In its August 4 issue, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published my letter criticizing The Queen for wearing a $3000 dollar dress while hordes of Filipinos queued up for a kilo of NFA rice. On that day, I was attending a human rights training in Nepal and could not read PDI. I only knew about the publication when I opened my mail this week and read a letter from Atty. James D. Lansang. He said to me:
Congrats on your pithy but seething Letter to the Editor published in the INQUIRER the other day. It was well-written and deservedly given prominence by the publisher. Am not sure if you are aware, but there were at least two (2) existing legal provisions which were brazenly disregarded/violated in the incident you adverted to, which, statutory mandates, sadly, are more honored in their breach than observance, to wit:
Art. 25, Civil Code:
“Thoughtless extravagance in expenses for pleasure or display during a period of acute public want or emergency may be stopped by order of the courts at the instance of the government or private charitable institutions.”
There is a similar legal standard mandated in a more recent legislation grandiosely known and referred to the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees” (Rep. Act No. 6713), otherwise known as “The Saguisag Law,” which inter alia declares that:
"Simple Living. – Public officials and employees shall lead lives appropriate to their positions and income.. They shall not indulge in extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth in any form.”
So I surfed the net. Jane Abao reproduced my letter in The Philippines Forum. It elicited a somewhat heated discussion among its readers abroad and in this country. Some deviated from the issue. One alleged that Jane Abao (who was assumed by the reactor to be the letter writer) is suffering from inferiority complex and jealousy. One said I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder. I had fun reading the reactions, but at the same grew concerned that some people abroad who live in relative comfort could be so apathetic about what is happening here. It was also heartening to note that some overseas Filipinos are following the developments in their native land and are still very concerned with the prevailing situation. I also received via email reactions from various individuals.
Here are some of the unedited reactions published in The Philippines Forum:
RDT of Nottingham, MD: Inferiority Complex Jane is now jealous of GMA and Ruffa.
Go back 40 years before Marcos and the Philippines is the wealthiest Asian nation.
Accept it. The wealthy can afford the nicer things in life. The rest of the world just strives for tomorrow. That's life. Fair or not. Count ur blessings ur part of the wealthy and not worrying about tomorrow's meal.
Gloria Kawatan (Los Angeles, California): What blessing are you talking about while the rest of Filipino people are starving. Gloria Arroyo, Spend the taxespayer's money like water. She's wearing $3,000. Dollars worth of dress, Shame on her. Whats wrong with the dress she wear last year. She only wear it once! Oh, I forgot is not her money she spend on that dress but the taxespayer's money. How can she even slept at night knowing that most of filipino people are hungry while she spend the taxespayer's money on trips/dress among other things! What kind of a leader is she?! We don't need a leader who don't care about the Flipino people. We need a leader who do their job they suppose too. Not just to inrich themselves.
Oakland (San Francisco, California): Blessings to be breathing and eating 3 times a day for Filipinos.
Blessings for having Jane Abao calling the attention of the very unpopular President who wore $3,000.00 worth of dress. And to make them happy, she should have worn from the "ukay ukay" and use the money to feed the poor.
Definitely this topic would stir more controversies.
John Lee (Chicago, Illinois): We should go to next level, parang ang pakiramdam ko ay nasa isang cage tayong lahat at we are all screaming on top of our lungs at walang nakikiramdam.
Gloria Kawatan (Los Angeles, California): What next level are you talking about. The poor people can't even get out from the first level of hunger! I'll say, Kick the FAKE PRESIDENT OF CEBU GLORIA ARROYO, BECAUSE SHE'S THE PROBLEM. SHE DIDN'T STEAL HER TITLE TWICE FOR NOTHING.
Me: I was the one who wrote that letter to the Inquirer denouncing GMA for rubbing salt on the raw wound of a bleeding nation. RDT, when I wrote that letter, I was not driven by inferiority complex. I was just asking the unelected President to be sensitive to the situation of her people. The Philippine Civil Code itself provides that living an ostentatious lifestyle amidst a crisis is a ground for moral damages. Fortunately for GMA, she enjoys presidential immunity (assuming she was legitimately elected). Her wearing that dress demonstrates her utter lack of concern for the welfare of her people. She has worsened the situation of the poor. Must she add insult to the injury?
