There’s the Rub

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

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If Rico Puno had thought that following his appearance at the Senate he would see headlines and stories that proclaimed, “Puno clears name,” or “Puno proves critics wrong,” he was wrong. What came out instead were stories that said he had escaped the noose, he had dodged the bullet, he had managed to get away unscathed. That the House of Representatives has abandoned its own plan of hearing Puno has not been depicted as a result of the representatives being satisfied with his answers in the Senate. It has been depicted as the representatives being loath to experience the same frustrations Miriam Defensor-Santiago did.

Which raises the question: What has happened to our sense of fairness? What has happened to our sense of balance? Hell, what has happened to our capacity to think? Assuming we had them to begin with.

It’s an object lesson in the power of rumor, insinuation and innuendo to sway belief. They are the hardest things to dispel once they’ve taken root in the mind, once they’ve taken a life of their own. The storyline, as I said last week, is in fact a house of cards. Its ability to stand comes from each card leaning on the other and supporting each other, creating an illusion of solidity.

The storyline now goes like this: One, Puno did not just secure Jesse Robredo’s office, he secured Robredo’s house. He had no orders to. Therefore he did not secure Robredo’s house, he “insecured” it. Therefore he was a bantay-salakay.

Two, at the time of his death, Robredo was carrying out an investigation. Puno tried to steal documents from his house. Therefore Robredo was investigating him. Therefore Robredo was investigating him for an arms deal because that was what he was handling at the time.

Three, Puno signed the deal at the very time Mar Roxas was appointed DILG secretary. Therefore it was a midnight deal. Therefore Robredo had every reason to investigate him.

Four, P-Noy fired Puno. That is really what his resignation was all about: He was forced to resign. Therefore, P-Noy himself finally saw the light. Therefore P-Noy finally came to his senses. Therefore Puno is truly guilty.

Five, Miriam summoned Puno to a hearing on jueteng. Therefore, there must have been a basis for the accusations. Therefore Puno did not just profit from an arms deal, he profited from jueteng. Miriam failed abjectly to show it. Therefore Puno was more slippery than an eel. Therefore he knew he could not be touched because he had a powerful creator and protector.

Six, the House will no longer pursue its own hearing. Therefore Puno is the O.J. Simpson of the Philippines.

The persistence of that storyline, indeed the extent to which each new development is being bent to that logic, is astonishing. It’s not just because each part of that storyline has been shown to be without basis, it’s that every part of that storyline has been proven to be without truth. It’s not just because each part of that storyline has been unfounded, it’s that each part of that storyline has been proven to be false.

One, there was no raid, there was no overstepping orders, there was no theft of documents. Puno did as told, and did it by the book. Two, Robredo was not investigating Puno, if he was investigating at all. There is no shred of evidence to support either supposition. Three, it was not that Puno signed the contract on the day Roxas was appointed DILG secretary, it was that Roxas was appointed DILG secretary on the day the contract was signed. The signing went according to schedule, Roxas’ appointment went according to chance.

Four, Puno did resign and was not fired. In fact, he had been resigning for months now, and P-Noy kept telling him, “Diyan  ka  lang  muna.” Until when?—he kept asking. Until he said so, P-Noy kept answering. That can be easily checked.

While at this, that’s the other astonishing thing. If P-Noy fired Puno for finally believing he is corrupt, what does that make of P-Noy who says he continues to trust him and would like to give him another post in government? What does that make of his daang matuwid? Yet except for Bayan and the Arroyo camp, the people who are convinced Puno is guilty and have been pressing the idea have not gone on to charge

P-Noy with coddling a scoundrel. Even Miriam has to invent a creator and protector who has been pressuring P-Noy to exonerate Puno. The advantage of rumor, insinuation and innuendo is that nobody feels compelled to look at it too closely, or draw out its implications.

Five, Miriam summoned Puno because Miriam is Miriam. Without evidence, without preparation, without reason, she brought him to the Senate hoping to extract a confession from him out of fear of angering her and turning her into the Incredible Hulk. It was Puno who ended up doing the smashing, without having to turn big and green. As a former judge, Miriam said, she knew it was useless to extract the truth from someone who insisted on telling his truth. Heaven help the International Criminal Court.

Six, of course the House dropped its hearing. It wasn’t an exercise in futility, it was a reality check.

At least O.J. Simpson had a trial where the public was free to judge for itself his innocence or guilt. Puno did not. He has been found guilty without being charged, he has been found guilty without being tried. At the end of the day, he has not cleared his name, he has not proven his critics wrong. He has escaped the noose, he has dodged the bullet, he has managed to go scot-free. Or so if media are to be believed.

What’s wrong with dispelling rumor, insinuation and innuendo? What’s wrong with rectifying error? What’s wrong with having to admit you were wrong?

What’s this, hate means never having to say you’re sorry?

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