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Like Rashomon
By mlq3 Posted in Daily Dose on January 5, 2009 152 Comments 11 min read
Raul S. Manglapus: An Idealists' Life (Outline) Previous Here's to 2009! Next


In Why the Pangandaman Issue Refuses to Die or At Least Abate, the Warrior Lawyer points to the archetype of the Bullying Official as the reason behind the longevity of the Valley Golf Beating Story. There seems to have been a kind of bewilderment in official circles that the beatings became headline material. Warrior Lawyer explains why:

Furthermore, the Pangandamans lost the war for public sympathy from the onset, the circumstances of the event being what it is. Setting aside the question of who gave provocation, it’s clear from the versions of both sides that the De la Paz family were at the losing end of the encounter. There was the father, no spring chicken, and his 14-year old son and college-age daughter, against able-bodied young men, powerful and influential people at that, and their armed bodyguards. Who’s being bullied here ? Pinoys will always sympathize with the underdog.

And if the rumors are to be believed, the Pangandaman camp have little idea of how the blogosphere operates. They have allegedly tried to find out and “profile” the persons behind the blogs attacking them to find ways to counteract such efforts. If true, then they betray a total lack of understanding of the viral nature of the beast. It’s not the individual blogs that dictate the agenda (not that there is even one) of the blogosphere but the medium itself: the immediacy and rapid dissemination of news and opinion among community members numbering in the tens of thousands. Issues take on a life of their own in the internet, by reason of the sheer momentum generated by information speedily passing from one person to another through blogs, social networking sites and the like. The only way to deal with it is on its own terms, by battling it out in the democratic space provided by the internet.

Moreover, the blogosphere is not a universe unto itself. Bloggers are, like it or not, part of the world at large. They are not immune from political and societal forces and will not be restrained from, at the very least, commenting on the issues of the day. They simply won’t keep quiet and anyone who tries to make them shut up would be like King Canute commanding the tides of the sea to roll back.

In his blog (see The Golf Incident: The Trouble with Mirrors), [email protected], a person inclined to be judicious at all times, was concerned over what he perceived to be yet another case of the mob mentality of the blogosphere:

The initial reaction and predictable one is to call for the resignation of the politicians involve in the case. Related to this a series of debate has ensued on Net both via the blogs and the comment threads. The huffing and puffing of beliefs and opinions.

These are all well and good on a certain level but it would be unfortunate if it becomes an issue of trial by posts and a discussion/debate that would pull out all known political and social beliefs and theories. The first one falling into a lynch mob mentality and the second one reminds one of the ineffective men of the floating island of Laputa (from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travel). The citizens of Laputa intelligent men that they were had one tragic flaw – so indulged in the pursuit of knowledge and reasoning that they did not use their knowledge for any practical use: to much into the thought process and no input in the action.

After a reasonable time; debate without action is as effective as cupping a corpse.

So here we are;

I am not really a fan of trial by posts. It is a blind rage that can be destructive to those who receive and uses its power. Rather it would be better to use this “power” to ensure that the case is monitored and not left to die. Legal measures are a welcome resort in such case and for the politicians involved in the case – leave of absence or resignation would also be appropriate.

And again when the debate goes way for argument’s sake – well it becomes useless and at some point deadly – apathy is not the only thing that kills a cause.

This medium is truly like a mirror and reflects the actions of all those involved.

His concern was for the truth to emerge; I engaged him in discussions on this over several days, arguing that there were two issues at hand, a political one, and one of personal justice, and that the political issue had resolved itself when the Secretary hadn’t even deigned to offer to go on leave, move to resolve matters, or in any way relinquish (at least temporarily) his authority so as to foster an unimpeded investigation; that the other concerns were properly the province of the courts as far as assigning compensation for any damages, etc. The very fact a national official reacted by going to Baguio to be seen to be “malakas” with the President, not relinquishing his post or going on leave, would send a message (implicitly supported by the President’s silence on the matter and her New Year’s activities in the secretary’s bailiwick) he was untouchable.

Baratillo prefered a more phlegmatic approach, waiting for evidence to trickle in. In subsequent conversations, Baratillo brought up the movie Rashomon as an apt comparison to the whole golf mauling brouhaha:

The film depicts the rape of a woman and the apparent murder of her husband through the widely differing accounts of four witnesses, including the rapist and, through a medium (Fumiko Honma), the dead man. The stories are mutually contradictory, leaving the viewer to determine which, if any, is the truth. The story unfolds in flashback as the four characters – the bandit Taj-maru (Toshiro Mifune), the murdered samurai (Masayuki Mori), his wife (Machiko Kyo), and the nameless woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) – recount the events of one afternoon in a grove. But it is also a flashback within a flashback, because the accounts of the witnesses are being retold by a woodcutter and a priest (Minoru Chiaki) to a ribald commoner (Kichijiro Ueda) as they wait out a rainstorm in a ruined gatehouse identified by a sign as Rashomon.

