Seares: Mayor Gica ‘wasn’t arrested.’ Drug war ‘didn’t fail but didn’t succeed’

News Sense

MARNA Gica, Dumanjug, Cebu Mayor Guntrano Gica’s mother, said her son was not arrested. Disputing news reports that use the term “arrest,” she said police last Jan. 8 (Wednesday) served a warrant on him at his home but he voluntarily went to the Regional Trial Court branch in Barili where he posted bail. Mayor Gungun was not handcuffed or taken away by the police, she said.

Two days earlier (Monday, Jan. 6), Sen. Panfilo Lacson, when asked about Vice President Leni Robredo’s report on what she learned during her brief stint as co-chairperson of the anti-drug task force, said he’d call it “not successful enough, rather than a failure.”

Did Mrs. Gica and Senator Ping lie in their respective descriptions? And did they communicate clearly enough?

Mom was accurate

The mayor’s mother was accurate in relating the incident of arrest. Police must have served the warrant, literally meaning they presented it to him and the mayor, after reading the paper, said he’d go court to post bail. They might not have handcuffed or otherwise restrained him.

But he must have gone through the usual process of arrest, such as being fingerprinted and photographed. A published photo showed him wearing a police detainee t-shirt and holding a “what-I-am-accused-of” placard that also showed the date of arrest (“Jan. 8, 2020”).

Fact of arrest

Was Mayor Gica in fact arrested? To some lay persons, such as Gica’s mom, he was not. She didn’t see him being handcuffed or otherwise bodily restrained, the most visible part of the ritual that they see in movies or on TV.

Gica was in fact taken into custody, which is done not just by physical control of the arrested but also by voluntary surrender. Mayor Gungun submitted himself to the authority by posting bail, after which he could be made to answer for the complaint against him. The arrest, for its purpose, was factually made.

The insistence that he wasn’t arrested may even raise the suspicion he was given “special treatment” during the arrest, which VIPs and others who know how shaming from the process can be avoided. Either that or exploiting it to embarrass the arrested person: Such as doing it on a weekend and publicizing the handcuffing or the “rogue’s gallery” photo-taking.

Ambiguity from Lacson

How about Senator Ping who said he’d rather call the drug war “not successful enough” instead of branding it a “failure”? Like “it did not fail, it just did not succeed enough.”

That is being vague: what is “not successful enough” and in what way did it fail? Lacson’s mode of rating the campaign against illegal drugs is as ambiguous as it can get.

That, despite the senator’s proficiency in language, plus the specific area that VP Robredo’s report was most stunning in impact: namely, that only less than one percent of drug money had been frozen by the government out of the trillions of pesos collected and circulated from illegal drugs.

Did they double-speak?

One cannot say Mrs. Gica gave “doublespeak” in insisting her son was not arrested. Just as one cannot say Senator Ping gave one too.

Doublespeak is language used “to deceive usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth.” Neither the mayor’s mom nor the senator can be accused of deception or misrepresentation. Their respective descriptions are presumably genuine understanding of the incident, in Gica’s case, and the assessment of the drug war, in Lacson’s case. Mrs. Gica sounded straightforward while Ping tried to sound clever with his play on the concept of “success” and “failure.”

Spotting doublespeak

At most both can be said to have wanted to cushion the impact of what they were to say.

Less embarrassing or negative to the family and the Gica camp if Mayor Gica was not arrested. Less offensive or hurting on President Duterte (who not long ago slammed the senator for his criticisms of the administration) if the drug campaign was not rated a total failure.

But doublespeak has been very much a part of the language in the news and public discourse. Media consumers more than ever need to recognize it when they see it, hopefully to inform their understanding and judgment of what is going on.


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