The silence of the lamb

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Even unto death he held his peace.

Most of us did not even know about his illness and how he lived his life after his presidency. But without doubt, when word of his death spread amidst a shower of disbelief, people demanded to know. Yes, there were rumors but not even his harshest critics were willing to fan those flames because by and large, he was a quiet and decent man. He lived simply and seemed to treasure his privacy so much more in his final years by withdrawing from the limelight, not making political commentaries or public appearances. He made no attempts to “explain himself and his presidency;” in fact, he declined numerous requests for interviews even those brokered by his friends. Perhaps, it really didn’t matter to him because in the final telling he was a man destined to step into the gap, a sacrificial lamb forced into a role in order to preserve the republic or the nation. His father did, his mother did, and ultimately so did he.

There will be rivers of accounts about the life and times of “NoyNoy” Aquino but I wonder how many of them will be able to fill in the blanks about his rudely interrupted teenage years during martial law, accompanying a father to the US for heart surgery, adjusting to life in a foreign country while his father carried on fighting the war for Philippine democracy on foreign soil. Just when he could have had a normal life, his father embraces martyrdom and even before the mourning could be “officially” over, they are once again sucked in into the dark and ugly reality of Philippine politics and the Marcos dictatorship.

It seemed like a cruel joke of the devil that every time things were settling down, Noynoy and his family would be thrown into spin cycle and drowned with challenge or tragedy. Even when they were the tenants of Malacañang, they were haunted by rebellion and coups, one of which caught the young Benigno in a crossfire coming home from a date. Not to be cruel, but not only was he unlucky in political life, even his dating life always became fodder for gossip columns and the like. He was not even allowed to have some fun, to drive a friend’s Porsche down EDSA.

Yes, I believe he was to the very end a man who kept his peace even when politicians were so vulgar and wicked to dump on him and constantly blame him for their own failings. As some have said, it is the trait of the “Cojuangco” in him, to keep your dignity and self-respect in spite of the most cruel accusation and harshest criticism. Perhaps, it is divine destiny that he passed away during this time when mourning and funerals are toned down and limited. No funeral parades, no people lining up the streets and risking people’s health and lives as well as giving his demonic critics more ammunition to besmirch his “Dilawan” followers. As he lived and as in death he kept it: Simple.

Rest in Peace, good and faithful servant, our nation thanks you for your service.

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In many parts of the Philippines, the big issue is now vaccine inequality in the face of dangerous outbreaks of COVID-19 variants. Allies of the government in the vaccination program stand on the claim that by fixing the problem in the NCR Plus 8 or creating herd immunity therein, they can stem the tidal wave of COVID-19 cases nationwide. That sounded like a plan until two facts emerged: We are seriously short on vaccines while the tidal waves are slowly turning into COVID-19 tsunamis in different parts of the country.

If we recall the early days of the war on COVID, officials kept promoting “To Heal As One.” Going along those lines and following the idea of containing the COVID tidal waves, it seems that bringing the vaccines to the provinces and smaller cities, where populations are smaller, would be more effective, faster at achieving herd immunity and preventing the spread of the virus and its variants coming from Metro Manila or going into the NCR. In the early days, the suggestion was to contain provinces or cities, one at a time and have stricter border control. But instead, the NCR Plus got first priority because of economic and business concerns. Since day one it has always been about “making money.” I have no problems with that but I’m sure that governors and mayors of island provinces and small cities whose population are so much smaller than NCR have issues with that. Their populations are in the “thousands” and people there know each other. Relationships there are intimate, not merely transactional like the NCR. When your childhood friends come knocking for medicines, burial assistance, when local funeral parlors are aghast with the number of deaths and the hospitals screaming “This is bloody murder!” then it all boils down to vaccine inequality.

Yes, there are global and international protocols but who made those rules? Sometime late 2020, President Duterte declared that the first to get the vaccines would be the poor who can’t buy it. By all means the poor should have more from the government, but can someone explain why “THE POOR” came in number 5 or fifth in the priority list for vaccination? If the A4 or working groups were already being allowed to work, roam or commute without vaccines, why were they put in front of the poor?

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. – Isaiah the Prophet

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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