Is it serendipity (a fortunate accident) that President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd tells his biggest whoppers in the presence of priests, pastors, bishops and holy men? Is there a mad belief that a holy audience will sanctify the lie or make it go down more easily?
Is it by design that these extravaganzas of lying have taken place in Malacañang, the palace of our people? And that they were covered live by the TV networks, so our people could witness the spectacle?
A more thoughtful president would shudder at the thought of lying so publicly and brazenly. Even Richard Nixon would have hesitated. But alas, not our president.
Lying before the Pope
Last January, in welcoming Pope Francis to Malacañang – and in the infamous speech that has taken a place in the Vatican archives, President Aquino boasted before his Holiness that 2.4 million people were lifted out of poverty by his administration.
Some people, like media colleague Alex Magno, could not believe their ears. they thought “our president was lying barefaced in front of the Pope.” So they subjected the boast to fact-checking.
Magno asked DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman about it during a segment of the radio program Karambola.
Soliman hemmed and hawed before finally conceding that Aquino’s numbers were likely “extrapolated.”
Now, the real facts have come out. In an official report last March 6, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released the Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS). The study reports that the number of Filipinos falling under the controversially defined poverty line rose to 25.8 percent in the first half of 2014 from 24.6 percent in the year earlier.
Explaining its findings, the PSA said that the incidence of poverty means that 26 out of 100 Filipinos are poor. This means the Philippines has the highest poverty incidence among the six biggest members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), viz. Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Another columnist says this shows that Soliman’s much-touted and multi-billion Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, has failed to reduce the poverty problem.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), for its part, explained that Filipinos became poor in the first half of 2014 due to the rapid increase in food prices, particularly rice which jumped 11.9 percent from 1.7 percent on-year as a result of a lean harvest and fewer imports.
None of these can change the fact that Aquino lied to the Pope. Only confession and penance can provide the remedy.
Lying to a show of prayer power
Then last Monday, in what was billed by propagandists as a show of prayer power, the Palace hosted a score of Christian pastors and leaders from various congregations, who collectively volunteered to pray for the President’s deliverance from his critics.
I did not watch the event on TV. I am relying here entirely on press reports and Inday Varona’s incisive online report and commentary: “Aquino: A mountain of lies.”
The event took place just a day after the victims’ families and the nation marked the 40th day of the deaths in Mamasapano.
In his speech on this occasion, the president exceeded himself.
He declared that former SAF director Getulio Napeñas fooled him. He decided alone and his decisions were wrong.
In this new narrative and spin, Aquino claimed that as early as in the January 9 briefing in Bahay Pangarap, he already told Napenas that the SAF cannot deploy just 160 SAF troopers in Mamasapano to take out terrorists Marwan and Usman when there were 3,000-4,000 potential hostiles in the area.
The new story was a desperate move, because Aquino himself didn’t think he would be believed. He now presents himself as a victim of deception, in order to evade accountability for the tragedy.
Earlier, the official tack was to downplay the President’s role. Aquino was misled and misinformed on Mamasapano.
Monday’s lies were “so bad they fly in the face of logic.”
Aquino practically admitted that he lied in his earlier speeches to the nation, when he claimed that he did get involved in the details of the Mamasapano operation.
The speech shows plainly that Aquino has a problem dealing with reality—other than that which exists in his mind.
In a telling point, Varona wrote: “The fact is, the President is scared. Very scared. And he has a lot to be scared of, starting with the fact that the men he sacrificed in Mamasapano, and the men left holding the bag of blame, refuse to be silent.
“The ship of state has so many leaks. Men in uniform themselves are punching holes in the President’s tall tales.”
What the Senate hearing did not bring to light was leaked last week: a video of Napeñas briefing Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and a roomful of officers on Mamasapano.
In his speech, Aquino blamed everything on Napeñas. He claimed he ordered Napeñas to preposition artillery and even mentions bombs from planes. He suggests that he played general in advising Napeñas of what was needed in an operation where the SAF could face 3,000 to 4,000 enemies.
This is a brazen lie, says Varona. Had Mr. Aquino given the warning, Alan Purisima would not have said again and again in the Senate, that the operation was “time-on-target.”
Aquino lying so brazenly shows that the Mamasapano incident is now a catastrophe for the administration.
In each of us there is a lie detector that enables us to know when we are being lied to– barefaced or otherwise.
When the lie is this blatant, it is not the liar who feels more embarrassed, it is those who are lied-to. It is doubly embarrassing when the liar is no less than the President.
Compared to BS Aquino, Pinnochio is an altar boy.
To accept Aquino’s story, we ourselves would have to be sick in the head. No one will believe it. Even Frank Drilon will have difficulty with this one.
The Christian leaders must have had difficulty, because they sleep and wake with the Holy Bible by their side. And the Bible – both the Old and New testaments — are stern on the subject of lying.
In the five books of Moses the Israelites are commanded not to bear false witness.
The New Testament judges lying harshly. John (8:44) identifies Satan as the father of all lies. In Acts, (5:5) Ananias is struck dead for allegedly lying to the Holy Ghost.
Losing dignity and credibility
What the Palace faces is the implacable fact that none of its narratives or spins can stand up and reassure the people about their President.
What started as just an act of denial has transmogrified—through continuous lying—into a storm big enough to engulf the entire nation.
Aquino’s dishonesty is metastasizing like a cancer. And it is eating every shred of dignity and credibility of the President.
It may be that there is now no need to oust him, because by his mendacity, he has already ousted himself.
He has lost the moral authority to govern our nation.
The final indignity, I believe, will be this. If an opinion survey is conducted on the level of support and approval enjoyed by General Napeñas and President Aquino, the scapegoat will enjoy more support.
We have to await now the practical consequences for President Aquino, the administration, and the nation at large.
They say that the lies return to hunt their tellers.
In his book, When Presidents Lie, Eric Alterman says that the presidential lies reviewed destroyed the very policy that the lies were designed to support.
‘Without exception, each president (or his successor) paid an extremely high price for his lie. So too did the nation whose leadership was entrusted to him.”