Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Seares: Corrupt or ‘kawatan’: they now specify the politician by name

News Sense

“Marami ‘yun. Si Gloria Arroyo. Simulan ko lang dyan.”-- Neri Colmenares, candidate for senator, when asked in the fast-talk section of ABS-CBN’s “Harapan” (Feb. 24, 2019) whom he considered the “most corrupt president.”

In attacking a political rival, they used to withhold the name and just use the nickname or some other identifying name. They would couch an accusation during the campaign with qualifiers: “just asking,” “the people want to know,” and similar shelter in case of a lawsuit or criticism of conduct.

Not anymore. To many of us watching our public officials, that must be most apparent in this election season.

Former former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was name on national television “the most corrupt president,” by Neri Colmenares, Bayan Muna chairman and human rights lawyer, and Gary Alejano, Magdalo party-list congressman. Asked last Sunday (Feb. 24) as to who they think was the most corrupt president, Colmenares said, “Marami sila,” but named only GMA. Alejano said Gloria should be jailed.

(Ranking in corruption varies, depending upon who’s listing and what rating method is used. In an October 2007 survey conducted by Pulse Asia, GMA [with 42%] outranked Marcos [35%] and Estrada [16%] in the title of most corrupt past president. Earlier, an Asian survey of Infoplease rated Marcos #2 and Estrada #10, but then it was polled when GMA just started her term and the slip of corruption didn’t show yet.)

Multiple defamation

Locally, the ease with which the accusation of corruption is publicly hurled is not more flagrantly demonstrated than in the Mandaue City campaign and in the public statements of a candidate for mayor in San Fernando, Cebu.

* In Mandaue, a candidate for city mayor is called “kawatan” (thief) and “kurap” (corrupt) several times, repeatedly, each day. It is professionally produced by a group of singers and set to classic fanfare music. One may assume that the jingle is also aired in similar radio programs elsewhere.

Only the candidate’s first name is mentioned but there is no other COC filer who answers to the name. Besides, the commentary that goes with the jingle identifies the same person.

City Hall watchers say that most Mandaue residents are used to the mudslinging: “remember the 2013 and 2016 campaign?” They concede though that the present trading of barbs is “super daring.” And jaw-dropping, mostly because of the jingle that throws the heap of diatribe: “kawatan, kawatan, kawatan, kawatan, kawatan, kawatan, kawatan, kawatan...” and “kurap, kurap, kurap, kurap, kurap, kurap, kurap, kurap...” So many times that one loses count. One is tempted to add “ad nauseam” but the music and the tempo make the ad less annoying on the ears.

Killing reputations

* In San Fernando, where town officials are systematically eliminated by assassins’ bullets, businessman Ruben Feliciano last Friday repeatedly called Mayor Lakambini Reluya “kawatan” and “drug protector,” as if he were talking with her and not Leo Lastimosa who did the interview on dyAB radio. Feliciano, who is competing with Neneth for the mayor’s seat, did so with all the hate and venom he could spew out-–and with such ease.

Why are some politicians less inhibited in defaming the competitor? Fierce rivalry and high stakes in the elections: that can only partly explain. The climate of violence may also have something to do with it. Dirty mouth trends with blazing guns. If it’s so easy to snuff out lives, with little risk of being held to account for the crime, it must be easier to kill reputations, more so it helps one’s election to public office.

Libel holiday

Libel does not take a holiday during the election campaign, we are told. The laws are still in force. But who will sue now? Hit-back time is after the election, if one wins.

Unless, of course, the litany of “kawatan” and “kurap,” sung several times over for most days of the campaign, would snap one’s patience.

The lawsuit would be fine but what if the heap of diatribes would unleash violence instead?


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