Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in the June 25,2008 edition of the Business Mirror, p. A6.

Dear Queenie,

Do you have any idea what makiramay means?

Makiramay means you care. It means you share the pain of those who lost their family, their friends, and their property in the recent typhoon.

Makiramay is not your press secretary announcing, “The President is so concerned about the situation there. Immediately upon arriving here in San Francisco, she convened the NDCC [National Disaster Coordinating Council] to be able to be personally informed of the situation there.”

You need to be HERE, not THERE. You need to be in the calamity areas handing out relief goods and offering comfort to the typhoon victims, not in the comfort of your suite at the Fairmont Hotel barking out orders and bawling out the coast guard chief.

What is so important about your trip that you cannot cancel it to be with your suffering people?

From San Francisco you flew to Fresno to thank expats for their help over the years. You went to the Community Regional Medical Center to tell the Filipino medical practitioners, “Bumisita ako ngayon para ipaalam sa inyo na ipinagmamalaki namin ang ating mga medical practitioners dito sa Amerika.”

And then, as an added treat, according to your press secretary’s website, “Some 600 Filipino-Americans witnessed the President’s conduct of a video conference with the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) where President Arroyo showed that despite her being out of the Philippines to foster diplomatic relations with its most important ally, she remains focused and on top of the situation back home.”

Your president at work?

198,545 Ilongos are in 58 evacuation centers in Iloilo City; 353,000 were displaced in the rest of the province; 33,000 families suffered the same fate in Eastern Visayas; and over 700 hundred dead in a boat accident. And you’re in Fresno, California posing for pictures.

In Washington, the only meeting that you cannot pass off to a cabinet member is your tete a tete with lame-duck George. That’s nothing but a photo-op. What lasting commitment can you get from him who will be gone by January?

It would be nice to personally thank Bush and the US Senate for the Veterans Bill, but there’s a calamity back home. They will understand.

You don’t have to go to the Pentagon. Gilbert Teodoro can meet with his counterpart to discuss defense reform even though it’s a waste of time because he will be talking to a lame-duck secretary.

There is no meeting in Washington that you cannot cancel.

As for New York, do you really have to personally wine and dine those UN permanent representatives to get their vote for Miriam Santiago? What do you think the people of Iloilo will appreciate more: your presence in their province or you campaigning in New York for their province-mate?

You have been compared to Marcos countless times. It’s unfair to the late dictator and his family. Marunong makiramay ang mga Marcos in times of calamity.

Imelda Marcos and her children, even at the height of a typhoon, would always be at the scene of a disaster giving aid and comfort to the victims. You always arrive late.

I remember when Milenyo hit the country, the first photo to appear in the papers was you, in your cute little rainwear, inspecting the fallen trees in Malacañang while hundreds of thousands of victims in the Bicol region and Southern Luzon were waiting for some relief.  And you wonder why you are the most disliked president this country ever had?

I have seen Imelda Marcos shed tears as she embraced victims of calamities. Her tears were real. I have seen you in similar situations; you look uncomfortable, and your discomfort is real.

Makiramay ka! It’s not enough that you show the people you are micromanaging the situation. Managing is not caring; it’s a job. Victims need to know someone cares.

I know you don’t give a shit about your people, but I know you love living in Malacañang. So cut your trip short before the people finally decide to cut your stay short.

Your loyal subject,