By Chit Estella
September 27, 2006
For some time now, the mantra of the disillusioned among the supporters of People Power has been: “It’s now x years since Edsa 1 (or 2) and we still have this problem.”
Well, here comes another variant: It is now 20 years after the ouster of the dictator and the Filipino people’s rights to information and to freedom of expression are as elusive as ever.
No, we are not talking about libel suits here for libel suits can be an expression of a complainant’s right to seek redress for a grievance. The more ominous indications are that the rights to information and to freedom of expression are endangered by the recent actions of government as it makes use of its institutional powers to prevent media from performing their duties.
Some articles in this month’s issue of PJR Reports point to this disturbing tendency. Yvonne Chua, in her article “Keeping Secrets,” reveals that it is not just presidential issuances like Executive Order 464 and Memorandum Circular 108 that paralyze investigative bodies. Serving as equally formidable obstacles are the dismissive reactions of offices and even a branch of government like the Supreme Court to public calls for transparency. So what did a restored democracy bring us then in this regard? More ingenious ways of keeping the truth away from the public?
If Rule no. 1 appears to be: Thou shall not seek the truth, Rule no. 2 would be: Thou shall not speak it either. That is what the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) seems to be saying. Swooping down on four documentary segments in as many months, the review board leaned on the networks showing these documentaries to cut out or make obscure those shots deemed offensive to the public. In those instances where the television stations managed to show the “offending” segments, punishment in the form of suspension was meted out. One would wish the MTRCB would turn its attention to banning stupidity instead, the likes of which dominate primetime television. That way, the review board would find itself very busy indeed.
Given the chance, the public—more than the government—can be a very effective and intelligent guardian against transgressions by media. Consider, for example, the outrage that followed two recent columns of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Isagani Cruz. The former justice, it turned out, was not above gay-bashing. If the riposte from his neighbor in the Inquirer’s opinion section caught Cruz by surprise, so too must have the reactions of the gay community and those who simply understood the notion of equal rights. The Cruz-Quezon debate, however, was probably the most passionate and engaging discussion that graced the pages of the Inquirer in recent memory. PJR Reports talks about this episode in an article here.
And speaking of passion and the Inquirer, one cannot miss the tempest stirred by APO member Jim Paredes over the newspaper’s article that featured him. Paredes’s complaint was the article’s headline (yes, that can cause trouble) that supposedly showed him giving up on this beloved, miserable country.
Both Paredes and the editors invoked the nuance of a person’s statements. Doesn’t leaving one’s country mean giving up on it? Paredes says no, the editors say yes. There are many Filipinos who are still here and many times they say this country is hopeless. They just won’t be caught dead saying it. Because in their heart of hearts, they just can’t—and won’t—accept that there is no hope.
No article on this in PJR Reports, though. Just noting it. All in the spirit of “It’s been 20 years since Edsa…and we still feel this way?”