Sun Tzu says, "If you are strong, you attack. If you are weak, you defend."
The President can still win the battle for public approval in this controversy about her wiretapped conversations. GMA should show everyone that this controversy is less about cheating in the elections, but more about private conversations being kept private.
It's time to argue the case for the "P" word. It's time to tell the State it went too far. Private time is private time. As in the case of an ordinary individual, whatever the President does on her private time is beyond the public domain. The right to privacy is a fundamental principle of the Filipino's social pact with the Philippine state. Violate the right to privacy, and the social pact is broken.
At first, everyone may disgree with the invocation of this right in this particular case. Yet, imagine for a moment, that Mrs. Arroyo is not the President. Take this case in isolation of the political reality. Is it really proper for the people to feast on her private cellphone conversations? Is it right for the State to meddle with anybody's phone calls without the proper procedures?Do we all have to explain to the Philippine State the meaning of our conversations?
The question of the day is not whether she is one of the voices on the tapes, but whether anyone has any business listening to the tapes. First things first. If the State will uphold the right to privacy of a sitting president, the most public of this country's private citizens, then the State will uphold the right to privacy of the rest. Is anybody arguing that the President has no right to privacy? It's preposterous. It's like saying she cannot close the door when she goes to the bathroom. The privacy she enjoys is the privacy we can all enjoy. How can anyone argue with that?
If people think that the "Hello Garci" ringtones are cool, then they missed the point. The joke is on them. Somebody has spooked the highest official in the land. What makes them think it cannot happen to them? Their darkest secrets will never be safe, and they will never be able to live with it. Senator Serge Osmena has been distributing copies of the wiretapped conversations of the President to challenge the Justice Secretary to sue. But Senator Serge should watch out, for what if he too has been spooked, and the tape is mixed with those he distributes? One of the voices in those tapes might turn out to be his. What dark secrets of the good senator would be revealed? Will we find out what really happened in his Eskapo story with the late Geny Lopez? The right to privacy that he is violating might as well be his.
While I still believe that waiving the benefits of the anti-wireapping law is necessary in order for the people to bring the crisis to the courts instead of the streets, I am also saying that the President should raise the issue of privacy to the bar of public opinion. She should appeal to their sense of decency. Decent people do not listen to private conversations, for at the end of the day, no one is perfect. Each has his dark little secret, and no one has the right to publicize someone else's dark secrets -- most definitely not without consent.
Ma'am this is your strongest argument: "The right to privacy has primacy." Sun Tzu says attack.
See Atty Punzi's accompanying blog lecture on the right to privacy here.