I doff my hat to Elmer Cato, the charge d’affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Iraq who wasted no time in arresting a moviegoer who refused to stand up when the Philippine national anthem was being played in a movie house in Angeles City last Friday.
I learned that Cato also saw to it that Bayle Einstein Gonzalez, a 20-year-old resident of Paniqui, Tarlac will be charged by the local police for violating Republic Act 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines. To those who still haven’t heard of the incident, Cato was in the cinema with a relative to watch “Justice League” when our dear ‘Lupang Hinirang’ was played.
To his surprise, he saw Gonzalez in his seat, eating popcorn as the rest of the moviegoers stood up to honor the flag. The diplomat said he asked Gonzalez to stand up but the man completely ignored him. “After the anthem was played, I asked him if he was a Filipino, but Gonzalez ignored me again,” Cato was quoted by newspapers as saying.
When he realized that Gonzalez was a Filipino, Cato told him that he disrespected the Philippine flag and exercised ‘citizen’s arrest’ in apprehending the latter before police and security guards arrived to take custody of the man who is now facing a jail term or fines, or both.
It’s too late for Gonzalez to realize that dishonoring the national anthem is a crime. May this also serve as a lesson to other Filipinos who ignore the national anthem or a flag ceremony, both in public or in private. Our forefathers, our national heroes have sacrificed their lives in honor of our flag. Count the soldiers and policemen who were killed while defending Marawi City from ISIS-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists for five months starting last May.
We should not forget the bravery of our troops just like the so many Philippine heroes who have died for our Motherland, those who have sacrificed their lives to keep our Flag flying. We can show it by simply standing in attention while the national anthem is being played, a simple act to honor our heroes who risked their lives or were killed while protecting our freedom and our Flag.
To Elmer Cato, may your tribe increase!
FAREWELL TO ‘TINTIN’
On a personal note, my family and I would like to offer our deepest sympathies to the family of a dear colleague, Christine ‘Tintin’ Herrera of the Manila Standard who succumbed to her 2nd heart attack while on vacation in Bangkok late last week.
I came to know Tintin when she was with the Philippine Daily Inquirer and assigned to cover Camp Crame, specifically the now defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force headed by General-turned Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson in 1999.
I still remember those days when I and a good friend and former colleague Gerry de Belen, then with Malaya and now the Head Executive Assistant of Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taiwan chairman Lito Banayo, shared almost daily ‘scoop’ stories with Tintin to the consternation of the rest of the press corps.
Those stories ranged from major PAOCTF and PNP accomplishments as well as some scandals and other controversies which turned into PDI, Malaya and Journal Group headlines. During those days, it is not unusual for us to have lunch with top PAOCTF officials including then Colonels Michael Ray Aquino, Ronnie Olay and Ato Bisnar. Add to the list the names of Generals Lacson, Twiggy Zubia, Tanggol Gatdula and Benjie Magalong and the late Sir Jewel Canson. I and Michael Ray, ‘Ninoy’ to us, also used to make Tintin laugh until she cried with our funny stories and experiences while eating banana-cue for merienda at Ninoy’s office.
During the baptism of our eldest daughter Kyra, my wife Candy and I were surprised when Tintin suddenly showed up at the EDSA Shrine chapel and said she is one of the ‘Ninangs.’ Her name was actually not in the list but how can I say no to her. So there she was, carrying our baby while she is being baptized by a priest named Fr. Soc Villegas. That was 17 years ago and that small baby is now a college ‘freshy.’
After President Estrada was ousted in January 2001 and the PAOCTF was abolished, we parted ways while I and Gerry remained friends. However, I got the chance to see Tintin again during a birthday party of my good friend Raymond Burgos many years ago. She was her usual self, jolly and talkative, witty and brilliant. That was the last time I saw her until I learned that she is already writing for the Manila Standard, still scoring ‘scoops’ just like the olden days.
To her husband Lito and the rest of the family, my prayers and condolences. Tintin for sure would be terribly missed.