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Aquino In Beijing

Darwin Wally T. Wee, a freelance journalist from the Philippines on exchange with the Economic Observer, regrets the focus on his president's love life during his visit to Beijing. 

So what does it mean to have a bachelor president?

Expect that you always be bombarded with sizzling news reports about your president’s love life constantly, even he’s abroad on an official state visit, which supposed to be a very serious matter.

Speaking to the Filipino community in Beijing, the unmarried 51-year-old President Benigno S.C. Aquino described his “zero” romance during his state visit last week.

Trying to generate much attention from the crowd,  Aquino quipped and compared his love affair to a soda drink.

“It used to be regular, it became light, and now, it’s zero,” he told a large gathering of Filipinos here at China World Hotel.

The President was likening his love life to Coca Cola’s calorie content.

His remark even triggered a “cola war” back home, with Pepsi Cola releasing several print advertisements, carrying a tagline: “Love life? Go from Zero to Max.”

Like Coke, Pepsi also has variants, including Max, which offers its customers a sugar-free soda.

Since his Presidency started a year ago, speculating on his love life has been a favorite past time for the public and media.

Aquino even claimed that many would-be first ladies are shying away from him because of media blitz. The ladies also lose their privacy, he said.

Aquino previously had linked to a string of women including a city councilor, dress stylist, celebrities, and even media personalities local and abroad.

Earlier, he advised media that his dating is a private matter. Ironically, he always found himself disclosing to the public the state of his private life, and he also lives in a country where its constitution allows the public to scrutinize its public officials.  Aquino, by the way, is the first Philippine President that is a bachelor.

Nevertheless, to some Filipinos here, Aquino’s joke isn’t that funny.

“We hope we would have heard better from him [Aquino], such as news on new programs for OFWs [Overseas Filipino Workers],” says Yda C. Villegas, a Filipina worker, who has been in China for more than five years.

The Philippines, with its economy largely dependent on the remittances abroad, still has many loopholes when it comes to the welfare of the OFWs. Last year, the remittances hit a record level of almost $19 billion compared to 2009 $17 billion.


In contrast, with billions of hard-earned dollars being funneled to the Philippines by overseas worker every year, they’re left in a sad state.

Migrant workers have to brave homesickness by leaving their families behind in exchange for jobs.

“We are a nation that is centered on family, and for sure, the Filipino family has borne the brunt of the costs of migration, although it, too, has reaped the benefits. This is why the ambivalence about migration resides in the very heart of the family itself,” says Sheila S. Coronel, a well-known Filipino investigative journalist who is living abroad.

“Migration, therefore, cannot be anything but an emotional issue in this country. No other concern can cause so much grief, as many officials have found when they were forced to deal with the public outcry over the government’s indifference to abused OFWs. No other issue can rake the coals of so much collective guilt — after all, if our society were better able to provide, there would be no need for mothers to leave in droves,” she added.

Hundreds of sad stories have been exposed of overseas workers suffering from abusive employers. This is on top to those who are languishing in jails abroad, while some are even executed.

In China alone, some 164 Filipinos are in jail, most of them incarcerated for smuggling drugs, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs. At least 38 are serving life imprisonment, and 74 are on death row. Early this year, the Chinese government executed three of them.

Out of the 164 detainees, 70% are women.

During  Aquino’s state visit, a landmark agreement on the “Proposed Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement between the Philippines and China” was expected to be signed, but it was scrapped in the last minute since both parties have yet to fine-tune the details of the proposed deal.

At present, there are roughly 11-million Filipino workers abroad. Many of whom are working as medical staff, seafarers, construction workers, and domestic helpers.

“Government actions for them, thus far, are merely responses to global crises, such as repatriation when war in host countries erupts or sending emissaries when a Filipino abroad is about to be executed,” an editorial of Manila Times said.

“Actually, the rosy remittance report masks the true situation OFWs are in. They are threatened by the continuing ‘Arab Spring’ protests in the Middle East, where the large majority of Filipino workers are deployed. Besides the physical threats they face, the economic disruption will dampen placement opportunities,” it added.

Despite  Aquino’s remarks that the Philippine economy is getting better with its credit ratings upgraded four times just in a year, the exodus continues until today due to lack of job opportunities, and deep poverty as the majority of the population survives on a dollar per day.

 In a country where 10% of its population works abroad, government officials, particularly the president should deliver what matters – better welfare for OFWs, not tales of his love life.




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