hot, hotter, hottest.”
Even if the now-deleted tweet was “directed ONLY at DDS (Duterte diehard supporters)” – the justification used by the ad executive – the remark was still uncalled for and totally un-Filipino because we as a nation commiserate with our fellow men and cross party lines, so to speak, becoming blind to political color when tragedy or disaster strikes. We put our differences on hold, call a ceasefire and place any feelings of spite in the backburner because compassion and the desire to help would always overcome.
People with conscience know better than to bring in politics when others are already suffering, with the recent earthquakes displacing thousands of Filipinos including children from their homes, causing psychological and emotional trauma to victims. Lambasting rivals may be par for the course during times like political campaign seasons, but not during times of tragedies or disasters.
Like they say, you don’t kick a man when he’s already down.
This brings to mind what happened in November 2013 in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) when political spite and callousness got in the way of disaster relief operations.
Many can still recall that so much politics got in the way, wasting a lot of precious time arguing about what was “de jure” or “de facto,” bringing in brand name politics first before responding to the needs of the victims who couldn’t care less about political surnames because what they needed was relief from the devastation wrought by the super typhoon, recorded as one of the most powerful ever to hit the nation, killing 10,000 Filipinos.
What makes it tragic is that we see this kind of callousness and spite from people who are self-righteous, claiming to be decent, thinking they have a monopoly on patriotism or on what is principled and moral.
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Filipino media reporting tour in DC
We invited a group of journalists to take part in a reporting tour program initiated by the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. to give responsible journalists an on-the-ground perspective on the relationship between the Philippines and our close ally, the United States.
The embassy arranged interviews and engagements with various stakeholders in Washington and provided context to specific issues that affect the relationship between our two countries. It was a good opportunity to highlight the work that our embassy staff have been doing to promote the Philippines and elevate its economic profile among members of the US business community and other stakeholders.
The reporting tour is the first of its kind, and we are happy to know that this activity is welcomed by our friends at the Department of State and the Pentagon. Also supporting us in this initiative is our country’s flag carrier Philippine Airlines whose role in promoting the country in various aspects that include tourism and business could not be overemphasized.
We kick-started the program with deep-dive discussions on the work of the attached agencies, namely the Defense and Armed Forces Attaché’s Office, the Office of Veterans Affairs and the Police Attaché’s Office who characterized the defense relations between the US and the Philippines as “robust,” seen in the increased amount of military aid to the country.
This was confirmed by Mark Clark, the State Department’s Director of the Office of Maritime Southeast Asia under the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who said the Philippines is the largest recipient of defense assistance in the region.
Our Political section was also able to arrange roundtable discussions with think-tanks such as the Center for Maritime International Studies (CSIS) and The Heritage Foundation. CSIS Southeast Asia Program Deputy Director Brian Harding noted that the relationship between the US and the Philippines is “in a much better place” while The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center Director Walter Lohman noted that there is “solid basis” for a good relationship because of the shared history, common experiences and deep connection between both nations and their people.
The embassy’s Economic team which includes the Economic and Public Diplomacy sections, the Agriculture Attaché’s Office, the Philippine Trade and Investment Center and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office also gave a briefing on priority areas and programs. There was a lively exchange of views on the potential of Philippine products like okra, calamansi, and coffee. The immigration and migration policies of the Trump administration were also discussed, with the Labor Attaché noting that while there has been little change in legislation, implementation and enforcement of existing laws have become stricter.
Actually, US businesses continue to be very engaged, and interest in the Philippines remains very high, with US-Philippines Society president Ambassador John Maisto noting the “high credibility” enjoyed by the Philippine Economic team led by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez.
Hopefully, the Philippine embassy will be given the opportunity to continue this reporting tour program – which is the first of its kind – to expose Filipino journalists to the importance of our relationship with the United States.
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