Friday, December 14, 2007

The Right to Life Has Priority Over the Right to Know

To hear some Journalists talk (MP3) they are the true and authentic heroes of the Information Age. Can some Senators and politicians do anything but nod their heads in avid obsequiousness? Well, we can be fairly certain that the Mass Media can win virtually any public argument involving Press Freedom since they famously use barrels of ink (and oodles of bandwidth) in the daily exercise of their Constitutional right to sell news, views and entertainment to us, the Public, whose insatiable Right to Know they claim to serve. But what I know is the Right to Life has just priority over the Right to Know, and when Media men and women become the Message, journalists become public personalities and may as well run for public office, as they are largely lost to the profession once they effectively deny the official fiction of neutrality and objectivity. The inability of most of the Mass Media to state unambiguous rules of engagement vis-a-vis "the yellow line" is a most dangerous ambiguity--what one newspaper called "the insufferable conceit of the Press. "

Freedom of Speech is truly the governing principle of the Free Market of Ideas and the entire subjective experience of the citizenry in a pluralistic and open democratic society. The right to speak necessarily implies the right to be heard, as well as the right to hear what others are saying. Thus the Public's Right to Know is the Public's right to get news, views and entertainment, as well as education, the arts, history and knowledge of every sort, that would be frustrated without the ability of some to provide information to others, oftentimes for a fee disguised in the beguilements of advertising or the price of tuition.

Information is a prime commodity in a world where most forms of wealth including the business infrastructure itself are a form of intellectual property. Thus the buying, selling, trading and commercialization of news, views, entertainment, education, and all other forms of information is an integral part of our civilization.

A newspaper, radio, television station is a commercial enterprise which manufactures and packages news, views and entertainment, or some other form of information desired by the Public. Free enterprise includes the concept of a Free Press. The Public's Right to Know is really the Public's right to maintain a free marketplace for those Ideas called news, views and entertainment, and the rights to buy, sell, trade, make and disseminate them.

Professional journalism, at least on the news gathering side, can be seen as an organized form of data acquisition and dissemination in which the News Reporter is duty-bound to accurately record and report the facts of a story (who, what, when, where, why, how) and in controversial issues to get all sides.

In order to accomplish this feat of getting accurate information from sometimes tightlipped, busy or hostile sources, it has been traditional for news reporters, as such, to be objective, neutral, or at least accessible to all in order to gain access and not be seen as biased or unreliable. In this way, the newspaper, tv or radio station that becomes the outlet for such information gathered by reporters can build up a good reputation and become "credible" to the Public. Product loyalty is built up by the Mass Media at least partially on the credibility of its news even though no one has ever lost money underestimating the Buying Public's intelligence or overestimating its undying preference for the entertaining.

Yesterday, what we witnessed in the Philippine Senate was a remarkable event in which the Mass Media have become a big part of the Message...

The Senate hearing on the Nov. 29 Manila Peninsula incident chaired by Senators Chiz Escudero and Gringo Honasan was attended by well known Media Personalities who have definitely become a part of the National News. Malaya's Ellen Tordesillas and Jake Macasaet; NHK's Manila correspondent Charlene Deogracias; Ms. dela Pena Reyes of GMA-7; PDI's Gil Cabacungan; ABSCBN's Maria Ressa; National Press Club's Roy Mabasa; Ruben Canoy of Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas; Mr. Tony Lopez of the Manila Overseas Press Club. They are as much Public Personalities as the First Gentleman, or any Senator.

As usual invited Executive Dept. officials, police and military officials were no-shows at the hearing but the pusillanimous Senate has done nothing to compel their attendance to cooperate with the Congress in aid of legislation.

The hearing gave mass media personalities a nationally televised soapbox to air their grievances about the incident. There seems to be especial umbrage taken by some of the Journalists upon being arrested by lowly SPO1s instead of Metrocom Colonels and above, as in the time of the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. That was before they even invented plastic tie locs, but the MOPC's Tony Lopez was wrong to claim that more journalists were arrested at the Manila Pen than during Marcos' martial law. There is simply no comparison, susmaryosep!

