POSTSCRIPT / August 11, 2009 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Gov drops Mama Mary, Mac on advisers’ say-so

MAC IS OUT: Pity Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio, who seems to have lost his capacity to say no to people who have wormed their way deep into his system.

That happens when one does not have a mind of his own, a character flaw in someone who claims to have been instructed by God to run for president.

Firing his lawyer Romulo Macalintal from his case pending with the Commission on Elections, Panlilio said that since he planned to hit President Arroyo, an adviser told him to get rid of Macalintal for being a lawyer of the President.

Terminating the services of his lawyer is his prerogative as client. But as a presumptive presidential candidate, Panlilio should be man enough to own it, instead of lamely attributing it to advisers.

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FALSE WITNESS: In the first place, Panlilio knew from the very beginning that Macalintal was (and still is) a lawyer of Ms Arroyo. Why did he retain Macalintal when his slim victory in the 2007 provincial election was protested by the loser?

Why should he, with premeditation, now drag the President into the case? Is he saying that the Supreme Court directed the Comelec to proceed with the poll recount at the instigation of Malacanang?

Panlilio the priest knows it is a sin to bear false witness. He has to prove the President’s hand in the case.

My gut feel is that a lawyer wants to bump off Macalintal and hog the limelight. Never mind that Macalintal and three other top election lawyers were providing the strategy and backup — pro bono! — and this lawyer merely rewrote and signed the papers.

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MAMA MARY: Panlilio’s not having a mind of his own was also illustrated in his removal of a statue of the Virgin Mary from his office at the capitolio. This was a gift given by Fr. Robert Reyes (the “running priest”) after he won as governor.

Reportedly on advice again of a very close adviser known to be a religious fundamentalist who abhors religious icons, Panlilio removed the statue in the name of “ecumenism.” It was most startling to see a priest casting away Mama Mary on the say-so of a favorite aide.

He tried to explain that he just moved the statue to his cottage at Clark Field so he could sleep with it. That is a rather strange thing to say considering that most people in Clark know that Panlilio seldom sleeps there.

Pampanguenos could be worldly at times, but they are also known for their deep religiosity. The bad handling of Mama Mary by a priest-turned-politico is sacrilegious in the eyes of many cabalen.

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THANKLESS JOB: During the week of Cory Aquino’s passing, I learned all over again what decades of hard-boiled journalism supposedly had taught me — that giving opinion in a newspaper column is akin to cleaning an estero as a matter of civic duty.

The cleaner gets splattered with dirt in the process.

Now, most of us do not mind getting our hands and clothes soiled as we work. But it is disheartening when we find the dirt laced with the cynical hostility or suspicion of narrow minds.

At this point, it is best to give up the thankless chore. It is time for the opinion writer to drop the subject of Cory.

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JAUNDICE: While there are men of goodwill who value informed opinion given in good faith, there are others who cling to their biases like they do security blankets — they feel naked without them. They fight mightily to keep themselves wrapped up in their prejudices.

They reject contrary opinion without the least cursory evaluation. Worse, they then proceed to assail not the opinion or argument of the writer but the writer’s person.

This case of jaundice is prevalent in political debate. A more specific example: when a writer does not hit President Arroyo hard enough or if he says anything even remotely favorable to her, he is tagged as a paid hack of the administration.

It is as if a writer has to keep criticizing a sitting President just to prove his integrity or objectivity.

This is absurd, because there is no such thing as an objective column. By definition, a column, being an opinion piece, is opinionated. And opinion is subjective, never objective.

It is the duty of a journalist, or any other person for that matter, to speak out of conviction however unpopular his ideas may seem. But partisans do not see it that way.

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DRIFT ALONG?: The late Doroy Valencia used to tell us it is easy to become a popular columnist. Just write what people are saying, he said, and they will hail you as brilliant because you echo their thoughts. They embrace you as their mouthpiece and champion.

But must one just drift along with the tide? If a writer happens to harbor contrary opinion, does he clam up just so he does not antagonize or hurt anybody and provoke censure?

It is not always easy putting in print our innermost feelings and honest opinion on burning issues. There are times when, writing out of conviction or a sense of duty, we even end up hurting friends of long-standing.

But most of us who have grown grizzled in this game do not find it difficult casting aside hurt feelings and glossing over ties that bind.

Still, it is sad that this nation has been captured and rent apart by politicians who shoot down anything and anyone interfering with their darkest plots.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 11, 2009)

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