Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Throwing the Kitchen Sink

We are now in the homestretch of a marathon election campaign where the runners have to sprint to the finish line, where it now goes quickly from ugly to really ugly. It’s kitchen sink time when candidates behind in the count start throwing everything at the frontrunner. In the case of Manny Villar, who has invested billions of pesos of his personal fortune into his presidential campaign, this means throwing the previously discredited hoax of a psych report back at Noynoy Aquino with full force one final time.

Three weeks ago, according to former CNN correspondent now Managing Director of ABS-CBN News Maria Ressa, unidentified individuals in Villar's Nacionalista Party released a psych report about Noynoy Aquino that supposedly came from Ateneo’s Psychology Department that was allegedly signed by Fr. Carmelo Caluag.

After Villar supporters spread the derogatory report virally throughout the Internet and to the mainstream media, it was exposed as a hoax by Fr. Caluag who was the principal of the Ateneo High School at the time the report was done and who had no connection with Ateneo’s Psychology Department.

While conceding that the psych report was a hoax though not admitting that he had anything to do with it, Villar nonetheless demanded that Noynoy submit to psychological testing to prove that he is fit to be president. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA), through a Malacanang spokesman, echoed Villar’s call and asked the public to consider the “brain health” of the candidates before making their choice.

Undeterred by the backfire this desperate "Hail Mary" approach has unleashed, the Nacionalista Party this week, through spokesman Guido Delgado, released a second psych report again alleging that Noynoy suffered from depression and melancholia when he was a 19-year old college student. This time the report was allegedly signed by Fr. Jaime Bulatao of the Ateneo Psychology Department. The only problem with the report is that, like the first one, it is also bogus as Fr. Bulatao himself confirmed.

Since citing the names of actual people can be dangerous as the claims can be easily repudiated, the Villar supporters now attribute their Noynoy psych reports to anonymous sources. First there was “Tomcat”, a supposed Ateneo classmate of Noynoy, who described Noynoy’s erratic behavior in grade school. The latest salvo comes from my friend, Mila Aguilar, a supporter of Brother Ed Villanueva, who sent out to her yahoogroups the April 24, 2010 "Clincher" hit piece of Philippine Star columnist Carmen "Chit" Pedrosa who cited as her source a friend who is “a private person who received information she feels must be told. She is connecting a story many years ago when Noynoy was a young boy in Boston.” In law, this would be called quadruple hearsay.

Though Mila sent out Chit’s column to everyone on her email list, she included a warning to readers that Carmen Pedrosa and another columnist, Belinda Cunanan, “are tainted sources since we all know whom they are for.” Chit has been an outspoken advocate for Charter Change and a supporter of the president who backs it.

The strange coincidence is that Chit’s column appeared in the same week she unexpectedly dropped by my office in San Francisco for a friendly chat. Chit is an old friend whom I had not seen since late 1970 when she wrote “The Untold Story of Imelda Romualdez Marcos”. She and her late husband, Albert, had to flee to London when Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

In our candid conversation, I expressed my disappointment at the vitriolic attacks she had been leveling against Noynoy Aquino. I asked her why she was so merciless. Chit explained that she believes Noynoy is America’s candidate and, as she stated in a previous column, “we have to assert our sovereignty and independence against those who think they can manipulate our politics, to suit their own agenda”.

I told her that I thought that view was “soo 1970”. The world has changed considerably since then. The Cold War is over and the Philippines is not as important to the US now as it was during the Vietnam War when the US had military bases in the Philippines. Just because the majority of Filipinos in the US support Noynoy’s candidacy doesn’t mean the US supports Noynoy. I wish it did.

When Chit asked me what I have against Pres. Arroyo, I said "Ampatuan". I explained that I wasn't just referring to the November 24, 2009 brutal massacre of 58 journalists and members of the family of Andal Ampatuan's political rival by the Ampatuans but also to the whole corrupt political system where GMA coddles and through prok barrel funds financially supports warlords like the Ampatuans all over the Philippines as long as they deliver the votes to her.

GMA is so beholden to the Ampatuans that if they asked her to dismiss the murder charges against two Ampatuan uncles, she would do so. Ampatuan Jr. is so beholden to GMA that if she asked him to wear a yellow shirt and flash an "L" sign at a press conference in his jail cell, he would do it for her even though he had personally expressed his support for Manny Villar. Of course the acts are not inconsistent.

I could have gone on and on but Chit had to go so we promised to see each other again after the elections.

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