FOI bill faces ‘crawl to the finish line,’ but authors not giving up
GMA News November 14, 2012 4:51pm
Authors of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill at the House of Representatives admitted Wednesday that prospects of passing the measure are already becoming dim, but the lawmakers still expressed willingness to fight for the bill’s approval.
“It’s going to be a crawl to the finish line and I don’t think we can crawl as fast as we want, but the crusade has to be there,” Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada, the FOI bill’s primary author, said in an interview.
Tañada said he hopes the bill will finally be voted upon on November 27 — the date of the House public information committee’s next hearing.
“There’s a pending motion to vote on the bill. In the next committee hearing, that could be raised. When we go back, I’m sure that motion will be raised and hopefully, it will proceed from there,” he said.
On Tuesday, the House panel failed to vote on the FOI bill due to procedural questions raised by Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, who is pushing for the inclusion of a right-of-reply provision in the measure.
The consolidated version of the FOI bill, which seeks to lift the shroud of secrecy over government transactions and data, has been pending before the House committee since February last year.
‘Exclusive’ FOI hearing
For his part, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairperson of the House public information committee, vowed to make the FOI bill the only agenda of the panel’s hearing on November 27.
“It will be a hearing exclusively for the FOI bill. Wala nang ibang bills na itatackle, para ma-resolve na ‘yung contentious issues,” Evardone said in a separate phone interview.
The committee chairman, who has deferred hearings on the FOI bill several times in the past months, said he will invite again Palace and defense officials to the hearing to settle issues on national security and the right-of-reply provision.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño, another author of the FOI bill, said there is still a “favorable number” of members of Evardone’s committee who wants to the measure passed.
“I fear that the FOI bill is doomed, but we still continue to fight for it,” the party-list lawmaker said in a text message.
‘FOI bill is dead’
Despite the possibility of another hearing on the FOI bill this month, the “Right to Know, Right Now” coalition—a group of media practitioners pushing for the measure’s passage—said the proposed legislation is already “dead.”
“The FOI bill is dead, actually murdered on its tracks. Its butchers? The lackadaisical Evardone. The mindlessly perorating Antonino. The President and his flaccid support,” the group said in a statement.
The coalition added that the House public information committee’s failure to approve the bill on Tuesday was the “final blow” to the measure.
President Benigno Aquino III, who won on a platform for transparency for transparency in government, has endorsed the passage of the FOI bill, but has not included it in his priority measures.
During the last Congress, the measure was only waiting for the ratification of the House—the final step in Congress before the proposed legislation is forwarded to the President for signing into law—but was not approved due to lack of quorum. — RSJ, GMA News
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño on Tuesday slammed the “arrogance of power” after the House committee on public information headed by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone refused to allow a vote on the freedom of information bill.
“It was truly distressing that the… hearing on FOI was adjourned without acting on the measure despite the presence of more than enough votes to pass it,” Casino said.
“The chairperson did not use the presence of a quorum and the favorable numbers to pass the bill. Why? Well that’s better left to the House leadership and Malacañang to explain,” Casiño said, after Evardone refused to act on a motion for a vote from Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello.
“Obviously, the House leadership continues to be lukewarm to the FOI bill just like the Executive branch,” Casiño said, referring to the tepid support that the Palace has shown the measure despite Mr. Aquino’s campaign promises to push such legislation.
“What we saw today was a kind of incompetence that could only have been deliberate. I fear that FOI bill is doomed but we shall continue to fight for it,” he added.
On Tuesday, Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino singlehandedly derailed the committee proceedings by insisting that a right-of-reply provision be incorporated into the FOI bill.
Antonino also accused the technical working group led by Deputy Speaker Lorenzo
Tañada III of considering the Palace version of the FOI bill while ignoring his right-of-reply bill.
In response to these charges, Tanada said Antonino’s bill was submitted after the FOI bill was already prepared, and that it was Evardone’s fault that no other meeting was called.
