Of Orcs and the Matrix

/ 11:38 PM April 30, 2019

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo presents the President’s “Oust Duterte Matrix.” INQUIRER FILE

NEW YORK— It makes you want to laugh and scream at the same time. You can’t make this up. Well, actually you can, but then why would you?

I refer to a diagram tagged a “matrix” released by Malacañang to graphically show how various individuals and groups are allegedly linked in a conspiracy to oust the president. Did it originate from the president himself, or from the overheated but dimly lit, devoted though in a canine way (and my apologies to canines), fevered imaginings of those who feel an obligation of protective fealty to him, rather than the Constitution or the country?

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Not surprisingly this so-called matrix was freighted with the names of government critics such as the officers of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), journalists of VERA files, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and Rappler.

That such a matrix exists would be hilarious were it not fraught with potentially fatal consequences. Like Sauron, the malevolent lord of the dark tower in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the president has orcs to do his bidding. According to Wikipedia, orcs are “miserable beings, hating everyone including themselves and their masters, whom they serve out of fear. They make no beautiful things, but rather design cunning devices made to hurt and destroy.” An apt description of the Dutertards!

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Many of these orcs are high placed: in the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, the Philippine National Police, and, probably to a lesser extent, the military. The AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Noel Detoyato at least was savvy enough to quickly state that “As of now, we have not seen any specific threat.”

Being included in this “matrix” could be a red flag for the orcs to do the bidding of the dark powers that currently hold sway over the land. But what hard evidence is there to back up these allegations? The best rationale that the presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo could muster was “Galing kay Presidente, e. Paniwalaan ninyo (It’s from the President, so you should believe it).”

In short, the Pope of Malacañang has spoken. So be it. Take it on faith or be counted among the heretics. And what is to be done with heretics? As during the days of the Inquisition, you harass and threaten, you bring them to trial, and if found guilty, imprison and in the worst cases disappear them.

I was glad that at a recent appearance before the Fil-Am Press Club of New York, Maria Ressa, the embattled but principled executive director of Rappler and one of Time’s 2018 most influential persons (including slain Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi), alluded to its existence.

Articulate and with a calm even cheerful demeanor, the diminutive journalist has been arrested twice in five weeks, and has had to contend in 14 months with 11 cases filed against her and Rappler by the government. She has had to pay in pesos the equivalent of more than $1,700 in bail.

In contrast, the Marcoses have never had to pay that much in bail even as they continue to deal with the multitude of charges against them. In any case, bail money would be chump change for a family notorious for its corruption and, during the martial law regime of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, its human rights violations—a dubious record that this current dispensation has in a little more than two years overshadowed.

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Ressa made it abundantly clear that the democracy we have faces death “from a thousand cuts,” that whatever democratic gains we as a nation have made since the 1986 ouster of the Marcoses are being undone. Duterte of course is using the playbook of Marcos, but in a more damaging way, aided by disinformation spread by an army of trolls (hand-in-claw with the orcs) on social media. Much as we rail against these abuses, Ressa pointed out that we do need to utilize social media as well, to combat the hate and the lies with top-notch reporting and transparency—as Rappler has done and continues to do so.

The head of Rappler was disturbed above all by the climate of impunity that the Duterte administration has fostered, as shown in the drug war, and its unrelenting assault on the free press and on civil liberties. Like the creatures that thrive in darkness, the orcs in this administration not only shy away from but seek to eliminate light.

 (To Be Continued)

Copyright L.H. Francia 2019

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TAGS: attacks on journalists, Duterte repression, Duterte war on drugs, Duterte’s matrix, Orcs, Philippine politics, press freedom
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