Column: Pastor Boy vs Noynoy

Published on June 1, 2010. When this came out, a colleague of mine in the newsroom said to me: “Marunong ka palang magalit.”

The pompous Pastor “Boy” Saycon presumes to teach me a lesson about unbiased sourcing, but all he really wants to say is, when it comes to the Noy-Bi operation and his participation in it, every source is biased—except for him and those who share his view. Thankfully, he has written a demonstrably erroneous letter; we can profit from his errors by parsing it.

Saycon writes:

“In your May 25 column, you have taken the liberty to interpret my statements on the Cojuangcos’ role in the recent elections as presenting a diminished view of Noynoy Aquino. You have unjustly misread me.

“First of all, let me set the record straight. The Cojuancos [sic] went for three different candidates. Ditas Cojuanco [sic] Teodoro, mother of Gibo, went all-out for her son. Henry Cojuanco [sic], brother of Danding, campaigned for Loren for Vice President. Most of the rest of the Cojuangcos naturally supported the Noy-Mar tandem. I should know, I worked on the ground. It was a smorgasbord of various players—in Tarlac as well as other parts of the country. Parties and volunteer groups chose their own tandems. Ours worked for Noy-Bi.

“Secondly, for me to be alluded to as having done a disservice to Noynoy Aquino is totally unfair. As you yourself mentioned in your clarification to Conrad de Quiros in the same column mentioned, your sourcing was strictly secondary and you were still gathering necessary facts. On one hand, you allowed humility to set in with that admission but you just had to find someone else to take the blame for the intricacies and upsets that arose from the May 10 exercise. You just had to ventilate your misinformed opinion based not on what really happened but from innuendos made by people identified with a losing candidate.

“May I suggest that you kindly change the way you secure your information—that you make sure this comes from unbiased sources so that your column may not be as tainted.

“Sabi nga: Para tama ang kwento, itama mo ang kwenta.”

Saycon signs the letter with his preposterous title of “Secretary General” of the Council on Philippine Affairs. Just how extensive, pray tell, is this Copa, that it needs, like the United Nations or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a secretary-general? Considering the size of Copa, it’s rather like calling the driver of a Volkswagen Beetle a chauffeur.

* * *

On to the errors.

First, Pastor “Boy” Saycon accuses me of using biased sources in my last column. In it, I had applied a test that Conrad de Quiros had suggested, essentially measuring loyalty to the next president, and found Saycon failing it. Who was my source? Why, no other than Saycon himself!

I merely quoted from the ABS-CBN report where an expansive Saycon gave the following post-election explanation: “The Cojuangcos have carried Noy-Mar, and it shows in the results of how Tarlac voted for Noy-Mar, and he [Mar Roxas] has an almost 200,000 difference over Binay’s votes in Tarlac alone, even in other areas, in Davao del Norte. And I’ve heard how Congressman Cojuangco [referring to the most controversial of Copa members, former Rep. Peping Cojuangco) has been pushing for Noy-Mar in Davao del Norte.”

Analyzing this statement on its own merits, I found that it effectively diminishes Noynoy Aquino, because it attributes Roxas’ margin over Binay in the Tarlac vote to “the Cojuangcos.” What, after all, does “it shows in the results of how Tarlac voted for Noy-Mar” mean, but that the Cojuangcos had effectively carried Tarlac for Roxas?

Secondly, Saycon ineptly tries to undo the damage from his interview by “setting the record straight” on the different branches of the Cojuangcos. But I understood “the Cojuangcos” to mean exactly what Saycon meant by it, namely Peping Cojuangco and the scope of his influence. That was the subject he was actually discussing in the ABS-CBN interview. Note, for instance, the reference to the ex-congressman in the immediately succeeding sentence.

Third, Saycon says I read his interview unjustly, “as presenting a diminished view of Noynoy Aquino.” But my interpretation—and it is of course an interpretation—is not only rooted in Saycon’s own words; it also accepts his words at face value. (Does this political operator who acts as though he has cornered the market on truth suggest I do otherwise?)

How does Saycon’s reading of the Tarlac vote diminish Aquino? It makes Aquino’s scope of influence in his own home province, which he had served for nine years as congressman and three years as senator, irrelevant.

* * *

Everything else Saycon raises in his letter is misdirection, or beside the point. The sourcing I was referring to in my last column involved the stitching-together of the Aquino campaign narrative, which is still a work in progress. (And again, I want to emphasize, it involves many sources, even from Saycon’s side of the fence.) It had nothing to do with analyzing excerpts from his flush-with-victory TV interview.

But that he raised it at all, as a stick to beat me with, is characteristic of Saycon’s conduct.

A letter from a perceptive reader, with a talent for summary several levels above mine, says it all: These post-election effluvia “betrayed triumphalism of the worst kind—the one aimed at an erstwhile ally.”

Sabi nga: Para tama ang kuwento, ikuwento mo ang tama.

* * *

It was a treat to hear the eminent Benedict Anderson lecture last Friday on the (diminishing) role of public intellectuals. Like an expert provocateur, he lobbed one Molotov cocktail of an incendiary idea after another. There will be time to take stock of what he said (and didn’t or failed to say). For now, just a short note to express my amazement, that Leong Hall in Ateneo de Manila’s newest building did not go up in smoke.

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

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