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Thursday, March 9, 2017

#NagaLeaks, anonymity and Leni’s love for Jesse

ROBREDO partisans can belittle the impact of #NagaLeaks until their faces turn blue, but they can never deny that the expose created a devastating dent on the mythology of Jesse Robredo.

Speculations were thrown from all directions as to who could be the source of the leaks. Partisan apologists and critics were their usual selves, defending their side and demeaning the other.

The FB page of “We Are Collective” which published #NagaLeaks has been taken down due to a well-orchestrated mass reporting coordinated by social media accounts supportive of Leni Robredo and the opposition. Someone must now be in a state of panic.

Defenders of Leni and Jesse were quick to point out the serious flaws of the expose, from its verbosity and alleged lack of rigor, to the fact that it has no accountability by virtue of the anonymity of its author or authors. For many, this was a fatal flaw.

But this view rests on the assumption that identifiable authorship and accountability directly imply truth. Hence, any anonymous attack would be automatically rendered as a lie.

However, this is not always the case, considering that even the Office of the Ombudsman entertains anonymous complaints. The Philippine National Police (PNP) is also tasked to pursue anonymous leads, and the government has set up a complaints desk where citizens, who are not obliged to reveal their identities, can report anomalies and irregularities.

In the age of the internet, the concept of authorship has become a contested construct. It is indeed convenient to associate lies and fakery with the ease by which social media denizens can hide behind creative pseudonyms to launch attacks on persons and institutions. But it is not entirely correct to assume that just because a post comes from an anonymous source that it is a lie. What can only be concluded is that the author could not be held accountable, but it is a big leap of logic to make a blanket judgment that the one escaping identification is also necessarily a liar.

Anonymity, in fact, is a strategic weapon in political warfare.

James Scott, in his analysis of everyday forms of resistance, has pointed to anonymity as a source of power, a weapon of people who are oppressed. The purpose of an anonymous attack is not to become a basis for a legal action to hold accountable those who are being ridiculed, or accused of wrongdoing. Instead, its purpose is to erode the legitimacy of the latter, and to create a discourse of doubt. It is the fear not only of being targeted for physical repression, but also of being sued for libel, that turn anonymity as a weapon against persons and institutions that have the ability to inflict harm on the weak and the powerless.

The hegemony of the Robredo dynasty rests on the propagation of a brand, a mythology that rested not on the affirmation according to legal processes, but through ideological blinders that made people believe the myth, and turn any dissent as akin to political blasphemy.

Hence, an expose such as #NagaLeaks would have the power to directly attack the foundations of that mythology, by undermining it using the leverage of anonymity, and without due regard to accountability. To expect that a narrative that excavates buried secrets, or articulate the unsaid and inconvenient knowledge silently stored in the consciousness of people, would put a premium on accountability and legality, would be missing the point that it is in fact a subversive text.

The power of dismantling the mythology lies in the anonymity of the attacker, as a way of escaping the retributive power of the Robredo dynasty and its local political machinery in Naga City, more so that the authors of #NagaLeaks are likely natives of the city.

In the end, the validation of the claims will lie in the people themselves. It capitalizes on the fact that people in Naga would probably have known all along the truth that lies beneath the brand of Jesse Robredo.

Thus, the purpose of #NagaLeaks is not legal, but political.

Its goal is to undermine monuments built on lies. And it looks like other than Jesse’s brand being scrutinized, #NagaLeaks also gave the public the opportunity to examine the authenticity of the affection his widow claims to show towards him.

Jesse Robredo was practically accused of being a crook and a hypocrite by the anonymous writers of #NagaLeaks. Any woman who loved her dead husband dearly would have vehemently protested and accused the accusers of lying.

But it took Leni Robredo days before she could give a weak denial. Her initial response was not to declare loyalty to the memory of her husband, whom she claimed to have loved dearly and from whom she could not move on.

Jesse’s memory was being attacked, and Leni’s initial response was to say that such could not silence her. This response betrayed her as a woman who is more interested in protecting her political investments, than fiercely defending her husband’s name and honor.


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