Buencamino writes political commentaries for Action for Economic Reforms, where he is a fellow. This piece was published in the September 30, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6. 

It is lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion toward others.” – Anonymous

Gloria Arroyo is often likened to the late Ferdinand Marcos. Indeed many similarities can be found. But one stark difference between them can be seen during times of calamity.

Marcos and his family were always seen giving aid and comfort to victims, even at the height of typhoons. Gloria Arroyo, on the other hand, does not seem to value being with her people during times of crisis.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Milenyo, she was photographed dressed in a cute little raincoat supervising the clean up of Palace grounds while hundreds of thousands of victims in Southern Luzon were waiting for help.

In June 2008, she left for a trip to the US as super typhoon Frank was making landfall. Instead of staying with her people, she sent them a message of condolence.

“The President is so concerned about the situation there. Immediately upon arriving here in San Francisco, she convened the National Disaster Coordinating Council to be personally informed of the situation there.”

And now that Metro Manila and surrounding provinces are drowning from the floods brought on by Typhoon Ondoy, where is Gloria (and her family)?

There is a picture of Rep. Mikey Arroyo in Facebook, sitting on his haunches in front of the booze shelf at the Rustans Liquor Section while floodwaters were rising on Katipunan Avenue.

The caption accompanying the photo said,

“Was buying food for keeps… then we saw Mikey Arroyo in Rustans Liquor Section asking the salesman for a brand of hard alcoholic drink. Effin Crazy! Just a few kilometers away from Katipunan, people are needing help for search and rescue, and there he was buying bottles of alcohol. See for yourself and tell me what you think.”

The kindest thought that came to me was, “maybe Mikey was thinking of getting a little booze for the flood victims, to keep themselves warm and to help lift their spirits.”

Last Sunday, Gloria Arroyo had the crisis conference of the National Disaster Coordinating Council televised.  I guess that was to show the public that the government was up to the task ahead. But people following the news on TV and the internet already saw that the government, as usual, was caught unprepared and ill-equipped. So, what impression did Gloria’s televised command conference leave?

“GMA presided over a Cabinet meeting in a shiny black trenchcoat and pink knee-high, heeled boots with plastic covering. Oh and yes, the boots had little black hearts on it,” so wrote a reporter from the Inquirer on her Facebook.

Gloria probably believes that the best way to win the hearts and minds of the people is by showing them she’s in charge.

During Typhoon Frank her press secretary told the folks back home,

“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.”

I don’t know about you but I think one reason why Gloria is so unloved is because she does not seem to have compassion for people. When she’s televised condoling with victims, she always looks like she’d rather be somewhere else.  Her pakikiramay, for some reason or another, is missing in action.