An open letter to GMA

Your Excellency:

You probably do not remember me, but I have had FOUR close encounters with you.

When you were running for vice president, I did a one-on-one interview with you at DZXO in Cabanatuan City.  I was impressed with the fast, direct and brief answers that you gave to each of my questions. Then right after the interview, your aide asked to be shown to the ladies' room, and I pointed to the one room that both ladies and gentlemen in the station go to when nature calls. While you spent some time in there, it dawned on me why you answered my questions so fast during the interview.

Then in 2005, my knees wobbly more from hunger than awe -- you arrived at nearly 1:00 PM, remember? -- I stood by your side as you handed me the trophy and cash award for being an Outstanding Novo Ecijano. And for what seemed like an eternity, we -- including Tommy and Edward Joson -- posed for the media below the stage to capture that significant event. A big tarpaulin version of a photo of that event hangs in my office, and whenever I look at that frozen moment, I marvel at how the Josons and I, as if by instinct, stood  about a foot away from you at either side. A premonition, perhaps, of the day when some people would not dare touch you with a ten-foot pole?

Our third encounter was when you were running for president in 2007. You walked across the Gapan City plaza on your way to the SUV waiting for you at the other end of the place.  I was taking photos, and just as you passed by me, Tommy Joson noticed me and hurriedly introduced me to you. You  nodded and smiled, and looking at the photo I took of that encounter, I cannot help but notice that your expression was exactly the same as when the Josons and I stood beside you on-stage at the awarding rites -- the blank stare at some distant point, the well rehearsed smile.

Our fourth encounter took place when I emceed the inauguration of Gapan City Hall where you were the guest of honor. You stood with your back to the main door and cut the ceremonial ribbon in front of you -- anyone inside the building who saw the scene and did not understand anything about posing properly for a media coverage could have thought that you were inaugurating the vacant space in front of the city hall and not the building itself. I -- a professional broadcaster -- was the one forced by your advance party from OPS to read from a prepared script and pep up the crowd with shouts of "Mabuhay ang ating mahal na Pangulong Gloria Macapagal Arroyo!" as you made your way to the stage. From what I, and possibly you, learned from the Jesuits at Ateneo, God forgives an act no matter how sinful, when done under duress.

Why am I reminiscing our encounters? It is to stress the point that somebody who has been labeled by your administration as living below the poverty level could not have met you under such circumstances.

You see, I was just informed that because I consume less than 100 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, I will be receiving Your Excellency's 500 peso power subsidy that will be deducted by NEECO I from my bill this August.

Why me?!

I own a PC and a top-of-the-line Acer laptop, both protected by a MacAfee $65 a year anti-virus/anti-spam subscription, that I use to produce this online newspaper. I pay $15 a year, also charged through my Visa Card to my foreign exchange account, to be able to use the "nuevaecijajournal.com" domain name for this site. I use an Apple iPhone -- my fourth change of cell phone in the past one year -- and am now lusting for a Nokia N96 that will soon be available in the Philippine market -- and a Sony camera that I use to take photos for this publication. I smoke Philip Morris and never any Lucio Tan brand while writing. As my lunch must have gotten cold by now, I will heat it in my microwave oven when I'm through writing this stuff.  I even use the microwave to heat my cats' tinapa, something I feed them for dinner after giving them Friskies for breakfast and lunch.

And your administration classifies me as poor and wants to give me power subsidy?!

In the first place, why rely on electrical consumption as the benchmark to determine a Filipino's low economic status?  I consume less than a hundred kilowatt hours a month only because I live alone and am at the office for most part of the day, and come home only to take a bath, have dinner, get a good night's sleep, eat breakfast and change clothes.

Your Excellency, I am totally undeserving of your administration's token of love for the poor. I regret to have to say this, but I am not one of them -- for now, anyway.

I wonder how much government money in the form of power subsidy is being squandered by your administration on such unqualified citizens as me.
 

Very truly yours,


RAMON R. VALMONTE


[August 15, 2008]
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