Saturday, January 24, 2015


By Jojo Robles

If you still need proof that Pope Francis looks at things differently, all you need to know is what he considers the highlight of his recent five-day visit to the Philippines. While most Catholics are still raving about the mammoth, supposedly record-breaking crowd that gathered last Sunday at Manila’s Rizal Park for the pope’s mass, Francis himself believes that his visit to typhoon-hit Tacloban City was the most moving part of his stay.
“The mass at Tacloban was emotional, very emotional, to see all God’s people standing there, praying after this catastrophe,” the pope told journalists who accompanied him on his flight back to Rome from Manila. “I thought of my sins and those people—it was very strong, a very moving moment.”
The day the pope went to Tacloban to be with the victims of typhoon Yolanda, in the teeth of yet another incoming typhoon, was understandably moving. It was what the pope came here for—to tell the stricken people that, late though he may be, “I am here for you.”
How different and how much more sympathetic Francis’ statement is, compared to President Noynoy Aquino’s sarcastic “But you did not die, right?”
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But overall, it was really a bad hair week for Aquino. And he only has himself to blame for seriously misjudging the people’s sentiments during the recently-concluded visit of Pope Francis to Manila.
Because Pope Francis is such a forgiving, accommodating head of the Church, he has chosen to ignore Aquino’s tirade against his bishops in the Philippines. The public, however, was not as tolerant of their President’s shameless bid to use the pope’s visit to get back at his critics among the clergy, while simultaneously taking a swipe at both the Marcos and Arroyo administrations.
Since the pope left, Aquino has retreated into his foxhole, the better to avoid the brickbats that have been coming his way after his strange welcome address for the pope in Malacañang. It’s ironic, but Aquino’s plan to get back at his critics in the clergy only led to more criticism for his uncalled-for speech, which is why he needs some time to lick his wounds in silence—or at least to come up with a better propaganda strategy to contain the fallout.
But if Aquino learns anything from this latest embarrassing incident, it should be that he cannot assume that the people will always take his side, no matter what he says or does. Some of the fiercest critics of Aquino’s faux pas in the palace, after all, were longtime supporters of his administration who just happened to be Catholics; it’s not that they loved Aquino less, they just love the pope more.
In the twilight of his term, Aquino must learn that not every opportunity for him to speak should be considered a chance to get back at his perceived political enemies. There is a time and place of everything, after all, and Aquino must have realized, no matter how belatedly, that he cannot turn every speaking engagement into his usual “somos o no somos” rally.
I say belatedly because, right up to the time that the pope was leaving last Sunday, Aquino was still insisting on his unique worldview, in which, as he said in his speech before the pope, he and the pontiff were actually “kindred spirits.” Aquino said that he never felt that his administration was being alluded to when Pope Francis denounced corruption during his visit.
Apparently, what Aquino meant was that the pope, his supposed comrade in the fight against corruption, was referring to previous administrations—the same ones he railed against in his own speech in Malacañang. Of course, the pope made no distinction between present and previous governments, unlike Aquino himself.
After denying that his government had been denounced as corrupt by the visiting pope, Aquino disappeared from view once again. I think he will reappear only when he thinks the coast is clear.
Hopefully, he will have learned valuable lessons from his missteps. Or maybe not.
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I guess things are really back to normal when a major survey company comes to the defense of President Noynoy Aquino, now that he’s once again shot himself in the foot. But I doubt that Social Weather Stations, which came out with the latest survey results, cares any more what the public thinks, as long as it can contribute to the effort of minimizing the self-inflicted damage Aquino caused on his presidency during the recently-concluded visit to the Philippines of Pope Francis.
On the surface, of course, SWS says that it is tracking the President’s popularity on a regular basis, just like it always has. After all, its latest survey results were supposedly gathered from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1 last year, long before the pontiff set foot in Manila.
But the survey results were released just when Aquino has run back into his bunker to avoid fresh criticism. Good luck with trumpeting Aquino’s popularity, though, at a time when people think he should have never shown his face during Pope Francis’ entire visit.

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