“Doesn’t have to be true,” according to a sister of the supposed financier of a plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte, Imelda Nicolas, in one of the more memorable of the purported emails revealed in the raging #LeniLeaks controversy. “Just has to look that way.”
I remembered Nicolas’ admonition while I read the slick, diversionary response from the millionaire in New York City and the usual know-nothing reply from the beneficiary of the alleged plot from somewhere in the boonies. Because about the only thing true that the two most important figures named in the scandal—Filipino-American heiress, lawyer, businesswoman, lobbyist and general busybody (but not, according to her, a plotter) Loida Nicolas Lewis and Vice President Leni Robredo—did was to finally, if very obliquely, answer the charges hurled against them since Friday.
Lewis didn’t confront the issue directly, opting instead to insist on her right as an overseas Filipino to criticize the government. “Love of country is not limited to those who reside in the Philippines,” Lewis wrote in a Facebook post.
“A waiter on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, an accountant working with a New York City firm, a nurse caring for patients in the suburbs of London—we are all a part of the greater Philippine nation. Many of us had to leave our country to earn a living for ourselves and our families back home, but we did not leave behind our rights as Filipinos. Nor did we leave behind our love for our fellow countrymen. ”
Lewis explained that it was out of “a spirit of caring and brotherhood that we speak out on developments in the Philippines. We will continue to do so because if we did not, we would be untrue to who we are: Filipinos, like you.”
But the well-coiffed explanation failed to explain how Lewis was supposed to have used her New York office and secretary as a message center for anti-Duterte rallies that involved convincing heads of prestigious schools in Manila and priests and religious to join, as the leaked correspondence alleged. And how Lewis was supposed to have coordinated with the staff of Robredo in the Office of the Vice President—something no ordinary overseas Filipino waiter, accountant or nurse could do—in order to express her caring and brotherhood after she publicly expressed her desire for Duterte to resign.
Doesn’t have to be true, Lewis must have been told by her expensive New York PR advisers—the same PR advisers believed to be feeding the US media the damaging publicity about the new Philippine government. Just has to look that way.
Robredo, on the other hand, also issued her first direct reply to the scandal yesterday. All the way from Marinduque, Robredo played the know-nothing victim to the absolute hilt.
“I don’t know what my participation is,” she said. “They say my name was mentioned, but I was not a member of the group [that was receiving emails and private messages]. ”
Robredo evaded reports that her office (and the official funds spent for its upkeep) had been linked to the anti-Duterte rallies supposedly orchestrated by Lewis. “We have supporters who have been reacting to our victimization and we have been at the receiving end of so much fake news; maybe this [scandal] is a reaction to [my supporters’ reaction],” she said.
I’m glad that both Lewis and Robredo finally decided to stop stonewalling on the controversy, even if they have yet to address the issue head-on. But right now, their non-answers are of a piece with the strange denial issued by yet another person identified in the controversy, who claimed that he received the emails in question but never opened or read them.
Doesn’t have to be true. You only have to come up with some sort of answer—any answer that comes to mind or is fed you, no matter how incredible.
If Robredo and Lewis are once again conjoined in controversy, nobody should be surprised anymore. As I’ve written earlier, the Bicolana politician and the Bicolana junk-bond heiress go back a ways, when they joined forces in the 2013 elections to raise money in the US for Robredo’s first go at politics despite Philippine election laws that prohibit such overseas fund-raising, according to a suit filed against the current Vice President that continues to languish before the Commission on Elections.
And because of their shared Yellowness, both women are routinely suspected of plotting to bring down Duterte’s government. In response, Duterte has exposed Lewis as “a certain financier, a rich woman who married a black and is now a millionaire… planning to do massive demonstrations.”
As for Robredo, Duterte had a subordinate direct the vice president to stop attending Cabinet meetings as overall head of the government housing sector, allegedly for joining oust-Duterte protests. The prohibition forced the resignation of the vice president.
Both have repeatedly denied Duterte’s allegations. But as the current #LeniLeaks brouhaha shows, their denials don’t really have to be true.
They just have to somehow sound that way to their target constituency of Yellows. Even every Filipino uninfected with the Yellow virus can only shake his head in disbelief at the breathtaking audacity of their lies.