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Opinion

Public perception

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

The Filipino public’s tendency for rash judgments is evident once again in attributing guilt to a scion of a prominent personality over the death of visual artist Bree Jonson.

But first a disclaimer: I don’t personally know the person of interest, Julian Ongpin, or his father, billionaire and former trade minister Roberto Ongpin; neither did I know the victim or her relatives.

The public doesn’t seem to believe police findings that Jonson killed herself inside the bathroom of the hotel room that she and the young Ongpin shared.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was asked to step into the probe of Jonson’s death even after the police had found she killed herself.

The public perception is that police investigators were paid off by the suspect’s father.

The public uproar over Jonson’s death reminds this columnist of Christine Dacera, a PAL Express flight attendant, who died of a drug overdose during the New Year’s Eve revelry this year, and the much-celebrated Vizconde massacre in 1991.

Just because the suspects in Dacera’s alleged rape and murder and those of the much-celebrated Vizconde massacre were scions of prominent families, they were all deemed guilty by the public, which was obviously thirsty for the blood of the rich and famous.

One of the suspects in the Dacera case was the son of Claire dela Fuente, a famous singer in the late 1970’s; and in the case of the Vizconde massacre, there was Hubert Webb, son of then Parañaque congressman and later senator Freddie Webb.

Dela Fuente, considered one of the jukebox queens of her time, died of COVID-19 this year, her death apparently triggered by depression because of the public perception that her son and his friends raped and killed Dacera.

Claire’s son, Gregorio de Guzman, and his companions, all self-confessed gay men, were found innocent after a protracted investigation.

They were all friends of Dacera whom they considered “one of us,” a woman who enjoyed the friendly company of gay men.

Hubert Webb and his co-accused were later found innocent by the Supreme Court in an appeal.

The Parañaque Regional Trial Court had convicted them of the murder of Estrellita Vizconde, 49, and her daughters Carmela, 19, and Ann Marie, 6, in their house at BF Homes village on June 30,1991.

Carmela had been raped by her assailants.

Because of the resulting publicity Freddie Webb, a basketball star in 1960’s and 1970’s, lost his bid for reelection to the Senate.

Freddie had a bright future in politics and was being groomed to run for vice president and then perhaps the presidency until his fame came crashing down because of the Vizconde massacre, dubbed the crime of the 20th century in the Philippines.

The Vizconde massacre is close to my heart because I vigorously defended Hubert and his co-accused in my column which was published in another newspaper. The public crucified me for my defense of Hubert and his co-accused; even my colleagues in that newspaper flayed me in their columns.

When I was defending Hubert, I was not yet Freddie’s friend; it was only later that I became friends with the Webbs.

Why does the Filipino have the tendency to prematurely pass judgment on suspects who are rich and famous, or scions of prominent families, in much publicized scandals or crimes?

A psychologist, whose name I won’t mention for obvious reasons, says that the Filipino rejoices over other people’s misery, especially if they happen to be better off financially or socially.

The ordinary Filipino is envious of people in better circumstances and he feasts over reports of their desperate straits, says this psychologist.

Misery loves company, as a saying goes.

*      *      *

Agham, a group that claims to be composed of “scientists of the people,” opposes the proposed Pasig River Expressway (PAREX), a 19-kilometer-long road along the banks of the Pasig River that would connect the western and eastern parts of Metro Manila.

The project’s proponent is Ramon S. Ang, president and CEO of the conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC).

Agham’s reason that the expressway would further damage the river is ludicrous.

How could you damage a river that has no more aquatic life because it has long been dead?

In fact, SMC is currently dredging the Pasig River of silt and trash in an attempt to bring it back to life.

Effluents from factories and informal settlers living along its banks have made the river among the dirtiest in the world.

Agham, purportedly a national organization of scientists, researchers, engineers and science educators, is affiliated with leftist organizations like Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Bayan Muna.

Although it has credible credentials, Agham’s alliance with leftist groups makes it suspect.

It is not in any way connected with the Agham party-list which used to have a representative in the House of Representatives.

*      *      *

Liya Wu, a Mainland Chinese who recently acquired Filipino citizenship, has donated 350,000 face masks and 3,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPEs) to help her adopted compatriots in fighting COVID-19.

Wu, who owns a travel agency in Binondo, Manila, imported the donation from China and turned it over to the Ramon Tulfo Good Samaritan Foundation.

I intend to pass her donation over to some small government units and private hospitals in Metro Manila and the provinces, along with thousands of face shields also given by Liya earlier.

Liya puts to shame Michael Yang, former presidential economic adviser and friend of President Digong Duterte, who is being investigated by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee for a suspected scam.

Yang who, like Wu, is from Mainland China, has been linked to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. which allegedly swindled the government of billions of pesos in terms of supplying it with grossly overpriced face masks and face shields.

Interested hospitals may contact our hotline: 0998-792-6304.

BREE JONSON
Philstar
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