The Long View
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:52:00 04/04/2010
THE response of Presidential candidate Manuel Villar Jr. and friends to questions raised about some of his claims has been instructive, to say the least. The questions raised have been pretty straightforward. The first concerns the tragic loss of one of Villar’s brothers, who died as a small boy. Villar in his ads said his brother died because their family couldn’t afford medicines. A death certificate, on the other hand, revealed that the tragedy was due to complications arising from leukemia after the child’s admission to the FEU hospital. The mortuary services were provided by La Funeraria Paz. The second concerns Villar’s claims of poverty not just at the start, but throughout, his childhood and adolescence. After living in Tondo, the Villars (his father was a budget officer in the government and his mother was not a retail fish vendor but a wholesale dealer) moved to San Rafael Village in Navotas, where the family had a 560-square-meter property with a proper home. Lito Banayo has written most thoroughly on the proper context of all these lifestyle attributes circa the 1950s and 1960s: solidly bourgeois, in a word.
The third predates the first two and was only recently raised: To what extent is Villar’s pride in being a self-made man tarnished either by exaggeration or the outright use of official connections to give himself undue advantage?
Like I said, in terms of the recent questions (he maneuvered to dodge scrutiny on the older questions concerning his ethics as an official) his response has been extremely illuminating.
On March 30 on ANC’s “Dateline” program with Pia Hontiveros and Tony Velasquez, senatorial candidate and Nacionalista spokesman Gilbert Remulla said that the Villars were able to pay the hospital bills because Manuel Villar Sr. borrowed funds from an uncle. On the same day, in an ambush interview on “TV Patrol,” Villar himself said that his brother’s medical bills were paid for by means of a female cousin of his father, named Nelly Cruz, who lent them money. On March 31, in an 8:30 p.m. dzMM interview with Alvin Elchico and Lynda Jumilla, the story evolved further: Villar now said that his family brought his brother to FEU hospital because they had a relative who worked there as a nurse, and who could help them with discounts. Add to this Villar’s explanation that while his brother did get admitted to FEU, he was brought in as a charity ward patient.
This is an evolving response and might evolve some more this week. It brings to mind the style of Villar’s ally, Chavit Singson whose response to the story about his mistress’ lover being beaten up. When first asked about it, he brushed the story aside, saying “the guy’s lucky I didn’t have them killed.” The day after, he said he didn’t beat them up, but that he couldn’t stop others from assaulting the mistress and her lover. On the third day, by the time he came upon the scene, the two had already been assaulted, but not, mind you, by his bodyguards.
Fast forward to the GQ Magazine profile of Manny Pacquiao, “The Biggest Little Man in the World,” where Singson makes a characteristic cameo appearance. As Andrew Corsello colorfully recounted it, the gossip involving Singson, his mistress and her lover was “allegedly rectified” : [by Singson and cohorts] with (among other implements) a tiger whip.”
After recounting the “cheerful” response to the story of the mistress, her face “looking like lasagna,” making the papers, the writer then went on to repeat the following exchange with a “Team Pacquiao member [who] expressed surprise that the Governor hadn’t shown me the picture in his wallet.” Here’s the exchange from the article.
Picture of what, in Chavit’s wallet? “That guy’s dick.”
The American writer’s puzzled response: “What?”
The Filipino’s answer: “After the Governor’s guys had laid it on a table and whacked it with a hammer. It had to be surgically cut off after. Too mauled.”
Colorful, but hearsay, even though possibly read by tens of thousands. What isn’t hearsay, and only colorful in the sense of a family tragedy getting lurid, is the curious case of the circumstances surrounding the sad, sad story of Villar’s brother. The thing is, no one disputes certain things: that the Villars were visited by a great tragedy in losing a child so young; that Villar is a self-made man. But on the other hand, he made certain specific claims that are disputed by documents and the material circumstances of his own bio-data. It wasn’t enough to be thoroughly bourgeois, with solidly middle-class, respectable and, by all accounts, hard-working and capable parents. It wasn’t enough to marry into the Aguilar clan with its money and power: a typical (at first) middle class UP student who maximized the advantages his parents worked hard to provide him with.
It’s no surprise that the one most energetically taking Villar to task is Joseph Estrada, who came from gentry but who had an instinctive common touch. Estrada’s many shortcomings mattered little to the millions who know no secrets can really be hidden from one’s neighbors in the slums, where the intimate is public. So long as false piety – hypocrisy – is avoided, then it is better to be flawed but genuine than to be an artificial construct. Even if there’s an obvious element of roguery, even chicanery, in the Erap myth it’s all conducted with a wink and a sly grin – everyone’s in on the act.
Which makes the Villar schtick not just pretense but an outright fraud, and objectionable to those millions for whom money isn’t evil so long as gallantly dispensed without condescension. At the heart of Villar’s problems is his billions being unable to erase the insult he presents to the intelligence of the very voters he claims to have come from, and understands.