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The Manila Times : Case vs Marcos an assault on our intelligence

News & Interviews
9 November 2021

By Dr. Dante A. Ang - Chairman Emeritus | The Manila Times

THE petition to cancel the certificate of candidacy of former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is a cheap public relations stunt. Frame the issue; define your opponent. That's the standard PR playbook. And that's what the detractors of presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos are employing.

PR playbook

Never mind that the petition has no merit and the petitioners know that they will lose their case. After all, the aim is to frame the issue, and define the candidate by feeding the media with sensational stories. This is called, "feeding the beast." And given media's propensity to publish bang-up stories, the "issues" are then "framed," shifting the campaign narratives from the relevant to gutter issues while, at the same time, defining the younger Marcos by putting the onus on him for the transgressions of his father.

Black propaganda

This is a form of negative campaigning often resorted to by losing candidates who are desperate to improve their ratings at the polls and who can't find an effective communications handle that will lift their public standing.

Another term for this negative campaign is "black propaganda." The petition filed by a group of alleged Martial Law victims before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) fits into this category. Notice how the petition was framed. The petition was full of invectives against Marcos that are totally irrelevant and have absolutely nothing to do with the merit of the case.

To quote: "… through the undersigned counsel, state "Bongbong Marcos, ang kapal ng mukha mo naman. Bago ka mag-ambisyon na maging pangulo ng kinawawa ninyong ating bayan, isauli mo muna ang ninakaw na bilyon-bilyong dolyares ng iyong mga kawatang magulang mula sa ating taong bayan." And that's the rationale for their disqualification complaint against Marcos?

There are three ways black propaganda stories are employed. One is brazen lies by concocting events, people, places involving an opponent. The more outlandish, the better. The other is "half-truths." The author cherry picks and presents only the dark facts that matter to him without mention of the more substantive and relevant data. Still, another is "guilt by association." Here, the author fuses the innocent with a demonized individual — dead or alive.

Unfortunately, black propaganda, if left unchecked, often works. This is especially effective on voters who vote on emotion, not reason.

Carpio taking us for fools

Filing disqualification cases against competitors during election season is old hat. Justice Antonio Carpio should know better that the petition against Bongbong Marcos was characterized by "half-truths and half lies" and has no legal leg to stand on.

For all his appearance of a "bleeding heart," of being a constitutionalist," or "of trying to uphold the law," he is being hypocritical. Carpio should have been more transparent. He should have forewarned his viewers during his TV interview that he is in opposition, a leading member of 1Sambayan who has endorsed Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo for president and is campaigning for her.

Somehow, Carpio has momentarily succeeded in shifting the narratives away from the more relevant issues of the day to the bygone years of martial law, putting the onus on Marcos Jr. for the past transgressions of the father. At the same time, the complaint revisited Bongbong's tiff with the Bureau of Internal Revenue for his failure to file his income tax returns (ITRs) for the years 1982 to 1985.

The Court of Appeals had overturned Marcos' conviction by the lower court and instead, merely imposed a fine of P32,000 for his failure to file his ITR, not for tax evasion. But of course, this highly important decision of the higher court was absent in the complaint. Carpio's spin was "Marcos, guilty of Tax Evasion" when the truth is, he was found "Guilty for failing to file ITR" as the Court of Appeals had ruled.

Disqualification not the objective

My take is that the petitioners and Carpio, of course, are not interested in disqualifying Bongbong because in the first place, they know he can't be disqualified.

Their sole purpose in bringing a case against Bongbong was to prevent the millennials from voting for him in the May 22 election. By their calculation, the opposition can win the millennials through a "hate and divide" campaign by revisiting the Martial Law years with the attendant excesses of the period and by stoking people's fears and tragedies of the past.

Carpio a political hack

Carpio's opinion on the disqualification case filed by the Martial Law victims against Marcos should be viewed with skepticism or with a pinch of salt. Carpio for all his appearances is not an "amicus curiae." He is not and cannot be objective. He is a leading member of the 1Sambayan, an opposition and a certified anti-Marcos diehard. His disdain for the Marcoses is legendary. He is rumored to be the chief architect of the disqualification case filed by the Martial Law victims before the Comelec.

He is nothing more than a leading member of the opposition (Robredo bloc) masquerading as a resource person. He is a former Supreme Court associate justice who morphed into a political hack. Sad!

Carpio's strategy: Guilt by affinity

Frame the issue ("Good vs Evil"), define your opponent (visit the sins of the father on the son and the tax case), change the national conversation by revisiting the past (Martial Law), demonize the dead (ill-gotten wealth), stoke it, employ the media, trigger a debate, bait Marcos into the fray, put him on the defensive.

By their calculation, this strategy will cost Bongbong considerable votes from the millennials and the undecided. Will it? Will Bongbong bite?

Unsolicited advice to the candidates

Rein in your attack dogs. Avoid making a martyr of your opponent. Attack your opponent. Throw in the kitchen sink if you will. But no black propaganda, please, and stick to the issues of the day. Promote your agenda. Talk to us. Talk to the people. Explain your positions on issues like health care, unemployment, poor quality education, miserable telco services (slow and very expensive internet, unreliable mobile calls), the West Philippine Sea, the coconut levy fund, ailing businesses, among other life and death concerns of the people.

Enough of black propaganda. It is an assault on our intelligence.