The Dureza prayer

The Dureza prayer?

PGMA is visibly irked – reading her behavioral signature – following the statement made by the Press Secretary in an opening prayer during that cabinet meeting to the effect that the president should lead this country beyond 2010. GMA did not like what she heard. Clearly, GMA was so embarrassed that she wants such statement stricken off the record. But isn’t it said that – ‘from out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh’? So, it may well be true that Secretary Dureza must have expressed what he knows, what he thinks , and what he feels – a whole old formative process of belief, attitude, and behavior. It was not anything accidental like a slip of the tongue. It was meant to be said that Chiz Escudero describes it as a ‘trial balloon’, matter-of-factly to test how the listening universe will react of a GMA beyond her term. If this is one piece in a larger jigsaw puzzle, there is reason to believe that Enrile’s unforeseen ascent to the Senate presidency is just another cut of the jigsaw. In short, the expressed view that the senators want to save the Senate as an institution amounts to a mere alibi. For what else is it?

In a subsequent video clip, Dureza is heard to have pointed out that GMA must not have heard what was said right after that. He tried to bluff the public by saying GMA knew about the prayer before it was said and that he feels GMA was not really slighted. He was trying to push an alibi that his statement was meant to be – GMA leading this nation beyond the 2010 nighmare – in her personal and private capacity. But who can believe that now that he spilt the beans like some rabid sycophant (expected anyway of all press secretaries)? In having offended GMA, Dureza should be man enough to tender his irrevocable resignation since no amount of apologies could sooth the lady’s heart offended by the insult or naked condescension could be more like it? It ought to be a breach of protocol in public information practice if Malacanang’s media bureau cares enough to live up to the great Floreindoan tradition acknowledged in learned public relations circles.

Speaking of a truly a vibrant Fourth Estate, the manner press conference in Malacanang is being shown on TV leaves much to be desired. The questions raised by news reporters are such as would not trigger any violent reaction from the Executive Secretary if they are not actually questions priorly submitted for cognitive mapping. Nothing indicates that the more crucial points could be extracted in a spirit of guaranteed liberties. In other words, each time a press conference is being held, it is almost as if, the whole procedure was scripted, totally tamed, and uncharacteristically consensual. It cannot intimidate the one being interviewed to supply convincing answers. It cannot elicit more truthful and factual information that the viewing public ought to know since their views apparently never run in opposite directions that should characterize what a truly open and militant press freedom is all about.

Come to think of it, GMA probably never did have a good press secretary or alternating spokespersons in her entire Malacanang entrusted and perceptibly stolen stewardship. Then Press Secretary Bunye may have done real good until the ‘Hello Garci wiretapping scandal’ came into the scene where he was forced to show two kinds of discs – one fake, one original. This is why Dureza may have very little room more left for him to placate what offense he must have registered to his principal, the President who is known for her middle class tantrums. The poor press secretary may really have to try very hard to appease GMA in every way he can just so to save his cabinet position since nothing indicates he could be man enough to now resign his post for such ‘lapse in judgment’, albeit in a prayer. Dureza serves only at the pleasure of the president just as Villar – if and only if – there is a vote of confidence. But the fact that GMA does not boot him confirms people’s wild suspicion it is precisely intended to be floated around to gauge social fever.

Since the statement of Dureza serves public notice that GMA plans to really push charter change as the only constitutional mechanism to extend her term beyond 2010, this has disturbed otherwise calm political waters. A well-kept state secret has just been revealed rather carelessly if inadvertently. The whole voting population is then kept on its toes against any self-evident move from Malacanang to tinker with the present Constitution if only to set the stage for a term extension, a no election scenario, and a total distortion of the fundamental law of the land. There are no known indications that a resulting charter change can succeed except that Congress as a collectivity wins the numbers game. But society writ large is never for charter change – not by any kind of genius – that is yet to manifest itself. If consistent negative trust and approval ratings for GMA were barometer, it is simply impossible that GMA may be lawfully permitted to extend her term as president – not even in a plebiscite called for the purpose. The High Court may well refrain from a case of judicial overstretching or that incredulous ‘authoritative window principle’.

Scandal after another seems to rear their ugly heads enough to eclipse whatever probable gains may have been accomplished by the Arroyo administration. Then beleaguered COMELEC chairman was not held accountable in the ZTE fund mess. Then beleaguered GSIS head was not held culpable, either for having allegedly siphoned off money from the pension fund. Joc Joc was even allowed to resign. Eliseo dela Paz is likewise permitted to retire. All losing pro-GMA senatoriables have been appointed to juicy posts after the one year ban. Retired PNP and AFP flag officers were given cabinet if not ambassadorial posts. Right wing extremists in the AFP have been kept in military stockade. Even Trillanes whom the people voted for is refused the Divine Right to serve his constitutional mandate. The Meralco attempt bribe showed clearly that even justices of the Court of Appeals are vulnerable to unlawful acts. And we can go on and on to the point of near nausea in our inventory of our sacred cows (euphemism for ‘non-performing assets’).

Even social weather stations have been infected with the culture of corruption to serve as push-polling circuits for their paying patrons. Or how in the world that Pulse Asia came out with its findings on the presidentiables at the exclusion of BF if not one graphic indication of its institutional bias? Is it the case that it did not know nor hear that the MMDA chairman is vying for the presidency and that in every indications, he will win in this mad race? Only Golez is panicky of a BF in Malacanang when most everyone knows BF is certified to make good as a president with his no-nonsense approach to implement projects that redound to the common good. Perhaps, grandstanding by politicians ought to have some limits to trim it of its chronic excesses.

Besides, Dr. Carlos of UP correctly analyzed that such survey is too early to be done as to be entirely useless since a lot of things can still transpire between now and May 2010. From where I stand, that Pulse Asia survey is intended to condition the minds of the people much earlier in time but it should not have shortlisted it to just 5 presidentiables if it does understand what a level playing field is. Truly, Dureza himself has a lot of mind conditioning to do to save his neck from the chopping board unless he does decide now to do a graceful exit a la Manny Villar. Resignation will be the most honorable option left – nothing else.

UP Diliman, Quezon City Email: