Such an obvious trap

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

While watching a press conference in Congress inviting senators to debate over AI or the artificial initiative falsely referred to as PI or people’s initiative, my immediate reaction was: It’s a trap! Then I remembered a verse in the Bible that accurately sums up the situation.

Proverbs Chapter 1 verse 10 teaches us: “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” Then further, verses 14 to 17 tells us why:

“Cast thy lot among us; let us all have one purse. My son, walk not thou foot in the way with them, refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.”

The whole thing – calling a press conference just to invite senators to debate over the AI/PI is such an obvious set-up to score points in favor of Congress at the expense of the Senate. When I conduct trainings on media management, I always point out that press conferences are only for very important or special reasons and at the end of the day, to benefit the image or product of the company or person hosting the press conference.

Extending an invitation to a debate is not press conference worthy. Cong. Albano, Suansing, et al could have easily sent a written or verbal invitation privately to Senate President Migs Zubiri as protocol and courtesy dictates. So why did they hold a press conference? A private message would have been in keeping with the “peace pact” or cease fire entered into by Speaker Martin Romualdez with Senate President Zubiri. The invitation via press conference was, at the very least, not in keeping with the spirit of the peace pact.

By doing the “invitation via press-con” the members of Congress obviously wanted to publicly project an image of transparency, confidence and willingness to cooperate with the Senate. But there’s the catch: the Senate does not seem to be on the same page or recognizes the need to tamper with the Philippine Constitution, so what is there to talk or debate about?

There is a quote that fits perfectly in this situation: “Before you argue with someone, ask yourself, is that person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of different perspectives? Because if not, there is absolutely no point. (Amber Veal)”

The House of Representatives has repeatedly manifested their commitment to Charter change. So, there is no changing their minds. If the senators, for whatever reason, chose to decline the invitation, the senators could and will be perceived as uncooperative or afraid. I recently added “Miranda Rights” in my lectures to warn students that “anything you say or do can and will be used against you” in the court of public opinion.

By staging the “invitation by press-con,” Congress has already set the trap for all to see. If the senators ignore the invitation, they will surely be written off by paid PRs as running scared and not supportive of possible economic gains. If the senators so much as sit down with congressmen to discuss the possibility of a debate, the senators would have walked into the trap where backing out would leave PR scars.

If they debate and agree to disagree, nothing good comes out of it except media mileage for those “desperately seeking pogi points” or ensuring their re-election in 2025. So how do you deal with a trap so obvious and disrespectful? For starters, call it out. Call out the disrespect, call out how the plot is an insult to the intelligence of the people, media and to members of the Senate and proof that Congress had no intention of honoring the ceasefire on the artificial initiative they call PI.

Then follow what the mayas or sparrows do: eat up the grain of the guy that wants to trap you. Move for an accounting of how government funds are being spent on certain areas and projects. Look into expenses spent on political and media/PR consultants. If Congress can investigate and expose expenses of the executive, then they too should be investigated.

The push for the AI/PI won’t stop as long as the possibility of “profit” or “benefits” are there. As the mid-term elections draw closer, many members of Congress will want projects and funding to go to their districts. In fact, a popular phrase being quoted is “Show me the money!” To paraphrase the animal rights slogan: If the buying stops, the PI dies.

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When members of Congress called for a stop to the investigation of the artificial initiative or fake people’s initiative, Senator Nancy Binay reportedly responded by asking why and pointing out how the investigations, particularly those related to laws and SC decisions, have contributed to clarifying muddled and overlooked matters crucial to a genuine “people’s initiative.” It’s a case of Congress caught with its hand in the cookie jar and telling us to look the other way.

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Senate President Migs Zubiri was the guest of honor at this year’s Philippine Military Academy alumni homecoming and while the media in general did not make much ado of it, Zubiri’s presence among PMAers showed him in a different light: a possible candidate for higher office in 2028, perhaps a future VP at the very least, if he does everything with intentionality.

Given how controversial things have become in the political scene, Zubiri, except for momentary lapses, has managed to stay cool and acceptable to many. Whatever his plans are, the Senate President needs to show the public what his concerns, priorities and goals are and not over focus on being SP.

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E-mail: [email protected]

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