Plots and conspiracies

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Someone should be, or should have been, advising the leaders of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the fine arts of public relations.

Since the week after the May 10 elections, both have been talking about “destabilization plots” and even coup attempts involving—of course—the usual suspects in the opposition, the protest groups and even the New People’s Army.

So often have they made this claim in the last three weeks or so that they’re beginning to sound like a damaged 78- rpm record.

What’s more, they’ve also revised the details of the so-called plot so many times that it’s assuming all the characteristics of a story made up to demonize the opposition and protesting poll watch groups, and to frighten everyone into hurrying up the congressional canvass and getting Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Noli de Castro proclaimed.

They began with a story straight out of the pre-martial law period. It alleged a “Leftist-Rightist” conspiracy called “Aklas Bayan” to obstruct the canvassing, foment protest, and install Fernando Poe Jr. president, presumably on the argument that he’s the real winner in the May 10 elections.

The Marcos echoes of this story didn’t help its credibility any. Neither did the fact that National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and police and military spokesmen couldn’t seem to get their stories straight, much less coordinated.

Gonzales was at one point all urgency, warning the country over every mass medium known to man or beast that terrible days were ahead. He revised his own doomsday predictions later by belittling the very same plot that he, the PNP and the military had in the first place claimed existed.

Like Gonzales, the police and the military also blew hot and cold. Last week both were blowing cold, and were uncharacteristically silent.

Both now predict a stormy week for the nation. They’re not talking about the weather but about what could happen in the next few days as the virtual stand-off between the administration and the Fernando Poe Jr. wing of the opposition persists, and delays hound the canvassing of votes for president and vice president.

A police spokesman had earlier claimed that the “Aklas Bayan” the government claims to have uncovered had failed to recruit enough people to launch mass protests. Both the Poe opposition as well as the groups the PNP and AFP claimed were plotting some kind of coup attempt have denied any such intention. PNP chief Hermogenes Ebdane had also apologized for tagging the poll watch group Patriots as part of a “Leftist-Rightist” conspiracy to grab power.

But both the PNP and AFP still insist that a conspiracy by the Poe wing of the opposition and other groups to prevent the proclamation of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and to grab power for themselves could be launched this week.

A military intelligence report, says the Philippine Daily Inquirer, maintains that an opposition boycott of the congressional canvassing of ballots for president and vice president would trigger protest actions that would eventually lead to a demonstration at the EDSA shrine. What’s more, it insists that Patriots, despite Ebdane’s apology, was still in the thick of the plot, recruiting participants for the protest actions that would culminate at EDSA.

The tendency to dismiss police and military claims about an opposition-led conspiracy is understandable. These claims have been notoriously inconsistent as well as unverified. Many of their allegations, which they pass of as fact—among them an earlier one that said that Patriots was paying protest participants P200 to P800 each—have been so outrageous only the hopelessly na

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