Buencamino writes political commentary for the NGO Action for Economic Reforms.  This article was published in the Opinion Section, Yellow Pad Column of BusinessWorld, January 23, 2006 edition, page S1/5.

There’s a war between Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) columnists Honesto General and Randy David over the authenticity of the Hello Garci tapes.    General said, “The conversations recorded in the tapes never took place….No voice expert—certainly not Randy David—can authenticate the Garci tapes by just playing the tapes, even repeatedly.”

Randy David, on the other hand, believes they are genuine. He said, “all one needs to make sense of a conversation is knowledge of the language and a lot of common sense…If one wishes to go beyond common sense, he may consult at least two relevant fields of study to deal with the task of interpretation: hermeneutics and ethnomethodology.”

I can’t understand Randy’s terms, let alone pronounce them, so I’ll just use a little common sense.

General wrote, “Feeling a bit under the weather last Tuesday, I decided to take the afternoon off. There was nothing interesting on TV, so I watched the Garcillano show. It was the best sitcom I have seen in years. The congressmen were missing—or hiding—the main issue on the Garci tapes. The main issue is this: Technology, equipment and expertise are now available in Metro Manila for taping the voices of two real people engaged in a conversation that never took place.”

General watched television while he was, as he says, “under the weather” so it’s quite possible his mind played tricks on him and he honestly mistook the Garcillano show for another sitcom called the Defensor-Tiongco show. In that televised comedy, Defensor said the Hello Garci tapes were digitally altered and enhanced, so even if it was Mrs. Arroyo’s voice on the tape, she was not doing the talking. Similarly, General said an ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) agent he dubbed as Lobo (wolf), “produced the Garci tapes by electronically transferring words and phrases into what was later referred to as the master tapes.”  Which show did General watch?

General said of tape-faking, “The technique is used extensively in movie making. A scene is shot on location. The dialogue is dubbed later in the studio. But if the actors are not available at the dubbing session, their voices are dubbed in electronically, provided there are enough recorded materials of the actors’ voices.”   Okay, let’s grant that the tapes are fake, anyway the incidents cited in the tapes can be verified independently.

To  follow General’s logic, Lobo must have known of those incidents before he selected, from thousands of unrelated words uttered by Mrs. Arroyo and Garcillano, the exact words to splice together a dialogue replete with unstated understandings about sinister undertakings. Thus, Lobo created not only a special effects masterpiece but also scripted a blockbuster political thriller that included kidnapping, terrorism, military maneuvers, vote-rigging and a noontime lover’s tryst. Lobo is Steven Spielberg and ISAFP is Dreamworks!

But seriously, like Ignacio Bunye who exposed the Hello Garci tapes, General performed an unintended public service. He exposed a serious security breach in ISAFP.  That warrants a full-dress investigation and you know where that will lead if we follow General again.  Arroyo will have to suspend E.O.464. ISAFP, the military brass and cabinet members will have to be un-gagged for a full-dress investigation to prosper.  Thank you, Honesto.

General made a bet. He said, “I am prepared to bet a case of pale pilsen beer that one place where the technology, equipment and expertise are available is the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, (Isafp).”  That’s not an honest bet because it’s on the existence of equipment and not on how the equipment was used.

Here’s a real bet: two bottles of single malt scotch says General will change the topic when he realizes he opened a can of worms with his Lobo sitcom defense.

Honestly, however, I hope I lose the bet. I won’t mind because I’ll be laughing all the way to the liquor store if General’s spirited defense of Mrs. Arroyo turns out to be her undoing.

I am tempted to describe General’s argument as sheep in Lobo’s clothes but I will defer to my mother’s description: “Tonterias!”