“Sentence first, verdict later”

Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms.  This article was published in Business Mirror, May 31, 2006 edition, p. A6.

The Arroyo administration welcomed Amnesty International’s (AI) report on its dismal human rights record by abducting five supporters of former president Estrada.

Norberto Gonzales, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s security adviser, started the ball rolling when he announced an assassination plot against Mrs. Arroyo and her inner circle.

Media picked up Gonzales’ accusation because it’s a well-known fact that 80 percent of the country wants to see Mrs. Arroyo and her people ripped to shreds anyway. Unfortunately, media played into the hands of operatives whose purpose was to float a lie so they could use it as an artificial leg for something they had pre-planned.

Here’s how it was done.

The method comes from a 12-step program called “Freeing yourself of hang-ups about human rights.”

1. Spread a rumor.

“Some people want to kill Mrs Arroyo and her chums.”

2. Take it back.

“We don’t have that information…It’s always a concern but as of now, I have not heard of any report pertaining to this (assassination plot).” – Gen. Generoso Senga,  Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff

3. Repackage the rumor and the rumor-monger. Lend a semblance of credibility.

“Secretary (Norberto) Gonzales’ revelation was based on information available to him. We are also reviewing the same report.” –  commander of the Presidential Security Group

“We’re not privy to the information and the intelligence report he received but let us give Secretary Gonzales the benefit of the doubt… let us trust him and listen to his warnings, being a national security adviser of the government…I am sure that he has the best interest, not only of the government but the public at large.” – Arroyo’s political adviser, Gabriel Claudio

4. Push credibility as far as it will go.

“To me, it’s not important where the information comes from as long as it was revealed by Secretary Gonzales. That information has been considered collated, evaluated, and verified.” – Metro Manila police chief Vidal Querol

5. Act.

Abduct five Estrada supporters.

6. Deny any involvement.

“As of this time, we have no report about such arrest. We always have maintained that we abide by the rule of law. We respect human rights.” – AFP spokesman, Tristan Kison

“They will always point the blame against the administration but rest assured that we are not doing it …” – Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita

7. Take back denial.

Admit the military had the abductees in their custody all along and explain why the head AFP intelligence group was not told of their presence in his compound as, “perhaps for security reasons.” – AFP spokesman Kison

8. Stand on the artificial leg.

The assassination plot that the AFP chief of staff said did not exist becomes the reason for his soldiers to carry out an abduction.

“These arrests were prompted by concurring reports about the plan by communist terrorists to assassinate some Cabinet officials,” –  AFP spokesman Kison

9. Stay above the controversy.

“These are operational matters that you don’t expect the Palace to have knowledge of.” – Executive Secretary Ermita

10. Let others stir it up.

“The plot is thickening. I thought it would be the rightists or the NPA (who would plot the assassination) but now it’s unraveling if that is true. The participation of Estrada and his group is deeper than I thought.”
– Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez

“If the lives of Cabinet members were indeed at peril in the hands of these men, it is better that they were interdicted before they could cause serious harm to public order.” – Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye

11. Sue the victims.

“In the interest of justice, the [five are] ordered to undergo regular preliminary investigation to enable them to submit their respective counter-affidavits so as to answer the very serious allegations against them”
– Department of Justice release order.

12. Square the circle.

Respond to the humans rights criticism with

“…There is no such thing as a climate of impunity in the Philippines.” – Press Secretary Bunye.

But why go through that 12-step song and dance?

Mrs. Arroyo can avoid answering for arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions and extra-judicial killings by simply proclaiming the Philippines the Enchanted Kingdom and crowning herself Queen. That way, she can ape the Red Queen in Alice’s Wonderland and decree, “Sentence first, verdict later.”

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