POSTSCRIPT / August 4, 2005 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Are GMA's blue dresses, boyish hairdo also an issue?

SHADOW PLAY: My Tuesday column on the media blitz, also referred to at times as the “charm offensive,” of a repackaged President Gloria Arroyo elicited from some readers comments that normally I would not allow to see print.

There is always the danger that the messenger, ang inyong abang lingkod, would be mistaken for the message.

But on second thought, it might be best that President Arroyo herself gets to know how her new emerging persona as molded by her handlers is impacting on people-watchers.

We are dealing here with mirrors, images and reflection. We are not in direct contact with the real person hidden beneath the PR layers heaped on the subject, so most of us see only the shadow of the moving object. Sorry about that.

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WHAT’S WITH BLUE?: From faraway Paris comes this email from Vi Massart, PhilSTAR  chief correspondents in that part of the world:

“Frankly, if I were Gloria’s wardrobe ‘mistress,’ advisor, charm offensive operator, PR consultant or all of those put together, I would start by advising her against her color preference.

“Apparently, the short-sized, almost thick-set looking President has a preference for all shades of blue, but blue nonetheless, as it is her ‘lucky’ color.

“Often, we see her wearing suits or ensemble in a shade of turquoise blue. The color is absolutely unbecoming on her. She is short, quite thick-set looking, dark haired and round-faced. Furthermore, her suits or ensemble often have wide lapels tapered to a V-shape neck.”

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FIT THE FIGURE: Ate Vi explains: “First of all, turquoise blue, especially the lighter shade, is not a color that goes well with her hair color.

“Second, she looks pale (an odd shade between healthy ‘white’ and the Filipina tan) and turquoise blue is chic and glamorous on either blonde and/or golden tan-skinned women or simply on milk-white skinned women of which she is neither.

“Thirdly, turquoise blue looks elegant on tall and shapely women and not on pudgy-looking tiny women.

“Lastly, her choice of suits with wide lapel is unbecoming on a diminutive frame (she should opt for more simple narrow lapel to make her look less — and sorry to say this — of a ‘pugilist’). Couple that with turquoise blue, it cannot serve as a lucky color for her because the combination will only give her an overall appearance or an image which is absolutely the opposite of what the Malacanang PR doctors wish to achieve: non-charm.

“So, my advice to the wardrobe consultant and to her PR people: if charm offensive is the aim, start by changing the color of her favorite clothes in her wardrobe!”

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NOW THE HAIRDO: Another female reader — the womenfolk seem to be endlessly eyeing one another — aims a bit higher, zeroing in on Ate Glo’s hairdo this time.

Silbee Melissa emailing from a yahoo address says: “If you get to see Gloria, kindly tell her to let her hair grow a little longer. I don’t want my President strutting around like a tomboy. Her manly looks upsets many of us women-watchers.

“I remember during the early days of her term she wore her hair longer. That was more becoming on her. She looked more pleasant, more feminine, and even the menfolk, I guess, liked that.

“I don’t know who is doing her hair now, but if she is serviced by gay hair stylists infatuated with a masculine look, she better drop them. Sure, she wants to project herself as a strong leader, but there is nothing stronger that feminine charm.”

Yes, ma’am, I agree with that last sentence!

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PARTING SHOTS: As expected, chargé d’affaires Joseph Mussomeli of the US embassy got the usual drubbing from the usual observers from the left for his frank remarks on political goings-on in the country.

To many sensitive observers, his freely commenting on internal affairs was “meddling,” including his saying that President Arroyo could still recover from her setbacks “if she does the difficult decisions, reaches out to the right groups and forms coalitions (to move the country) forward.”

Actually, Mussomeli, who leaves on Saturday for a new post, was jocular in his opening remarks before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines forum last Monday at the Manila Hotel: “This is my last chance to say things that I shouldn’t, I guess.”

Well, he did, used as he is to saying what he feels like saying, never mind what the natives think.

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CUE FOR CHANGE: There is nothing like going to the text or transcript of his opening remarks and his responses in the Q&A part of that valedictory exchange with the press.

This was how he said some of those delicate portions: “The last few months have not been easy for the Philippines. As a friend of the Filipino people, my government is concerned — and I am personally concerned that the current political scandals risk distracting politicians and the public alike from the real challenges facing this nation.

“As I have said before, the focus ought not to be on either retaining or attaining power, but rather on the Filipino people and their welfare.

“As I have also often said, the Philippines remains on that threshold of greatness where I last saw it, way back in 1986. It has not moved forward from that threshold and if it is ever to take its rightful place among the dynamic economies of Asia, it will need to see and seize the current political controversy as an opportunity for change.”

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NO QUICK FIXES: “Crises can be a good thing,” the No. 2 man of the US embassy continued. “Controversies can bring out the best in individuals. We know that in our everyday life, and it is true of individuals and it is true of a people.”

“And there is good cause to be optimistic about the current controversy. Cooler heads have prevailed and the rule of law has been followed. No one on any side has rushed to take extra-constitutional measures — no military coup, no martial law, no people power — which ultimately, we believe, would weaken institutions and impede democracy in the Philippines.

“Certainly all democracies are messy, but history teaches us over and over again that there are no quick fixes in life. People need not get so breathless about each turn of events, and certainly the media can do as much to assuage concerns as fan the flames of controversy.”

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ZERO COUP RISK: Mussomeli’s remarks that the possibility of a coup d’etat taking place being near zero went like this (in response to a question in the Q&A portion):

“The response of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been remarkable. It is really one of the real silver linings of this whole problem so far. They have come out — from Secretary Cruz to General Abu, to General Senga, all the way down the line — that they are going to remain neutral, strictly neutral, supporting the institutions and the Constitution.

“This is remarkably wonderful. This shows that the Philippines has come a long way. Even from 2001, certainly from 1986, and with the military not standing on the sidelines so much, but standing in a way to say they’re going to insure that the constitutional process is not interfered with — whether it’s by people power or by imposition of martial law or by military coup.

“They allow the political process to continue, in a healthy, messy, boisterous, but eventually very successful way. Let the politicians scream and yell all they want, let them work out a modus vivendi with each other, and we can move forward. That the military is staying out of this is good.

“This whole nonsense about ghosts — that at lower levels there is disgruntlement — there is always disgruntlement in every military. It’s part of the whole culture of any military, including the US military. But I do not believe there’s any risk right now of a military coup.”

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WHY ZERO?: Somebody made a followup, to make sure.

Question: Would you put it at zero — the risk?

Mussomeli: I’d put it close to zero.

Q: What is the basis of your assessment of close to zero?

M: My assessment is based on several things. One is that the entire hierarchy of the military, including the secretary of national defense, is against it. It also comes from our discussions with officers, non-coms, and other Philippine military personnel at all other levels. And it’s also my personal instinctive sense that the Filipino people would not tolerate it. They still remember martial law under Marcos, they still remember all the military coup attempts in the late 80’s, and I think they’re fed up with both.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 4, 2005)

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