A season of truths
’TIS A season of truths in the Philippines. Or half-truths, as Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano would like us to understand and believe. And the bearers are many: President Duterte, the senators, the congresspersons, the justice secretary, the resource persons in the Senate and House hearings, even the convicted drug lords.
Mr. Duterte’s truth is that Sen. Leila de Lima is involved in the trade in illegal drugs, and that he is willing to stake his life, his honor and his presidency to finally solve the drug problem and crimes in the country. De Lima’s truth is that there is a Davao Death Squad (DDS) effectively performing extrajudicial killings, and that Mr. Duterte was the main man behind it when he was mayor of Davao City. She mainly bases her truth on that of Edgar Matobato, who testified that he was a member of the DDS and that he had killed several men allegedly on the order of the then Davao mayor, or, at least in one instance, on the order of Paolo Duterte, the President’s son and present vice mayor of Davao.
Paolo Duterte’s truth is that Matobato is a crazy man. Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ truth is that Matobato is not inconsistent (after he checked the transcripts of the hearing and corroborated the witness’ claims with other sources), and that we have a president who can be considered a mass murderer. Cayetano’s truth is that Matobato is not a credible witness, as evident from the many inconsistencies in his testimony, and that we have mass liars (in the persons of De Lima, Trillanes and other Liberal Party members) as the President’s critics.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao arrives at his truth after questioning Matobato and concludes that the witness is lying while being obviously coached by someone, probably in the same manner that a boxer is coached by the likes of Freddie Roach. Sen. Dick Gordon’s truth is that we would be better off if there were many lawyers molded in the likes of Pacquiao.
Then there are the truths from the House hearings: The truth of the drug lords and convicted criminals is that De Lima is not innocent of these drug-related issues. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s truth is that these witnesses are credible and, therefore, telling the truth.
Our heads are spinning. Our rationality is being put to the crucible. Our emotions are provoked. We really don’t like the “truths” because we are almost certain that they are also lies. What we want to know is the truth. But who is really its bearer when everyone claims that they are truthful, freely invoking the Bible that the truth shall set us free, while sincerely reminding everyone that what Filipinos really want is simply the truth? In a season of truths, who is telling the truth? Aguirre says that after listening to a witness talking for 10 minutes, he can tell whether the latter is telling the truth or lying. But most of us do not have Aguirre’s claimed gift.
In a season of truths, the best option is to suspend judgment. After all, it is not yet a matter of life and death if we do not believe either Cayetano or De Lima. Our life is not yet in danger (hopefully) if we cast doubt on both Herbert Colanggo and Matobato. Life goes on still if we subject both De Lima and the President to the same benefit of the doubt.
In a season of truths, it is not advisable to shy away from the scenes where the truth-bearers scramble for positioning to convince the public. It is not sensible to become apathetic or disillusioned, convincing ourselves that nothing good can come out of this political circus called legislative inquiries in aid of legislation. Sooner or later, the untruths may hurt us (or kill us) and by that time, the truth cannot set us free anymore.
In a season of truths, we are called to become more politically engaged and more critical. We must listen intently to the truth-bearers. We must look for inconsistencies without generalizing that an inconsistency is a sign of lying. As a matter of fact, when one is inconsistent, it may be proof that he/she is not weaving lies. Rather, it may be a manifestation that the questioner is so good at what he/she does best—to make the credible incredible, and vice versa.
In a season of truths, it is wise to set aside our political partisanships, whether we are diehard Du30 supporters, or members of the Liberal Party, or advocates of the leftist groups who now enjoy a relative value in the Duterte administration. Our partisanship may cloud our judgment, leading us to conclude that the President is truly a mass murderer, or De Lima is truly a drug protector, or Matobato is an uneducated and crazy man, or Colanggo is a lying drug lord who just wants to save himself, or Cayetano is your typical ambitious politician who simply has a way with words, logic and argumentation, or Trillanes has an inherent and deep-seated hatred toward Mr. Duterte.
If we are interested in the truth amid a season of truths, we must keep our eyes and minds open, because a season of truths is veiled with untruthful reasons. Nonetheless, are many of us really interested in the truth? Or are we content with lies that work for us now as long as we do not fall victim to these lies later? In a season of truths, the convenience of the untruth sometimes outweighs the inconvenience of the truth.
Franz Giuseppe F. Cortez teaches philosophy subjects and good governance and social responsibility at the University of Santo Tomas.
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