Even before the hearing itself started, Vergel O. Santos of Business World and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, said on ANC that Press Freedom of Speech and the right of the public to know should have the highest priority in the hierarchy of our democratic rights and freedoms. Compared to what I wonder?

Isn't the true priority self-evident in the traditional formula naming the triumvirate of our most essential Rights as those to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Surely there is no Liberty or Freedom to be exercised, even by a Journalist, if he or she should happen to lose their life for refusing to heed reasonable orders by lawful authority to clear a crime scene or potential battle ground.

Asked by Sen. Dick Gordon whether she she was maybe getting in the way of police at the Manila Pen and endangering not only her life but that of others, Malaya's Ellen Tordesillas did her best Lil Bo Peep act claiming there was no way she could possibly be in the way of a tank and several APCs worth of SWAT Teams trying to arrest several armed Magdalo rebels with uncertain intentions or capabilities. Why did she have to respect the Police's yellow line when she was already inside the line before it was set up, she asked plaintively. If there was going to be any action, she claimed she would only be recording, not getting in the way of the massacre and bloodbath.

Meanwhile the MOPC's Tony Lopez intoned the argument that safety is the journalist's lookout, insisting to Senator Dick Gordon that even if a few reporters or camera men had been killed at the Manila Pen, that the Media would accept such losses as part of the profession or vocation they have chosen. But it is an argument that is disingenuous. It can only be made because no one was killed in this incident. But I bet he would have been singing an entirely new song if there were any fatalities on that day. It's a little self-serving to proclaim a willingness to die while covering the beat and Tony was clearly having fun with the whole thing, especially after Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan stroked his ego by opining how senatorial was his testimony.

What strikes me as paradoxical is how journalists can claim to be willing to accept getting killed in a crossfire, but will complain for being arrested and "processed" by the cops for a few hours. What did they expect, after they refused to clear out despite several ultimatums from the authorities. Rebellion charges are being brought against Trillanes, Lim and several others as a result of that incident. I think the journalists who refused to clear out, came dangerously close to obstruction of justice, or at aleast, interfering with the police.

I find it particularly charming for Tony Lopez to suggest that he wouldn't mind journalists getting killed, as long as it isn't intentional. As if it were only their lives that might be endangered by their presence. What about the law enforcers themselves who have to deal with a potentially deadly situation while having to deal with civilians who may have no idea what is going on and are in fact only trying to find out. Surely, between the work of the police and the work of the journalists both Democracy and Common Sense agree as to who ought to please just get out of the way until the smoke clears.

The Right to Know surely does not abrogate the Rule of Law because it simply does not trump the Right to Life.

Not all Mass Media agree with Ellen and Tony about this lexical priority of rights, as Maria Ressa of ABSCBN News at least has declared that "No news reporter would be willing to die for a story." But I think Maria Ressa wants to claim for broadcast television the same Press Freedom that print media journalists like Ellen and Tony are used to.

Are all Mass Media created equal? Apparently not. Today's Senate hearing delved in some detail into the very real distinction between Print Media (such as newspapers and magazines on the one hand), and broadcast media on the other (such as television and radio).

Because the airwaves used by both TV and Radio (actually the electromagnetic frequency spectrum) are considered to be part of the national patrimony, like its lands, seas and rivers, a Congressional Franchise is required to operate radio or tv stations. As found in a typical franchise of this kind the broadcasters are being granted a privilege "to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain for commercial purposes and in the public interest, radio and/or television broadcasting stations in the Philippines..."
SEC. 5. Right of Government. - A special right is hereby reserved to the President of the Philippines, in times of war, rebellion, public peril, calamity, emergency, disaster or disturbance of peace and order, to temporarily take over and operate the stations or facilities of the grantee, to temporarily suspend the operation of any station or facility in the interest of public safety, security and public welfare, or to authorize the temporary use and operation thereof by any agency of the government, upon due compensation to the grantee, for the use of said stations or facilities during the period when they shall be so operated.
Now, I do agree with Tony Lopez that this is an anachronism that has been rendered obsolete by technology. There should be no distinction made in Law among the various forms of the Mass Media. Newspapers ought to be treated the same as broadcasters and subject to the same equal and equitable protections and restrictions.


john marzan said...

