Coherence is not among the strong suits of Arroyo regime bureaucrats. Except in rare instances, the statements of people like Ignacio Bunye, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon, former Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Secretary of “Justice” Raul Gonzalez, and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, whose posts have thrust them into the center stage of this country’s concerns, are so incomprehensible they might as well be in Urdu to Filipinos.

It’s not just a matter of grammatical lucidity (although the grammar of certain regime honchos is as bad as their pronunciations) but of contextual and logical sense. When Ermita says a cabinet revamp is likely, and Bunye denies it, claiming that it’s just media speculation that’s made it to the news pages and broadcasts, it flies in the face of Mrs. Arroyo’s relieving Ebdane and naming Gilbert Teodoro in his place, for example.

When Raul Gonzalez declares that hes dropping the charges against Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan because the evidence against him “had never been strong,” it naturally provokes questions like why did the Department of Justice file the charges in the first place? Does it mean that the DOJ files charges like inciting rebellion and coup attempts whimsically and on the basis of weak, perhaps non-existent evidence?

What about the case of AnakPawis party list congressman Crispin Beltran, the rebellion charges against whom the Supreme Court had ordered dropped, but who remains under detention because the DOJ is appealing that decision? And the multiple murder charges against Beltran’s colleague in Bayan Muna, Satur Ocampo? How strong is the evidence in those charges?

And what was Gonzalez saying two days ago when he said that Republic Act 9372, the anti-terrorism law euphemistically labeled The Human Security Act of 2007, did not allow the wire tapping of media communications? He also said the media could not be forced to reveal their sources because of a law which precisely says so–but then proceeded to point out that the same law does compel journalists to reveal the sources of their reports if national security is involved.

While regime officials appear to be saying something, in too many cases what they’re saying doesn’t make sense because it clashes with both reason and reality.

The same questions of contextual coherence and plain sense were bedeviling reason last week, when Raul Gonzalez’ virtual twin, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, assumed–only temporarily, the nation was assured, since former Tarlac congressman Gilbert Teodoro would be taking over within a month–the defense post.

Gonzales claimed in a speech before the military that “the enemies of the state” had succeeded in their propaganda campaign of “showing as if we are the ones doing wrong when we’re offering our lives in the defense of what we know to be the best for our people, our freedom, our democracy.” That statement said volumes about Gonzales’ and his military henchmen’s mindset (they decide what’s good for the rest of us). But Gonzales was referring to the extrajudicial killings, responsibility for which has been firmly laid on the military by both national and international human rights groups as well as the UN.

“We are accused of extrajudicial killings. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

What should not be allowed to continue? The killings or the accusation? Gonzales was at that point obviously referring to the accusation, and proceeded to “assure the men and women in uniform that we will not allow the enemies of the state to deceive our people.”

That implied several possibilities: one is that the regime will intensify its admitted propaganda efforts to counter the propaganda campaign of the “enemies of the state”; another is that the regime will use other means to stop the “deception.” Otherwise known as “reading between the lines,” contextual analysis tended to suggest that what Gonzales was actually saying was that it is such means as the physical elimination of the “enemies of the state” that will stop the accusation.

Gonzales in fact also urged the military to ignore criticisms of it, which are currently focused on its role in the extrajudicial killings that have put the Philippines on the radar screens of every human rights groups and several governments on the planet.

Instead, he said the military should just do its job, “quietly,” he said, although he immediately contradicted himself by saying that “we cannot be so quiet these days.”

Ignoring criticism is the luxury of authoritarian regimes and their agencies, even as “doing their job” in the present context can mean, among others, the military’s continuing on its present path of labeling as “enemies of the state” anyone and any group that disagrees with or is critical of the regime, and at least legitimizing their elimination. Conclusion: Gonzales was saying ignore what Philippine human rights and other civil society groups are saying; ignore the Supreme Court, ignore the UN; ignore Amnesty International, the US Senate. Ignore most of all the pleas of the wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of the murdered and disappeared.

The seeming incoherence of Gonzales was in short proclaiming to this country and the world that the murderous forces at work in these, among the darkest days for the rights and lives of that segment of humanity we know as Filipinos, will not be deterred. Rather will they continue to “do their job.” There is thus logic in this incoherence as there can be reason in madness.


Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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