On the other hand, The Marocharim Experiment compared it to a story by Guy de Maupassant and observed,

Yet for all the bitching and whining that is taking place between the Hauchecomes and the Malandains of this issue, we’re pretty much privy to it. Like the villagers who saw the fight between Hauchecome and Malandain as nothing more than a battle of differences between strings and pocketbooks, many still see this as a battle of whodunnit first at the golf course many of us can’t afford to go to.

While they squabble about who struck the other first, some of us fail to frame this issue along – not to separate it from – the many different injustices we all suffer. The fact that something occured means that it cannot be denied.

To be sure, that is what’s unfolded since the first account, by Bambee dela Paz, emerged. This is a public issue only insofar as a public official is involved, a minor was physically harmed, and that the official took it to the point of repeated physical confrontation because he had the ultimate check on any efforts to impose reason and sobriety -his bodyguards- and continued to brandish these things as the case became a publicly-discussed one.

In a comment on Journaling on the Net, columnist Ducky Paredes took the opposite tack from my entry on the subject, where I’d pointed out that this was a case of provincial warlordism colliding with metropolitan expectations of limits on official behavior:

I am glad that some on the blogsphere want to know what really happened and not what they want to believe. It’s tough for the Pangandamans; they’re in government and with the unpopular Gloria Arroyo plus they;re outsiders being from Mindanao and Muslims. Tough but all of that has to be factored in.

Accepted that the beating up was too much - an overkill; but as a Valley golfer, let me just say that the ones who breached etiquette were the De la Paz twosome who even drove the ball and almost hit Mayor Pangandaman.

The world has gone crazy? Yes. It has dumped on the Pangandamans mainly because of ther being in government, with Gloria and are outsiders.

This is not to say that I condone what was done to the De la Paz father and son; but, could it be that they had it coming?

This is basically the case for the Pangandaman’s defense, cleverly argued indeed (there is a certain truth, perhaps, to pointing out anyone associated with the President won’t get much by way of an assumption of any kind of innocence; but the “from Mindanao” and “Muslim” arguments are canards, because first of all, there are no “outsiders” on the golf course, their being golfers making them part of the more cosmopolitan golf-playing set; and the Muslim part being totally irrelevant because what is colliding is not religion but rather, wardlordism, is equally represented among Muslims and Christians).

The whole thing has been furiously argued -and in great detail- in all sorts of places though the forum that is quoted a lot happens to be a particular thread on Here, two commenters, “rge,” and “jick” basically give the pros and cons for both sides, with “rge” laying the case for the Pangandamans and “jick” taking the skeptical side (see “rge’s” Fri Jan 02, 2009 4:39 pm post on page 13; then “jick’s” response, Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:15 pm on page 14; where he questions the alleged preview of the fact-finding committee’s finds as being awfully close to the Pangandaman side posted on page 5 of the forum). Add to the various eyewitness accounts, the Incident Report first put online in a scoop by At Midfield.

I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing the efforts of “jick” to put together the two main eyewitness accounts (Bambee dela Paz’s, in green, and a member of the Pangandaman flight, in red) with his observations and his reference to the Guards’ report (in blue):

Publish at Scribd or explore others:

So this is all very interesting in a CSI sort of way, but it’s interesting to note that the pertinent facts emerged early on and have not changed: an official and his group, beat up a citizen and a minor. The only thing that has changed is that after some time, the officials got out their version and went on a media counter-offensive; and that other details began to be revealed, such as, that the fight may have originally been picked by the citizen; and aside from that, there seems to be imputations of aggressive/unpleasant behavior concerning both dela Paz, Sr. and Pangandaman, Jr. In other words, as with most fights, it was between gorillas. But it was all taken a fight too far (since there were, apparently, two, as was known from the start).

The whole problem is if it had stayed at fight one, the Secretary, the Mayor, et al. would be in the clear and could argue they put a gorilla in his place; fight two showed they were gorillas, too -and with armed goons, to boot.

But I also believe that the window of opportunity, so to speak, for this to be a public issue, has already closed. The moment the dela Pazes took it to court, and the Pangandangans filed their counter-suits, it has become a battle over compensation which is for the courts to decide, and in which the public ought to have little interest -except the more general one, for all cases, that it be concluded by means of a speedy and fair trial. But as far as the political resolution of the political part of this issue: where public pressure ought to have been applied to pressure the Secretary to make manifest his willingness to be held accountable for the incident, and for the President to suspend the Mayor, the chance for that has passed. As it was expected to, of course.

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  1. The country has again made the wrong decision of allowing a thug from the province to serve his time in jail or at least suspend him from office. Now, the other local officials in the provinces will use the weakness of the Law to their advantage by doing the same shit the Pangandamans did. The Pangandamans are a disadvantage and a liability for our country. Many of them who are in public office have low standards of ethic and moral conduct and yet this country tolerate.

    People, let’s lift our expectation in politics. Our expectations are too low. Let’s raise the bar and demand even more.