Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror May 16, 2007 edition, p. A6.
“You need to have a president who understands you can’t win this war with legal papers. We’ve got to use every tool at our disposal.” – George W. Bush, ABC Nightline, May 13, 2004
I decided to spend Election Day with a friend who works in the Palace.
Over drinks, I reminded him that a couple of years ago, then environment secretary Mike Defensor set out to pollute the issue of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s conversations with Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano by introducing the findings of a self-proclaimed audio expert who once worked in a radio station owned by Mike Arroyo’s brother in law.
“Do you remember that?” I asked.
“Yes, very clearly,” he said. “Defensor and his co-star, Jonathan Tiongco, presented a dog-and-pony show that, not surprisingly, failed to convince the public that, ‘Yes, it is the voice of the President, but that is not the President talking. It is an electronic and digital manipulation to link the President to cheating and rigging the elections.’”
“I gather you opposed that whole thing,” I said.
“Well, I tried to talk him out of it. But you know Mike, he’s a blood relation of Brenda,” he said.
That prompted me to quip, “At least, he created the perfect line for the 2004 presidential election: ‘It was the voice of the people, but that was not the people talking.’”
He ignored my remark and said, very candidly, “This election is definitely a replay of 2004. Ma’m, is leaving nothing to chance.”
I was about to ask him why when he whipped out a press release from Toting Bunye’s “information” office. It was a digest of a recent article by Rick Saludo, the cabinet secretary who writes Palace advertorials in the opinion page of another newspaper.
He recited from Saludo’s piece, “GO (Genuine Opposition) senators could stir media and [the] public against the President through endless investigations, to nudge more congressmen to vote against her. This would take several months, so probably no impeachment when Congress opens in July, but maybe late this year or early next — if GO dominates the Senate.”
“In other words,” I said, “your boss is so allergic to accountability she’s willing to risk getting busted again.”
He replied, “She’s not worried about getting caught. And neither are we.”
“You mean you made sure there are no cell phones within her reach during the ballot count?” I asked.
“No, stupid,” he said. “The anti-terror law will take effect on June 14. That’s our ‘get out of jail’ card.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Preventive detention for terrorists…enemies of the state,” he replied.
“Yes,” he replied before I could finish my sentence. And, without batting an eyelash, he justified preventive detention by quoting Herman Goering, “Yes. People were arrested and taken into protective custody who had not yet committed any crime, but who could be expected to do so if they remained free… the original reason for creating the concentration camps was to keep there such people whom we rightfully considered enemies of the state.”
“Holy Sh__!” I exclaimed. “You don’t think you’re going to get away with that, do you? We’re going to scream and holler about it to the whole world if that happens,” I threatened.
He smiled and said, “Goering is not our only mentor. We also learned from his victims.” And he proceeded to quote Bruno Bettleheim, “A few screams evoke in us deep anxiety and a desire to help. Hours of screaming without end lead us only to wish that the screamer would shut up.”
My friend’s secretary came into the room and told him he was being summoned by Ma’m. He got up, held up his glass towards me and said, “We’re betting that Bettleheim is right. We’ll make sure he is.”
*The title comes from the first lines of a Simon and Garfunkel song popular in the 1960s.