Why P-Noy's love life is good news for the Philippine economy
WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores () - May 22, 2011 - 12:00am

There is no private life which has not been determined by a wider public life.    — George Eliot

I have as much privacy as a goldfish in a bowl.   — Princess Margaret

No, this is not a tsismis or gossip column (yet!), so sorry to disappoint you but this writer won’t be revealing additional details of President Noynoy Aquino’s love life and latest date. However, I just wish to share that actress Ruffa Gutierrez said to me she hopes to someday be a First Lady but she’s not applying to be P-Noy’s; meanwhile, single “Comedy Queen” Ai Ai de las Alas also said to me she’s not P-Noy’s type (her crush is Hollywood’s Brad Pitt and she considers Century Tuna hotdog endorser Aljur Abrenica as “sexy”).

On the issue of P-Noy’s love life, I definitely agree with the President that public figures like him should be allowed some modicum of privacy, too. I believe he can have it, if he good-naturedly requests it from the mass media, but not by complaining about the media.

 Last year in December, I was with a group of young businessmen chatting at a resto bar in Greenhills past 1 a.m. when I saw several security men enter and spread out across the nearly empty establishment; soon after, the President and his date entered.

From many tables away, P-Noy called out my name, joked that I should continue my “lecture” (actually I was just explaining something to my friends using pen and paper). P-Noy also requested that I not write about his date that night, and I respected his request, not writing about it here in the Philippine STAR, not even on Twitter or Facebook.

Though P-Noy’s request for some private time is reasonable, I must also agree with STAR reader and former National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) president Inday Espina-Varona, who said: “Even South African President Nelson Mandela’s love life attracted heaps of attention. If Erap’s love life was fair game, why not that of this bachelor President Noynoy Aquino?”

Our Philippine media have been heavily influenced by the gutsy investigative journalism of the US and even Britain, where the love lives of politicos and celebrities, whether then President Bill Clinton, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or the British royal family members, are fodder for headline news. In contrast, in France, the media have for years seemingly agreed to allow politicians to keep their love lives — even if scandalous — private.

For instance, when then French President François Mitterrand was once asked by a journalist whether it was true that he had sired a daughter outside his marriage, he answered: “Yes, it’s true. And so what? It’s none of the public’s business.”

The French media have long kept such matters private, but after the recent New York arrest of former International Montetary Fund (IMF) managing director and top French presidential contender Dominique Strauss-Kahn for an alleged rape attempt on a hotel housekeeping lady, this French media practice of treating the rich, famous and powerful as off limits to public scrutiny is now being rightfully challenged.

“We felt that we were superior to the Americans and the British by upholding the principle of protecting private life,” Pierre Haski, one of France’s leading political commentators and co-founder of the political Web site Rue89, said to the New York Times. “But we journalists haven’t done our job properly. We were used and abused in keeping secrets. We need to define our role in a more aggressive way — and say that not everything private is private.”

Haski said he had been wrong to withhold information in the past about French politicians that could have affected their sensitive work. For example, he revealed: “I knew that when Roland Dumas was foreign minister, he was romantically involved with the daughter of Syria’s defense minister. I didn’t write it because it was a matter of his ‘private life.’ I was wrong. It had an impact on France’s foreign policy.”

Why Lea Salonga Believes P-Noy Should Court And Marry After 2016

By the way, what is the advice of Olivier- and Tony-award-winning singer/actress Lea Salonga on P-Noy’s love life? She said: “My honest advice? If I were P-Noy, I’d really wait until after 2016, when I’m no longer president of the Philippines, to think of marrying, when I’m already back in private life.”

Lea continued: “It’s hard to have a real love life when you’re in power, when you’re the most powerful Filipino in the country right now. It’s very difficult to have a sincere and good love life with all that baggage of political power. I think it would be best if the president just continues his good work for the country and to focus on serving the country well.”

Award-winning movie director and scriptwriter Jose “Joey” Javier Reyes recently commented on the President’s love life hogging the front pages of our newspapers, saying: “We must really be such a particularly bored people.” That is not only true, but to me that is actually good news for the Philippine economy!

Why good news for the Philippine economy if our news headlines are about the President’s love life? The worst thing on earth for our Philippine economy would be “too exciting” front-page news — like a national leader with either criminal acts or vices, or headlines about restive military coups, EDSA 4 or 5 revolts, news on leaders who gamble or commit “Hello Garci”-style election cheating, etc. All these headlines unsettle local and foreign investors.

 Years ago, when on a trip to ASEANS’s wealthiest nation, Singapore (smaller population than neighbor Malaysia but with a bigger economy), I was amazed to read their New Straits Times newspaper, the top story of which was a report — complete with a detailed illustrated drawing — about an air-conditioning unit that fell off a residential condominium building from an upper-floor home. Anak ng pusa, that was their front-page news?

 The Singapore front-page news is not about multisectoral groups rallying to demand an incumbent president to resign due to legitimacy issues, not about bloody terrorist attacks by Abu Sayyaf bandits, not about billions of pesos in pilfered or wasted government funds, not about vociferous political bickering ad nauseaum. Wow, I envy their boring front-page news which doesn’t distract the citizenry from work, and which doesn’t dissipate our emotional as well as physical energies due to anxiety or stress!

Now we have benign — thank goodness — and rather boring news about a harmless bachelor president who may or may not be dating. That’s good news for our economy!

 This writer is not an apologist for President Aquino because columnists should not be part of politicians’ cheering squads and I believe we should always be critical of people in power in a constructive way. He is not a saint, but this leader is squeaky clean in terms of his being not personally corrupt. P-Noy really still inspires hope that there can be drastic anti-corruption reforms in a systemic way or at least some high-profile convictions during his term.

True, not a few people including this columnist are somewhat underwhelmed by the President’s seeming lack of decisiveness and brilliance (unlike, say, President Ferdinand E. Marcos), and he’s also not reputedly as super hardworking as Gloria Macapagal Arroyo or Fidel V. Ramos. But lack of high intellect, decisiveness or work ethic are not (yet!) crimes for public officials in this country. Honestly, I am very grateful our seemingly happy-go-lucky but honest P-Noy did not steal an election or indulge in massive graft!

More than the elusive and intriguing love life of President Noynoy Aquino, I believe he and the rest of us should focus our energies more on improving the economic life of the Philippines.

Philippine STAR reader Alexander Tan, who is a trader of rice and cooking oil in the palengke (wet market), e-mailed me: “Please write in your columns that President Noynoy has a good heart, but he should get out of Malacañang Palace or luxury hotels more often in order to see the realities of ordinary people’s daily lives and struggles at the palengke or in the rural barrios. In ancient China, the emperors sometimes would disguise themselves to visit the masses and see the truths outside of their officials’ rosy reports. High food and gasoline prices are not P-Noy’s fault, but these problems are affecting us ordinary traders and most of the people, and we the many who voted for him are still waiting for decisive actions, real solutions and help.”

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E-mail mailto:willsoonflourish@gmail.comor follow WilsonLeeFlores at Twitter or Facebook page.

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