Truth and Honesty Assassinated

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

It is, indeed, hunting season. During this campaign period, the worst of Filipinos will again rise to the surface. At a time when a candidates\’s credentials and vision for the country ought to be the focus of the campaign, it is the opposite that happens. Many political operators and their image doctors are naturally hampered by the baggage of their own candidates and must find ways and means to win nevertheless. The most common option, therefore, is to try to bring down all rivals who are ahead of their candidate clients by highlighting the negatives of these rivals – whether true or not.

A quick look at newspapers and tabloids, and even at the growing email market in the Internet, will show how creativity can be twisted to become depravity with distorted information masquerading as objective opinions snake their way to our computer screens. In commercial advertisements or press releases, the general public anticipates that the best or the good side of the concerned individual or group will be highlighted. But in black propaganda, in order to be effective, bits and pieces of truth are interspersed with half-truths and slanderous comments. There is no such thing as “truth in advertising” guiding those who write to demolish the character and popularity of rivals of their clients, only how best to destroy what is favorable about the targets of their dark minds.

Of course, it is the leading candidates who absorb most of the impact of dirty operations. Just as true is the almost complete neglect of other candidates who do not have a chance to win. In a presidential election like what we will have in May of this year, the leading candidate, Noynoy Aquino, then becomes the target of most of the black propaganda that pollutes our national soul. That he contends against rivals known for their money and power, or the money and power of the Gloria administration, all the more aggravates a situation where demolition jobs begin with traces of truth that are twisted along the way to wall-to-wall lies from a phalanx of guns-for-hire or human beings who derive pleasure from unloading their spite on an innocent public.

It is amazing to see that there are so many who deal with lies as part of their daily lives and still manage to sleep well at night. This state of life is the saddest aspect of Philippine society. It indicates that evil can, indeed, be dominant and is able to exploit the level of ignorance of many Filipinos. The masters of spin and propaganda know that lies, if said often enough, can actually sound like truth. That is why the atmosphere is suddenly full of information that Filipinos had never ever heard before. The capacity of perverted minds to manufacture lies and then distributed as truth indicates that they should have been scriptwriters. But then again, good scriptwriters are able to draw their audience to imagine truth in a make-believe setting while many of guns-for-hire in the Philippines could never produce anything close to professional standards.

There are candidates whose war chest can afford to buy the best and worst of writers. Because they have great amounts of money and attract many for-pay writers and jukeboxes, they are also less discriminating or thrifty – they just pay them all. In the decades that I have been observing presidential campaigns up close, it always amazed me how the richest candidates end up with the dirtiest operators. And I had often thought in my younger days that money sort of pushed the refinement of one’s mindset and lifestyle. By now, of course, I know better. Money is simply money. Its vastness is no guarantee of gentility or breeding.

The problem of black propaganda practitioners is that they eventually get exposed, not necessarily to the general public, but most definitely to their own industry members. While they try to live a life of lies, pretending to be clean though they are for sale and have been bought over and over again, their industry knows who they are, their specialities, their rates and their performance record. They are talked about, mostly in whispers, because the ones who usually gossip about paid hacks are also paid hacks or operators who are in charge of recruiting and buying them. It is still a small industry, thank God. I call them dominant not so much for their numbers but for their aggression.

When the Senate came up with the report condemning Manny Villar for the impropriety or crime of personally benefiting from his position and efforts in the C-5 controversy, it marked the second time that the same issue has found national and urgent prominence. By the level of concern, and panic on the ground in certain areas, it seems that the negative impact on Villar’s candidacy will require quick and effective responses. So far, the same trite line that the Senate report is politically motivated is about the only statement given so far by Villar’s defenders in the Senate. The challenge for Manny Villar is how not to become as vulnerable to the nuance of being a corrupt or dishonest public official who personally took charge in making his companies profit by the power and influence of his office.

In a moment in Philippine history when corruption and the “kawatans” (thieves) of government, especially politicians, have become the top of mind concern of voters, the brand of dishonesty will be a fatal imagery which money cannot just reverse anymore. More and more ordinary Filipinos are now beginning to understand the impact of corruption to their daily lives. Even though most voters carry as a prime concern the availability of regular employment, they are feeling in their gut that the lack of opportunity and jobs is deeply connected to the thievery of public officials.

It will also be spelled out in the weeks and months ahead that a dishonest person cannot be competent because his or her competence can only be used against the people and will be the greatest threat to the country. Our history has shown what dishonest people do, and that they have been able to steal hundreds of billions every year because they were smart and used their competence of rob Filipinos of both our national honor and the services so urgently needed by millions of poor citizens. Sooner more than later, Filipinos will understand that honesty and integrity are the fundamental virtues that can make competence an advantage instead of a way to plunder.

“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” Albert Camus

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