Gary Olivar, oddly enough while defending his boss’ non-attendance at the joint session of Congress last week that was supposed to review Presidential Proclamation 1959, let slip last Thursday (December 10) what he really thought about the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.

One of the few Arroyo officials with at least half a brain, Olivar was explaining to the media why Mrs. Gloria Macapagal chose to attend to her other appointments last Wednesday (December 9) rather than show herself in Congress. Olivar harrumphed that neither the representatives of the people nor the senators of the supposedly strong but in reality limp Republic have any right to tell Her Majesty what she may or may not do.

“The President’s schedule is not theirs to make. It is for her to make,” Olivar said in a statement that implied that what’s in place in the country of our anguish isn’t a Republic but a monarchy.

Olivar went on to say that “she is a busy person. She has a full schedule. We should not begrudge her the right to prioritize the use of her time so that every minute is spent to the utmost to fulfilling the duties of her office.”

Mrs. Arroyo, the media found out soon enough “fulfilled” such crucial duties of the Presidency last December 9 as the conversion of a Bulacan college into a university, and campaigning in her home province of Pampanga, in the second district of which she’s running as a Congresswoman.

After mouthing the usual Palace script — “we hope for a successful conclusion to this inquiry (sic) — the filing of charges, the meting out of the proper punishment, the restoration of peace and order, perhaps the beginning of the disbanding of private armies and the culture of private armies.”

By “inquiry” Olivar presumably meant the investigation into the November 23 Maguindanao massacre of at least 57 people including at least 30 journalists and media workers, and the arrests of the presumed perpetrators of a deed for which even the English language does not have enough words to describe.

Olivar, a student activist before the Marcos declaration of martial law in 1972, added that “Maybe a good thing can come out of this bad thing.”

By “this bad thing,” Olivar was unmistakeably referring to the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao, perhaps provoked by memories of that oh-so-remote period when, as a University of the Philippines student, he saw for himself how one entire generation of the best sons and daughters of the Filipino people were being arrested, tortured, and in over 3,000 cases, killed extra judicially. Some memories do remind even those who have made their peace with an establishment so brutal and so unjust it cries out to the heavens for change, of what the pangs of conscience feel like.

No such memories as Olivar’s disturb the peace of mind of Cerge Remonde, whose every statement in defense of Mrs. Arroyo is accompanied by the perpetual leer one usually sees only in the self-assurance of small minds. Reacting to the criticisms that were being raised against the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao by some members of Congress, Rermonde erected the usual straw figures so he could attack them: he assumed without proving it that those who opposed the declaration were all Ampatuan partisans.

“A vocal minority has joined agitators outside and inside the halls of Congress in condemnation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” said Remonde. “The crisis in Maguindanao has become, for them, fresh fodder for their political black propaganda.”

Remonde went on to inflict upon the public some of his cliché-ridden prose: “Are they now shedding copious tears in sympathy with Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., others in the clan and some 160 individuals who have been arrested or are about to be arrested for planning or directly participating in the gruesome massacre?”

Only the ill-informed or malicious would have fallen for Remonde’s display of sudden concern over Ampatuan power. It was his boss who in the first place tolerated that clan’s horrible rule over Maguindanao, including their amassing arms and ammunition sourced from the Department of Defense as well as politicians allied with the ruling Arroyo coalition. This same clan delivered the, literally, command votes from the fraud factory called Maguindanao that helped clinch Mrs. Arroyo’s alleged victory in the 2004 Presidential elections; and the same clan that in 2007 assured her Team Unity Senate candidates an 8-0 win in that province. That is why, in the wake of the November 23 massacre, another Arroyo spokesperson, the appropriately named Lorelei Fajardo, could proclaim without flinching that Mrs. Arroyo, despite being duty bound to cause their prosecution as prime suspects in the massacre, would remain friends with the Ampatuans.

To accuse everyone opposed to PP1959 of being in sympathy with the Ampatuans is of a piece with the dishonesty and total indifference to public sentiment that has been a hallmark of the most despised administration in Philippine history — during whose watch the worst crimes against political and human rights activists as well as the media have been committed.

Public sentiment is in fact the least of the concerns of the pretend democracy over which Remonde’s boss presides. She ignores the surveys, which her subalterns periodically claim are bought and paid for by her enemies. She ignores the opinions of even some of her own allies, such as the certifiably sane Miriam Defensor Santiago, whose criticism of PP1959 probably made the most sense last week. Remonde’s boss also ignores mass outrage over the corruption that has metastasized throughout her government, and insists, despite her Hades-level approval and trust ratings, on holding on to power in whatever form.

But if Mrs. Arroyo is out of sync with the very people she claims to be serving, most of her spokespersons are completely out of it, one suspects because, when proclaiming this or that falsehood as truth, they actually believe it — in one more horrid demonstration of the verity that while the truth can set you free, lies will keep you and what passes for your mind in shackles.


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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  1. Sir Louie, Hello! Do you maintain this site by yourself? And have you no more interest in Twitter? Your account has not been updated since June of last year. It is to some degree annoying. But I go through your essays here every chance I get. I hope you’ve had a wonderful season of beers and cheers =) and have tea with you this year (and meet you personally at last). Perhaps, with my teacher, EGarcellano, if fortunate? Are you mostly on UP campus?

    Just great greetings, I suppose (?),

  2. Oh my! When I said “annoying” in the previous post, I referred to Twitter as a whole, not your absence on the site… Pls forgive the error… Sorry!

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