1News of New Zealand reported this week that its citizen Nicolas Peter Stacey, 34 years old, was shot dead in Makati City while visiting the Philippines as a tourist. Stacey was walking home with his girlfriend when two men on motorcycle disembarked and attempted to rob them. Stacey resisted and the gunman shot him, hitting his left chest. He died on the spot. The gunmen then grabbed the woman’s phone and wallet and then fled.

This is not a scene from a movie.

Nick Stacey was a volunteer for 10 years of Child Rescue, a nonprofit organization that “rescues children from sexual abuse by building technology for law enforcement, free of charge, to track, arrest and prosecute child predators.” He was also with the Student Volunteer Army that shopped and delivered grocery orders to vulnerable people during the China Virus lockdowns in New Zealand. He was active in church as a kids’ leader, setting up hospitality teams for their evening services.

It is unfortunate that he came as a tourist to the Philippines, a country that thinks it is “more fun” than the rest of the world, but has a Senate that believes in extrajudicial killings and doesn’t think that is a stain to the country’s world standing.

In October 2016, South Korean Jee Ick-joo was abducted from his home in Angeles City, Pampanga. The abductors called Jee’s wife to demand a ransom of P8 million. She paid P5 million. Jee was brought to Camp Crame on the day of his kidnapping and died there from strangulation. It was a tokhang-for-ransom case. The day after his murder, his body was brought to a crematorium owned by a former police officer. To destroy evidence, his ashes were then flushed down a toilet.

This is not a scene from a movie.

Jee’s killers were cops of the Philippine National Police. Remember this was already during the term of Rodrigo Duterte who swashbuckled as an anti-crime president. BBC News reported the gruesome murder by state security forces. South Korea’s consul in Manila Kim Dae-hee called the crime unbelievable, the Korean Broadcasting System reported. “I can’t either understand or accept it. I am a police officer myself, but this is unimaginable,” the consul said.

Earlier in April 2016, the severed head of a Caucasian male was found inside a plastic bag that was left on a street in Jolo, Sulu. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the decapitated head was that of John Ridsdel of Calgary, Alberta. Ridsdel, together with fellow Canadian Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad were vacationing at a resort in Samal Island when they were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf militants and brought to Jolo on September 2015. Hall, also from Calgary, was later beheaded in June 2016. The demand was for a ransom in the equivalent of US$6.5 million for each hostage, the Washington Post reported. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it a “cold-blooded murder.”

This is not a scene from a movie.

In May 2015, Malaysians Thien Nyuk Fun and Bernard Then Ted Fen were eating dinner at Ocean King restaurant in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia when they were abducted by Abu Sayyaf militants and brought by speedboat to Indanan, Sulu. The Star, Malaysia’s online news provider, reported that ransom was paid in November. Henceforth, Thien was released from captivity. But the Abu Sayyaf raised the amount and wanted more. Bernard Then was beheaded soon after. His head was placed inside a sack and left in front of a police station, the New York Times reported. The sack had a note with the name of the Malaysian on it. The severed head was discovered on the day Prime Minister Najib Razak arrived in Manila for the 2015 summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.

Anyone of these stories could have made a good movie script worthy of world blockbuster attention. But they did not have to. They were real-life events that hugged world headlines. “Bad image” is made not in Hollywood, London or Bollywood but by the way the country and our government conducts itself.

If fiction is the basis for bad image, there’s a lot to be sorry about especially if one were elected to the Senate like Robinhood Padilla. He played a gunrunner cum hit man in “Manila Boy” who got entangled in drug smuggling, sex trafficking and illegal gambling. He played a vendetta killer in “Hinukay Ko Na ang Libingan Mo.” He was in the film “Alega Gang: Public Enemy No. 1 of Cebu” about a character (played by another senator, Bong Revilla) who was imprisoned and became a notorious arms smuggler and gang leader. On the day of its Cebu City premier, moviegoers tried to break the box office window demanding tickets.

Padilla wants the Gerald Butler movie “Plane” banned. Senate President Zubiri plans to pass a Senate resolution condemning the movie. “Disgusting,” says Bato dela Rosa of the movie’s portrayal of Davao. “You won’t find a place in Davao where you would find rebels who just chop heads off without apparent reason.” So the Tadtads chopping the heads of red-tagged individuals in Davao del Sur way back when he was a young police lieutenant was a reason that was “apparent”?

Suddenly, “art imitating life” is a condemnable act when it exposes the out-and-out ineptitude of a government whose fidelity is not to the Filipino people but to their political patrons. How’s that for bad image?

Bring it on, Gerald Butler, you fail in comparison.