I didn’t see Rep. Edmund Reyes deliver his "Who is on the side of truth?" speech. I did catch portions of his quite-literal 15 minutes of fame, as they were replayed on cable and TV news. When I watched a replay for the first time, I wanted it to be as good as some observers, including my colleague Manolo Quezon, said it was.
Maybe something was lost in the translation, from live feed to replay, but I must say I found the speech halting and awkward.
Style aside, I also found its principal rhetorical strategy confused. The first principle of rhetoric, of course, is knowing the audience. Reyes’ speech may have been structured like it was addressed to his fellow congressmen, but in truth it was directed to the gallery and to the general public. Perhaps the best way to put this idea across is to describe his impassioned closing lines for what they really were: rhetorical, not real, questions.
Are only 73 members of this House of Representatives on the side of the truth? Is there anyone else? Is there no one else? Wala na bang ibang pipirma para sa katotohanan?
Is there no one else?
To which I can only reply: Is this any way to get more signatures?
We should never underestimate the capacity of any politician to eat crow, or to endure humiliation, as long as his interests are served, preferably in the short run. But the self-righteousness of the impeachment spokesman couldn’t have been more off-putting. Those on the other side of the impeachment divide naturally see themselves as acting morally too — or at least entitled to the many uses of the language of morality. To be reminded, as Reyes effectively reminded them, that the pursuit of truth was the monopoly of only those for impeachment, was to lose face in one’s own house.
Besides, there is the moral nature of the "23" practical, deal-making, we’ll-wait-for-the-right-time-to-get-off-the-fence congressmen who wrote secret commitments. These commitments, as revealed by Reyes, may have added a pragmatic and necessary touch to the impeachment camp’s overall strategy, but let’s face it: They also subtract from the moral character of the impeachment’s search for truth.
Reyes may have thought his aim was to win at least six more signatories. But his speech as prepared and delivered did the opposite: It probably cost the opposition votes.