"..a bardy view!"

President Aquino and the wheelchair joke in New Zealand

AquinoI have a bone to pick with President Aquino of the Philippines.

I know that he is the son of the assassinated Benigno, I know he is the son of Cory who came
to power after Ferdinand Marcos was exiled due to the People Power Revolution, and I sympathise
with his attempts at changing the corrupt mentality which pervades Philippines

I even understand his bitter annoyance at his predecessor Gloria

So why am I upset with him? After all, surely he represents
the new face of the Philippines? A man on a mission, keen to drag his country
into prosperity, moving forward yet embracing his nation’s culture. Yes, well,
let's pause on that for a moment.

He has recently arrived in New Zealand, and very quickly
addressed an audience of a thousand Filipinos gathered to see him and hear his
words. It didn't take him long to address the glowing crowd – sat in their
finery – some of the best dressed and jewel- bedecked individuals outside of
the South China Sea.

From the off he told them of the evils of the former
president and her administration. He didn't name her, but used New Zealand's sheep and cow population as an
analogy. "There are many sheep here in New Zealand" he said "but
let's use dairy. You are milking the cow, but you still want to turn it into
bone marrow soup."

Fair enough, there’s an ambiguous reference to exploitation
and corruption back home – somewhere, but then comes this: "Our fellow
citizens, who are engaged in corruption in the Philippines, have opulent,
expensive and fast cars. But if they want to escape prosecution, they use a
He distanced himself from this by saying he saw it as a joke in
a text message. Nevertheless, his audience roared with laughter.

His predecessor, the aforementioned Arroyo is confined to a wheelchair. She is trying to leave the Philippines for
treatment. Some suggest it is a ploy to escape prosecution.

Whatever the reasons for her disability, or her desire to seek
medical aid elsewhere, whatever her alleged corruptions in office, indeed whatever
her record during her tenure as President, I find it astonishing that a head of
state can speak with such a loose and rampant tongue. As if the fundamental rules
of etiquette and diplomacy are disposed of – even in another country.

Indeed, I cannot imagine a president of any country,
anywhere, especially elsewhere, that would imply that their corrupt citizens
will somehow escape justice by using a wheelchair.

How on earth can proper disability legislation ever be
brought forward in the Philippines (which is a country which has almost no disability legislation or access)
when the Head of State indicates that people who attempt to avoid justice, use
a wheelchair? This was a crass, naive, ignorant, boorish remark, and
demonstrates a gross lack of statesmanship. Does he not have advisors? Yet, his
audience found his remarks very humorous.

I don't blame the New Zealand Government for allowing this
intellectually challenged leader to behave like a child fresh out of
kindergarten – after all, they would hardly know that he would make such an offensive speech in Tagalog to the Filipino community in their midst.

Wheelchairs are expensive in the Philippines. In fact, last
January, Japan donated 80 refurbished chairs to disabled Filipino children, not
only funding the cost of refurbishment, but also the transportation.

I don't care what Aquino thinks about Arroyo. I care only
that a President of a country with nearly 100 million people doesn’t stigmatize its
disable citizens by implying that a user of a wheelchair is somehow a corrupt
opportunist. That is unforgivable.

The rights of the disabled in the Philippines, and
disability access in almost every area is a very long time coming. It's not
only legislation which needs to be implemented, but mind-sets and attitude needs
to be changed.

How then, can a President of the Philippines stand up, in
front of 1000 able bodied Filipinos and indicate (jokingly or not) that a
wheelchair is a method to avoid prosecution? What message does this send to
those wheelchair bound citizens in the Philippines or those waiting for the simple luxury of a decent chair? Why indeed does Japan have to donate them for Filipino children? Why
cannot the Philippines provide this basic human right and dignity?

Aquino, through sheer thoughtless ineptitude and political naïve
pathetic point scoring, has set back all the good work for his disabled countrymen
at a stroke. 

In the year when the most successful paralympics took place in London – there were nine paraplegics in four disciplines representing the Philippines. None won a medal. But they each deserved one for just getting there, because not only were they against all odds, but they were up against a President who doesn't even understand their contribution and uses the wheelchair as a political shuttlecock.






October 25, 2012 - Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Olympic Games, Politics, The Philippines | , , , , , , ,


  1. I understand exactly were you are coming from and your umbrage. I particularly like your last paragraph. Now I’m disabled but thanks be to God not in a wheelchair. Sometimes, having a sense of humour is what keeps one going? I have the feeling the joke was not against the disabled per se?
    Entertaining read as always and keep them coming.


    Comment by spookmoor | October 25, 2012 | Reply

  2. Flor

    President Aquino and the wheelchair joke in New Zealand (BARDINESS)


    Comment by Flor | November 7, 2012 | Reply

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