Or, the right for the State to protect itself from any threats takes precedence over the right to know.

john marzan said...

Any weakness on the part of the government in responding to such tests of resolve could only encourage further violent challenges. In these extraordinary times of political turmoil, the primordial duty of the government is to defend the state and maintain public order. It cannot be squeamish over its methods of response. The message is clear: Some heads will be bashed and some will be killed if they mount violent action to express grievances outside of the legal process.

manuelbuencamino said...

You wrote,

"Isn't the true priority self-evident in the traditional formula naming the triumvirate of our most essential Rights as those to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?...
" Surely there is no Liberty or Freedom to be exercised, even by a Journalist, if he or she should happen to lose their life for refusing to heed reasonable orders by lawful authority to clear a crime scene or potential battle ground...

"Surely, between the work of the police and the work of the journalists both Democracy and Common Sense agree as to who ought to please just get out of the way until the smoke clears.


"The Right to Know surely does not abrogate the Rule of Law because it simply does not trump the Right to Life...(END)

Allow me to quote Jefferson from whom you got that hierarchy of rights,

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, DERIVING THEIR JUST POWERS FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED..."

I don't think you will dispute that this regime has repeatedly mocked the rule of law and that there are legitimate questions as to whether or not it continues to derive its just powers from the consent of the governed.

That being the case, this question comes to mind:

1. Is the moral basis of this regime to claim that it is on the side of the law unquestionable? Do I not have a right to question the intent and the legality of any action that this regime claims is in the furtherance of the rule of law that it has repeatedly mocked?

Can we honestly say that we should grant the presumption of legality or normalcy to this regime when it undertakes any action that pits an inherent right against a derivative right?

This regime, short of completely closing down and taking over all vehicles of information, has not spared any effort to control its flow. I refer here to such devices as EO 464, the witholding of the Mayuga report etc. Tricks to prevent information from coming out

That makes information sources independent of this regime very important. Mainstream media takes on the role the mosquito press played during martial law.

You cannot treat what the cops did to the journalists at the Manila Pen in isolation.

You have to look at the big picture in order to appreciate what's going on and why taking up cudgels for the cops, under this dispensation, is really sacrificing our God Given rights on the altar of derivative or derived powers.

When one argues that the State has a right and a duty to defend itself, he makes that statement with the presumption that State emanates from the people's consent freely given, not when serious and well-founded doubts about its legitimacy exists. One cannot speak for liberty and democracy and defend the existence of an imposed government at the same time because, that, to use your favorite phrase, is not morally consistent.

Both Democracy and Common Sense demand that we don't lose sight of what it's all about.

ricelander said...

Jose Rizal was executed by the Spanish colonial government because he was seen as a threat to the state. In the context of a government exercising it's right to defend itself, Rizal's execution was correct, don't you think so Dean?

DJB Rizalist said...


Actually the spanish colonial govt had little interest in executing Rizal. It was the Jesuits who decided he had to die, who feared Rizal would turn the Philippines over to the German and American Protestants, who of course had come to dominate much of Europe, America and the West.

Indeed, it was the Jesuits, who provided the crucial evidence that finally convicted him: letters to his mentor Pablo Pastells, admitting, analyzing, glorying in his apostasy, the ship wreck of his Faith, his Protestant, even Deist and Masonic rebuttal of Catholicism.

Why should Spain want Rizal dead when he had made her famous in Europe for being a man of medicine and erudition who wrote not in French or German or English, but Espanol, beautiful, fluent, learned Espanol!

