The Long View: The Mahatma of Malacañang


The Mahatma of Malacañang


A Great Soul — a Mahatma — is what Gandhi was once called. But as you, dear reader, will see, we have a Great Soul of our own who doesn’t waste any time on peace-loving foolishness. Consider the advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.”

“Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood,” you, gentle reader (and Emerson’s interlocutor at the time), might say. To which Ralph Waldo (Emerson, that is) had this to say: “Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

And is not the President great? Not for nothing has he been called the Great Eagle Father. A Mahatma in full flight. See him soar.

But former deputy director for administration of the Philippine National Police Drug Enforcement Group (DEG) Eduardo Acierto has dared to accuse the President, as well as former PNP chief and administration senatorial candidate Ronald dela Rosa, of having dismissed an intelligence report he submitted on Michael Yang and a Chinese, Allan Lim, allegedly being involved in drugs.

For critics of the President, Acierto’s statement is nothing less than one of the biggest connect-the-dots exposés ever, at least since those of Arturo Lascañas and Edgardo Matobato. But to those for whom the President is the Great Eagle Father, the exposé is nothing but character assassination by a disgraced crook. Acierto was ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman in 2015, not over drugs but over a deal between the PNP Firearms and Explosive Office, to which he belonged at the time, and a courier company called Werfast. (He was reinstated after an appeal, but dismissed again in 2018 over firearms that were licensed but later found with the New People’s Army.)

For them, being the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful Chief Executive — in other words, the Mahatma or Great Soul of Malacañang — means the President, even when he is wrong, is right, because by being wrong, he rights other wrongs. Confused? Let us stipulate that as one name for the liquidation scheme (Oplan Double Barrel) suggests, the so-called war on drugs takes a shotgun approach. There will be, as the President has told us frankly, collateral damage.

Let us also stipulate what the President has also said, that he was shocked — shocked! Dismayed! — to discover that some policemen were liquidating people without regard to his own carefully crafted rules of engagement. Two years ago, the President even shifted antidrug operations from the police to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) because of this.

Third, the President himself has pointed to various government agencies as the sources of information for his lists, saying he trusts them. This means that the escape clause in such statements is that it is entirely possible that officials will, from time to time, turn out to have abused the President’s trust.

With all of the above, he is right when he publicizes lists, and right when he says other lists, or even his own list, are wrong. And so, witness the Great Eagle Father in full Mahatma mode. Mike Rama appeared on a list, then the President raised his hand on Feb. 24, in an apparent act of endorsement for the May midterms (Rama is running for vice mayor, in what a SunStar item said was due to “the cloud of doubt raised by Mr. Duterte’s list”).

When the President says he speaks from personal knowledge, he is a lot more categorical, because he is right about others being wrong. Recall last October, when the President was asked about his supposed adviser, Michael Yang, being suspected of involvement in the drug trade. The President reacted by releasing a dossier on law enforcers suspected of being crooks. Reports were chock-full of photos of the intrepid Yang with the President, and his having reportedly attended the baptism of Nicanor Faeldon’s child.

While there is a growing number of officials accused of either coddling or turning a blind eye to, or being hapless in the face of, the smuggling of drugs, consider Isidro Lapeña or Nicanor Faeldon. The President, too, has, from time to time, intervened to clear them of any possible wrongdoing. It all makes sense—ask Emerson (Margate or Rosales, both of them directors in PDEA, that is).


Manuel L. Quezon III.

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