Okay. My friend assured me that this story is true: his friend who told him the story told him that it most assuredly was true and he was sure of it because the friend who had told him the story had assured him that it was true. I believe them. At one of those gay beauty pageants sponsored by barangays to mark their anniversaries, the host asked one of the contestants during the Q&A: “If you are on a sinking ship and could save only one person, who would you choose: your mother, your sister, or your best friend?”
Like most people, I hope never to be faced with this trilemma. The lack of any good options would have slain anyone confronted with such a real-life scenario, much less a hypothetical one. Beauty pageant contestants, however, are trained to handle such questions with aplomb at pageant school. When asked a head-scratcher, the contestant is advised to buy time for herself as she panics. One technique is to re-phrase the question into a declarative sentence. For example: when asked, “Are you feeling nervous right now?”, the contestant may reply, “No, I am not feeling nervous right now.” The host may interpret the answer as expressing outward cool, but mentally, the contestant is frantically pressing the “Delay” button while she is thinking.
Our bet at the barangay pageant must have imbibed the same ethos. After composing herself, the contestant, I was assured, replied, “I do believe”—in pageant circles, one does not simply believe but must “do believe”—“that if I were on a sinking ship and I could only save one person, I would save . . . . your mother.”
Where do they get these people? And lest you think that “these people” are rare breeds, I can assure you they are not. Surf video-sharing sites where examples abound, some of them home-grown which, under less comely circumstances, should be a cause for national shame but because they involve pretty girls, entertainingly prove that nobody are perfeckt.
To answer my own question, one likely feeder school would be the Presidential Communications Operations Office at Malacañang. Now just a minute, hear me out before you start accusing me of nastiness, of piling on on an office already beleaguered by public derision, of kicking civil servants when they are down. But facts are facts. In the space of 24 hours, the PCOO blundered twice in the most public fashion. The more recent example involved the misnaming of the freshly-embalmed former representative of Parañaque Roilo Golez. In one tweet, the PCOO identified Golez as “Rogelio”; actually, the deceased’s first name is “Jose.”
Actually, I find this goof forgivable when compared to the one that came before. On its social media page, the PCOO posted a picture of President Rodrigo Duterte as he “conferred the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Datu to outgoing Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Erik Forner for his service as the representative of Norwegia.” I do believe they meant Norway, not that the Norwegians or their ambassador is complaining, only beady-eyed Filipinos critical of Rodrigo Duterte, who do believe that his administration cannot do anything right, from geography to spelling to trademark infringement.
The PCOO is the same office responsible for a Philippine News Agency report that used the logo of DOLE, better known for canned pineapples, in a press statement about the Department of Labor and Employment, also DOLE; and for an identification card, which “should be worn all times” while in Malacañang, issued to reporters assigned to the Palace that said “Upon expiration or when resigns from his or her agency, this card should be returning without delay to the International Press Center.”
That the persons responsible have a shot at representing our country at the worlds or the universe is taken for granted. But if those gaffes do not make jaws drop, consider this retort from Lorraine Marie T. Badoy, an undersecretary of the PCOO, who dismissed “Norwegia” as a typo. To one online critic, she sneered: “Who is bobo and tanga, Matt? People who don’t agree with you, right? People who, in other words, love and support this President, right?”
Well well well, look who we have here: a feisty public official capable of giving as good as her office gets, and then some. Yet apparently, the members of this office forget Republic Act No. 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, section 4 of which requires that the latter must discharge their duties with the highest degree of professionalism and intelligence and extend courteous service to the public. Instead of responding graciously and admitting an error that no one with any knowledge of Scandinavia would make, the undersecretary concerned is combative and defiant.
Aside from Badoy, the PCOO also employs Mocha Uson, well-known for disseminating misleading information, and headed by Martin Andanar, formerly a TV personality. Now, if the PCOO were burning and you could save only one of the three, who do you believe you would pee on if they were on fire?
(NOTE TO THE EDITORS: The last sentence containing errors in grammar and spelling are intentional.)