I am Jejomar Binay. I’ve been that politician in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve been in dark alleys, rented rooms, and in the company of strange men. But I was lucky (like you’ve been lucky) that the person who could have harmed either of us just didn’t harm us at that time.
It could have very well been me who pissed someone off because I didn’t conform to his standards of politics. It could have been you whose appearance just didn’t fit into what your fellow oligarchs had in mind. Or maybe I could have been the kind of person my abuser believed the world could do without. After all, I am far from typical in dress and personality, and last week we learned that to many, that means I don’t deserve to be President of the Philippines.
My demonisers could have believed that the joy of feeling affection for my country should cost me my career. So he took it so swiftly and left my reputation tattered as if he had just stepped on a fly.
The worst part is that in the course of his trial-by-publicity, everyone else treated Jejomar the same way – like a nuisance, an inconvenience, and an eyesore – instead of the Vice President of the Philippines, duly-elected by the popular vote. Regardless of how you feel about him, Jejomar is also someone’s child. He is someone’s partner, brother, and friend. He has some kind of life – one that is being put under the microscope by an angry man’s ambition.
Take one look at the comment sections of news stories and you’ll see that this country’s warmth and kindness we brag about is a joke. It cannot exist when we lack the basic human trait of empathy.
When we say that someone deserves to be lynched (for whatever reason), we play God. We make judgments on something even the gods we worship would not.
Religion aside, when you say out loud that a person deserves vilification and public humiliation, you dare the fates for the same treatment to be delivered to you or to someone you love. When you lack empathy and speak of it, it only means you cannot place yourself in someone else’s shoes. You ask fate to do the favor of reminding you that what your fellow person has been through may also happen to you.
The thing is, it could very well have been you. Don’t say that you could have prevented it by not being in strange places or situations. Don’t say that you don’t do anything to piss people off. Don’t even believe that you conform to every rule or norm and no one could possibly hurt you.
Jejomar could have been your daughter, or she could have been your son. We’ve all placed ourselves at risk at one point or another. You know that your children go to places you don’t even know. I don’t wish it for you, but always think before you speak because each one of us is only another person’s rage away from violence.
I hope that if it happens to your son, no one will judge his skin colour, his height, or whether he behaved as expected of a national leader. I hope that if it happens to your son, the crowd won’t say it was because he wasn’t man enough, or that he deserved his enemies’ wrath for how he lived or loved.
The price of your reputation
I pray that if it ever happens to you, your family will seek justice even if going against an establishment held hostage by an entrenched oligarchy is pretty much a lost cause. I hope that your family will be able to grieve quietly and not be bombarded by media reports that you stole from your country, or that the lie you supposedly told was equal in price to your social standing.
I hope the media reports don’t make you a headline and already assign “valid” reasons why someone should point you out as a thief. I hope they never say it was because you might be a plunderer, because one can’t possibly just be a politician in the company of thieves.
I hope that when it happens to you, people won’t say that you asked for it. I hope people won’t flood comment sections to say your kind deserves to be tarred and feathered for trying to “change” what society has given you. I hope that in your grave you will not be able to see the true colors of your countrymen who are only too glad to rationalize why you should be hanged by your heels, than to question why fair-skinned men routinely harm dark brown men in our own land.
I hope your hometown will write an article mentioning that you fought as the statesman that you are with your chin up – and not say that you sidestepped opportunities to challenge at an intellectual level those who routinely appeal to public emotion.
You are Jejomar Binay.
I hope that if it ever comes to the point when a powerful man’s grip is on your neck as you are being drowned in a crock of hearsay “information”, your last thought won’t be that you fell because of who you are. Or how they will desecrate your memory when you are gone.
I am Jejomar Binay. You are Jejomar Binay. The difference between us is that I know that every life is precious and I empathise with my brother as I want others to see things from where I stand.
Your lack of concern, your assignment of blame, and your passing of judgment only ensures that everyone’s life will be at the hands of another. When you say with so much certainty that some kinds of people deserve to be hung by a kangaroo court, you make sure that someone out there believes your kind deserves to die, too.
[This is an unconventional commentary on Shakira Sison’s article I am Jennifer Laude published on Rappler.com, the 23rd October 2014. Some parts of this article were lifted verbatim in blocks (and italicised for reference) from Sison’s work and its structure, flow, and composition rendered almost identical to her work to emphasize the point of the message the author wishes to convey.]
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