POSTSCRIPT / October 4, 2018 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Welcome, Mocha, to private media!

WELCOME to Mocha Uson, our Tuesday neighbor in this op-ed section, to the rough-and-tumble world of private media!

Although Mocha does not consider herself a journalist like us, she will find some of “our” rules somewhat similar to those for public information, a field she left yesterday after resigning as Assistant Secretary in the Presidential Communications and Operations Office.

It was wise of her to relieve President Duterte of the difficult decision of firing a supporter who had contributed much to his election and continued to defend his administration. He is known to be protective of his loyal friends.

At least, now Mocha will not be like the chameleons among us who write regularly for private media but are at the same time holding sinecures in government agencies or state-run firms.

We expect her to be incessantly reminded of past accountability required of those in public service. But even if detractors harp on her perceived excesses and errors while with the PCOO, we see these parting shots dying down eventually….

That is, if she herself quiets down — which does not seem to be her present disposition. In her resignation statement, she vowed to pursue with renewed vigor (“Bakbakan na talaga!”) those who had wronged her.

She said: “Para sa mga bumabatikos sa akin, huwag kayong magkakamaling isipin na nagtagumpay kayo. Hindi ako nagbitiw sa posisyon dahil takot ako sa inyo. Gusto ko lang na kapag magkaharap tayo, patas ang laban… Baling araw ay magkakaharap din po tayo. Hindi tulad niyo na nagtatago sa inyong posisyon, handa akong lumaban bilang isang ordinaryong Pilipino.

(Roughly translated: “To those criticizing me, you have not won the fight yet. I did not resign because I am scared of you, I just want the fight to be fair… We will meet again. I will fight as an ordinary citizen, unlike you who are hiding behind your powerful positions.”)

In her fight, Mocha may soon discover that she is handicapped by the sudden absence of government facilities, funds and amenities that had made easier, and pleasant, her “coverage” as a Malacañang communications official.

But we expect that even as a private blogger, she can count on the assistance of friends she had made in and outside the bureaucracy, not to mention the hordes of Duterte devotees and Overseas Filipino Workers following her on social media.

As a blogger hitting back with a vengeance, Mocha will be under closer scrutiny, with her every little misstep magnified. Whatever she labels herself – blogger at the moment – she will find herself constrained by the same penal laws and ethical codes that bind us journalist.

There could be some reordering of context and accountability if, as speculated, she decides to run for a public office under the wings of President Duterte – and wins.

 He isn’t the state; his admin isn’t the gov’t

AN old political trick is equating criticism of official action/inaction to destabilization, and group discussions of curbing bad administration to a conspiracy to overthrow the government.

After the suspicion of a destabilization plot is planted in the public mind, it becomes easier to disregard the Constitution, repress basic rights, coopt co-equal branches of government, and tame the opposition.

The way is thus prepared for a budding dictator’s replacing the Constitution with one suited to his ulterior designs.

The people should be roused from the distractions being beamed at them. They should realize that destabilization is actually being perpetrated by inept and corrupt officials pretending to lead them to peace and prosperity but are not delivering.

The truth must be exposed that the destabilization that the Duterte administration is warning about is self-inflicted.

We have to disabuse the public mind of certain misconceptions being spread by propaganda. Sorry if we have to restate these basics, but it seems even the President is confused, or is confusing the people, about them.

* First, while Rodrigo Roa Duterte is the President, he is not the state as in the classic “l’état, c’est moi.” Any citizen criticizing him is not attacking the state. The President is not even one of the elements of a state, but merely part of one of the elements, the government.

* Second, the President may have scared to submission or coopted multiple members of co-equal branches of government (the Legislature and the Judiciary), but he is still not the government. He has to act according to the Constitution.

* Third, his administration is not the government. Administrations come and go, but the government stays. Citizens criticizing the President or his administration are not necessarily attacking the government.

Precisely, citizens are encouraged to speak up on issues affecting them, as when they sense or see maladministration, when they have to suffer under rising prices, stagnant wages, runaway crime and corruption, traffic mess, and such abominable conditions.

It was in this context that we were somewhat relieved when Gen. Carlito Galvez, armed forces chief of staff, said Tuesday that only the Communist Party of the Philippines is involved in the reported “Red October” plot to overthrow the government.

Galvez also said that the Liberal Party and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV were not involved. We don’t know if he cleared them because he was in the Senate, which will have to pass upon the budget of the AFP, a bureau under the defense department.

Whatever his reason, it is significant that his publicly clearing the LP and Trillanes goes against the story line being peddled by Duterte that “Red October” is a conspiracy among the LP, the Magdalo Party (of Trillanes), the CPP, and the Catholic Church.

The President claimed on Sept. 8 upon his return from Jordan that he learned of the plot from a friendly foreign government. Malacañang insists there is collusion between communist elements and some LP members for the ouster of President Duterte.

Here we draw the distinction. It is normal, in fact healthy, that the opposition keeps checking the President in line with the check and balance principle enshrined in the Constitution. Duterte is not the government, much less the state.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 4, 2018)

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