RDT, take note that in the Philippines, poverty is not a choice. It is an imposition. It is callous for anyone to say that it is fair that "some have, some have not" in this country where wealth is controlled by a few, and always at the expense of the masses.
Working Girl from Brooklyn (Bethpage, New York):
Ms. Daytec, My niece just got married and she wore a $4,500 Vera Wang wedding dress. And her father-my brother- is not even a rich man. He's an average earning physician. And this is a typical price for a higher-than-average wedding. And here we are talking about the president of the republic. Come on, let's be fair. I do not want my president to look "losyang".
Where you trying to create a dramatic effect when you said poverty in the Philippines is an imposition?
I was in a conference in Seattle last month and I had a chance to have dinner with some Filipino attendees. As we talk about the situation in the Philippines, one said that Philippines is a nation of "borderlines". He was referring to a serious condition called Borderline Personality Disorder. Its first diagnostic criteria is "a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationship characterized by alternating between the extremes of overidealization and devaluation". Simply stated, that person doesn't see gray area. It's either black or white, and in your case Arroyo will be totally bad forever. Until...("hi, cheryll. would you like to be my sss commissioner?")
If she committed a crime, then a lawyer that you are, should bring charges against her. Otherwise, it's all empty noise.
And BTW, BPD is a lot more difficult to treat than Inferiority Complex.
ChaCha (Manila, Philippines): Let's not argue whether it's appropriate or not for the president to wear an expensive dress like that. But does she have to boast in front of national press about the price of that dress? Isnt that insensitive?
Lapaz (San Francisco, CA): What I know is that Arroyo bragged about the dress as all materials came from local products. As economist, she has the ulterior motive of mass producing those materials that would ultimately help produce jobs and income for the local people.
The good news, she paid for this dress and not given for free.
Poverty is all over the world. To sensationalize poverty in PI that no President can wear expensive dress is ridiculuous. She was in the right occasion and everybody wore the best. For her to be different - wearing something from "ukay-Ukay" surely would had made her the laughing stock from those people who were against her wearing that expensive gown. Whatever GMA will do, she will never please everybody. As a president, popularity is not important, but making a tough decision that would not please everybody, but ultimately would bring positive results.
Some people in PI imposed on themselves to be poor. So many poor families have 6 or more children that they could not afford to sustain. Definitely not GMA imposed poverty to the Filipino people. She inhererited the economy crisis from the past presidents. That was the prediction that whoever will be the next President after Marcos would have a hard time. Aquino was not able to improve the economy; Ramos was able to stabilize the situation as there was no rally during his time; then followed by the ex felon Joseph Estrada. GMA would have a hard time eliminating corruption as almost everybody in her cabinet are corrupt, and now the Court of Appeals, who are supposed to protect the people; how about the Congress - they're all not doing their jobs to legislate bills that would help improve the lives of the poor.
So GMA is not only the root of evil but even you, ordinary citizen of PI. Try to question yourself too - how you can help even one hungry person. Instead of finger pointing, try doing your civic duty to help somebody from time to time. The good deeds you will do for your fellow men for sure -God will reward you.
Working Girl of Brooklyn (Bethpage, NY): Very sensible. Looks like a brain-drain of sensibly thinking men from PI to SF.
ChaCha (Manila, Philippines): Lol! We were talking about the dress and the taste with which it was shamelessly bragged about, then you came out screaming and smoking about corruption and poverty finger pointing at Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Erap, Congress, Courts, and just about everybody except your idol Gloria, LOL!
You even ridiculed the lifestyle of the poor and the Filipinos in general, and said the everybody in her cabinet is corrupt except her?! LOL!