Read his sentence of execution--it even calls him a Spanish citizen!

Did they think killing him would stop the revolution? Not the military and civilian leaders. But the frailocracy did not care.

This was a matter of theology, which in those days was what amounted to "national security."

So no, Ricelander, I don't think the Murder of Rizal was right or justified.

It was umbrage and envy and spite of Men in Skirts lost in a far Archipelago far, far from the Iberian shores. Yet here was their Kingdom, or Fiefdom from God. They were not to be driven from it by one of their merest.

That is why the "Epistles at Dawn" between Rizal and Pastells were secreted for nearly a century by the latter in secure vault at the Jesuit Library in Sant Cugat, in Spain.

I think they were presented at Rizal's trial to convict him of capital apostasy. Then when he refused to recant, the Jesuits whispered the first "Fuego!" the night before he was shot on Bagumbayan Field.

Trillanes is more like Cabesang Tales in El Filibusterismo, don't you think?

DJB Rizalist said...


There is a sad and utterly unavoidable fact about our constitutional democracy:

No matter how good or how bad a given President is, when their single term in office ends, that's it. No more and never more.

In answer to one of your questions, NO, I do not deny your allegations of malfeasance and wrong doing by the president, and her mockery of her high office.

But it is our duty as citizens to observe the Rule of Law even in trying to get rid of a President.
I don't think Trillanes has been helping very much in that regard. In fact, I tend to think Rex Robles is right and he is secretly allowing her to use him.

It becomes possible therefore, for the People who have granted their consent to be governed, to believe that it is to a particular SYSTEM of government to which they pledge their allegiance and give such consent, hoping, sometimes vainly, that it will produce competent leaders most of the time, and perhaps inspiring and even great ones, sometimes.

However, if you insist that it was actually to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that we gave our consent to be governed, then I understand why you are willing to overthrow the SYSTEM of government to get at her. You are willing to throw the Baby out with the Bath Water.

For many people, the simplest solution to the problem of Gloria macapagal arroyo may be to wait her out.

You're perfectly welcome in my book to try and get rid of her before her time is up, but don't break the Law doing it. And have fun doing it will you? don't want you popping a vein on account of that no-account.

john marzan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
john marzan said...

"Chavit Singson had Plan B involving elements of the military to strike the first blow. They would kindle the spark by withdrawing from the government, and one by one others would follow: Class '71 would also withdraw, then Class '72, and so forth. But General de Villa warned that the timing had to be precise because one untimely move against the government and the military would automatically defend it. The move must be made at what De Villa called a 'defining moment.'

"You see, General De Villa had his Plan A, which was better than ours, because his was focused on the Chief of Staff and the Service Commanders. At past one o'clock p.m. January 20, Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes defected but we knew that already the night before, when negotiations had lasted until the small hours. By past 2 a.m. we knew Reyes had been convinced to join. His only condition was: Show us a million people on EDSA so it will b easier to bring in the service commanders.

"And they asked when the crowd was thickest; we told them: from three to five in the afternoon. So they agreed to come to EDSA at around that time. But while hiding in their safehouse, they got reports that General Calimlim could not be located and their first thought was: "He's out looking for us!" So they decided to rush to EDSA right away. When they got there, why there too at the Shrine was Calimlim! He had been looking for them all right, but join to join them, not to arrest them!

"Our group there was a back-up strike force. In fact, it was our group that won over to our side the PNP first. If Panfilo Lacson had resisted, he and his men would have been repelled: there would have been bloodshed, but not on EDSA. In every place where Erap loyalists had a force, we had a counter-force to face it, with orders to shoot. And not only in Metro Manila. Carillo had already been sent to the provinces; and in Nueva Ecija, for instance, we had Rabosa. This was a fight to the finish. That's why those five days that Erap was demanding were so important. He was counting on counter-coups and baliktaran.

john marzan said...

