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Dec 08

The Long View: Seductive reasoning

Seductive reasoning

First posted 01:27:47 (Mla time) December 08, 2005 
Manuel L. Quezon III 

 
 

 

THERE were many highly interesting points that emerged during the House’s joint committee hearing yesterday. The most interesting, of course, was the zest displayed by Virgilio Garcillano not only in defending himself, but also in going on the offensive against his detractors. In the process, he invoked the Bart Simpson defense: “I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it, you can’t prove anything!” Which, as we all know, has to do not with what a person did but with the inability of anyone to contradict the person making the defense.

Garcillano insisted he never cheated; that he could not have accomplished the electoral miracles attributed to him because he was only one person; furthermore, that he could name people from the Ilocos regions to Mindanao who did the actual cheating, but he was never a party to it. He didn’t do it. Nobody saw him do it. No one can prove he did anything like it. And if anyone is thinking of proving things, he can prove a whole lot of things, too. All of them confusing; and some of them — whether he meant them to be or not — devastating to himself and his interests.

He said his rights are being violated, because the law protects those who are wiretapped; but he does not admit to having been tapped; but he just might (or might not!) admit if an original, unaltered tape is produced (which assumes there’s only one tape); and he has not (yet) filed a complaint to defend and assert his rights as a person who has been subjected to wiretapping (but he’s preparing to file one just in case). And, in addition, since he has filed a petition before the Supreme Court, he cannot answer questions until the court has handed down a ruling. Such a happy coincidence that the petition he filed prevents him from answering questions!

He said the President should be the one to explain who she referred to as the “Comelec official” she talked to; and that even if she did talk to an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the President was wrong to apologize because nothing’s wrong with a President talking to a Comelec official. And anyway, he can only think of having had one conversation with the President—but only the President can say what they discussed, if, indeed, they discussed anything at all, much less anything improper.

He said he does not deny the conversations, but the details should come from the persons he had conversations with. He refused to answer whether any of the party, or parties, he had conversations with, had asked him to do something improper with regard to the elections. So, Garcillano has said something, but they meant nothing, and his nothings should not be construed as something (as more than one congressman pointed out, it was a refusal to answer, or a way of sidestepping, questions).

It all went rather well for Garcillano, except that Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. periodically peppered his arguments with holes for their legal flaws. At one time, Rep. Ronaldo Zamora proceeded, in his inimitable manner (half-purr and half-bite to the throat), to roll over the former election commissioner by asking Garcillano whether he was invoking the anti-wiretapping law or not. I couldn’t avoid the mental image of an elephant seal happily crushing a spider monkey. That was a delightful Animal Planet moment.

As of this writing, what has Garcillano said? Everything, and nothing. His main interest seems to be the 10 days the Supreme Court has given the House of Representatives to respond to his petition. That takes the discussion, at worst, into the New Year; and, at best, offers the hope that the Supreme Court will step in to serve what he wants — invoking the protection of the law without actually presenting himself as a victim of wiretapping. This is not only having your cake and eating it; this is demanding to be allowed to exercise eminent domain over the bakeshop.

Perhaps, the most significant moment was the one that took place without the benefit of words being broadcast, only actions being beamed over the airwaves. After Rep. Constantino Jaraula appealed, “for humanitarian considerations,” to allow a frustrated — and frustrating — Garcillano a break for lunch, the former Comelec official scuttled over to a brooding Rep. Edcel Lagman, and proceeded to emphatically say some things to him. Lagman, looking like he wanted to be anywhere else but where the entire viewing public could see him being so enthusiastically engaged in conversation by Garcillano, remained impassive. Then Garcillano was whisked away for lunch.

Garcillano is relying on a kind of circular, but seductive reasoning. Basically, he relies in St. Paul’s definition of faith: the “substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things unseen.” What he has presented are the shadows of facts, not actual facts; the conclusions he wants, based on the shadows, are the illusion of reality, not reality itself; he wants us to accept what he says, or—to be precise—the little he is willing to say, as Gospel Truth. At this point, faith is the last thing Garcillano should be inspiring in anyone.

Hard as he might try to tar every politician with the brush used against the President, there will be the politicians who did not call him. You only need a few of them, as Representative Locsin has shown, to completely dismantle whatever case Garcillano is trying to build for himself. And there is the fact that lawyers hate — but which happens when politics overlaps law: You may explain something to the satisfaction of a lawyer’s mind, but it isn’t always enough to convince a non-lawyer.

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