FIRST, it was Interior and Local government secretary Mar Roxas who slipped on a “banana peel” word and landed on his butt.
He used, much too eagerly and with little thought, the non-existent word “misencounter” to describe the Mamasapano massacre, in an undisguised attempt to prevent the horror from inflaming passions.
(Explanatory note. A “banana peel word” in my lexicon is a word or term, which when used with insufficient understanding and care can cause the speaker to slip and fall on his butt or on his face.)
To Secretary Roxas’ horror, misencounter boomeranged. The killings were immediately called a massacre by most journalists and politicians. They shocked and outraged the nation.
Roxas has been trying to walk back “misencounter” with little success. The word took a life of its own. I think the only antidote is for Roxas to use the word “massacre” as a substitute repeatedly. This way, he might morph into a credible leader
Aquino and coordination
Then it was the turn of President Aquino to step on a “banana peel” word and land on his butt, and maybe his face. After finally coming out of his foxhole to talk about Mamasapano and address the nation, he blithely ascribed the tragedy to “lack of coordination” between the Special Action Force and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“Coordination,” it turns out, is a big banana peel word
As The Manila Times has headlined and editorialized, the SAF did not have to coordinate with MILF in its operation to arrest Marwan and Usman. Under the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF, operations undertaken against high value targets in MILF enclaves do not require coordination.
The SAF did not violate the agreement in Mamasapano; the MILF did, by over-reacting and mercilessly killing the commandos.
The President is to be faulted for being too quick in assigning blame to the SAF and the dead commandos for the tragedy, and in absolving MILF of responsibility. His priorities were jumbled and twisted. He’s taken heavy fire as a result.
It’s significant that had President Aquino and Secretary Roxas avoided use of their respective ‘banana peel” words, the controversies that erupted around them would have been significantly lessened.
Judicious diction would have spared them a lot of headaches.
Truckloads of evidence and arrest warrants
The issue of banana peel words impels attention from members of the Aquino administration and their spokesmen, because many of them are careless with their speech and even their prepared statements.
Sometimes an entire statement from Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma is a banana peel by itself. The only thing assured is that crony media will report it, which doesn’t help.
Banana peel words take their meaning from the time when “slipping on a banana peel” was a popular form of slapstick comedy. Scenes of guys somersaulting after stepping on a banana peel were standard scenes in the early days of the cinema. They earned for the banana peel a reputation as a public hazard across America.
There’s no similar comic tradition in this country. Probably because we don’t throw banana peels just anywhere; we feed them to the pigs.
Banana peel words became part of Philippine social history and a distinctive feature of the Aquino administration during the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the numerous hearings that have been conducted in the Senate.
One early example was “truckloads of evidence,” which Justice Secretary Leila de Lima contributed to pin down some pork-barrel senators of the opposition. The truckloads were non-existent when the time came for filing charges.
De Lima followed this up with “slam dunk” to describe the testimony of Ruby Tuazon, one of her witnesses under state protection.
“Arrest warrant” is now another banana peel word in this country. It is dangerous and can be deadly.
In October 2011, 19 members of the Army’s special forces were killed in Basilan, while on a mission to serve an arrest warrant on a well-known terrorist.
In its Mamasapano mission, the Special Action Force (SAF) was trying to serve arrest warrants on two terrorists wanted by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with a combined bounty of $6 million.
Why is our government so punctilious about serving arrest warrants on terrorists? Did the US Seals serve an arrest warrant on Osama Bin Laden before taking him out?
If anyone should be extra careful with words, it’s the presidential peace adviser and the members of the government peace panel. Lives hang on the balance in the texts of the agreements and protocols they forge with MILF, who may not be persnickety about using words correctly.
Kris Aquino will unfollow you
While President Aquino is fighting a war with critics of his policies, his diction and his body language, his sister Kris Aquino is engaged in her own little war of words and public relations because of Mamasapano.
This other war is raging in the world of show business and in social media.
It seems that the shock and horror of the massacre broke through the walls of make-believe and wounded some entertainers and show-biz celebrities to the core.
They tweeted, they emailed, they sent instagrams to express their indignation. And many laid the blame squarely on President Aquino.
This got the ire of Kris, who fancies herself as the queen of showbiz, as a secret part owner of ABS-CBN, and as a maker and unmaker of careers.
TV star Judy Ann Santos registered her anger over PNoy’s failure to be on hand when the bodies of the dead commandos arrived at Villamor Air Base by posting on her Instagram account an article and photo of Barack Obama receiving and honoring the American diplomats and soldiers killed in Benghazi, Libya.
In angry retaliation, Kris “unfollowed” Judy Ann on social media, and made her displeasure known to one and all. Because many other media celebrities expressed criticism of PNoy, she “unfriended” them on Facebook.
Many more bizarre things are happening in showbiz while the Mamasapano tragedy continues to beg for closure. Make-believe is doing its damnedest to also get real.
Amid all these developments, I have one question: “Did we join the digital revolution only to drown in a sea of silly words?”
If this leads someone to unfollow or unfriend me, I don’t care.