Why is it an honor to be a cia, Bert?

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

I don’t quite know what the CIA is. Have not read much up on it in a truly investigative, incisive manner, as I have done on Marxism, for instance, or socialism and communism. What scanty information I have stored in my cranium about this much touted, much-dreaded, much-derided but nonetheless ever secretive agency of the United States, I have gathered as unintended results of readings on subject matters way different from US intelligence.

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For instance, searching for insights into the November 22, 1963 assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy (actually I was interested in knowing how a septuagenarian, which I am, can hook a devastatingly lovely widow of a US president, as Aristotle Onassis did Jacqueline), I stumbled upon in the net this deathbed confession by a former CIA agent named E. Howard Hunt that he was into the inner circle of conspirators, with then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson at the helm, who planned the Kennedy killing. This shocked me because until then, what only impressed me about the CIA was that it was mainly meant to bring down foreign regimes inimical to the United States. As it turned out, based on that deathbed confession, the CIA is one for bringing down America’s regime as well. Certainly that was how Lyndon B. Johnson became United States President.

Writing about the deathbed confession in this column subsequently, I asked if Vice President Leni Robredo could not be doing a Johnson in the manifest destabilization moves against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

So that got me diverted from my original intention of finding my own Jacqueline – for a yardstick, there is this lovely lady in the blogging sector, simply named Ilda who writes regularly in the Blog Get Real Post who pens her article in the devastating fashion of Manny Pacquiao delivering a flurry of punches and who at one time struck a pose in those all-too-familiar trademark dark sunglasses which could make her a deadringer for the former US First Lady.

Hunt’s confession made me ponder: If the CIA can, indeed, bring down, and in a violent manner at that, the US’ own Chief Executive, how far less difficult it would be for it to topple the President of what has always been regarded by America as its vassal state.

I’ve long forgotten about that concern, but then came yesterday, Friday, turning out to be day of meeting people. Coming to the Global News Network to implore Herman Laurel (fondly called Mentong by friends) to let me observe the taping of his talk show, TNT (Talk News TV) Politics Today, he instead put me on board as program guest, joining up with Ado Paglinawan (who has just authored a book with a most ingenious title, A Problem To Every Solution, a copy of which he brought in case it became necessary in the discussion), in tackling the issues of crime and punishment (this is the title of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic work on detective work) and fake news and blogging.

The episode proved rewarding in any case. I got to reiterate my concerns on the unbriddled spate of summary slaughter of suspected illegal drugs dependents and pushers, particularly the turning of otherwise peaceful and romantic city of Antipolo into a killing field.

And on the issue of blogging, Mentong expressed in an enlightening manner that bloggers are no journalists, and so it is wrong to apply to them standards meant for professional practitioners in the Fourth Estate. He specifically quoted ASEC Mocha Uson in her exchange with Sen. Bam Aquino during the recent Senate investigation on fake news. It appeared the Communications Assistant Secretary had scored the senator over a certain issue about which, the senator complained, Uson had not given him the chance to air his side, as is the practice in professional journalism. The feisty toast of the Communications Department shot back at the senator: “Why should I? I am not a journalist. I am a blogger.”

That retort, to Mentong, answered my question: What is the difference between a blogger and a journalist?

I asked the question from my own perspective, which would not delineate any such difference.

“I write as I write,” I said. “I write with conviction.”

I cited that when on account of the demise of the Philippine movie industry, I was out of my screenwriting and movie directing careers, left with no more outlet for my thoughts, I turned to blogging. I had KAMAO for my political thoughts, The Traveler for my literary works, and BRASO for my historical insights.

Has my blogging changed my category any? No, not at all. I have continued to write with as much consummate passion as I do now in writing this column – to express what I believe is the truth to be written.

I grant bloggers this nobility of intention no less.

Mentong pointed out that there are bloggers whose sole intention is to damn and destroy.

To which I could only quote Voltaire: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.”

That got us all done with in that episode on TNT. Whether it delivered a blast or not, that’s for viewers on cable television to tell.

But then, done with the taping, Mentong and I were on the way out of the studio but who should come walking in for a taping of his own show, Una Sa Lahat, but Kit Tatad, a colleague in the Opinion Page of this paper who is an old acquaintance, already wearing a wide grin for me. We had a minute exchanging pleasantries, he asking for my contact number, me reminding him of the coming anniversary celebration of The Manila Times, to which he said he had already been invited by Yen Makabenta.

Then just as I thought Kit had completed my day of meeting people, who should he point to but a man standing behind me, wearing a benign smile.

“You know, Bert?” said Kit.

I needed a second when I turned to recognize the man.

Ah, yes, I said to myself. Norberto Gonzales, he whose article, The Philippine Roadmap to Communism, published in The Manila Times is described by NDF Political Consultant Dan Borjal as “may just be his opening salvo in a wrecking operation by the most reactionary elements in Philippine society who still maintain enormous power and influence in the GPH armed forces, the Catholic Church and the business community.”

We shook hands in comradely fashion, with me uttering, staring into his eyes, “The CIA.”

Honestly, I don’t know why I said that acronym. I did not even realize it was what I said until after a second or two. When it came out of my mouth, what were tiptoeing on the crest of my mental waves were the letters “NSA” for National Security Adviser, which I was remembering as his post in the Arroyo government.

A case of, I instantly thought, my tongue proving smarter than my mind.

That being the case, what I said stood, even as I feared I committed a faux pas.

Surprisingly, Bert did not take offense. The perfect composure of a veteran intelligence officer.

“Today,” he said, almost as an afterthought, “that’s an honor.”

Bert meant honor to be called a CIA.

That got me instantly flashing back to Dostoyevsky’s Crime And Punishment, the name of one of two topics of Mentong’s show taping yesterday. A very complicated novel, in one aspect it tells of the battle of wits between a police investigator and a murderer who over the long period of the investigation manages to outsmart the police officer. The criminal does not realize that the investigator has been zeroing in on his conscience and when the investigator delivers his final salvo, the murderer just folds up, owning up to the crime.

I didn’t ask Kit, but evidently Bert would be the guest for his show’s episode to be taped.

It must be interesting to listen to what Bert had said in the taping. If he happened to answer the question at the start of this article, all the better.

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