No, that heartless advice did not come from a mentally deranged man or an ordinary man on the street. It came from a top Filipino diplomat who has worn many hats in government. He is in fact a lawyer, journalist, former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador to the United Nations, Press Secretary, Congressman, and presently Philippine Ambassador to the Court of St. James's (United Kingdom) and concurrently Special Envoy to China for special concerns.
In my book, those bona fides could easily qualify him as a revered Filipino statesman — but for his indiscretion, uncouth words, and disrespect for the feelings of others. I refer, dear readers, to Teodoro Lopez Locsin Jr.
I have to emphasize the descriptive word "Jr." because, from accounts I have read, he is far different from his namesake, Teodoro Locsin Sr., who fought the Japanese and the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., a fearless publisher of the news magazine Philippines Free Press for which he was imprisoned during the Marcos martial law regime. Did the "apple fall far from the tree?"
In his Twitter account, Locsin Jr. said: "That's why Palestinian children should be killed: they might grow up to become as gullible as innocent Palestinians letting Hamas launch rockets at Israel …They are Muslims…" In the diplomatic community, we call that a faux pas.
Perhaps realizing the callousness of his gaffe, he immediately deleted the tweet with the following lame expression of mea culpa: "I immediately deleted my sarcastic response to a tweet as I realized it could be misconstrued …My apologies to those who did misconstrue my sentiments and did, in fact, get triggered…"
That statement did not wash away the disastrous effect of his slip. If one reads between the lines, they were subtle words to camouflage the booboo, not a real entreaty for clemency. His admission of his mistake, though, may work to mitigate the imprudence. Remarkably, the Department of Foreign Affairs, anticipating its far-reaching negative effect, disassociated itself from the statement, saying it was made in Locsin's "personal capacity."
I wanted to distance this column from the ensuing uproar. But being the de facto medium for Filipino Muslims' concerns and sentiments on political and social issues, it cannot default from its moral responsibility. I was afraid that repeating the obnoxious remark might gain traction — and psychologists warn about the "repetition-induced truth effect."
I did not want to dignify it. After all, he had shown remorse and apologized for the impropriety of his words, and, as a sage says, "There is no need to beat a dead horse." But the storm of controversy has spread like wildfire in Morolandia that I have to add my voice of indignation. Silence amid the din of protest is a sin. I have not seen in a long time such a display of revulsion and rage from the Moros, reminiscent of the time foreign invaders came to their shores and, for 300 years, the Moros dug in, resisted, and repelled the hegemonistic colonization campaign.
Muslim netizens promptly denounced the statement as xenophobic, insensitive, and unbecoming of a diplomat. Their protest and outcry reverberated from the halls of the Houses of Congress, the Regional Parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the cramped temporary shanties of the Marawi war evacuees and the shores of the Sulu seas.
For a single moment in their lives, the tribes of Morolandia set aside their tribal identities. They spoke in one thunderous voice, calling for a sanction for what they perceived was the misconduct of a diplomat who, to preserve his honor, must perform a Japanese seppuku or self-sacrifice by resigning from his post.
Articulating the collective position of the Deputies of the BARMM interim Regional Parliament, Speaker Pangalian Balindong issued a public statement rich in a poignant message condemning the "insensitive and irresponsible social media post …for its Islamophobic, racist, and anti-Semitic undertones."
(To be continued)