POSTSCRIPT / October 23, 2007 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Give explosion probers time and space to work

LET’S WAIT: It is the height of irresponsibility for anyone to suggest this early that the Arroyo administration was behind the Glorietta-2 explosion in Makati last Friday or — the opposite — that Malacanang had nothing to do with it.

The reason for withholding judgment either way is that nobody — not even the investigators on the case – has hard evidence as to what or who caused the blast that claimed 11 lives and injured more than a hundred.

Give the investigators — aided by experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Navy – enough time and space to concentrate on their difficult task.

Meantime, refuse to be inflamed by wild talk or lulled into complacency by official denial. Let us watch and wait.

* * *

THEORIES: By force of bad habit, some senior senators have been yakking that Malacanang plotted the bloody blast to divert attention from the scandalous doling out of millions to local officials who were called to a Palace meeting last Oct. 11.

No proof was presented when they tossed around their theory that Malacanang was behind the explosion and their demand that, therefore, President Gloria Arroyo should resign.

It was unfortunate that some news-hungry individuals, for lack of any other likely story to devour, swallowed their line.

* * *

PREMATURE: But it is just as irresponsible for anybody to say without basis that the hands of President Arroyo or her allies, including those in the military, are clean.

No convincing evidence has been offered, either way, on the possible complicity of the Palace. But the burden of proof is always on those who make accusations.

What we have so far are speculations of politicians whose bias is coming out of their pores and reports of writers claiming to have talked with sources requesting “anonymity” (a tired term that should be retired).

At this point, it is premature to make conclusions clearing, or putting the blame on, anybody.

* * *

LOOSE LINE: One senator cast a loose line that since the explosion pushed down the Front Page value of the Palace cash dole-out story, President Arroyo and his boys must have engineered the blast!

Another senator exposed his level of logic when he said that since the police have not solved the mystery 48 hours after the big blast, there must be a coverup being orchestrated by Malacanang.

Still another senator insisted that his pals in the military had told him of a Malacanang plot to sow diversionary violence. On the basis of that hearsay, assuming he did not concoct it himself, this junior solon struck a pose of one holding the key to the riddle.

For harboring such creatures, the Senate might as well be converted into a zoo.

* * *

TANGLED TALE: Some publicity hounds sniffed in the Glorietta shambles what they said smelled like C4 (an explosive in the military arsenal) and concluded that the President’s loyalists in the armed forces must have planted the bomb(s) for her.

An earlier story spread like wildfire that somebody from a certain Rajah Solaiman Movement had boasted in a cellphone call that his group did it and that there would be more violence if some conditions were not met.

Thank gad, the media that unwittingly helped spread the Solaiman story noticed some loose ends and dropped the tangled tale.

* * *

PUBLIC INFO: The wide acceptance of such unlikely theories without evidence or authoritative attribution demonstrated once more that in this neck of the woods:

1. Where there is a dearth of information, speculation is rife.

2. When the administration’s credibility is low, its susceptibility to suspicion is high.

By the time rumors on the bombing are discredited and discarded, harm would have been inflicted on the public mind and the administration image.

On item #1, one lesson is that government must keep the public informed to minimize room for speculation.

On item #2, there is a clear need for the Arroyo administration to shore up its credibility.

* * *

MEDIA SUFFER: One problem in media is that, by extension, we usually suffer with the decline in the credibility of the government that we write about.

As bearer of the message, we are often mistaken for the source of any false or faulty information.

If a newspaper reports, for instance, that PAGASA (they should change that tortured acronym of the weather bureau that purports to offer hope [“pagasa”]) forecast fine weather today and it rained, the public is likely to lambaste the newspaper, not PAGASA.

If a journalist does not go with the frenzy of flogging Gloria Arroyo as she stumbles down the road, he is denounced by her bitter critics as in the payroll of Malacanang.

In the Glorietta incident, writers who do not echo and amplify the opposition line that the Palace was behind the explosion are liable to be tagged as Palace paid apologists. Oh, well….

* * *

MIXED REACTIONS: Early reactions via email are split 50-50 to my suggestion (see Postscript last Oct. 21) that President Arroyo:

1. Shed her partisan affiliation and stop all her partisan activities on the homestretch of her term.

2. Transfer to a new foundation her and her husband’s assets (except for the family residence). The foundation will not accept donations.

3. Ban her husband from transactions and anything that relates to government and public funds. He should also liquidate his own foundation before Christmas.

To claim the moral high ground, unite the nation and lead, President Arroyo must affirm her solidarity with the masses, make her anti-graft campaign credible, and show her and her husband’s lack of pecuniary interest in the presidency.

The emails showed also that her more virulent critics are beyond forgiving and allowing her to move on unobstructed.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 23, 2007)

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