Funny but all the officials who have been involved in corruption were promoted, defended, and protected by GMA, the anti-corruptor, while the whistle-blowers are persecuted, and those who resisted corruption were removed from office by anti-corruption GMA.
Sorry I got distracted. Going back to the topic.
Expensive is expensive and bragging is bragging no matter what the materials are made of or where they came from. Wearing such expensive dress would have been fine and could not have been noticed if only she would have been not so shamelessly boastful bragging about its price in the midst of a serious crisis. Can you imagine watching the news depicting the sufferings of Filipinos from poor economic conditions and disasters, then all of a sudden a smiling Gloria brags about her expensive dress? Cant you get the picture?
Working Girl Of Brooklyn (Bethpage, NY): ChaCha must be another one of those multiple aliases. When someone overly emphasizes ethics, be watchful. You're talking to a socipathic mind.
Indeed, it's a nation of "borderlines".
ChaCha (Manila, Philippines): Let's stick with the issue and not the posters who discuss about the issue.
Wearing expensive dress is fine but to boast about the price in the face of the sufferings is shameless.
Working Girl of Brooklyn (Bethpage, NY): If the posters use too many aliases to make it appear that there are many who shares his ideas, then I have the right to question the integrity of the person I'm responding to. That's fair game. Don't set one-sided rules.
ChaCha (Manila, Philippines):Stick to the issue, not the poster about the issue. If you want, you can create a thread about multi-alias posters and criticize them there. Not here and not me.
Cheryl L. Daytec-Yangot, PDI via e-mail said: "The cost of her dress (P140,000.00) is nowhere near what most poor families make in a year!"
What?? That price is nowhere near what most families in an entire neighborhood combined wear in 5 years!
See? The issue became controversial because there was a boastful mention of the price. If Gloria wants to look good (perhaps she feels she doesnt look that good), she can wear an expensive dress, it may cost a million dollars for all i care, but she doesnt have to brag!(Hoy mga mare ko, tingnan niyo tong bago kong damit ohhh, made in the Philippine tohhhh, mura lang, ONE HUNDRED FORTY THOUSAND LANG!!!!) lol.
What can you say about my opinion that wearing expensive dress for GMA is fine, but not the bragging?
Lapaz (San Francisco, California): Thank you. You're getting emotional, better loosen up as your contradicting your concerns.
Me:To Working Girl of Brooklyn: I think I made it clear in my earlier post that you cannot sue a sitting President.(Hey, I am curious as to how you knew I am a lawyer. I hope it is not from GMA and her fans clubs' "intelligence" reports.)
You are a working girl from Brooklyn? Good for you. Here in the Philippines, many people cannot find jobs. The economic environment simply does not foster employment.That is why I say that poverty is an imposition. This imposition is responsible for the diaspora. I mean a lot of people leave the Philippines because they cannot find economic opportunities here. If there were, why leave the country? Of course, there are other reasons why people opt to settle or work abroad, but most do it in search for greener pastures. Probably, you are not one of the "most."
To Lapaz: Yes, the President wore the dress to campaign for land conversion. Virtually, her message was: "Convert those ricefields into pineapple plantations so we can harvest fibers to be made into expensive dresses like this one I am wearing." Land conversion is one culprit for the food shortage we are suffering from today. Is it sound to talk about land conversion when people are hungry? What should we produce first: staple for domestic consumption or produce for exports?
I do not know if GMA paid for the dress. I would feel less bad if it was a donation. I do not like to think of the head of state (elected or not) buying expensive dresses in times of want. And that dress is expensive, at least in the Philippines, where many families do not even earn $3000 dollars a year. The law demands that government officials observe austerity in their lifestyles. And whether or not a lifestyle is austere must be judged according to Philippine standards.
To ChaCha: I agree that GMA could wear an expensive dress but she did not have to announce its price. At least, not at a time of crisis.
So, there. What do you say? I stand to be corrected by ChaCha. He/She says that I was wrong when I said that $3000 is nowhere near what most Filipino families make in a year because that amount is nowhere near what most Filipino families in one block make in five years!