We all know Communications Secretary Martin Andanar is not doing his job. He has no idea what his job entails, what it requires of him, and so he cannot even begin to meet its demands.
It was as such no surprise that in the face of claims by former police officer Arthur Lascañas about the role of then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the Davao Death Squad (DDS) and the spate of killings it was responsible for, Secretary Andanar decided to launch an all-out offensive on the basis of what he says is a “demolition job” and “destabilization plot” against the President, neither of which he has proof of.
His strategy? A series of false claims.
Then we watched as he unraveled in a little over 24 hours.
False claim #1: CHR cleared the President of DDS involvement
In his February 20 statement in response to the Lascañas press conference, Andanar said: “The Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Senate Committee on Justice already cleared the President of extrajudicial killing <sic> and his involvement in the Davao Death Squad.”
The following day, the CHR itself fact-checked Andanar and said: no, that’s not true at all.
In fact the report that the Communications Secretary would’ve been referring to, entitled “Extra-Judicial Killings Attributed or Attributable to the so-called Davao Death Squad” issued by the CHR on June 28 2012, in no way cleared then Mayor Duterte of responsibility in the DDS killings. It states that: “The continuing pattern of killings and the failure to conduct a meaningful investigation of such incidents can be construed as tolerance on the part of the authorities of the crimes hereto described, thereby contributing to the climate of impunity.”
It also recommends that “The Office of the Ombudsman investigate the possible administrative and criminal liability of Mayor Duterte for his inaction in the face of evidence of numerous killings committed in Davao City and his toleration of the commission of these offenses” (CHR website, 21 Feb).
So in the process of going on this all-out thoughtless offensive, Andanar himself reminded us all that the President, then Mayor of Davao, had not acted on the extrajudicial killings happening under his nose.
When you’ve got a Communications secretary like Andanar, who needs enemies?
False Claim #2: A destabilization plot against government
In his February 20 statement, Andanar also asserted that the press conference of Lascañas is “part of a protracted political drama aimed to destroy the President and to topple his administration.”
But the following day, Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Public Affairs Chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said: “Based on our monitoring, negative. We have not monitored any destabilization attempt that will be done on this government of President Duterte” (GMANews, 21 Feb).
Asked by media, both National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana dismissed talk of the alleged destabilization plot (Interaksyon.com, 21 Feb).
Even earlier, on February 18, AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año had already said that there is “no threat of destabilization” against the President, and that they have not monitored any group at all that is a threat to the President (ABSCBNNews, 18 Feb).
So faced with criticism, Andanar reveals that his communications strategy is to fall back on the idea that people are out to get the government. And when told that the heads of our security and defense departments and the military itself have said that there is no such plot, Andanar says that he has intelligence reports to prove his claims.
Which makes one wonder: why don’t the AFP and DND have those intelligence reports? Are they not the ones who are supposed to protect the President, the government, and the people against any kind of violence at all? Or does that fall on Andanar now, he who has all the intelligence reports?
False Claim #3: That the Senate press was given $1000 dollars to cover Lascañas
According to Secretary Andanar, this was not what he said at all. He did not say anyone accepted the $1000 dollars, just that it was offered so that the Lascañas press conference would get coverage.
Yet the transcript of the Andanar interview with Pinky Webb reveals that the context itself of his assertion that $1000 dollars was being distributed to the Senate press was the fact that the press conference was covered at all – which to Andanar is nothing but part of the “destabilization plot” against the government, which is “in preparation” for the February 25 rallies to commemorate EDSA People Power 1986.
Andanar said: “Kaya ito po ay kasama na rin po sa plano, at mayroon din po tayong mga natanggap na mga report, na as much as 1,000 dollars ang ipinamigay dito sa presscon na ito, hindi ko na lang po papangalanan yung aking source, pero mayroon daw pinagbibigyan ng ganito kalaking halaga ng pera para lamang i-cover ito” <emphasis mine>.
What Andanar was insinuating in effect, was that the Senate press had covered the Lascañas press conference because there was money involved, and this is all part of the plot that is all in Andanar’s head.
It is also only in his head that he did not say anything wrong, and should not apologize.
Here’s the thing: we are faced with a Communications Secretary who is living in his head, and once forced to actually address the public starts throwing around accusations and false claims, and then falls back on “sources” and “intelligence reports” that apparently only he has access to – making even the AFP and DND leaderships look like fools.
Andanar is the biggest liability of this Duterte government. One wonders how much longer they will pretend otherwise. ***
Published in The Manila Times, February 23 2017.