Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Friday, February 5, 1999

The ramifications of
already bad tidings

WHEN the news is ugly, beware. Below the surface may lie even more garishness. The most glaring example of this is in Washington, D.C., where an uncomely impeachment trial continues to repulse the nation. Only a stalwart Republican won't admit that this imbroglio is really about influencing next year's presidential election, not upholding the Constitution.

Hawaii, too, has its share of unattractive reality below a troubling facade. In fact, a couple of tragedies in the news this week caused great concern and shock. Yet under magnification, the trauma worsens.

First there is the second-degree attempted murder trial of Kimberly Pada. She is charged with brutalizing and shaking her 4-year-old son, Reubyne Buentipo Jr., so violently in August 1997 that he is in a vegetative state at a convalescent home.

It looks like a clear-cut case of child abuse. But was Pada solely and unequivocally at fault? Only in a simplistic world.

What about the beatings that Pada said she suffered at the hands of Reubyne Jr.'s father, which she apparently passed down to her progeny?

What of the common mindset that spouse or child batterings are a "private" matter within families and are nobody else's business -- until it's too late?

And what about the fact that more women than men are prosecuted for hurting their children. Know why? Because, more often than not, it's the mommies who are watching the kids!

How easy to pass judgment on Pada and throw her into prison. Yes, she may be a parent with aberrant behavior. But if we're to do nothing more than shut the ugly situation behind a cell door, expect a lot more cases like Reubyne Jr. in Hawaii's future.

In the Pada case, a family is destroyed. Meanwhile, another local mess has destroyed the public's faith in our state elections.

An apparent glitch in new electronic ballot-counters provided by Election Systems & Software means a possible recount -- by hand -- of all ballots cast in the 1998 general. Senate President Norman Mizuguchi says he wants to "clear the air" about the integrity of the vote. But this unfortunate development portends trouble -- and not only for the razor-thin winners whose fates may be in question.

There is already a distinct distrust of the election process. Despite repeated assurances that ballots are secret, and that nobody knows how anybody else voted, some people were afraid to venture to the polls in the last gubernatorial campaign. They were worried that the administration, if crossed, would somehow retaliate.

To put it more bluntly, some folks didn't vote because they wanted to support Republican contender Linda Lingle but were worried that Governor Cayetano would find out.

WHAT must they be thinking now? What must all voters who took the time and effort to vote be thinking? Something like this: Why did we bother?

This ballot-counting crisis is about more than validating the results of any one race. This problem undermines an already stressful and thankless task. It might even dissuade more folks in the next election go-round to shun their civic responsibility.

This voting fiasco has tarnished the beauty of democracy, while little Reubyne's plight should make us all look in the mirror to reassess our pretty-faced paradise. And that is the sad and ugly truth.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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