All governments lie, sometimes to advance what they perceive to be the interests of the societies they serve, but often for self-serving reasons.

George W. Bush lied about finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (a claim he made over Polish TV in late 2003), Saddam Hussein’s phantom links to Al Qaeda, and Iraq’s being a “threat” to the United States and the whole Western world.

Bush was joined in these claims by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who at one point alleged that Saddam Hussein could unleash his (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction against the nearest targets “in 45 minutes.”

Bush and Blair lied to justify the 2003 attack on Iraq, which, to Bush at least, was necessary not only for his friends in Big Oil to get their hands on the world’s second largest oil reserves, but to further US global dominance in the “New American Century.” Not only billions of dollars were at stake. So was the world order, which US capitalism was and is determined to shape via US political and military power.

These are at least grand delusions, and one has to give the US neo-conservatives some credit. They may equate US interests with the interests of the multinationals. They may demonstrate their disdain for the governed by manipulating them into agreeing to the use of their taxes to illegally attack sovereign nations. But at least they clothe their shoddy aims in grand terms: they’re saving the world from terror; they’re bringing democracy and its blessings to Iraq and the Middle East.

Here in the country of Filipino misery, only the shoddiness of the aims behind regime lies are evident. The Arroyo regime lies through its teeth first and last to remain in power, and for no aim grander than greed. Sure, there’s some greed involved in invoking democracy to attack other countries and to kill hundreds of thousands. But at least the neo-cons think they’re assuring US dominance over the planet in the process.

In contrast, beyond vague allusions to democracy, a regime that barely understands the concept so studiously avoids telling the truth that the contrast between what it says and what’s happening in reality couldn’t be any sharper.

It’s talking about an economic boom, for example, but can’t explain why many Filipinos subsist on less than three meals a day and have to sleep under bridges. It says it’s committed to press freedom– while journalists are besieged with libel suits and continue to be killed like flies. “Democracy” falls from its lips with regular precision–even as it suspends unfriendly local officials and sics the military on political activists.

What this regime is doing is beyond lying in the sense of not telling the truth. What it does most of the time is deliberately disseminate manufactured information, to the extent of citing non-existent documents and even events, relying on its presumed credibility to be believed. What it doesn’t know is that its credibility is so shot few Filipinos would believe it if it said the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.

The latest of these attempts comes from a regime source informed Filipinos have by now stopped listening to. This time that source has outdone himself by making a claim so outlandish only specially-sheltered children would believe it.

Regime security adviser Norberto Gonzales claims that the New People’s Army has hatched a plot to assassinate deposed President Joseph Estrada, which it will then blame on the regime so as to “destabilize it”. The NPA will do this, says Gonzales, because the party-list groups Gonzales has tagged as its fronts have lost “50 percent” of their support. Presumably, assassinating Estrada and blaming it on the regime would result in the “front organizations’” recovering their lost support.

In addition, says Dream Weaver Gonzales, former Communist Party Chair Jose Ma. Sison has also “ordered” from his place of exile in the Netherlands the assassination of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Raul Gonzalez, retired General Jovito Palparan, and himself.

These claims were followed by the Philippine National Police’s limiting visitors to Estrada to his lawyers and members of his immediate family, and by strict controls over his personal communications. Senate President Manuel Villar and his family were among the first to be affected. Estrada’s police custodians prevented them from visiting Estrada last Saturday in his Tanay rest house where he is detained. Villar and Estrada were supposed to confer on the former’s inclusion in the opposition senatorial ticket. No visit, no conference.

The motive behind Gonzales’ claim that there’s an assassination plot against Estrada—to prevent him from active involvement in the opposition campaign– is so obvious it defies discussion. What’s surprising about it is Gonzales and the regime’s actually thinking that the public would believe it. It takes a certain level of gall, a huge measure of contempt for the public, and total ignorance about the state of regime credibility to concoct a story so convoluted and so obvious in its real intent even Manny Pacquiao should be able to see through it.

There are distinct advantages in telling the truth, among them contributing to, rather than poisoning, the well of information the public needs to make sense of what’s happening. Unfortunately the truth is not an option for regimes built on lies.

(Business Mirror)

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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