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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, April 3, 2018
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

April Fools


Wikipedia defines it as an annual celebration in some European and Western countries commemorated every April 1, when people play practical jokes and spread hoaxes. The jokes and their victims are called April Fools and people playing the pranks often expose their joke by shouting “April Fool” at their victims.

Some newspapers and published media even report fake stories which are usually explained the next day or below the article in smaller fonts.

Unlike Valentine’s Day and Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and even Grandparent’s Day; celebrating April Fools isn’t very common among Filipinos. Maybe our businessmen and mall operators haven’t found creative ways of making money off pranks yet, but April Fools is a popular western tradition that hasn’t broken into our mainstream culture yet.

However, the past couple of years have been so full of pranks, jokes, and quotable quotes from government officials that it feels like every day is April Fools. It seems that our government, led by our prankster-in-chief is the ultimate joke and what is infuriating is that there are Filipino people who are the willing victims who seem to think this running joke is still funny, or at least, tolerable. If you come to think of it, instead of being continuously told “April Fools,” we have come to a point where we probably deserve to be called “You’re All Fools!”

Take for example the officials of our Department of Interior and Local Government and Department of Environment and Natural Resources who are hell-bent on closing the cesspool that is Boracay so a Chinese casino (hopefully with a working waste water treatment plant) can be built expeditiously. A DILG Assistant Secretary said in a recent interview on CNN that they are not shutting down the businesses on the island. They will just have a system where foreign and local tourists will not be allowed to enter the island. I don’t know if the person interviewing him was waiting for the punch line or the “just kidding” part, ala our president, when he declared he had the goods on Senator Trillanes’ offshore bank accounts, but none apparently came.

Then there is the Department of Justice that fumbled the charges against the self-confessed mid-level drug lord and a notorious top-level drug lord. We were all waiting with bated breath for the “just kidding” part that never came. As if that prank isn’t bad enough, the country’s justice secretary is even linking Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmeña to drug lords even without a shred of evidence, an act that even bosom buddies wouldn’t dare do to each other as a genuine April Fool’s joke.

There is also the Presidential spokesperson talking loosely when he accuses rights group of being under the payroll of drug lords. The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency have rebutted his wildly irresponsible claim/joke but he keeps insisting on it.

With so many jokers in government, especially in the Presidential Communications Operations Office, where the terrible grammar on a PCOO-issued identification card is but the latest of a series of running jokes that have emanated from that supposedly hallowed office, one has to wonder how long this eternal April Fools day can go on before Filipinos get sick and tired of the refrain “Joke Only,” or the smart-shaming “Kayo na ang magaling” or the Yellow-phobic propensity to blame everyone else, but themselves, for the embarrassing boo-boos of government officials who know they won’t be fired no matter how bad or tasteless their jokes or performance in general have been these past couple of years.

What kind of jokesters do we have in this government and what kind of leader allows such jokers to stay in power even after all their poorly executed jokes? A jokester-in-chief should have minimum standards for understudies who cannot even deliver a proper joke. Filipinos wouldn’t mind it so much if the jokesters were actually funny and government were actually working properly, but it seems that neither is happening and we are stuck with the worst of both worlds.

April Fools is hard to understand, especially for someone who will only tolerate jokes and pranks from close family members and lifelong friends. I appreciate a good joke or prank, but I am not comfortable with a day that gives anyone carte blanche authority to do something to me. This makes the perpetual April Fools situation that we’ve been experiencing in the Philippines, something that is quite difficult to endure. The running jokes coming from government itself, whether those jokes are meant or not, were never funny even from the start, and the fact that it doesn’t seem to have a grand punch line or happy ending, is making it more of a tragedy than a comedy.

This April Fools Day, I’m hoping the jokes and the pranks finally come to an end, only to come back next year because I don’t think the Philippines can take any more bad jokes from the people who are supposed to be helping run this country.*  

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