There's the Rub

Alien

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That was quite a mouthful Manny Pangilinan spat out last week. “Kung ako lang,” he was quoted as saying, “I’d pack up and go back to Hong Kong. Ang gulo-gulo n’yo.” He said that after Antonio Trillanes blind-sided him, depicting him as whipping up anti-China sentiment in this country to protect his business interests.

Before that he had just broken ties with Ateneo de Manila, citing irreconcilable differences. He was particularly unhappy about three things. One was Ateneo opposing the Reproductive Health bill. Two was Ateneo opposing mining. And three was Ateneo opposing plagiarism: Its professors in particular took a dim view of his plagiarizing Oprah and others in his graduation speech, which they made known in a position paper.

Oh, but please don’t leave us, begged House Majority Leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II. Specifically, Gonzales said: “While I understand his frustration and disappointment, I want to appeal to him to take pause and rethink this repatriation to Hong Kong. The steady performance of our economy today is the result of a confluence of factors that a daring investor in the like of him has greatly contributed to.”

What arrant nonsense.

Pangilinan wants to dissociate with Ateneo, fine. That’s his business, in more ways than one, even if some of the reasons he advances for it must give rise to questions about the quality of his character, if not his mind. The part about parting ways because of Ateneo’s decision to buck RH is not just fine, it’s laudable. The part about Ateneo opposing mining, that’s a lot more debatable. And debate is probably the best way to resolve the extremes of mining being an evil unto itself and mining being this country’s savior from poverty.

But it’s the part about plagiarism that’s especially revealing. What, he’s had it with Ateneo because it caught him copying? Or because its teachers chose to rap him on the knuckles for it? Portions of his speech were lifted from Oprah, J.K. Rowlings and Barack Obama, the eagle-eyed netizens who discovered it showing exactly which parts were so. As I said then, I don’t know which is worse, being caught plagiarizing or being caught plagiarizing Oprah. Surely he did not lack for people with a deeper insight into life to plagiarize? Or maybe he did lack them: He did not know them.

But like I said, he wants to split with Ateneo, that’s his business. But he starts throwing a tantrum because a loose cannon of a senator throws a volley his way and threatening to pull out his business because of it, it ceases to be his business. It becomes everybody’s business.

What sucks about it is several things. Not least is that he does not lack for the means to respond to these accusations. He has a TV channel, he has shares in several newspapers, he has the assurance his side will always find air or print. When he called Trillanes a liar, it was aired and printed. What more does he want? That people like Trillanes be gagged? That media do not publish his accusations? For someone who owns a great deal of the media, he hasn’t yet grasped the concept of freedom of the press.

What sucks even more is his monumental presumption that this country needs him more than he needs it. Or that this country has profited more from him than he has profited from it. Gonzales’ reaction in fact is just a shameless exercise in licking his master’s not particularly savory body part. Our economy is improving because of daring entrepreneurs like him? Well, Gonzales may call using foreign money to build an empire, gobbling up telecommunications and communications companies, and pretty much trying to own the country daring, but the rest of us will only call it tapang ng apog. And Gonzales may call the sudden spike in Meralco prices a sign of an improving economy, but the rest of us will only call it things that are not fit to print.

Frankly, I don’t know why he hasn’t yet been summoned by the Senate to answer questions about the provenance of his money while it’s on anti-treason mode, and culpable violation of this country’s antitrust laws, such as they are. Of course he may threaten even more loudly that he will pull out of this country, but I will bet Gonzales and anyone else is in deathly fear of it that the day he does it is the day I stop writing columns.

But what sucks even most is his posturing that he is outside of us, above us, and entitled to judge us. “Ang gulo-gulo n’yo”: The pronoun is dazzling. It’s not “Ang gulo-gulo natin, we’re messing things up, we should get our act together.” It’s “Ang gulo-gulo n’yo, you’re a bunch of anarchists, you don’t shape up, I’m outta here.” That’s not the attitude of a Filipino businessman, that’s the attitude of a foreign investor. Hell, that is not the attitude of a Filipino, that is the attitude of a foreigner.

Which is really what he is. He is a foreign investor who used Indonesian money to raise the pillars of his business empire. Anthoni Salim, son of Salim patriarch Soedono, is president and CEO of the Salim Group which put up through him the First Pacific Corp., the parent company of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. And he is a foreigner who keeps complaining about the very things that have allowed him to prosper, chiefly that this country is so gulo-gulo it has allowed him to slip through the tangle. And who gets flustered when it stops being so he can’t get to first base with P-Noy the way he could with the more, well, gulo-gulo, former fake president.

“Kung ako lang, I’d pack up and go to Hong Kong?” What’s stopping you? But why Hong Kong? Might as well go to Singapore. No one will criticize you there. But it’s so not gulo-gulo I doubt you’ll get to have a crack at a shadow of a chance to even try to contemplate owning Lee Kuan Yew’s favorite country.

Some things are just plain alien to them.

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