Sense of shame

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Monday, April 28, 2014


ABIGAEL Son Gido was a junior mass communications student at the Urios College in Butuan City when she lost her dad. Her mom told her what happened:

He had texted her that fateful Aug. 16, 2013 evening that the boat that he took from Nasipit to Cebu was sinking. She instinctively dialed his number but got no answer.

She knew that the line was open because she could hear noise from the other end. Then the noise stopped.

Abigael and her family immediately left for Cebu to search for her dad. They visited the hospitals where the survivors were brought but couldn’t find him. Still, they never lost hope that he had survived.

Maybe, some kindly soul found him and was nourishing him back to health, they told themselves. Maybe, he was too weak to call. Maybe, he hit his head against a hard object while fleeing the confusion and had developed amnesia.

It took many more days when they heard definitive news about her father. It was the news that they dreaded to hear. His body has been located, one of the many that the divers found trapped inside the sunken M/V St. Thomas Aquinas of 2GO Shipping.

Today, more than eight months since the Aquinas sunk after the Sulpicio Express 7’s
bow plowed into its belly, Abigael’s family still could not find closure to the tragedy. What really happened? Who was responsible for the collision? Could It have been avoided?

She will have to wait further for answers, if they would come at all. The authorities have not released the results of the investigation that it conducted within days after the collision.

The Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI), according to reliable sources, has submitted its findings and recommendations last year yet. What this means is that it is either the commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard or Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya who is temporizing. Why, we can only surmise.

Abigael said that they have “surrendered everything to the Lord.” They haven’t filed a case until now. They do not know who between the two shipping companies to sue and the public lawyers that they approached have not been of help, telling them instead that there have to be many complainants so that the case can succeed. That’s baloney, of course, but Abigael’s family doesn’t know that.

It is sad when victims such as the Gidos are forced to abandon their search for justice because the government has failed them. But that is not new in the Philippines. Only in the Philippines.

In South Korea, government action on similar tragedies is swift and certain.

Yesterday, I read that the South Korean prime minister resigned in the aftermath of the sinking of the ferry Sewol that left more than 500 dead, most of them school children.

An Associated Press dispatch from Seoul said that PM Chung Hong-won quit his job over government mishandling of the Sewol incident. He was apparently shaken by the claims of angry relatives that the South Korean government did not do enough to save or protect the victims.

Don’t delude yourselves and hope that a Filipino government official will do the same under similar circumstances. I do not know how Abaya will explain why his office has not moved on the SBMI official report on the Aquinas sinking but one thing is certain: he will never apologize.

When I remember that the Sewol’s captain and crew are now in jail and the assistant principal committed suicide because she was ashamed that she was not able to save the school children, I can only sigh and wonder. Where were we on the day God distributed to his children the sense of shame?

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 29, 2014.

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