THAI Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra dropped a bombshell on host Philippines when he expressed concern over the fairness in which the 23rd SEA Games had been officiated. We can only call this a bombshell, considering that commentaries like this are not usual fare among heads of state.
On hearing about it the first time on TV last Wednesday, my reaction was to chuckle at the ironic humor of a circulating SMS joke which said that COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano had returned to help ensure that the SEA Games results were tabulated 'properly' to maximize the Philippines' harvest of medals.
I also thought that such an off the cuff remark of PM Thaksin may have been misquoted or taken out of context and in all likelihood, overplayed by media. Another possibility that played in my mind then was that a Thai sports official trying to cover up for Thailand's dismal showing (being a poor third placer in the medal haul) may have led their Prime Minister to believe that they had been cheated.
When I read the Philippine Daily Inquirer the next day, I then realized how serious the situation was. No ifs and buts about it. In black and white, there was PM Thaksin's quoted statement of concern about the fairness of the way the 23rd SEA Games had been officiated. Not only that, PM Thaksin was also quoted as saying that he plans to discuss this issue in a forthcoming summit - the first time perhaps that sports will become a topic in a summit of heads of state.
The sweet taste of euphoria, national pride and achievement that momentarily relieved us from the burdens of living with the bankrupt and unwanted leadership of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo suddenly turned sour.
Thanks to Maria V. Montelibano, the world caught glimpses of Filipino excellence - the opening ceremonies were a portrayal of world class pageant production at its finest. Frame by frame on television, we defied commonly depicted images of blight. Instead, we gave television audiences the sights and sounds of the Filipino surmounting the odds and projecting a nation of high morale, discipline and sense of purpose. Considering that television has been known to define reality - it's often said that it is not a fact if it is not seen on television - Maria's opus made us feel for a moment that we were not a third world country hopelessly trapped in the failed leadership of Madame Gloria M. Arroyo.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco and his team demonstrated fine leadership that had drawn out the best in each of the Filipino athletes, notwithstanding the economic hurdles. Bereft of proper nutrition, training and coaching that richer nations enjoy, third world countries usually fare poorly in sports competitions. But our athletes defied that obstacle with their gold medal haul.
But no thanks to Madame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the controversies surrounding her 'election' in 2004 - the remarks of the Thai PM easily found believers. With the 2004 election controversy dominating news about the Philippines, it will not be surprising for the outside world to find us incapable of fairness.
For weeks and weeks, months and months, all the news that come from our side of the planet talk about fraud, cheating, anomalies, corruption, theft and other crimes that seem only to project an image of a country where the words 'honesty' and 'fairness' are alien to the language and culture. So, are we surprised when outsiders develop a form of paranoia over our officiating fairness?
When the world hears about how 80% of Filipinos think and believe that the president they now have is not the president that they elected and yet the Church leaders in the Philippines allow the truth to be subverted, should we be surprised if the world thinks that there is no sense of morality or ethics in this country?
When the world sees how a fake president continues to ignore the overwhelming number of Filipinos who reject her leadership, why should we be outraged by the Thai PM's comment? How can we expect to assure outsiders that we can be fair and honest when we cannot even address such a mammoth national issue as the Gloria-Garci controversy and the stealing of the presidency?
The games would have been the welcome breather amid this the winter of our discontent, to borrow words from Shakespeare. No thanks to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her tainted reputation has rubbed off on all of us, even on those who do not deserve it.
Under normal circumstances, PM Thaksin's comment would not have produced much impact. If he said the same things of the SEA Games at a time when Singapore would have been playing host, no one would have believed him.
But PM Thaksin made the comment about the games that are being held in the Philippines. His words probably even echoed the paranoia of the other nations' athletic teams. His comments preyed on the doubts that were probably already in the heads of many others. PM Thaksin's words therefore had a ring of 'gospel truth' and the burden of proof had been put on the people with the reputation for cheating.
PM Thaksin may not be able to support any of his allegations or concerns with hard facts. But do not think for a moment that it will reduce the negative impression his remarks have created in many people's minds.
After Adolph Hitler killed six million Jews, who would believe that he did not kill the 6,000,001th Jew? After all the lies and cheating that have been publicized about the woman who is supposed to be our leader, who would believe that we are a people who would not cheat too in order to win in the games?
Let God take care of the truth, Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales said. Let's move on from the Gloria-Garci controversy - as Donald Dee, Winnie Monsod, Prospero Pichay, Ed Zialcita et al have been promoting.
"The truth shall set you free" has an evil twin: it is called "the lie shall keep you in bondage"
Has this not cost us enough? What more suffering should we endure to finally realize that this continued bondage to the liar and her lie will only entrap and entangle us further and deeper into the pit?
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org