Tonto Rides Again

Buencamino does political affairs analysis for the research and policy advocacy group Action for Economic Reforms.

There is a news item about Congressman Apolinario Lozada, party vice president for international affairs and provincial chair for Negros Occidental, leaving the Lakas-CMD because he was “being discarded like a rag.”

Lozada was a former career officer in the Department of Foreign Affairs. During Corazon Aquino’s term, he was detailed by the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist then Senator Leticia Shahani as a foreign affairs adviser. From Shahani, he moved to Malacanang as appointments secretary for President Fidel Ramos. Lozada ran for Congress after Ramos left Malacanang. In Congress he was chair of the House Committee in Foreign Affairs.

Lozada said, “I am leaving Lakas now because I am forced to.” What forced him to leave the one and only party that he had served loyally ever since becoming a member was Lakas’ decision to remove him as provincial chair of the party and to endorse Ignacio Arroyo as its candidate for the 5th District of Negros Occidental.

Ignacio Arroyo is the presidential brother-in-law who claims he is Jose Pidal. He is now the Lakas-CMD provincial chair of Negros Occidental and its official candidate for Congress. Prior to becoming “Jose Pidal daw siya”, Ignacio Arroyo made headlines during his sister in law’s run for vice president. At that time, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), as required by law, filed a sworn Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SAL) that did not include certain real properties in the United States that were legally registered under the name of her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo. Those hidden assets became a campaign issue because they raised questions of propriety, perjury and corruption against GMA until Ignacio Arroyo appeared from nowhere and said he was the true of owner of those real properties, which for some reason or another he allowed to be registered in his brother’s name. Not much else is known by the general public about Ignacio Arroyo except for those two timely apparitions.

How can Jose Pidal become an official party candidate for Congress while Jose Velarde languishes in prison? In the same way that Jose Velarde’s son can be an official party candidate for Senator, duh. Duh? Not quite, because Ignacio Arroyo is different from you and me and certainly from Ping Lacson—he is “nosotros”, as we are not, as we will explain later.

Senator Lacson became the sheriff of Binondo after the Kuratong Baleleng shoot-out. He must have thought that shooting at the President, using Pidal as a silver bullet, would work wonders in Ayala Avenue and lead to the replacement of Bush’s deputy for a real sheriff.

Maybe he believed that Ayala Avenue would focus on his expose rather than on his motives and means. Naively, he thought the message and not the messenger was what mattered to them. After all, didn’t they believe Mawanay and Chavit Singson?

The problem with that way of looking at things is that it ignores a couple of cultural factors that determine whether an expose will get any traction at all with those people.

For one thing, it ignores the target of the expose. Who or “quien”, to use Forbes Park language, is very important. In the case of Mawanay, the target was Ping Lacson himself. It was the same with Chavit and Estrada. It doesn’t matter who the accuser is or what exactly the accusation is— as long as the target is someone else.

Ping Lacson, unfortunately and not surprisingly, does not know about “nosotros” and “otros”. Ignacito is “nosotros”. So, there is nothing that a “nada” like Ping can do that will shake the belief that a” nosotros” is incapable of doing something that only a kanto boy “otros” like Erap can do. Whatever Ignacito did, he must have done for a good reason.

Which brings up Intent. Who can blame Ignacito for wanting to hide his money from all these extortionists and kidnappers who have access to bank accounts? Why, they will ask, does Lacson have access to confidential bank records? Or in the case of those hidden US real properties, why should it be anybody’s business that Ignacito entrusted his real properties to Mike ? The fact that Gloria did not include those properties under Mike’s name in her SAL proves that they are really Ignacito’s. Nosotros Logic 101.

Ping should have picked up something from the CODE-NGO episode. He needs to be more perceptive if he wants to become President.

CODE-NGO, an association of non-governmental organizations bearing Ayala Avenue’s seal of approval, engaged in some plain and simple influence peddling activity and made tons of money. Well, not so plain and not so simple if you listen to their apologists. Yet several of Estrada’s cronies are in hiding for making money in the same old-fashioned way. So, why is influence peddling okay for CODE-NGO and not for them?

Two reasons. First is Intent. CODE NGO used influence peddling as a means “para ayudar los pobres”. Second, “nosotros” versus “aquellos” These terms are not as simple as the “us”and “them” of the economic class-based language of Jose Maria Sison and his acolytes. These terms as used in certain circles have a slightly deeper historical and racial connotation.

“Nosotros” refers to generations of inbred Filipinos. “Aquellos” refers to indios like Ping, Erap, Poe Jr. and their cronies.

In the novel One True Thing, the dying mother and her youngest son are described by another son as being credits to the human race simply by existing since they are such good persons and behave so ethically. Being “nosotros” is something like that—only in a somewhat opposite way. Simply by an accident of birth, one need not prove anything or achieve to enjoy the power and perks that go with being “nosotros.” One is simply entitled to enjoy them.

So it is easy to see why an indio party like Lakas-CMD would drop a fellow indio like Lozada for Ignacito Arroyo. For the same reason that an intelligent highly educated black woman like Condoleeza Rice and a highly decorated black man like Colin Powell allow themselves to be used as White House lawn ornaments. For the same reason that Tonto always comes to the Lone Ranger’s rescue.

KNP did the indios bravos thing by including Jinggoy Estrada in their senatorial line-up. Their message is that he is one of us, we won’t leave him no matter what, and you can take it or leave it.

Lakas-CMD delivered another message from another type of indio. Lakas-CMD did a Tonto. They stabbed a fellow indio and came to the rescue of Ignacio Arroyo aka Jose Pidal aka Kemo Sabay.

Maybe, like Condi, Colin and Tonto, Lakas-CMD members believe that if they stand close enough to The Man some of it will rub off on them and they will also become “nosotros”.

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