Commodore Rex Robles of the Feliciano Commission investigating the 2004 Oakwood Mutiny, accuses Trillanes of strengthening the hand and hold of President Arroyo on the helm of power by jumping off a political cliff with Gen. Danilo Lim in front of the frankly amazed cameras and befuddled reporters at the Manila Peninsula Hotel last week, who would later be arrested for their perspicacity.
Speaking of which, the Mass Media managed to make itself a big part of the News with ample help from the Police. Of course, both sides claim they were just trying to do their jobs in a strange and unpredictable situation, after all, no one knew what Trillanes and his Magdalo cohort were up to or capable of. After the police authorities had asked for everyone to clear out of the hotel, some fifty media people decided to stay and await events, which quickly began to envelop them. Mercifully, surrender from Trillanes and Lim came swiftly as soon as the acrid smell of teargas from the first floor wafted upstairs and live television showed a battle tank with machine guns blazing away at an expensive glass facade as APC's disgorged SWAT teams entering the hotel.
Just between us girls, I think the Media was playing a Game of Chicken with the Cops, who were not however, suckered into a long, protracted stand-off and decided to call everybody's bluff by showing up in a tank with a battalion of special forces to produce a quite welcome stand-down.
But in our society, can the police reasonably expect cooperation from the Media in crisis situations like hostagings, stand offs, kidnappings, etc.? There could easily have been a blood bath at the Manila Pen. but my favorite newspaper, PDI of course, even defends the Freedom of the Press to put journalists in harm's way --
Journalists do not ask for -- and do not need -- special privileges in coverage; they just need a free, unrestricted environment in which they can effectively carry out their principal function of informing the public about what is happening in the country and the world...The media organizations should make their own rules, and individual media persons should make their own decisions, on whether to stay in a potentially dangerous or even fatal place.Much as we might want to oblige, that country and that world that are the target of journalism are not themselves "free, unrestricted environments"--nor are situations like the stand-off at the Manila Pen last week. After all, the Police could also say, with even more justification that they too, need a "free unrestricted environment" to carry out the tasks of maintaining peace and order, securing the public safety and arresting criminals caught in the act of direct contempt and rebellion. Surely such things as public order and safety, law and order, and national security have priority over the purported right of the public to know, and certainly over the right of the Press to know! Such lack of priority for this right to know lies in the broad and general nature of the right itself and what it actually encompasses.
It is not as if the right of the public to know is limited to what Trillanes and Lim were up on Thursday morning last week. The public also has a right to know what telecomm load or SIM card to buy, what Kris Aquino is struggling with in her colorful life this week, which minor starlet is plugging some aging Lothario, who died, who's hiring, and all the rest of the ocean of "knowledge" that flows as ceaseless messages through the Media. Yet, precious as this right obviously is, it cannot have the highest possible priority.
I agree with constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas' recent remark that journalists do NOT have more freedom than ordinary citizens, even if their professions necessarily expose them to greater hazards to the exercise of those common freedoms.
But there is a curious and self-serving line of reasoning that goes like this... First, the right of the public to know is accorded the highest priority in our constellation of rights because it is believed that an informed public is the best antidote to a corrupt or incompetent government; second, as agents of information to the Public, journalists therefore have the right to a "free, unrestricted environment" in which to do their job "of informing the public about what is happening in the country and the world." In other words, since the public's right to know has the highest possible priority, the right of the Press to Know so it can tell the Public about it, (for a fee of course), should also have the highest priority.
But the biggest fault in all this still lies with with Sonny Trillanes. He refuses to grow up and be a Senator and insists on making an utter fool of himself at every opportunity instead. This time, it looks like he's gotten not only his military buddies in trouble, but "the civilian component" of his support as well.
