By Raïssa Robles
Some have criticized me for asking such a trivial and dated question of President Benigno Aquino. They said the hostage taking of Hong Kong tourists was over a year ago and there are far more important and urgent topics to ask a president besides video games.
I disagree and I would like to explain why.
Before I go on, I’d like to say that I am thankful that this time, the uproar over my video game question was not as loud and as angry as when I had asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo about sex nine years ago.
And this time, I can explain myself over the internet.
Why did I use the historic occasion of a Philippine head of state meeting with the foreign press after a five-year snub from Malacañang Palace?
Shouldn’t I have used my rare chance to ask him about corruption or the economy?
I did ask him about corruption, before that question on video games and on his ideal woman. Others before – and after me – grilled him extensively about the economy and his programs of government. I decided, therefore, to explore new territory.
At breakfast today, when my hubby Alan and I were doing a post-mortem analysis of what had taken place yesterday, he reminded me:
When a government official shows up in a press conference like that, the goal of his team is not to answer questions but to manage the image, the truth, the news. They are not there to answer questions frankly, but with an objective in mind – to spin and build an image.
Why my question is not dated
Filipinos would rather bury the Luneta bus hostage taking as part of our sordid past.
But remember, this was a meeting of Aquino with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) and I was there to represent my newspaper South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s foremost English language newspaper and the oldest news daily in Asia.
In Hong Kong, the bus hostage taking continues to be a hot button issue especially because no one has been convicted in court for the hostage rescue fiasco.
And why I asked
I have long read on Facebook, Twitter and blogs about allegations that PNoy was playing video games on that day, to relieve stress while waiting out the crisis. But I have never been able to confirm these.
That PNoy plays video games is also one of the issues constantly being raised against him.
Here’s one dated over a year ago:
During the presidential campaign last year, Philippine Star columnist Carmen Navarro-Pedrosa had raised his playing video games as one of the arguments that he was unfit to become president. Pedrosa mentioned that PNoy lacked the drive and the ambition to do something with his life. All he did was play Sony PSP (Play Station Portable) when he was in Boston back in 1982, Pedrosa said.
Unfortunately, her narrative does not match reality. The Sony PSP was first introduced to the market only in 1994.
Unwittingly, PNoy himself gave life to the issue when, during the same campaign, he told Philippine Star that video games had become his way of unwinding since he could no longer play billiards and do practical shooting. Here’s the link to Aurea Calica’s article.
This video game meme – or idea that is passed electronically from one internet user to another – continues to this day.
Only last week October 4, Manila Standard Today columnist Jojo Robles wrote this piece below about President Aquino taking time out of a state visit to go to Akihabara – Tokyo’s electronic goods quarter – to buy a gaming console. See below:
Alan and I both believe that the video game question is part of a systematic campaign against PNoy. Alan said it best when he told me this morning:
The question goes into the heart of a systematic campaign that’s being waged against the president, to deprecate his image, to systematically belittle him.
Because these stories are being invented. This video game meme has been with him since the start of his campaign. It’s not as if it popped up from nowhere. People are always calling it up, digging it up.
PNoy’s political enemies cannot get him on corruption. So they try to get him on the following:
His smoking – which I discussed earlier in my article – Awful but genuine President Noynoy Aquino photo goes viral on the web
His mental fitness – which I discussed in my articles:
Lately, rumors have even started about his women. But that’s for another piece.
These are all constants.
If somebody were to pass a rumor that the president was an alien and has 3 tentacles at the back, I wouldn’t probably use that. But this story (of PNoy playing video games while Hong Kong tourists cowered in a bus) is very specific and there is a very specific overall, overarching concept behind it. The concept is to try to diminish the presidency by showing he is childish, incompetent and immature.
That’s why I asked. And PNoy gave a direct answer, denying he played video games during the hostage taking crisis.
As for playing video games per se, he avoided answering that. Not because he had something to hide but because, I think, he had learned not to answer certain questions that would give life to further rumors and innuendoes.