He dismisses the violent reaction to his latest antic, saying,
"There are many nuts in this country; more than coconuts, there are
other nuts." He should know. That is a qualification for becoming an
official in this government. The British government confers knighthood
on its most outstanding subjects, the (current) Philippine government
confers nuthood on its most outlandish officials. In lieu of "Sir," it
uses the title "Sira."

Bello, well, that one is a veritable coconut, as in the local
phrase, "Use your coconut." He is held in high esteem internationally
as a scholar and he has dozens of books to show for it.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita himself sees only comedy in the
situation. Who to go to to find out whether or not Gonzalez's idea
constitutes wrongdoing? "The funny thing is, I was about to tell you
that maybe we can ask the secretary of justice to give us an opinion
on the matter because he is the government lawyer." Obviously he
cannot see the depths of Shakespearean tragedy that underlie the
slapstick comedy or toilet humor.

It is funny. It is just as funny as the fact that the person to
complain to about election irregularities is the one person who
irregularly awarded the computerization of canvassing to a non-
qualified bidder and so screwed computerized elections entirely, at
the cost of several billions to the taxpayer. It is just as funny as
the AFP, whose current head honchos were exposed by its more
principled members in the persons of Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani and
Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan as having cheated epically in the last
elections, being now determined to carry out a political education
campaign specifically aimed at assuring clean elections. It is just as
funny as the longest-serving Philippine president after 1986 never
having once been elected president.

Just what is wrong with Gonzalez's proposal to give P10,000 to every
barangay official who delivers a 12-0 vote for Team Unity in these

One is tempted to say, what can possibly not be wrong with anything
Gonzalez says or does? But there's tragedy in this comedy, or
rottenness in this nuttiness, that compels us to not dismiss it

What's wrong with it, to begin with, is that it is vote-buying.
Gonzalez himself says not so because he is not buying voters, he is
merely buying barangay officials. Or indeed merely rewarding them.
Well, never mind using your coconut, just use your eyes: barangay
officials are voters too, quite apart from being recruiters of votes.
On that ground alone, he is indictable for vote-buying. You buy the
vote of just one voter, you are vote-buying.

What's the difference between Gonzalez doing that and Donald Dee
upping the ante and promising barangay officials P100,000 to engineer
a clean sweep? That should add wholesale cheating to vote-buying, the
barangay officials applying themselves to accomplishing the mission
impossible with submissions incredible.

What's wrong with it, secondly, is that Gonzalez is supposed to be
the justice secretary, even if that is the funniest thing on earth. He
is expected to live up to the highest ideals of public service, never
mind justice, not to embody the worst vices of bureaucratic cretinism,
never mind injustice. But what has happened to this country while its
citizens were not looking is that public officials no longer deem
themselves required to be the best and brightest who deserve to be
emulated by their constituents, they deem themselves licensed to be
the worst and dumbest who may cling to office until they are proven to
be criminals, or what is but the same thing, as Ermita suggests above,
unless they decide to fire themselves since the power to do that
resides in them.

But finally what's profoundly wrong with Gonzalez's latest antic is
that it adds whole new dimensions to the "culture of impunity," where
wrongdoers are free to do wrong without fear of punishment. It is that
culture that has allowed murder to riot. It is a culture that has
allowed lying, cheating and stealing to riot. No, more than that, it
is a culture that has allowed all these to become the norm.

More than the fact that Gonzalez and Ermita are trying to hide the
crime or lessen its gravity, they seem truly unable to grasp what is
wrong with it. We're back to Marcos' time: lying, cheating and
stealing become par for the course, you begin to think they are the
most normal things on earth. Cheating in elections becomes par for the
course, you wonder why anyone is bothered by it. GMA passes off
calling Garci as a lapse in judgment, everything becomes a lapse of
judgment. Remember what Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said? Of course GMA
cheated, but everybody cheats!

That Gonzalez thinks nothing of buying off Iloilo's barangay
officials doesnít just suggest he is arrogant enough to defy the law
he is sworn to serve. Though he has been called that, I completely
disagree with the description. Arrogance, for all its perversity,
implies stature. Gonzalez is capable only of buffoonery. It suggests
as well that he thinks bribing barangay officials, if not buying them,
is as perfectly natural as a babyís smile.

One is tempted to say that with that logic, Gonzalez will eventually
get to see the killings as being perfectly natural as the coming of
night. But that is happening as we speak.

What can one say? These are nutty times. This is a nutty country.