Actually the spanish colonial govt had little interest in executing Rizal. It was the Jesuits who decided he had to die.

aren't the one and the same? katulad ng iran ngayon with the mullahs?

No matter how good or how bad a given President is, when their single term in office ends, that's it. No more and never more.

she was elected President in 2004, dean?

One thing I learned 7 years after edsa dos is that only the extra-constitutional method works if you want to remove a president. alam yan ng mga anti-eraps, kaya nung talo sila sa bilangan sa 2001, hindi nila hinintay ang may 2001 midterms elections at deretso sila kaagad sa edsa (dos).

those who opposed erap at that time implemented a two-pronged approach (simultaneously) to topple erap, the constitutional way AND the unconsti way. While joker arroyo and chavit singson used impeachment to remove erap, mike arroyo and other civil society types plotted to use the military to violently overthrow erap as a backup plan.

(at kung pumalag si erap, siguradong bloody ang ending ng edsa dos.)

manuelbuencamino said...


where did I say I was out to overthrow the SYSTEM of government?

Tell me is the current PNP and AFP leadership with their behavior protecting Gloria or the SYSTEM ie democracy?

I;ve been trying to point out to you that the AFP and PNP leadership equate Gloria with the SYSTEM. They have their motives. You I grant good motives, you are simply mistaken.

"but don't break the law doing it?"

But it's okay to twist the law defending it?

DJB Rizalist said...

It's the Opposition's own fault how they handled the whole Garci thing. Remember that Kangaroo People's Court in 2005 where the Left made a mockery of the whole thing? complete with presiduum and all? why should the filipino people follow such an obviously leftist group? if they are the alternative people were not gonna do a people power just to get rid of gma. That is the system we have. if we can't impeach her or get her to resign, we just have to wait her out. Just as we could've waited erap out, we can survive waiting her out.

That doesn't mean people should not try to get her out. But follow the Rule of Law. No more coups, no more people power or any of that horse manure.

There is no one on the horizon so good, and no one so bad, that we have to throw the constitution out like davide and the edsa dos folks did.

This is the SYSTEM that MB and his cohorts won't accept. We can still go after her criminally after she steps down. Live with it.

Amadeo said...


In my opinion, what you do, and this particular blog entry would be a good example, really highlights the need to create a site likened to Memeorandum, so that when an important media event breaks all points of view appertaining to it are aggregated in one place to render a more balanced reading of the event. And as here in the US, this is duly critical because of the largely unchallenged left-ward bias in MSM.

Granted that the nascent Philippine blogosphere is still going through its growing pains, it is never too early to set the records straight.

More power!

DJB Rizalist said...

As always, thanks Amadeo! It's a lot of work, something like Memeorandum...if I were thirty years younger...hehe...luckily it's a small enough pond you can see most of the fishes from just one rock.

Amadeo said...

But that precisely is the problem, Dean. The pond has been allowed to stay small and insular.

Where are the voices in the other regions of the country, like the Visayas and Mindanao? Surely they have also articulated their voices?

The continued nodding acceptance of the idea of an Imperial Manila where things of national interest and concern happen only in the metro region, has allowed this to fester.

And aggregator portal could help level the playing field.

ricelander said...

"Actually the spanish colonial govt had little interest in executing Rizal. It was the Jesuits who decided he had to die, who feared Rizal would turn the Philippines over to the German and American Protestants, who of course had come to dominate much of Europe, America and the West."

Hmm, so the threat to the government was indirect?

DJB Rizalist said...

there was probably no real military threat from the Filipino revolutionary forces. It was the U.S. the Spanish really worried about, since it was the US that was destined to become a Pacific power and both Manila and Madrid were aware of this for some time.

In some sense they had to kill a guy like Rizal because they knew the Americans and Europe would see him as the future of the Philippines, not them.

Everybody else would be controllable, or so they thought. They were wrong. Killing Rizal only opened the field to more radical and desperate men. Desperate to capitulate to the stronger.