In the future, the way the Armed Forces of the Philippines twisted itself into knots and lost its credibility in the “Red October” controversy will be studied in officer schools and defense colleges as a perfect example of WHAT NOT TO DO. It can be the subject matter of an entire class, under a catalogue listing like this: “Embarrass your institution and shame yourself, in 8 steps.”
Step 1. Fabricate a so-called conspiracy out of nothing. You don’t need to do it yourself. You can just wait for your principal, say the commander in chief himself, to start the ball rolling. After President Duterte returned from his unexpectedly less-than-successful visits to Israel and Jordan, and in a transparent attempt to further rationalize the unexpected but also unsuccessful attempt to arrest Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV while he was away, the chief executive asserted that three groups were working together to oust him. “I have my sources from other countries that provide me with the information,” he said. (Note the alleged source of his alleged intelligence, for future use.)
Step 2. Name as conspirators those parties who, for personal or political or ideological reasons, are averse to each other. Again, you don’t need to do anything first. You can let your principal’s imagination run wild. “Tatlo ’yan, bantayan ninyo. ’Yang yellow, Liberal, Trillanes, pati ang politburo,” the President said. (There are three of them, watch: The yellow or Liberal Party, Trillanes, even the politburo of the Communist Party of the Philippines.) Never mind how former soldiers like Trillanes and other members of his Magdalo group could ever see themselves working with CPP founder Jose Maria Sison; even the CPP’s united front politics would draw a line at working with a group like Magdalo. As for the Liberals—why would they endanger the vice presidency of LP chair Leni Robredo with an alliance with Sison?
Step 3. Support your principal’s fabricated conspiracy. This is where you come in. You can assume the role of Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., who asserted on Sept. 21 that the ouster plot was real. And then over the weekend, you can even give the conspiracy a name.
Step 4. Give your fabricated conspiracy the most obvious this-is-a-conspiracy name you can think of. Maybe start (and end) with Red October. You know, the communists would like that, because of historical reasons. The other parties (alleged) would like that, too, because who doesn’t want to join an obvious conspiracy; that’s, like, social currency. Above all, the media would like it, because you know those professional journalists, they always like it when their intelligence is insulted.
Step 5. Then prove your loyalty to your principal by digging in even deeper. Assert more details. Say, accuse universities of hosting “information drives” by alleged communist sympathizers taking dictation (allegedly) from Sison. Begin with a list of 10. Then increase that to 18. Then keep quiet when it turns out that one of those universities does not in fact exist. (Maybe you can blame this on the “sources from other countries,” who surely cannot be expected to know which Philippine schools are genuine and which are fiction.)
Step 6. Assert that the core of the information drive that seeks to recruit future communist rebels is—wait for it, it’s really worth it—video about the human rights abuses committed during the Marcos martial law regime. Then defend that, the way Parlade did, by linking the dead dictator to your principal. Say that you have your own sources; do not bring up the subject of alleged foreign intel.
Step 7. When you are forced to defend your budget in the chambers of Congress, take back some of the things you or your principal said. Say that the Liberal Party is not in fact involved in the alleged conspiracy. Is there a “coalition between the Liberal Party and the Communist Party to oust Duterte?” You can answer forthrightly: “Sir, none, sir.” Then, under further questioning, say that the Magdalo group is also not involved.
Step 8. Fail to establish a direct causal relationship between the alleged conspiracy and the alleged objective of the conspiracy: the President’s ouster. Keep the discussion at the level of student recruitment, because that’s easier to assert and helps keep those pesky students—those who have the temerity to express their love of country through the use of the fruits of their studies, imagine that—well in line. But never, never use the term “scare tactic.” You don’t want people to think you don’t know what you’re doing.
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