Honor and responsibility

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Police Chief Tomoaki Onizuka of Nara Prefecture, where former prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated, was full of remorse.

Onizuka said that Abe’s bodyguards followed his approved security plan.

“I feel the weight of my responsibility,” Onizuka said, his voice shaking.

We should not be surprised if Onizuka commits hara-kiri or goes to Aokigahara, the infamous suicide forest near Mt. Fuji.

Talk about honor and responsibility.

*      *      *

To us “normal” people, Japanese culture is an enigma.

A Japanese man would kill himself if he were disgraced.

In 2019, Japan had one of the highest suicide rates among the most developed nations.

Many years ago, a beat policeman raped a housewife in her home.

The cop’s immediate supervisor committed suicide, the town police chief also killed himself and the mayor resigned in disgrace.

The blood in every vein of the samurai warrior in the Japanese lives on.

If memory serves, in the late 1970s and early 80s, there was a spate of murders of elderly Japanese tourists.

The Japanese police came to Manila to investigate the murders along with their Philippine counterparts.

The investigation found that the elderly tourists came to Manila to be killed, purportedly so their families back home could claim insurance.

The Manila police called it “murder for insurance.”

The elderly Japanese didn’t want to be burdens on their families, so they insured themselves heavily, and then took a flight to Manila.

The investigation revealed the members of the Yakuza perpetrated the murder for insurance.

This columnist was privy to the murder for insurance situation because I was then a reporter for the Manila Bulletin covering the police beat.

In the book Yakuza: Japan’s Criminal Underworld, authors Alec Dubro and David Kaplan mentioned me as a resource person in their research.

*      *      *

Suicide is part of the Japanese culture.

One Japanese term for suicide is hara-kiri. Hara is a point an inch below the navel, while kiri means cutting. In literal translation, hara-kiri is gutting the belly. A knife or sword is plunged into the belly and the suicide makes a rounding motion while the blade is inside.

Hara-kiri, first practiced by disgraced Samurai warriors, was prevalent among high-ranking Japanese officers during the Second World War.

My father, then Army Lt. Ramon S. Tulfo, asked one of the jailers in the Capas, Tarlac concentration camp why American and Filipino officers were treated like doormats while the ordinary foot soldiers – from private to master sergeant – were treated gently.

The answer my father got humiliated him more: In Japanese military culture, officers commit suicide in defeat. And since the US and Filipino officers surrendered instead of taking their own lives, they were treated with disrespect.

My mother, Caridad A. Teshiba, a very young half-breed nursing aide in a Japanese hospital in Davao, witnessed how her superiors, even women, shot themselves in the head when they got the news that Japan had surrendered to the Allies.

Invited by her fellow employee to take her own life, my mom said she was a Catholic that believed that suicide was a mortal sin.

*      *      *

If the Japanese are very serious when it comes to their responsibilities, how do ordinary Filipinos take care of their own responsibilities?

Wala lang. None, nada, zilch.

There is this joke about four crewmen on a rubber boat of a sunken ship, floating in the ocean. It was an international crew: American, Japanese, Chinese and Filipino.

Days after the sinking of the ship, the rubber boat was so deflated only one of them should be left on the boat, while the others had to make the supreme sacrifice.

The Japanese, ever so proud, was the first to go down. “Banzai,” the Japanese sailor said, and dove into the sea.

The American came next. “Long live America,” he said, and then plunged into the sea.

So, only the Filipino and the Chinese crewmen were left on the rubber boat, but one of them had to follow the others so the last one would live to tell the story.

The Filipino then shouted, “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas (Long live the Philippines),” as he pushed the Chinese guy into the sea.

Joke only, ha?

*      *      *

It’s high time government officials in high positions took their responsibility seriously.

Officers in the Philippine National Police (PNP), for example, should resign if their immediate subordinates were arrested for heinous crimes.

Can’t they at least offer to vacate their position, and in the worst-case scenario, resign or file for early retirement to save face?

But the answer one would get is probably this: “What face? I was not the one who committed it. Why should I quit?”

Why blame Juan for the sin of Pedro? But isn’t it the responsibility of a superior to make sure his subordinates toe the line?

Another example: A Filipino sees a man being stabbed dead in the street during a robbery.

The witness has the killer’s identity because he happens to be a neighborhood toughie or bully.

Asked by the police and the victim’s relatives to testify in court, the Filipino’s stock answer: “Why should I? The victim was not my relative. Testifying in court would entail much time and I don’t want my time wasted because of a stranger.”

That unwilling witness doesn’t know that he or one of his relatives might be the next victim.

The law of karma is precise in exacting responsibility.

I remember the late retired Constabulary Col. Bobby “Bungo” Ortega, a nemesis of criminals in his time, being asked why he didn’t hesitate to execute killers and robbers he caught red-handed.

“Because I didn’t want my family, friends and other citizens to become the next victim,” said Ortega.


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