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Lies, damned lies

President Duterte recently poked the festering wound that is the Marcos ill-gotten wealth and pronounced that it had yet to be proven. In so doing in a speech Tuesday at the national assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, the lawyer-president flouted the Supreme Court ruling in July 2003 that Swiss deposits amassed by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife “are deemed unlawfully acquired as ill-gotten wealth,” as well as the Sandiganbayan conviction of Imelda Marcos in 2018 on seven counts of graft involving Swiss bank accounts that she had opened and maintained as a highly placed official of her husband’s martial rule.

It’s not certain if Salvador Panelo is preparing to announce that President Duterte was again joking, and possibly blame the media for making much of yet another presidential “hyperbole.” The Malacañang mouthpiece has done so a number of times before, as when, for example, his boss let loose with a shocking mouthful on bishops, calling on neighborhood bums to rob them and, if they resist, to kill them. Panelo claimed that it was the President’s “style” to speak crassly, that his audiences were accustomed to being thus addressed, and that it was the fault of the opposition and critics of the administration that men of the cloth, including Caloocan Bishop Pablo David, were receiving death threats—if indeed, he added, incredibly, these threats were real.

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The election campaign is being waged in this toxic atmosphere, with the top official of the land actively pushing the administration’s senatorial slate and issuing jaw-dropping statements while at it. It behooves woke young people to listen carefully and to constantly check the facts so as to separate the chaff from the grain, so as to identify the patently bull. After all, the claim about the Marcos ill-gotten wealth—supposedly unproven despite, according to the Supreme Court in 2003, “the avalanche of documentary evidence against” the former first couple—stands to not only benefit the candidacy of the dictator’s daughter but also to validate Duterte’s decision to allow the burial of the dictator’s remains in the cemetery for heroes.

The truth is on record, and the millennials insulted by the dictator’s daughter when she claimed they were quite ready to move on from the (yet unresolved) issue of the martial law years are well equipped to find it. And act on it in the voting booths.

And the truth will inevitably bob like a corpse to the surface, as the dictator’s daughter has been duly apprised. Having padded her CV with claims of being among the first female graduates of the Ivy League Princeton University and of eventually graduating from the UP College of Law, both supposedly with scholastic excellence, she has caused her manufactured laurels to be fact-checked by media outfits. The result: official statements from responsible officials of these two institutions that they have no records to that effect.

Still another result is that details are coming out of the woodwork, giving Filipino working students currently trying to get by on dismal funds and frayed nerves an idea of how the candidate lived while studying religion and politics at Princeton in the mid- to late 1970s, at the peak of her father’s martial rule: that she was staying with a security detail in an off-campus estate purchased by her mother, that she was chauffeured to school and back. Etc.

In the face of this flood of information fleshing out the candidate’s background—an online commenter warned that if the dictator’s daughter didn’t watch out, the lowdown on her marriage to the divorced golfer and his mysterious “kidnapping” could soon hit the fan—she is out there pitching without missing a beat; like some of her fellows in the administration slate, she is behaving as though their stained records (she for allegations of gubernatorial misuse of Ilocos Norte’s share of the tobacco taxes, among others; they for charges of plunder) should not matter in the voter’s reckoning.

Lies, damned lies are animating Philippine political life, calling to mind what the German social democrat Kurt Schumacher said in 1932 in the course of assailing Nazism: “a continuous appeal to the inner swine” in people by “ceaselessly mobilizing human stupidity.” In their sorties, the administration candidates are engaging in the old song-and-dance and attempting stand-up comedy—apparently a studied contrast to the opposition slate, which Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, in her capacity as the administration’s high priestess of change, has described as “dark,” “depressing,” and, as though it were a heinous crime, “obsessed with debate.”

In civilized countries, public debate is an important factor with which to measure a candidate’s capability to take on a government post that, quite simply, impacts the very lives of millions of others. Debate presents the candidates as what they are and what they can be if they make the cut. A grasp of the issues that bedevil a constituency and the wisdom to imagine and push solutions to age-old problems that have chained millions to poverty are infinitely crucial. Dissembling will show. Fakery can only do so much.

And ignorance is fatal. Speaking with reporters, an administration candidate desirous of another crack at a Senate seat that he had handily won on a white horse, as it were, said he was not keen on participating in a debate with other candidates. Asked why, he said the others knew things he didn’t know. But then, he said, he also knew things they didn’t. Such as? Well, he said, he knew how to direct a movie—did they know that?

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TAGS: ill-gotten wealth, marcos, opinion, Philippines
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