"Compared to men in high places, she was not stealing from the people. What she was selling was something she owned."
This story was told to me by a long retired police officer who once served in one of the cities in the metro Manila area.
On his way home one late night, he chanced upon a parked police vehicle and a commotion happening in a sidewalk near the vehicle. Alighting from his owner-type jeep, he approached the two policemen who were trying to accost a young lady who was resisting and shouting harsh words against the apprehending cops.
“Bakit, ano ang kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ako? Pumatay ba ako?” the young lady was telling off the cops.
“E sir, dis-oras na ng gabi, naka-istambay pa sa kalye. Mukhang naghihintay ng customer,” responded one of the cops when the police officer approached.
Knowing that all they could book her for was a vague anti-vagrancy law, where she would at worst sleep the night over in a police precinct, the officer told the two cops to back off, and leave the young lady.
When they had left, he tried to calm the lady, who was still quite agitated by the attempt to arrest her.
“Bakit sir, ano ba ang kasalanan ko? Your policemen told me I was likely a prostitute selling myself to passing customers late in the night,” the young woman said.
“But isn’t that so?” he calmly asked.
“Assuming so, what right have they to interfere?,” she riposted.
“This is my body, and I have every right to do with it as I please. It is mine.
The Tagalog translation is more telling, if a bit vulgar: “Pag-aari ko ang katawan ko. Kaya nga ari ang tawag dito.”
She then explained to the police officer that she had to earn money to pay for her tuition and school needs, as her parents were too poor to send her any money from the province.
“I want to have a future. I want to escape from the kind of poverty I grew up with, and be able to help my parents when I find a job. Getting a diploma is my only salvation from the misery of poverty,” said she.
“Even to the point of having to sell your body,” the officer asked.
“It’s my body. I am not stealing anything from anyone. It is an asset I own.
What about you guys—you in government who steal money from the people?” she defiantly retorted.
The officer was taken aback. The young lady had spunk, and beneath the defiance, he saw an intelligent person.
“I am forced to sell my body when I need to. I have to finish my education. It is my only hope in life,” the young lady, now at ease with the officer, said.
The newspapers at the time were filled with stories of how some wise guy in government allocated hundreds of millions in fake fertilizers to be distributed to farmers. One newspaper account said the fertilizers were priced at a hundred times the normal retail value.
In the office, they were joking about “pakotong-kotong lang dito, doon pala sa iba, milyun-milyon ang kinikita sa pamemeke ng abono” (here the racket is small grease money, in that agency they make millions out of faking fertilizers”).
Indeed, the officer thought, what crime did the young lady commit, or was about to commit? Compared to men in high places, she was not stealing from the people. What she was selling was something she owned.
And so he let her go, even forking over two hundred-peso bills, and telling the young lady to go back to her boarding house and rest.
There is a lesson in that story for all of us in this benighted land.
* * *
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte loves to tell stories. In between sorties in 2015, when we would unwind in his favorite hang-out in his city, he once recounted how he would drive around the city during the wee hours, using a “Holiday” taxicab.
“Criminals operate mostly at night, so if you are a mayor, or a cop, you should be alert at nighttime,” he explained.
In one of those nighttime “ronda,” he saw some obvious streetwalkers waiting for possible “clients” in the wee hours. Taking pity because obviously, “business” was bad, he alighted from his taxicab, and approached the three women.
“Hala, si Mayor diay!” said one who recognized him as the others turned pale in fear.
Instead, he invited them to a nearby restaurant which was still open, and told the cashier to feed them, while giving out a five-hundred peso bill to her.
“Wala pa siguro kamo manihapon. Pangaon sa” (You probably haven’t had dinner; go on and eat”), he told the astonished streetwalkers.
Turning to us avid listeners, he said, “Unsaon man; dili tanan maka-trabaho, mapugos lang sila og baligya’g lawas” (What can we do? There are some who are jobless and the only way to keep body and soul together is to sell their bodies), he rued.
You could see through the compassion of the mayor who has since become president of the benighted land.
* * *
Let me go back to the story of the retired police officer, and how he was touched, nay, brought to reality by the student who had to sell herself, as a “lady of the night” to be able to support herself through school.
Think of it when you hear about the high and the mighty allocating billions upon billions for “projects” purportedly to “help their poor constituents” which, truth to tell, are “in aid of their pockets.”