GMA’s ‘Himmler’ (and ‘Goebbels’) talks about 2010
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-04-22
DILG Secretary Ronnie Puno, who I’ve fondly referred to as Herr Puno for his Himmler-like orders to assault the Iloilo Capitol, the Makati City Hall and the Peninsula Hotel, can also be called a Joseph Goebbels type.

Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels were the Interior and Propaganda ministers, respectively, of the sociopath German Fuehrer Adolf Hitler.

Herr Ronnie may not be officially assigned to the propaganda units (OPS, PIA, and the Palace media outlets) of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime but he is easily their best strategist in the battle for the hearts and minds. In this game of propaganda and political psywar, he counts as one of the best that money can buy.

In Tina Monzon-Palma’s ANC show, Talkback, last April 14, Herr Puno was the lone guest in a show that usually featured three or more resource persons.

I certainly got the impression that Herr Puno used Tina’s show to set a way of thinking that would divert from the food crisis and the ever increasing pressures to oust GMA. They discussed the pending pardon of the convicted Magdalo officers, the rice crisis, GMA’s dismal survey ratings, the Supreme Court and the 2010 presidential elections.

The discussion on the 2010 presidential elections reminded me of what you can do when hungry lions are about to catch up with you. And that is to throw a big slab of good irresistible meat behind you to stall the lions and divert their attention.

Like a good political psywar and propaganda man, Herr Ronnie capitalizes on shreds of truth. Unlike the two-bit other Goebbelses of the regime who have this habit of seeing the 1% favorable fact and playing blind to the 99% unfavorable facts — Herr Puno faces the issues squarely but will impose his clever spin to it.

Two-bit Goebbelses who utilize half truths and outright lies do not reach first base at all with their target audience. People have a sense of the truth and once you start with something that challenges the truth, people’s defense mechanisms are alerted and they stop listening to you.

GMA’s dismal survey ratings may also be attributed to a case of bad governance that is badly communicated. But then, not even the best propaganda strategist can save what is inherently a bad product. The best that can be done is to stall the inevitable.

Herr Ronnie’s Talkback statements on the 2010 elections underscored four important political realities.

1. Those who are running for president in 2010 must start now, if they haven’t already. It takes at least two years to prepare a presidential campaign.

2. The administration enjoys the advantage of political machinery — the money, the number of allied governors and mayors, not to mention of course the bureaucracy.

3. When GMA is no longer the candidate, many of the present negatives won’t be a factor anymore. People will look at the candidates — who will best deliver food, security and so forth.

4. With GMA out of the picture, the Opposition will be racked by their internal squabbles. Anti-GMA passion is what unites them.

Of course, all these are based on the assumption that GMA will be able to plod on until 2010 without being overtaken by events and that she will be forced with no other option but to allow the 2010 elections.

And I’ve said it time and again in this column that the administration can win the 2010 presidential elections (even sans cheating) if:

1. The Opposition fields three or more presidential candidates — easily done with Manny Villar, Mar Roxas and Ping Lacson running.

2. The administration is united under a presidential candidate who is not directly linked with GMA’s many sins.

The combined forces of Lakas-CMD, Kampi and the NPC behind the attractive credentials of a Sonny Belmonte or a Dick Gordon (or the popularity of a Noli de Castro) will rout the splintered Opposition.

Vice President Noli de Castro has consistently led in the surveys in net satisfaction ratings. Belmonte and Gordon have sterling executive track records that can excite a nation long sick and tired of legislative debaters and looking for solid performers.

Belmonte, Gordon and de Castro are not linked to Garci, ZTE or those other mega scandals of GMA. Belmonte and Gordon may not be at the top of the early presidential surveys but it is a marketing reality that superior products will always sell if given the right promotion. The administration campaign machinery cannot be underestimated.

There is another reality that the Opposition has to live with in 2010. GMA has and will exert her power and influence to ensure administration unity. On the other hand, Joseph Estrada can become the very source of Opposition disunity if he insists on running again, instead of using his clout to unify the Opposition.

There is a saying that the courage of your enemy does you honor. Here, the utter lack of quality of the Opposition allows the worst Philippine ruler to thrive.

We should pray for a plague on both their houses.

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