The Bill, Toting & Merceditas Show

Buencamino does political affairs analysis for the NGO Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the newspaper Today, page 11, 23 May 2004 edition.

“The NAMFREL count is suspicious because its overseer is Guillermo Luz of the notoriously pro-Macapagal Arroyo Makati Business Club. That’s all there is to it.” – Me

Three Catholic Bishops allied with NAMFREL in a coalition called HOPE thought that full transparency would dispel any doubts about Namfrel’s impartiality. They asked Guillermo Luz of NAMFREL “to reflect in their count the percentage of reports within each region and pace the reporting of all regions evenly to dispel charges of selective tabulation and to open their operations to greater transparency.”

Luz replied, “I don’t want to discuss that stupid suggestion!”

Stupid? Luz explained why he thought his coalition partners were stupid. He said, “In effect, they want us to do a slow count and withhold information to the public and if we do that it would be a larger issue for the public.” Switik.

(Please excuse me, but I can’t resist this pun – “Por favor, apaga la Luz before HOPE turns into DESPAIR —Dirty Election Strategy to Promote, Aid and Insure Re-election.”)

Meanwhile, the government is busy turning off other lights. It said only Billy Luz’s outfit was permitted to publicize its count. According to Acting Justice Secretary Merceditas Guitierrez, publicizing competing counts “may endanger public order or cause damage to the interest or credit of the State, which this Department has the legal duty to address.”

Well, if only she were not working for the individual who would be most
affected by the publication of an unfavorable competing count…

Merceditas denied that reminding everybody “that there is a law punishing the dissemination of false information,” was a gag order. Neither should ordering the NBI to look into possible violations of Sec 154 of the Revised Penal Code worry anybody because “the NBI knows what to do and it will do what it thinks should be done.”

One could say it’s only worrisome if one assumes that the NBI also
knows to do what it is told. But at least, the NBI knows what can be
done.

Nestor Mantarin, the NBI deputy director deputized by Merceditas to go after purveyors of falsehood thinks his job is easier said than done. He said those alleged lies carry a disclaimer: “This is a paid political advertisement.” In other words… well, there is no “in other words” except, it’s easier said than done. Thus the press has not been gagged.

A reminder about possible criminal liability for publicizing paid advertisements is not a gag order, it is only “an appeal to media to be responsible.” The acting secretary is only acting. The “gaga” order was
meant only for those who were born with revised penile Codes, after all.

From the Palace, the Press Secretary—the man who is never at a loss for words except when asked about a presidential adviser who lays out the red carpet for a Chinese gambling lord awarded an honorary doctorate in humanities by a university where the President’s brother is an official (whew!)—decided to mouth what can accurately be described as three
sentences worth two cents.

He said, “Now, if you want to do your own private count, nobody is preventing you from doing that. I think it’s the publication which is being addressed by COMELEC.” And, “We don’t believe that in this particular case, curtailment took place.”

Toting, here’s your two cents—”no talk, no mistake.”

If Bill Luz’s outfit were above suspicion, there would be no interest in competing private counts. If it were not NAMFREL’s coalition partners who raised legitimate concerns, the competing count would be viewed as merely sour-graping. If the Three Stooges did not fall all over themselves trying to gag the press….well, you catch the drift.

Now, thanks to the three stooges’ determination to safeguard “public order” and prevent “damage to the interest or credit of the State”, the “Kama Sutra of Polls”, also known as “1001 Ways to Screw the Public,” has completely overshadowed “B&R’s Hillbilly Porn Festival” in Iraq.

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