Arrogance of power: ‘Bahala kayo sa buhay n’yo!’

It turns out that Mayor Alfred Romualdez wasn’t telling everything when he said in a congressional hearing Monday that Secretary Mar Roxas, President Aquino’s point-man in Tacloban after the super typhoon hit, told him, “You are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino.”

Romualdez didn’t report the more chilling statement Roxas made: “If we cannot legalize [the turnover of authority to the national government], you’ll be in charge, we’ll help you, and that’s it, pero bahala na kayo sa buhay niyo.”

That Pilipino sentence has a particular nuance, which can’t be captured by its literal translation, “You’re in charge of your lives.”

Rather, it means, at best, telling somebody, “I don’t care whatever happens to you from here on.” At worse, it’s a veiled threat from a superior or from somebody with authority. “You can go to hell for all I care,” or “I wouldn’t lift a finger to help you from here on,” would be more accurate translations.

Coming from Roxas’ mouth and made in a meeting with a stunned mayor of a devastated city and his aides, it was a clear threat that if Romualdez wouldn’t formally turn over authority over the city, he won’t get the help he needs from the national government that Roxas represented.

YouTube posting of Roxas lecturing Romualdez: With similar video posted by columnist Cito Beltran, that’s 500,000 views, a record for the Philippines. (Video capture of YouTube video).

Rather than just apologizing and regretting that his words were misinterpreted by the mayor, Roxas instead came out belligerent and quarrelsome. Apparently thinking that Romualdez’ supporters took a video only of that particular part of that meeting, Roxas claimed that the mayor was lying and that the video was “spliced, and its intention malicious.”

He had threatened to “release to the public” what he claimed was the untampered video “at an appropriate time.” He was unaware though that as he spoke, thousands were already viewing the clearly unedited 40-minute video on YouTube, posted by columnist Cito Beltran and Romualdez’ father-in-law Jose Ma. Gonzales.

YouTube sensation
As of this writing, the two posts together had been viewed more than 500,000 times, a record of sorts for Philippine videos posted on YouTube that aren’t entertainment in nature. It’s probably the most viewed YouTube video of a political nature involving our country ever.

Worse, Roxas claimed that Romualdez was not in his right mind as he was traumatized by Yolanda’s devastation, saying—and laughing madly afterwards—in an interview in GMA’s 24 Oras news program: “Tanong ko sa kanya, nagpa-stress debriefing ka na ba? Kung nag pa stress-briefing siya, baka tumino, luminaw ang pag-iisip niya.” (“My question to him: Has he undergone stress debriefing? If he did, he’d probably be sane and his thinking made clear.”)

Roxas’ statements in his meeting in Tacloban with Romualdez, his response to the criticisms against him for that episode, even his body language and choice of words reflect this man’s arrogance of power. What’s obviously has been going in Roxas mind: “Who is this mayor to defy what I wanted to be done in Tacloban, and to complain about it? We are in power.”

But it is not just Roxas’; it’s the deep flaw of his boss President Aquino, an arrogance of power.

It is the same arrogance of power that explains why President Aquino ignored a Supreme Court order to let former President Gloria Arroyo seek medical help abroad; why he removed Chief Justice Renato Corona and spent billions of pesos to bribe Congress to do so; why he filed trumped up charges against Arroyo and jail her; why he junked appropriations laws and spent the budget in the way he wished and disguised such use by calling it as a “Disbursement Acceleration Plan”; why he spent some of this fund for Congress’ additional pork-barrel to ensure its support; why he has presumed that Congress will pass unconstitutional laws in order to set up a virtually independent Bangsamoro state.

It is the kind of arrogance of power that led dictatorships and hated administrations fall here and all over the world.

Dream goes to the sewers
Roxas’ arrogance of power at Tacloban, though, means “game-over” for his dream to be president in 2016. I just can’t see how he could ever erase in people’s mind that YouTube video of his arrogance in the midst of a the horror in Tacloban, nor his hyena-like laugh when he claimed Romualdez was not in his right mind.

It is also a game-changer for this administration, as its first choice to be president in 2016, Roxas, now obviously won’t make it. And it is a very, very slippery slope.

His supporters, both in big business, politics, and media, would sense the political winds changing and then turn their eyes to look for a new patron. The clear possibility has emerged that the next president won’t be yellow, and won’t protect Aquino and his people— a horrific prospect for them as they have made the lives of many so miserable, drawn blood, as some even claim, in the past three years.

Aquino would be moving into a panic mode now to create a clone or support somebody who can be president—in less than three years. and with no more pork-barrel to use to bribe political leaders. But that would have to be somebody outside his yellow cult. But that would sow division within his ranks, and his lieutenants would quietly slither out of his yellow tent.

Super Typhoon Yolanda has moved Philippine politics’ tectonic plates./


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