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Our ideas are often not our own

Senators Antonio Trillanes and Alan Cayetano take us for fools if they think Filipinos will believe that their supposed investigations – first of the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II and then Vice President Jejomar Binay’s purported estate in Batangas – aren’t a crass, so-obvious demolition job against the forerunner for the 2016 presidential contest.

Maybe they did for a few days, but as the facts came in, the two were squirming to pretend they weren’t victims of what in the media business here is called “kuryente,” (news hoax) perpetrated by a scoundrel who has had lucrative contracts with the government (more on that in my next columns.)

There are, to be sure, valid reactions, like that of one who commented on my column the other day that anyone who aspires for the highest post in the country must, as that old saying goes, like Caesar’s wife, be totally above suspicion.

I totally agree with that. But c’mon, the Senate investigation and the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s (PDI) screaming headlines on it—including the huge front-page photos of Binay’s alleged estate—weren’t exactly sober exercises in finding out the truth about Binay. (Especially so since Trillanes has been a bully in the hearings, threatening witnesses and twisting testimonies to suit his version of reality. He reminds me of military interrogators when I was detained as a political prisoner in the 1970s.)

As many social philosophers and writers, especially the American Noam Chomsky and the Swiss-British Alain de Botton, have pointed out, our biggest illusion as human beings is that our thoughts are entirely our own, that our mindsets are what we have arrived at after much thinking.


It is an illusion, since the contents of our minds are formed by the kind of parents we have, the kind of schools we attended, the kind of friends we choose to surround ourselves with, the kinds of books we’ve read, and in the modern age, most especially by media.

I will repeat Botton’s insight I quoted in my column the other day: “Societies become modern … when news replaces religions as our central source of guidance and our touchstone of authority.” Chomsky, in so many books, had argued quite well that believe it or not, media in the modern age manufactures reality.

But we aren’t entirely helpless.

It really has been the most important task of higher education to teach us how to subject our very minds, society’s claims, religious ideas – and media reports – to critical analysis. That’s called the scientific frame of mind, to which we owe the huge advances of civilization in just about three centuries.

Only a fool, and sorry to say, the uneducated, would believe everything that’s in the newspapers.

Former vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado claims Binay owns this fabulous estate, and bombards us with photos of the jaw-dropping features of the place.

Teka, the critical part of our mind would raise questions: Is he playing on our emotions, trying to get us outraged so our critical functions are put aside? Teka, does he have evidence Binay owns the estate, of the same kind of evidence as that which proved police chief Alan Purisima owned that Nueva Ecija “rest-house”? Teka, is Mercado as relatively respectable as Czech Ambassador Jose Rychtar, who would risk his diplomatic career in accusing a government official of extortion?

Teka, do Trillanes and Cayetano have a track record as unbiased crusading investigators, or do they have an agenda in tarnishing Binay’s image?

I was reminded of media’s – or PDI’s power – when even a veteran reporter in her blog wrote: “Binay’s 350-hectare luxury estate is so stunning… as big as six Luneta Parks, 10 Araneta Centers or even half the 700-hectare San Juan city.” Then she reproduces in her blog the features of the purportedly luxurious estate.

That’s exactly how the propaganda experts planned it: To flood our visual cortices with images of such a luxurious place rivaling an English garden of a royalty and bombard our emotions with outrage — “it boggles the mind of ordinary Filipinos,” the blogger wrote.

But all such outrage over such a fantastic place is based on a data the blogger hardly discussed: Whether or not it is really Binay’s “estate.”

Or is it, as the head of the corporation that runs the estate called Sunchamp, an agrotourism park, designed to attract visitors with what the blogger described as “two mansions, one with a resort pool; two man-made lagoons, stockbreeding farm with more than a thousand cocks, a horse ranch, an aviary, and a 40-car garage.” Or were those a receiving center and overnight accommodations and a parking area for visitors?

“Palusot?” But the estate called “Sunchamp,” in fact, was on a PR campaign just weeks ago to advertise its agrotourism park, even getting PDI itself to publish a huge photo of its agrotourism park. Did PDI run a banner headline, as huge as Trillanes’ lies it printed, after the facts came in: “Estate not Binay’s”?

On old joke in Manila is that anyone can sell Nagtahan bridge to a fool. The “Binay Hacienda” canard is like claiming that Press Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III secretly owns the Quezon Memorial Circle in behalf of his boss President Aquino, and you can marvel at all its features as restaurants, a jogging circle, and of course the stunning monument.

* * *

I had been itching to write about the person in the photo above to show how desperate this Administration is trying to portray our ordinary citizens as being unable to think Aquino has brought this country to ruin and impoverishment.

A few months back, Aquino’s operators launched on the same day an anti-Aquino rally in Luneta was scheduled, a “civil-society coalition” supporting “tuwid na daan” reforms, the “Koalisyon ng mga Mamamayan para sa Reporma” (Kompre).

They claimed it was convened by one respectable civil-society personality, Karina Constantino-David, “former civil service commission chair, and one respectable businessman, Alberto Lim, “former tourism secretary.”

It turns out that both are earning P2.3 million per month in cozy directorships that require them to attend meetings just once a month in government corporations, the Government Service Insurance System for David and Development Bank of the Philippines for Lim.

I would understand if they had announced that they were simply earning their keep. But to pretend to be concerned citizens wanting to continue “Aquino’s reforms” is sheer hypocrisy.

A few weeks ago, full-page ads costing P250,000 each came out in several papers claiming – in very bad English – that the Constitution should be amended to allow Aquino to run for a second term, for his “reforms” to be continued. The ads were signed by a “Movement for Reform, Continuity and Momentum (More2Come),” and were so sickeningly sycophantic over Aquino.

The lead convener was one Melvin Matibag, identified as a “lawyer.” Google him and he’s reported as having been general manager of the Manila international airport in the closing months of former President Gloria Arroyo’s term, and as a losing vice-mayoralty candidate in the San Pedro, Laguna elections last year.

My own sources claim he is related to a Department of Education undersecretary whose wealth, a vast one I was told, was in the lending business.

What’s interesting, though, about Matibag is that most of the Google entries reported him as a professional poker player, even profiled and ranked in such poker sites as Global Poker Index, Poker Pages and Pokerportal Asia. Apparently, he’s been such a good poker player that he gained the moniker Melvin “The Miracle” Matibag.

Maybe that sobriquet convinced President Aquino to recruit him to launch a fake movement that he be given a second term.

I can’t stop wondering, though, if Matibag made such a huge fortune in international poker tournaments that he could afford More2Come’s expensive newspaper ads, or if rather, he lost a fortune in the game that he’s been forced to earn a living being a dummy for Aquino as convener of a fake movement.