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The Blood-Soaked Turves Of Press Freedom

October 29, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Blood-Soaked Turves Of Press Freedom
Ronald Roy  — October 29, 2008

       The other week, it was an hour to be the sole guest of Law Prof. Alan Paguia on his weekly “Talk News TV” show on Channel 3, GNN-DESTINY CABLE TV.  Alan’s invitation had come on such short notice, barely over a day before the scheduled 45-minute program, that I wasn’t at all certain I would give a creditable performance on the topic of “Honest Journalism,” considering that I have never been a professional journalist.  Besides, the last time I had been guested on TV was close to 30 years ago on Archie Lacson’s Penthouse 7, where I sang Marvin Hamlich’s “The way we were,” in a Sinatra-like rendition I had earlier practiced for over a day, with assurances of an idiot board to boot for the big moment.  Ha ha ha! 

       Purely from my struggling memory, I hereunder reproduce my answers in quotes, supplemented or otherwise modified in accordance with my perceptions of truth and fact. For the interview’s purposes, I’d like to clarify that a journalist is honest if he does not utilize his influence for a financial gain or other form of material advantage.  This could be ancient morality as one might put it, but this is what I am: a product of old-fashioned family strictures.  Here goes.

       “At the outset, I beg our viewers’ indulgence for choosing not to address Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President, for the reason that for all the past eight years, she has ruled  without an electoral mandate.  In 2001, she unconstitutionally booted President Joseph Estrada out of office, and in 2007 cheated, stole and lied her way to the Presidency under the most scandalous circumstances in Philippine history, as borne out by the infamous ‘Hello Garci’ tapes and other evidence.

       “The little woman is a brazen, insufferable and evil usurper of the highest office, and because she’s still around, one of her closest economic managers once called her ‘one lucky bitch.’

       With the knowledge the show would be telecast internationally, I had a special pleasure shooting out a mouthful at this point.  It was a case of washing dirty national linen in public, yes, but certainly saving a democracy was worth the embarrassment.

       “I am a lawyer and a Business Administration degree holder in Economics, educated for careers I sometimes find boring.  Writing is the least of my hobbies. When I optionally retired in 1995, my good friend then Solicitor General Raul Goco offered me a room where I could write some of his speeches and messages.  I did it pro bono.  But I would eventually be doing this for Solgen Ricardo Galvez, Justice Secretary Sylvestre Bello III, Justice Secretary Cuevas, and Presidents Ramos and Estrada.  Ghost writing is no joke. 

       “I find it asinine to be ghostwriting for a stranger.  Preferably, he must be personally known to me or at least I have read some of his speeches, or have somehow gotten to know how his mind works, his advocacies, his sense of humor, his very idiolect, among other traits.  If I don’t do it this way, he may not understand or feel what I wrote and will likely be speaking like the mannequin named Charlie McCarthy.  Expression, after all, is the stuff of deliver. 

       “Decades back, they were — and more so now with the growth of technology — smart, perceptive and ambitious, and dishonest although in a guarded way.  I refer to around 50% of the print, radio and TV reporters I generally dealt with then.  Some of them who are still around are now occupying top positions in the journalistic world.  There is little reason to doubt that nine out of ten present-day journalists would be on the take if occasions presented themselves, given the worsening climate of corruption in our country.  My statistics are based on a ‘sense’ that corruption can only get worse down the ladder as it emanates from a rotten top.

       “In my time at Land Bank, I headed a unit created by the board to oversee a discretionary fund which was often tapped by reporters as a source of assistance for their sundry needs.  We followed a strict set of guidelines to promote the corporate image through public and media relations.  All reasonable donations were approved by me and documented for audit purposes.  But it’s sad to remember that around 60% of the donations were granted to help cover, say, hospitalization and burial expenses that were never defrayed.  And if for any reason they found our heart turning cold to their entreaties for charity, these reporters would broadcast or front-page a cock-and-bull story about our operations.

       Today, scores of smart, discerning and ambitious journalists, owning to their greater militancy and cause-orientedness, have valiantly lost their lives to extra-judicial executioners.  One such journalist, for instance, was Marlene Esperat, who blew the whistle on Bolante’s fertilizer fund scam in 2003, in the process paying dearly with her life as she was gunned down in her family’s presence.  To be sure, however, I will not sit in judgment of dishonest journalists who have died in the blood-soaked turves of press freedom.  May their souls, starting Nov. 1, stir in restless protest until the tempest of tyranny dies down.  This could be the only way to shake the evil spirit of the small woman out of our lives.

*                                   *                                   *

       It’s utterly silly for Gloria to appear unaffected by Joc Joc Bolante’s return, as if to debunk the glaring truth she did not electorally benefit from the guy’s heist of 728 million pesos worth of agricultural fertilizers which didn’t go to the farmers but to private pockets.  He could start singing yet, and that would be the end of Gloria and some congressmen and local officials.  So she’s now whistling in the dark, hoping her legal point-man earns every peso of the handsome retainer he’s getting to work out a miracle.

       Antonio Zulueta is a stealthy and wily jungle cat as a lawyer, who is known to have moved in the high legal circles around Gloria ever since she came to power.  We’ll see how far he goes matching wits with UP Law Prof. Harry Roque, a Concerned Citizens Movement Convenor, who has doggedly stalked Bolante the past four years to bring him within the investigative custody of the Senate. 

*                                   *                                   *

       From the outraged imagination of Laurie Speck comes the following incident which COULD HAVE happened at the NAIA at 10:30 last night: The Senate Sergeant-at-arms at the said airport has contacted the Senate President by cellphone.

       He reports – “Sir, Mr. Bolante has finally arrived but Ben Abalos is claiming the crate because according to him he imported chilled earthworms for his boorjers.”

       “Okay,” came the reply, “demand that the crate be opened in your presence. If bulate is inside the box, do not execute the arrest! Got it?!”

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