Senator Antonio Trillanes achieved a great gigue of mischief with the so-called Manila Peninsula caper. He was able to create an utterly novel but dangerous situation in which the police and military authorities were just bound to do something wrong! It is ironic that the Media folks involved got more angry at the cops than Trillanes, considering that it was the latter who had gambled with his and their lives. I don't agree with Maria Ressa that the detention of the media people who refused several police ultimatums to vacate the premises during the standoff was a "Constitutional violation". It was Tough Love for journalist delinquents who were playing along with Trillanes in a deadly game of "Chicken" with the police. We are all lucky Trillanes decided he is not quite ready for martyrdom.
Luckily, the government did not err in the direction of a devastating bloodbath. But the police did manage to make the mistake of detaining some fifty television and radio personalities, reporters, photographers and camera men some of whom they even “hogtied” with plastic tie-locs and herded in buses to Camp Bagong Diwa. (Now how smart was that Mistah Polissmann?).
Trillanes’ clumsy and laughable attempt at fomenting a military withdrawal of support and regime change from another luxury Makati hotel amounted to lil more than a disturbance of the peace. But he did manage to create a Press Freedom controversy against the government that has turned Maria Ressa of ABSCBN News and several dozen other media personnel into his veritable spokespersons and defenders and actual participants in the News. I think that it is highly irregular and even disturbing when journalists become the News through actions they have clearly undertaken of their own free will and indiscretion. It is a sign that there is something unethical or unprofessional going on.
Trillanes can justly be accused of an essential concupiscence when he put innocent (if foolish) media people and civilians in harm’s way—himself and a small coterie of fellow desperadoes, his six or seven leftist civilian supporters, and by far the largest body of human shields, the fifty or so broadcast media personalities and journalists, two reporters from the Philippine Daily Innuendo, and a horde of photographers and impersonators. We must not forget the innocent bystanders, hotel staff and guests. Trillanes was playing a dangerous and reckless game of “Chicken” with the police and military authorities with all of the above interposed between them in the middle of the roadway!
Still at the very heart of this debate, as it was in the Philippine Senate Executive Session Leak controversy, is the role of the Mass Media in events and processes that involve national and human security elements. In particular, there appear to be radically erroneous notions about the moral priority and just ranking of the rights and duties of citizens and institutions. I have considered this complex issue in The Right to Life Has Priority Over the Right to Know.
It's just not right that what the Manila Pen incident has come to is strife between the police and the media. All this hand wringing over dangers to democracy as a result of how the Press was handled by the police is so much bathetic disingenuity when one considers the lawless and malicious nature of Trillanes errant and outrageous behavior. It is Messianic putschists like Trillanes who are the real danger to democracy because he is willing to squander the opportunity the electorate handed him in May. He mistakes his democratic mandate for a license to make a fool of himself and others.