Column: What on earth is eating Alan Cayetano?

Published on March 3, 2015.

Last week marked a new low point for the opportunistic demagoguery of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. I was with other journalists covering the inspection tour of various sites in Central Mindanao by the police Board of Inquiry, so I was not able to see an otherwise intelligent young man transform yet again into a hypocritical bully on live television.

But I do have proof that he is a bully and a hypocrite.

On Feb. 24, he figured in the following exchange with chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, regarding the circulation of video clips showing Moro gunmen killing Special Action Force troopers.

“I heard you say na ’yung nag-upload ng video is a criminal? What crime did he violate?”

“Yes, spreading darkness.”

“That’s not a crime. The video, if it was the truth, is that darkness or spreading the truth?”

“That is creating intrigue. It is creating outrage.”

“Kung ang video po ay peke, crime po ’yun. Pero kung totoo po ’yun, duty ng citizen na i-inform lahat … If you say na criminal ang nag-upload, how can you say that the MILF is ready for democracy kung tatawagin ninyong criminal ang kahit sinong mag-upload nang laban sa inyong paniniwala?”

In fact, Cayetano, a lawyer, is misrepresenting the law. A person circulating a “true” video (that is to say, one about whose authenticity there is no doubt) may be committing a crime, if the subjects of the video did not consent to the recording, or the recording was done illegally, or if the circulation violates any of the restrictions on free speech. Here, for instance, is what a lawyer-senator said to Newsbreak in 2009: “I wanted a strong message from the police and wanted them to go after these guys who put the sex videos on the Internet. The police should show that they’re above celebrities and they can show who really released the videos.”

According to this senator, putting sex videos on the Internet, merely releasing them, is already a crime. (Otherwise, why would the police “go after these guys”?) This same senator said detailed media coverage of the sex videos may have made “peeping toms out of the public.” He even joined his sister, another senator, in urging the Senate not to watch the Hayden Kho sex tapes even in executive session.

His sister’s appeal was moving. “What do we gain by watching it? I believe we need to balance our interests. We have to take the higher moral ground and decide that we will not be a party to this.”

What happened to Cayetano between 2009, when the sex video scandal hit, and 2015, when the grisly video tapes showing the brutal execution of wounded and disarmed SAF troopers surfaced a few weeks after the Mamasapano tragedy? What happened to the voice of reason of six years ago, who argued: “There’s a difference between live coverage [and] not live. So in live coverage, the Senate has a bigger role on which issues to raise. With the media, the problem is they focus on what is saleable. I didn’t want them [Kho and actress Katrina Halili] to be invited, but I wanted to invite the institutions involved instead. So if the two personalities were not there, it would not be as lively. But the media should have prudence and handle [the issue] with care.”

The answer: Cayetano took the low road. He tried to cover his tracks by spouting legal language and democratic rhetoric, but he cannot hide the obvious. While he is solicitous of friends and family in show business, he thinks the worst of Moro rebels.

What would cause Cayetano to jump to the conclusion that, because Iqbal thinks uploading the video was criminal, the entire MILF is not “ready for democracy”? Surely he knows that among lawyers there is enormous room for interpreting the provisions of law; do competing parties arguing before the Supreme Court disqualify themselves from democracy, or betray a lack of readiness for it, because they hold different legal positions?

It is the phrase “laban sa inyong paniniwala,” however, which disturbs me. It seems to me Cayetano is telegraphing fear of the Muslim religion in the guise of the Bangsamoro’s readiness for democracy.

* * *

A few more howlers from Cayetano:

“Walang engkwentro sa MILF pero in the meantime gumawa kayo ng gawaan ng armas, ang BIFF katabi ninyo ang kampo.” This statement assumes that the largest Moro insurgency in history is not negotiating for peace, but rather surrendering. Why else would anyone assume that the MILF should not continue producing arms during the ceasefire, when the government’s security services are themselves embarked on the biggest arms and equipment buildup since the Marcos years? That is one important reason why a peace deal must be consummated.

To Presidential Peace Adviser Ging Deles: “Who do you represent in the peace process?” This is an insult to all the good men and women in the government who worked on the painstaking negotiation process, and also a reflection on Cayetano’s opportunistic character. As a senator since 2007, he has no reason not to know exactly what was going on in the peace process—a process he once supported.

* * *

“Marami akong napapanood sa media na ayaw ko, you are calling them criminal. Baka kung magkaroon ng BBL [Bangsamoro Basic Law], baka hindi kayo sumunod sa demokrasya ng bansa? I’m just testing your commitment to democracy.” In fact, it is Cayetano’s demagoguery, prompted by political opportunism, that is failing the test, of his commitment to a community of equals. You know, democracy.

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