Column: Lacson and the texture of our experience

Published on September 11, 2007

I will post links to some of the references I made maybe later today.

As the late Jaime Cardinal Sin’s assistant in 1986 and as rector of the EDSA Shrine in 2001, Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas played a key role in both People Power epiphanies. I regard him as a keeper of the EDSA flame — the conviction, shared by the millions who camped out on the streets, that the democratic restoration is nourished in part by Christian faith.

So what was he doing at the San Carlos Seminary in June 2005, negotiating with serial testifier Vidal Doble? It could be that Villegas had lost his way, forgetting that People Power as we invented it worked precisely because the Catholic Church gave sanctuary to renegade truth-tellers.

But it is also possible that it was Villegas who did the right, the EDSA thing, and those who criticize him now because of his role in reuniting Doble with his real wife in Camp Aguinaldo who have proved inconstant. The bishop’s two-page statement to the three Senate committees hearing the Doble case may not be enough. Perhaps, to educate those of us who think we already know why he did what he did, he should take the stand.

* * *

I am grateful to the many readers who e-mailed me in response to the column on the crisis in the Couples for Christ movement. Invariably, the responses (including a comment in my Newsstand blog and several coursed through the de facto “national broadband network,” the SMS) were thoughtful and anguished and real, born of genuine struggle.

A few, however, still tried to play the blame game. They retained the same even tone as the others, but they slipped in a reading of the crisis based on personalities alone.

Certainly, personality differences played a role in the CFC split. (The spiritual is personal.) These differences partly explain the emotional turmoil roiling the CFC; as the provincial of a religious order reminded me last week, the same emotionally supercharged atmosphere enveloped the CICM (the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, familiarly known as the Belgian Fathers) five years ago.

The CICM crisis ended with the formation of a new religious order, the Missionaries of Jesus. But personality conflicts aside, there was a genuine difference in the group’s understanding of mission. The same thing with the CFC crisis: At bottom, it is a question of spirituality — that tradition of practices, that community of experience, that sense of proportion — that distinguishes one religious group from another.

* * *

Every now and then, I hear people complain about the quality of Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson’s exposés. In sum, the complaints say: “Kulang.” There may be a gun there somewhere, but it certainly isn’t smoking. Perhaps it’s because his exposés are prepared by ex-journalists and designed to meet journalistic, not legal, standards of evidence.

Almost six years ago, Lacson stood up in the Senate to accuse Jose Miguel Arroyo of running what the former police chief called the “Department of the Underground.” Lacson’s privilege speech came almost exactly a year after Teofisto Guingona’s “I accuse” speech, which famously led, two months later, to Joseph Estrada’s impeachment trial.

I was still editing “Talk of the Town” then. On Oct. 21, 2001, I took the liberty of comparing the two speeches. I wrote: “He [Lacson] uses media-savvy phrases: no parallels in history, the Department of the Underground, the President’s bed, and so on. And his main argument against Mike Arroyo’s Department of the Underground makes for great audio: ‘Its essence is to make the First Gentleman an honorable person before the camera. And off camera, it is to bring him the juicy slices of the bureaucracy.’”

I concluded: “The speech is vivid in language because it is vague on the evidence.”

The same thing can be said about his other exposés; there is something there, something definitely worth writing about. But good enough to successfully prosecute a case?

That is why Lacson needs to fill in the blanks, himself, during Senate hearings, and why Sen. Richard Gordon (like him a contender for the presidency in 2010) lectured him on the ethics of testifying for the witness.

* * *

And yet it must be said: Even though they are (like most police cases) based on eminently recantable testimony, Lacson’s exposés have had a substantial impact on the real world.

His 2005 exposé on the alleged involvement of the President’s family in jueteng, for example, succeeded in stopping the illegal numbers game.

Last May, anti-jueteng crusader Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca told Philippine Daily Inquirer editors and reporters that the only time jueteng in her province stopped completely was after Lacson’s privilege speech prompted a wild and wooly Senate probe. The game disappeared for about a year or so — proof positive that Lacson’s exposés, inadequate as they seem to me, have a (temporary) chilling effect on crime and corruption.

* * *

I am certain that much of this effect can be traced back to media. Last week, I found myself in a school forum on career options in the industry. Apposite opening remarks by Ateneo de Manila’s Anjo Lorenzana reminded me of a truth those of us who work full-time in media often forget or take for granted. “To be able to produce and reproduce culture and knowledge is of course political … to be part of this industry means to be part of a powerful institution in society.” Then the money quote from the scholar Roger Silverstone: “Media provide the texture of our experience.” Ping!



Filed under Newsstand: Column

3 responses to “Column: Lacson and the texture of our experience

  1. “But it is also possible that it was Villegas who did the right, the EDSA thing, and those who criticize him now because of his role in reuniting Doble with his real wife in Camp Aguinaldo who have proved inconstant.”

    that’s only true if you believe the other tale floated during the seminary standoff that doble was abducted and held against his will by samuel ong and bishop bacani.

    (UPDATE) THE MILITARY has turned over custody of intelligence agent Vidal Doble to the police to facilitate the investigation and the eventual filing of charges over his alleged “illegal detention” at the San Carlos seminary.

    Police on Tuesday fetched Doble and his family from the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) compound in Camp Aguinaldo and whisked them off to the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (PACER) headquarters in Camp Crame at around 3:30 p.m.

    “This will be a laborious, long process but the PNP [Philippine National Police] is prepared to undertake this role of investigation,” Chief Superintendent Leopoldo Bataoil, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police, told reporters. “Whatever this leads to, that will be the basis for filing charges against whoever will be identified.”

    Aside from the alleged abduction, the investigation would also tackle “all other related cases that may arise later,” Bataoil said.


    Wednesday, June 15, 2005
    Bishop denies ‘detaining’ military ‘wiretapper’

    “HE WENT there on his own free will”.

    Bishop Teodoro Bacani issued the statement in reaction to reports that churchmen who “detained” T/Sgt. Vidal Doble face arrest and charges in court.

  3. The Lacson speech/expose wasn’t six years ago. Lacson’s speech was made during August of 2003.

    So how were you able to compare the two speeches (guingona’s and lacson’s) on oct. 21, 2001?

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