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Of Hot Potatoes And Bad Messaging (Updated With Remonde’s Reaction)

January 17, 2010

Don’t push your luck.

This seems to be the message Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is telegraphing to her erstwhile political allies, the Ampatuan clan, in the face of unmitigated public anger over the November 23 massacre in Maguindanao’s Ampatuan town that left 57 civilians dead.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde and former Surigao Del Norte congressman Prosper Pichay (now head of the Lowal EWster Utilities Administration) came to their boss’s defense after a lawyer of the Ampatuans chided the Palace for “forgetting” how his clients delivered bloc votes to the Arroyo cause in the 2004 and 2007 elections:

Atty: Philip Pantojan:

Malacañang has turned its back on my clients even backed the filing of charges against them in an attempt to save face. The Ampatuans delivered crucial votes for Ms Arroyo that ensured her victory in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the 2004 presidential election. In their bailiwick of Maguindanao, the Ampatuans produced a zero vote for Ms Arroyo’s then opponent, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde:

It’s a good thing that they’re being dropped like a hot potato and that a neutron bomb wasn’t dropped on them after what some members of the family have been accused of doing.
Responsibility for a crime as heinous as the Maguindanao massacre cannot be bound by any utang na loob (debt of gratitude).
We still assure them that due process is being conducted. But if their lawyers expect that they can get away with it just because they supported the President in the last elections, then they must be dreaming. But their dream will be the country’s nightmare.
We support a President because we believe in the President’s programs. But it’s wrong to assume that this same President will tolerate any wrongdoing. What kind of a President is that? It’s not only the vote of the Ampatuans in Maguindanao that made the President win. If we speak of any group voting, I claim that it is the Cebuano vote that really made her win. You cannot cheat in a place like Cebu.

LWUA chairman Prospero Pichay:

No one is above the law. The President is letting the wheels of justice turn. Even if [one] is the brother of the President and he violates the law, I’m sure the President will let the wheels of justice turn. How many of our colleagues in the media died [on Nov. 23]? Debt of gratitude is out of the question here.

It’s surely hurting for Pres. Arroyo to be called an ingrate.

But her talking heads are tipping her hand.

In so many words, Secretary Remonde (whom this writer still considers a friend) and Mr. Pichay have essentially conceded that the politically notorious Ampatuans and Mrs. Arroyo would still be BFFs had they not become too hot to handle.

Secretary Cerge’s attempt at a play of words, using a neutron bomb on the Ampatuans, is particularly in very bad taste no matter how guilty the accused are perceived to be.

By saying that “you cannot cheat in Cebu,” Remonde is telling us Maguindanao is cheating capital!

He thus reminds us that in the 2007 election, for example, that the last minute victory-clinching vote tranches for the administration came from Maguindanao.

It should also not be forgotten the weapons the Ampatuans amassed came from the national arsenal on authority of the defense department.

If the Ampatuans became a ‘monste’ , then who was their Dr. Frankenstein?

Malacanang’s message team needs to pick its words, and messages better.

Update 1:

The good Press Secretary has honor your Midfielder with reaction via my FaceBook account here:

Cerge M. Remonde
Thank you for the unsolicited advise, Ding. The Ampatuans were already lording it over in Maguindanao during your administration with President Estrada. They did not grow up overnight. In fact, the Ampatuans first beca,e local government officials when Nene Pimentel appointed them as OIC during the Aquino administration.

Ding Gagelonia replies:

Klasmayt, thank you for pointing out where Erap certainly failed and what GM improved on 🙂

There is no escaping the fact that when Erap was ousted, thanks to GMA’s plotting at Lindemere Hotel ( you weren’t there were you, my friend) the assumed intent was to bring better government and better governance, right?

Well, what do you know, from Hello Garci, to NBN-ZTE, to the Maguindanao massacre GMA HAS INDEED CHALKED UP A LEGACY IN CORRUPTION-TAINTED GOVERNANCE THAT’S A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW

Here’s a screenshot of the convertion as it appears online:


Putting our exchange in context, I address Cerge as ‘klasmayt’ because back in 1991 we were Fellows in the US State Department International Visitor Program. At that time, Mr. Remonde was with Cebu’s DYLA radio station operated by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

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