Rebellion charges have been filed against the following for the Manila Pen stand-off are:
Sen. Antonio Trillanes, Gen. Danilo Lim, former Vice-President Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr., Infanta (Quezon) Bishop Julio Labayen, Rev. Father Robert P. Reyes, Capt. Gary C. Alejano, Capt. Segundino P. Orfiano, Jr., Navy LTSG Manuel D.G. Cabochan, LTSG James A. Layug, LTJG Arturo Pascua, Jr., Lt. Eugene G. Peralta, Lt. Andy G. Torrato, 1Lt. Billy S. Pascua, 1Lt. Jonnel Sangalang, ENS Armand Pontejos, Jose Virgilio "JV" L. Bautista, Argee Guevarra, former University of the Philippines president Francisco Nemenzo, Julius J. Mesa, Cezari Yassir T. Gonzales, Corporal Clecarte D. Dahan, Private First Class (PFC) Juanito Jilbury, PFC Emmanuel C. Tirador, PFC German M. Linde, Myrna H. Buendia, Dominador E. Rull, Jr., Romeo C. Solis, Roel J. Gadon, Rommel R. Loreto, Julian L. Advincula, Francisco N. Bosi, Leodor G. dela Cruz, Sonny B. Madarang, Francisco C. Peñaflor, actress/scriptwriter Elizabeth Siguion-Reyna and the senator’s brother, Antonio III.The presence has been noted on the above list of Myrna H. Buendia, said by Police Chief Avelino "Sonny" Razon to be a "common law wife" of Jose Maria Sison, and mother to his illegitimate child, as well as a ranking member of the CPP-NPA. What she was doing at the Manila Pen has become one of the side issues in the whole affair, with Gabriela Party List Rep. Liza Maza calling for Ms. Buendia's immediate release. A far more prominent Leftist personality also on the list is former UP president Francisco "Dodong" Nemenzo, who however, defends his presence at the Manila Pen as a form of "academic research." Into what? Experimental Regime Change Techniques?
Among the Catholic clergy, most noteworthy were Infanta bishop emeritus Julio Labayen (from the most NPA infested corner of Quezon province); and Father Robert Reyes (whom I thought was safely in China doing missionary work among the Red Guard instead o running around fomenting protests, hunger strikes and other uhmm, performance art). Both have lately been involved with Tito Guingona and the Kapisanan ng Makabayang Ekonomista (KME) in calls for the formation of a "transition government" run by a Junta headed by Chief Justice Reynato Puno. The latter's lukewarm "declining to accept" the offer and protestations of neutrality and non-involvement in the proposal seemed to me a less than a definitive rejection of the hare-brained and patently anti-constitutional scheme.
"Was the police planning a bloodbath at the Pen?" Neal Cruz naughtily asks after the Mass Media became a major part of the news event at the Manila Pen last Thursday:
"Did they perhaps think that with Trillanes, Lim et al. dead, the threat to the Arroyo administration would be gone? No, sir, it won’t. It would have aroused other soldiers to anger and the desire to get rid of the tyranny of the Arroyo administration would increase and more and bigger mutinies would follow again and again until one of them succeeds. So they should thank the journalists for being there and prevented a bloodbath."Neal is being convoluted but he wants us to be grateful to the brave and dedicated media men for having prevented a bloodbath! The public should be grateful. Trillanes, Lim and the Magdalo Guy-in-a-Wig should be grateful. And even the government should be grateful -- that by preventing a bloodbath, the media also prevented a military uprising. By preventing the anger of soldiers from being aroused, more and bigger mutinies have been prevented thanks to the media, don't you see?
The Manila Standard's Emil Jurado thinks it was obstruction of justice.
I think everybody got lucky and should thank God because this could easily have turned into a blood bath. It's silly for Neal Cruz to claim credit for the media as having prevented it. There is no doubt of course that a sizeable number of reporters, camera men, and civilian and military supporters of Sonny Trillanes and Danilo Lim could have been subjects of a bloodbath as Neil Cruz grimly suggests. Of course, "BLOODBATH" is a melodramatic ratcheting up even in speculation, from OVERKILL--which was the headline description a few days ago.
Both of these labels fly in the face of the fact that no one was actually killed or hurt. The tactic used by police forces to effect the arrests of Trillanes, Lim and their supporters actually worked like a charm. Carpers in the Press cannot take that away from Razon and the PNP with epithets like "bloodbath" and "overkill" or worse, violation of Press Freedom.