POSTSCRIPT / September 5, 2002 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Drilon’s mistake was he strayed into the US

NASA STATES PO KAYO!: We once had lunch with then Secretary Franklin Drilon in a pricey Japanese restaurant. He was late, but before he entered the room, he took time to take off his shoes. Without throwing a tantrum.

He gladly shed his shoes maybe because he knew it was expected of him.

But at the San Francisco international airport recently, he probably had different expectations. That he was the Senate president, second in the presidential line of succession, he probably did not expect any civil servant to dare ask him to take off his signature shoes for security inspection.

What Drilon forgot was that he was in the United States, not back in these islands among patient carabaos where an exalted position entitled every pretender to unusual privileges, where might is right and you better get that right.

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DRILON THE DIPLOMAT: But the senator protested that he showed his diplomatic passport. He should not have disclosed that detail, because it raised the question of why he had that passport in the first place. He should have been carrying an official, not a diplomatic, passport.

We don’t remember the hardworking senator having been absorbed into the Executive branch and being given an appointment by President Arroyo as an ambassador. We didn’t know that Drilon has been moonlighting as a diplomat of GMA. Kayo, ha?

But then again, this is the Philippines where the curious becomes curiouser each time a politician opens his mouth to pull out his foot, where politics, rivaling Ripley’s, is indeed the art of the impossible.

The mistake of Drilon was that he strayed into the US where rank, presidential aspirations and the brand of one’s shoes are totally irrelevant to airport workers with strict orders to enforce security rules.

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GORE GORED TWICE: What you might find relevant is this news item from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel issue of last June 14 written by staffer Katherine M. Skiba and sent to us by reader Ariel San Andres:

Washington — Midwest Express Airlines boasts the “best care in the air,” but Air Force II it ain’t. Private citizen Al Gore learned that last week — not once but twice.

Traveling to Wisconsin, the former vice president was pulled aside for random security screening at Reagan National Airport before boarding the 7:15 p.m. flight to Milwaukee on Friday.

Passengers sharing Flight 406 were startled to hear Gore being told, “Sorry, sir, you have to go through extra screening,” and to witness security personnel rifling through his briefcase and suitcase, a witness said. (Not just his shoe. — fdp)

“You’re looking out and seeing Al Gore’s unmentionables in his big, carry-on suitcase,” said Mark Graul of Green Bay. “You could tell he was thinking, ‘This is not happening to me.”

“He did not have a happy look on his face. Basically the whole plane boarded before they got through looking through his stuff,” Graul said. “He patiently went through it and then took a seat in the front row with, I assume, an aide.”

Gore was en route to Madison to address the Democratic Party of Wisconsin convention Saturday.

Graul, chief of staff to Rep. Mark Green, House Republican from Green Bay, said a handful of passengers fired up their cell phones before the plane left the gate.

He was one of them. “People were calling friends: ‘You’re never going to believe what I just saw.’”

On Saturday afternoon, when Gore was leaving Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport, he was taken aside for some extra scrutiny at a Midwest Express gate before boarding a flight to New York, said Gore spokesman Jano Cabrera, who accompanied him during both checks.

“My understanding is he was randomly selected both times,” he said. “And both times he was more than happy, as all Americans are in these troubled times, to cooperate.”

Does the ex-veep and almost-commander in chief see any irony in being frisked and wanded like your average passenger from the rear of coach?

Does he crave being Big Kahuna?

From Cabrera: “Despite the fact that he won more votes than anyone else in the history of America, except for Ronald Reagan, he is more than happy to do his part for airport security.

“As I recall, he shook the hands of all the airport screeners afterward and thanked them for doing the jobs that they’re doing and asked them to keep up the good work.”

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DROP THE SUBJECT: If we may give unsolicited advice to the Senate president… All readers’ reactions reaching us on the airport incident are unfavorable to him. Most Filipinos appear fed up with megalomaniacs pulling rank, with officials demanding and getting special treatment.

If he knows what’s good for him, Drilon would trash that protest he has been threatening to file. The earlier he dropped his juvenile antics the better. He should not listen to his colleagues who are having fun egging him to raise hell (and self-destruct).

We suggest his changing the topic and venting his vile instead on the Malaysian policemen who had raped helpless Filipino women under detention in our southernmost province of Sabah.

Since he is already amassing millions as Senate president, Drilon might also want to return his diplomatic passport. Nobody takes the darn thing seriously anyway.

(We wonder what passport First Gentleman Mike Arroyo used the other night when he was similarly security-checked, also in SFO, and asked to remove his shoes. He is neither an official nor a diplomat, so may we presume that Mr. Arroyo used a regular passport as he should? We’re checking.)

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DRILON DI NAG-IISA: Like Cinderella’s glass slippers and the Imeldific shoe collection, Drilon’s Ferragamo shoe has become a conversation piece. Mail we’ve received on the senator was all on that black footwear. Here’s a sample, one from Anna Europa using a yahoo address:

Re Mr. Drilon being asked to take off his shoe, you should look up the news item several months ago about a US senator who had to take off his pants at the airport because he kept setting off the metal detector. Turns out the poor guy had a metal hip replacement some years back he forgot to tell the inspectors about.

Or you should also look up the US congressman a few weeks back who was really pissed off (almost literally) because he couldn’t get to the bathroom while the plane was circling the National airport in DC. There’s a new rule that says no one gets off his seat within 30 minutes of the US capital. That rule includes EVERYONE.

I guess the point is that the airport inspectors and airline authorities don’t care a whit about who you are. I’m not saying they’re doing a splendid job at catching terrorists (much debate on THAT subject), but at the very least they’re democratic.

I think we’re so used to giving special treatment to “special” personages that something like what happened to Drilon sounds offensive to us.

Well, begging your pardon, but I think the Americans get it right on this one. I still remember how offended I was watching Miriam Defensor-Santiago ranting and raving at the poor women she had kicked out of the Senate hall during the Estrada impeachment trial. Who did she think she is? These public servants should remember they’re no better than anyone else, and they’re OUR employees, not our lords and masters.

As for Mr. Drilon, welcome to the real world, where we all have to take off our shoes, no matter how many “honorables” you have before your name. At least he got to keep his pants on.

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CONFUSING THE ENEMY?: It is appalling that many key Executive and Legislative officials keep yakking about the Philippine claim to Sabah (North Borneo) without first doing their homework.

That’s why we hear some of them talking of reviving the claim when in fact it has not been dropped. We hear of study groups now being formed when we are supposed to have a permanent desk dedicated to the case. We see a parade of Manila officials flying to Sabah to check on the situation when we have an embassy in Kuala Lumpur that can do the job. We want to shelter, feed and transport our compatriots being driven out of Sabah when we don’t have the wherewithal for that. We are begging for clemency for them when the guilty party is actually Malaysia the land-grabber.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal who researched on and initiated the claim in the 60s, may want to ask all kibitzers in government to shut up while she attends to the Sabah question herself. After all, the President is the sole spokesman of the country in foreign relations.

Unless of course the discordant voices from government are intended to confuse the enemy.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 5, 2002)

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