LAST Feb. 14, Maria Ressa, chief of the digital news outfit Rappler, complained that the law is being “weaponized” to silence critics of the administration. Jailed Senator Leila de Lima last Dec. 2 made a similar accusation but it’s not only the law, she said, information too is being “weaponized” against enemies of the president. This week, in the US, President Trump contended that the impeachment process is being “weaponized” by Democrats who want him removed from office.
Don’t be surprised if a lawsuit that former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña was to file Monday (Dec. 9) against Cebu City Vice Mayor Mike Rama on the sale of a 45-hectare parcel of South Road Properties (SRP) land will be called “weaponizing” of the court process.
The law, the lawsuits, and the chunks of information are part of ordinary life, pieces of the apparatus for governance and order in society. How can those, when used against an adversary, be not deemed weapons as well?
To “weaponize,” Cambridge Dictionary says, is to use something in order to deliberately inflict harm on people.
With that definition, anything, no matter how ordinarily harmless, can be turned into a weapon.
We are told that the term was technical jargon used by the US military in the 50s. In 1957, the magazine “Aviation Week” used “weaponize” to refer to rockets that were armed with nuclear material, and missiles equipped with warheads. The point being: what is initially harmless is made harmful. The ordinary object becomes an instrument of destruction.
When they turn toxic
Can that be said of the laws that journalist Maria Ressa and Senator de Lima allege are being used to stifle dissent and silence critics? The laws provide means of redress or relief; they settle disputes on properties and rights. They are not weapons per se but when tapped to afflict journalists, hound political enemies, or just to create a climate of fear, they become lethal instruments in politics, they turn into weapons.
That’s when they become toxic because they can’t harm or destroy, even when not justified, unless law enforcers, prosecutors, and judges are corrupted. Evidence has to be planted or tampered and witnesses need to be induced to perjury
(convicts’ testimony is believed), and judges and justices must bend or bastardize the law (a quo warranto substitutes impeachment and trial).
The laws and the litigation process are innocent. To “weaponize” them requires an evil initiative and the corruption of those who enforce and interpret the laws and run the justice system.
Identifying the villain
In some cases, it is easy to identify the villain (Trump’s impeachment and de Lima’s incarceration are examples). In other cases, it is not (Maria Ressa’s libel case is not as horrid as what lesser known community journalists faced).
But tagging the villain is less of a problem than stopping the use of laws and court processes as a weapon. How can the target escape if the machinery of justice and the people running it are on the side of the person or persons who are “weaponizing”?
Increasing use of “weaponize” is not just a fad on word usage. It serves a purpose: It helps magnify ill motive of the one suing or trying to put you in jail or keep you in bars forever. The word becomes a propaganda tool; in a way you are also “weaponizing” the word.
But indiscriminate use of the term can be ludicrous. One writer once brought up the scene of two toddlers quarrelling in their mom’s kitchen. If one pelts the other with grapes and cabbage, does he “weaponize” his salad?