Villar, the poor, continues to be the talk of the town

>> Friday, April 2, 2010

Bong Austero writes:
The most forwarded email since Monday were the columns written by Solita Monsod of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and William Esposo of the Philippine Star facts around the death of Senator Manuel Villar’s brother and about his supposed poor background to boost his presidential bid. Monsod and Esposo presented incontrovertible documents that prove that contrary to the claims Villar made in his political ads, his brother Danny did not die because his family did not have money to pay for his medication nor did he live in abject poverty in the squatters’ area in Tondo.

Villar has countered with a blanket denunciation of his critics. In an interview conducted Sunday at Naga City, he insisted that he and his family were once squatters, that he was born poor on Sta. Maria Street in Tondo, that the nine of them slept together on a single mat and mosquito net. He also insisted that his brother died because they didn’t have the money to pay for the treatment of leukemia. He also said that in no way could the property supposedly bought by his parents at a “later date” in San Rafael Village in Navotas be called living in a posh subdivision.

Villar needs to do a better job at refuting the facts as presented by Monsod and Esposo. His blanket repudiation does not really hack it. Just because someone lived in a squatter’s area does not automatically translate to being poor. In the sixties and even seventies, it was common for families to share a common sleeping mat and a common mosquito net, both of which came in “family” sizes then. A friend who lived in that part of town in the sixties swears that San Rafael Village was an upscale subdivision around that time. And treatment of leukemia was not readily available in 1962. Villar has obviously stretched the truth and adjusted facts to strengthen his image as someone whom the poor can relate with.

I have nothing against people saying they were once (or are) poor—this penchant for false humility and for wearing poverty like a badge are things that many Filipinos consider admirable. However, I don’t think there is something honorable about spinning tall tales and desecrating the memory of one’s dead to advance a political goal.


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