RPT-Slain aviation head reflected Filipino frustration

MANILA, Nov 9 (Reuters) - By all accounts, the former aviation chief shot dead after seizing Manila's airport control tower was an optimist who would tell friends that Filipinos had the talent to match the achievements of any other country.

But in a nation that consistently falls short of its potential, his dreams were destined for disappointment.

Panfilo Villaruel dream came to a bloody end when a police SWAT team gunned him and his bodyguard down early on Saturday, three hours after they took over the control tower of the country's busiest airport in a protest against corruption.

"The bottom line here is we are cultivating a culture of exasperation by our failures, by our mistakes, by the ailures of our political elite," analyst Alex Magno told Reuters on Sunday.

"We are a society of exasperated people."

In a country that has seen nine army uprisings in 17 years, many wondered if Villaruel's dramatic takeover of the airport tower was yet another failed political adventure.

But most have concluded he was acting alone, taking out years of frustration with corruption that most Filipinos have learned to live with.

A former air force colonel and pilot, Villaruel, 62, supervised air transportation throughout the country as Air head of the Air Transport Office from 1992 to 1996.

Friends find it ironic that he was shot dead in the very control tower complex he helped build as aviation chief.

UNSULLIED NAME, BRAVADO

A smart dresser with a taste for bravado, he first drew headlines in the 1980s when he built a prototype of a propeller-driven airplane made of wood. He dubbed the plane "Defiant".

By the time he entered the 12-storey control tower just before midnight on Friday, his dreams had apparently ended. A former transport official described him as "a broken-hearted man" because of widespread corruption.

Talking live on radio minutes before he was killed in a blaze of gunfire, Villaruel raged against official corruption and lamented the state's failure to develop the aviation industry.

"Had we persevered, we would not be grovelling before the Americans for obsolete Hueys," he said, referring to U.S. donations of second-hand helicopters to the Philippines.

One newspaper likened Villaruel to the tragic figure in a Hollywood film about a man who went on a shooting spree after cracking under the pressures of society.

"He apparently snapped like the disconsolate character (played by) Michael Douglas in the film "Falling Down"," the Today daily said in an editorial.

Magno saw a parallel between Villaruel's death and the country's failure to break out of third world status, in sharp contrast to neighbours like Malaysia and Thailand.

"It seems there is a failure in everything," Magno said.

"We are overpopulated. Our infrastructure is on the brink of breakdown...and people march to their dramatic deaths and inspire more distorted emotions."

09/11/2003

Bron : Reuters AlertNet

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