Column: Uncharitable, unkind

Published on May 18, 2010.

The iconic Conrado de Quiros and the redoubtable Billy Esposo, two columnists I look up to and who have never been less than generous with me, have written recent columns that strike me as more partisan than necessary, or indeed as intended. On the junking of Mar Roxas, Noynoy Aquino’s running mate, Conrad has written much the more nuanced analysis; Billy’s defense of this political maneuver is ruder and rawer, and thus harder to digest. But I hope I am not mistaken in taking their columns (the second part of Conrad’s is in today’s edition) as all of a piece.

I trust they will forgive my temerity.

I was not involved in any political campaign, but I do have many friends in many of the political camps. Although I think I now understand the big picture, it will take me some time to sort out all the facts; for now, I will only take issue with Conrad’s analysis, and expose Billy’s illegitimate arguments.

Billy wrote: “They make it appear that if an Aquino supporter opts to support Binay, then that is treachery. That can be considered treachery only if you’re a member of the Liberal Party but if you’re not then it’s nobody’s business to tell you how to choose your vice president.”

Here, Billy commits the fallacy of ambiguity. At the level of an “Aquino supporter,” perhaps it really isn’t treachery. But the controversy involves the conduct of very high-level members of the Aquino campaign—a level that threshed out the very issue of “Noy-Mar” or “Noy lang” (just Noynoy) right at the start; the same level out of which emerged the Noy-Bi campaign.

Billy also wrote: “Among those whom they’ve badmouthed were your Chair Wrecker, Conrad de Quiros, Tony Meloto, Boy and Maria Montelibano, Peping Cojuangco, Popoy Juico and Pastor ‘Boy’ Saycon. Wow! Do these lightweights think that they can really take on heavyweights?” I desperately hope that I missed Billy’s attempt at humor here, because otherwise Billy et al. have violated the cardinal rule of PR: Don’t believe your own publicity. There is much more to be said about the dubiousness at the heart of the matter, but as an argument this entire paragraph of Billy’s is illegitimate, because it commits one of the most basic fallacies of all, the ad hominem abusive.

In the first part of his two-column analysis, Conrad masterfully reduces the issue to “two things.” He certainly knows how to cut through the clutter. I will not disagree; I will only point out that his analysis excuses, or leaves room for, some of the worst political excesses he had previously excoriated.

For instance, Conrad writes: “The rift was never between the Kamaganak Inc. and the Hyatt 10. From the start, the rift was between the reformist volunteer groups and the trapo political party.” Well, there was that, especially at the start of Noynoy’s non-traditional run, but I think Conrad oversimplifies. Should we categorize the maneuverings of a Peping Cojuangco under the pleasing rubric of “volunteer group”?

And again: “It was under their watch Noynoy’s numbers tumbled. That was the source of the rift, that was the origin of the rift, that was the beginning, middle and end of the rift. For a simple reason: The people around Noynoy they alienated, pissed off and ejected like flotsam were the volunteer groups.” There was that, too, especially at the beginning—when an inchoate Noy campaign had to rely on Mar’s network, and Noy himself said he felt like he was juggling dozens of interest groups. But does this justify the choice of a vice president who is just as compromised as the Villarroyo-ed Manny Villar?

The facts will out, at least I hope, but in the meantime we are left with a truly vexing puzzle: How can the champions of Edsa end up on the same side as a certain kind of trapo?

* * *

My friend, the unsinkable Nandy Pacheco of Ang Kapatiran, wrote a pained letter to the editor last week, after I wrote about the lack of gravitas of his party’s standard-bearer. “In his column ‘Voting for history’ (5/11/10), John Nery made this unkind and uncharitable remark about JC de los Reyes,” Nandy began. “In short, John Nery is telling me now in print that JC is without substance. The elections are over and JC [has] already conceded his defeat. I do not want to raise the issue of qualifications of presidential candidates, but since John raised it, I [have] no choice but to defend JC who in the first place did not even seek to run for president.” Several paragraphs follow, enumerating JC’s qualifications.

I am sorry to see that I caused Nandy some pain, but on this matter he is wrong, and fundamentally so. In the first place, I did tell him, in person, about the gravitas thing, during the book launch of Vergel Santos’ biography of Chino Roces. Secondly, and more basic, I made up my mind about the decent, well-intentioned, but hopelessly outclassed JC towards the end of the 90-day campaign. Isn’t that the whole purpose of the campaign, for the candidates to present themselves and their platform to the voters? Towards the end of the campaign, I could not escape the conclusion that JC was woefully unqualified for the presidency. Isn’t it my duty, as a journalist and a citizen, to make up my own mind? And isn’t it my responsibility, as a Christian, to tell the truth?

I admire the abiding conviction of Kapatiran party members that politics is not inherently dirty, and that Catholics have a moral obligation to take part in it. But to insist that I perceive their candidate the way they regard him is to undermine the public’s right to its own opinion.

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Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

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