...in the end your assumption is the security of the state above all; my assumption is the public's right to know above all, because it is that openness that is the surest and best defense of the state as something beyond the capacity of someone like Joker [Arroyo] to subvert.Manuel Buencamino produces an even more comprehensive and radical Right To Know conception and manifesto --
I think we will have a basic disagreement on this issue because I believe the public has the right to pry into whatever the government does. Because it owns the government. There is no government secret so sacrosanct that I, as a stockholder of Phils. Inc, do not have the right to know about. If any of my gov't institutions wants to keep a secret from me then that's their lookout not mine. I uphold the right of owners to look over the shoulder of their hired help.Hmmm...I wonder if those starvation wages that we the Owners pay the "Hired Help" have anything to do with the legendary level of graft and corruption in the Philippine government. But Yak asks the right question:
"Is the media the only way for people to know about the truth in governance?"Of course the answer is NO. Congress also has a right to information, as great as any in mass media in its investigations in aid of legislation. Congress is even granted the power to summon before it anyone who may have information needed to make good laws as well as to perform oversight functions over the rest of the Government, including the exposure of wrongdoing.
And now, even the Supreme Court is getting in on the act as a hyperactive Supreme Court with a very inventive Chief Justice Reynato Puno rolls out new Rules of Court to combat the culture of impunity and solve the "pestering problem" of extrajudicial killings of activists, clerics, journalists and judges. (Hey, what about all those ambushed, assassinated, beheaded, extorted soldiers, policemen, businessmen and barangay officials, Yer Honour?)
In roughly as many days of fanfare since their new Pro-Human Rights Rule of Court was promulgated, the Supreme Court has issued three successiveWRITS OF AMPARO against no less than the Commander in Chief and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Police --
You, respondents President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, AFP Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon, Philippine National Police General Avelino Razon, Major Darwin Sy a.k.a. Darwin Reyes, Jimmy Santana, Ruben Alfaro, Captain Angelo Cuaresma, a certain Jonathan, Police Superintendent Edgar Roquero and Police Senior Inspector Arsenio Gomez are hereby required to make a return of the writ before the Court of Appeals Ninth Division on or before 4 p.m. of November 9, 2007," the high court ordered.The first writ of amparo was on behalf of missing students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno and farmer Manuel Merino. The second for farmers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo who claim they escaped military detention and torture and are still behing harassed. The third writ was on behalf of "an urban poor leader and her children" who filed a petition for amparo because "they are being harassed by motorcycle-riding men wearing bonnets or ski masks" after the mother was allegedly "abducted" by Air Force intelligence agents trying to get information on her NPA connections and acquaintances.
So does the public really have "the right to pry into whatever the government does because it owns the government?" Do we have the right as ordinary citizens to pry into military secrets, diplomatic secrets and other national security secrets? To demand the inspection of military offices and facilities allegedly for the purpose of "identifying places of detention"? Perhaps to find where all the desaparecidos are being kept and tortured? To demand the Supreme Court's protection when we are harrased by men in bonnets on motorcycles? Three emphatic WRITS OF AMPARO issued by the Supreme Court seems to be a flexing of the Judiciary's muscles (PDI) against the government, police and military and on behalf of whom?
May we force open for our examination and disposition any and all records of the government or any private or public institution that keeps "databases or stores of information" that may contain data about us, with the power to have such information expunged if we, "by self-determination" consider them to be erroneous or offensive to us? We won't know for sure until the Supreme Court issues a WRIT OF HABEAS DATA for our edification.
What I think Mr. Buencamino actually means is that we ought to have the right, and that it would be awfully nice if we could know instantly about every act of wrongdoing that happens in the government. The problem in real life is that we cannot judge beforehand whether some wrong doing is involved or not.
But I think the public's right to know is way over-rated as "the surest and best defense of the state..." as MLQ3 claims. It presumes that the power of OBLOQUY or public ridicule resulting from exposure on the front pages, is still an effective deterrent, antidote or punishment for acts of government wrongdoing and corruption.
I think the Power of Obloquy in the main stream media has long been blunted by over-use, the ennui of familiarity. No more is the old Voice of Omniscience of mass media. Of course we want an open society, marked by a vigorous and free press. And Press freedom allows even a kind of journalistic jingoism, gang-banging journalism that uses intrigue and innuendo to electrify the game and the players into often self-revealing animation or reaction.
But "the public's right to know" as practiced by even the Freest Press imaginable cannot be the "best and surest defense" and cannot be reasonably given priority over the needs of national and state security. For one thing, there is a great deal more to the Press and journalism than those serious exposes and tendentious editorials.
It is no exaggeration to say, for example, that Press Freedom, because it is based on Freedom of Speech and Expression, includes the right to literally tell tall tales, to sell advertising, to publish comics and entertainment columns, inane pictures, social gossip columns and solipsisms, obituaries, New Age fairy tales, as well as to make front page headlines and serious columns and editorials. But from the constitutional standpoint, all these genres of the Mass Media are equivalent in standing and protection before the Law.
Clearly it is a social good of the highest order, this right of the public to know or more accurately, the right of the public to find out and or be entertained.
Given what the Supreme Court is doing now, I have a feeling we shall actually discover how relatively benign is the practice of the Public's Right to Know when wielded by newspapers, radio and television!
The Supreme Court is getting into the business of the Right-to Know, maybe from reading PDI and the Business Mirror too much, has flung wide open the Judiciary's doors, come one, come all, ye activists, clerics, journalists and judges. The High Court is handing out Writs of Amparo like hotcakes.
But I could not say the following any better than Viking in that previous comment thread on this topic, where he says
The full exercise of the 'right to know' doesn't guarantee access to the correct information, and even if the info disseminated were correct, access to media and interest in subjects is uneven. Let me just say that 'right to know' is a necessary condition for democracy, whether that right is used by the press or a branch of government.Necessary but insufficient, and dangerous!
The Supreme Court is playing with fire, in my humble opinion with the writs of amparo and habeas data. Like the Senate executive session leak, this may turn out to be another example of one institution abusing its privilege and discretion, unwisely and imprudently.