[NEWSPOINT | OPINION] Transcendent messages via earthquake
Obviously, by their very nature, earthquakes are a terrifying phenomenon: they’re unpredictable, they’re unstoppable, and, precisely because they cannot be fathomed to the degree that man might be able to do anything about them, they are haunting.
The inevitable sense that they are unleashed by a power greater than any earthly one also makes an earthquake experience chastening. Surely, man wishes that messages sent via earthquake came to him, if not chiseled in stone tablets, at least in less vague and violent a form than a sudden shaking and heaving and rending of the ground beneath his feet.
To be sure, earthquakes can be explained scientifically, as a geological occurrence, but the transcendent signals they send can only be guessed at. But again, in certain circumstances and from certain perspectives, those signals might seem sensible, as may well be the case with the latest significant earthquake to rock Manila and other parts of Luzon – a magnitude 6.1.
That one struck hard on the heels of a tale told of a plot to oust President Duterte, which should make the deciphering not too difficult for the suitably disposed. The propagator is Sal Panelo, and his source the man he officially, sycophantically, speaks for – the President himself, who would be not only quick to admit to it but proud to reveal, though not exactly to name, his own source: foreign friends listening in on conversations among the conspirators.
Here, in other words, is a tale that bears the hallmarks of that one told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. But, if it were a nothing tale, why should the earth-shakers bother? Because idiots abound on both sides – peddler and consumer – and they all need a sensitizing jolt.
Even before becoming the presidential spokesman, Panelo had distinguished himself as a man who likes to open his mouth and put his feet in it. He just surpassed himself by accommodating those of his master, too. He in fact went even further with the trick; mouth packed now with two pairs of limbs, he managed yet to blurt out, when pressed by the press for evidence of the plot he was alleging, “It’s all common sense!”
What common sense – indeed, what sense, common or rare – may be made out of a diagram drawn to represent a plot implicating a random collection of journalists, lawyers, leftists, and people of other professions and persuasions I don’t know. I see only lines connecting names and the pictures that correspond to them. A fashionable and weighty-sounding word was picked to name the drawing – “matrix” – but that only made the joke more hilarious, instead of attenuating it.
This matrix has been roundly ridiculed, predictably. The police and the army all but pooh-poohed it. While plots such as alleged may exist as a “possibility,” none is in fact afoot, the police said. The military was more dismissive: it saw no plot or any basis for the allegation. Normally, both institutions would hedge in favor of their Commander-in-Chief.
If any conspiracy existed at all, it could only have been concocted inside the regime itself. Fabricating, after all, is in its DNA, and the closest comparison that may be drawn with the matrix is Duterte’s directories of characters in the illegal drug trade. These are certainly no charge books, only lists of names. The Yellow Pages has more information to offer about its entries.
Appearing first in print, courtesy of The Manila Times, and preceding Panelo’s press conference about it by some hours, the matrix may have gained at first blush some benefit of the doubt from readers who innocently presumed the Times a legitimate newspaper and Dante Ang, under whose byline its matrix story appeared, a legitimate journalist.
The Times was a newspaper once, and Ang a broadcaster on its radio station. He switched early to public relations and has stayed and evidently flourished in it. He now owns the Times. It had become a losing proposition, financially and professionally, when he acquired it, and his reputation and habits as a PR man did not help.
Duterte has made him Special Envoy for International Public Relations, a role he doubtless landed by extension of his long-standing loyalty to Gloria Arroyo, whose influence on Duterte is decidedly Machiavellian: she overthrew Duterte’s old friend as Speaker, thus signaling she owned the House. Not to forget, not long before, she had rigged her own election to the presidency, confessed to the crime, but managed yet to take office and serve the full term.
She may be a consummate manipulator, but there’s simply no manipulating earthquakes. In fact, during that last one, as she was herself rocking helplessly on her feet, her home province of Pampanga was bearing its brunt.
Anyway, characters like her are not given to a transcendent reading of earthquakes, which is understandable: it can only be bad for them. – Rappler.com