by Perry Diaz
Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, once said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” By these words, Goebbels pursued his work for the Nazis and became the undisputed master of psychological warfare — psy-war for short — during World War II. Indeed, following World War II, psy-war has become an integral part of warfare, whether it’s military or political.
With the advent of the Internet, political psy-war has taken a pivotal — and deadly — role in determining the outcome of elections. Niccolo Machiavelli said more than 600 years ago, “The end justifies the means.” It was true then, it’s truer today.
With the presidential elections less than a month away, campaigning among the nine presidential candidates, particularly the top two contenders, has reached fever pitch and the psy-war is getting more intense — and nastier — every day.
On April 8, 2010, a psychiatric report was posted on a blogsite, http://political amateur.wordpress.com, which says that presidential candidate, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, has psychological problems and other disabilities. It was written on the letterhead of the Ateneo de Manila Psychology Department and signed by Fr. Carmelo “Tito” Caluag. Instantly, the document took a life of its own and spread virally in the Internet.Meanwhile, ABS-CBN Network received two copies of the report which it claimed originated from two separate individuals associated with the Nacionalista Party. The network contacted Fr. Caluag to verify the report’s authenticity. Fr. Caluag vehemently denied that he authored the report saying that he wasn’t a psychologist or psychiatrist. He said that his signature must have been lifted from other documents.
Ateneo’s Psychology Department also issued a statement saying that the report was “fallacious.” The statement said, “Department faculty or professionals had never assessed Aquino. Father Caluag, who is not a psychologist or psychiatrist, was never affiliated with the department.”
Noynoy, when shown the psychiatric report by ABS-CBN reporter Ces Orena-Drilon, who was with Noynoy on the campaign trail, laughed it off. Orena-Drilon said: “He spoke openly – no PR spin, no consultations – and denied the document’s authenticity.” After ABS-CBN Network completed its investigation of the psychiatric report, it deemed the report a hoax. Indeed, given that Noynoy and Caluag denied the report, only one veritable conclusion can be drawn: the psychiatric report on Noynoy is fake.
That could have been the end of the attempt to destroy Noynoy. But as it turned out it was only the beginning. Noynoy’s closest rival, Sen. Manny Villar took a direct participation in casting doubt on Noynoy’s mental fitness to lead the country. Villar challenged Noynoy to “undergo a psychiatric test and other medical exams to prove his sanity and fitness to become Chief Executive.” Villar said that he’s willing to take “a comprehensive physical and mental examination in order to ascertain (our) fitness to occupy the highest office of the land.” And rubbing it in, Villar mockingly said, “There’s a far more dangerous scenario than the blind leading the blind, and that is for a mentally challenged person to lead a nation of millions.” Are these the words of someone who wants to lead a nation?
In an email message, columnist Rodel Rodis said: “Manny Villar has copied LBJ who once famously told his aides to spread the nasty rumor that his senate opponent in his Texas race had f**ked pigs. When the aides protested that it wasn’t true, LBJ laughed and said ‘Yeah but I want the SOB to come out and deny it to the press.’ ”
But Noynoy was prepared for Villar’s attack. Yesterday, he responded to Villar: “Why not a test on who is lying between us?” At a press conference, Noynoy said: “Pasensyahan na lang (I’m sorry), but I won’t agree to that (psychiatric test). But I have no problem with a lie detector test and lifestyle check.” Noynoy then claimed that “Villar himself needed a mental health examination for insisting on a bogus report.” He asked, “Isn’t sanity about accepting reality? There is a fake report where all those who have been [mentioned] in it have claimed it was fake and yet he will insist that I answer that?” And to deliver his point, he said that he was “willing to escort Villar to a mental hospital for the lie detector test.” Touché.Noynoy’s counter-attack
With Noynoy’s counter-attack, Villar’s psy-war is coming back at him like a boomerang missing it’s target. And with all the unexplained issues against Villar — C-5 road extension corruption scandal, Norzagaray land-grabbing, Savannah illegal land conversion, San Pedro land-grabbing, and a slew of other issues including “faking poverty,” fake land titles, and now fake psych report, Villar’s credibility and integrity is now the front-burning issue that could make or unmake him. With only three weeks left in the campaign and double-digit behind Noynoy in poll surveys, Villar faces a crucial battle that could either catapult him to power or meet his Waterloo.
Villar’s wife, Congresswoman Cynthia Villar, once said that “they have never lost an election and they certainly have no intention of losing this one.” Indeed, they have so much wealth that they are convinced that they could buy the presidency. But short of cheating at the polls, nobody can buy the presidency today. The people are now more informed and savvy than at any time in the past.
At the end of the day, it’s not money, faking poverty or faking psychiatric reports that clinches the presidency, it’s the character of the candidate. And character is something that nobody can fake, it’s intrinsic in the individual. And that’s what will win the presidency.
Had Villar taken the high road and put an end to the fake psych report, he would have washed his hands of any complicity and would have earned the trust and respect of the voters, perceived as a statesman and a true leader. It would have been the turning point of his falling campaign and propel him to the finish line ahead of the pack… and clinch the presidency. Instead, Villar took charge and led the psy-war against Noynoy thinking that he if he succeeded, he would have taken personal satisfaction in delivering the coup de grace himself.