Tanada also said the Palace was concerned with exemptions from public disclosure where national security or the free flow of ideas during Cabinet meetings were involved.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Evardone, who had earlier vowed to push the FOI bill, refused to act on Bello’s motion and adjourned the hearing instead, saying rules prohibited them from holding public hearings when the plenary session was ongoing.
He also refused to put Bello’s motion to a vote because “contentious issues” would have to be discussed thoroughly before approving the bill.
Evardone’s refusal to act on the bill drew brickbats from spectators.
Antonino, however, supported Evardone’s decision.
“We can’t decide on one hearing alone, considering the nature of today’s heated arguments on the FOI bill,” said Antonino, who used up all the time insisting on his right-of-reply rider despite protests from committee members.
The FOI bill seeks to provide the public access to government transactions and documents to ensure transparency, good governance and accountability.
The right-of-reply rider would compel newspapers and broadcast stations to allow politicians to respond to criticism against them, a move that most news organizations reject as a violation of free speech rights.
But Evardone on Tuesday allowed Antonino to defend his rider until the panel ran out of time without resolving the most contentious issues.
A shouting match between Antonino and Casino ensued after the former insisted on taking up the right-of-reply issue.
Under Antonino’s bill, all information and documents that may be obtained by virtue of the FOI must also be subjected to the right-of-reply provisions such as securing the side of the aggrieved party that was the subject of the documents and information.
The aggrieved party must be given the right to be heard and equal space, he insisted.
But Tanada said the right-of-reply bill is a “different and distinct” subject that cannot be made a rider in the FOI bill.
“It can be a make or break today or it can be a continuing struggle to see that the freedom of information [bill] be passed,” Tanada said. “We feel that there are just very few contentious issues that should be resolved and should have been resolved earlier in the year if more committee hearings were held but that’s water under the bridge.”
Tanada said if the right-of-reply issue could not be resolved, the committee could simply vote on it. He added that even if the proposal lost in the panel, Antonino could bring it up again in the plenary.
Tanada noted that a similar proposal in the 14th Congress was not approved on third reading because of strong objections to the imposition it would make on news organizations.
Antonino vowed to fight for the right-of-reply up to the plenary.
After Tuesday’s failure, both Tanada and Casino said it looked increasingly unlikely that the FOI bill would be passed by the 15th Congress.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Tanada’s party mate in the Liberal Party, defended Malacanang’s insertions in the FOI bill, and said some of its proposals, such as the online posting of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, were “more progressive” than the House version of the bill.
Tanada acknowledged that the technical working group had worked closely with the Palace on the final version of the bill.
Tanada said he sought a hearing on Antonino’s concerns but that Evardone turned down the request. Evardone has yet to set a date for the committee’s next hearing. With Christine F. Herrera
Aquino: With balanced reporting, why worry about right of reply?
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
1:24 am | Friday, November 16th, 2012
TAGAYTAY CITY—President Benigno Aquino on Thursday said journalists should not fear the right of reply bill if they practice balanced reporting.
Speaking before the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), the President made a passing mention of the bill, which grants individuals and companies the right to reply to charges or criticisms in newspapers, radio, TV or websites.
Mr. Aquino said Juan de la Cruz, the Filipino everyman, would not only benefit but would be encouraged by truthful reporting in taking part in nation-building.
“The same spirit hews closely to our position on the issue of right of reply. As [the Bible] says, the truth will set you free. If two sides of a story are reported, if the details of every news are accurate and the freedom of all Filipinos to form their own opinion is valued, then any journalist has nothing to worry about, isn’t it?” he told TV and radio broadcasters at the Taal Vista Hotel.
The right of reply bill is pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Lawmakers were also proposing to include a right of reply provision in the freedom of information (FOI) bill pending in the House of Representatives.
Deliberations on the FOI bill by the House committee on public information have been clogged by technicalities. Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, the committee chairman, on Tuesday adjourned the hearing before the consolidated version could be put to a vote, fearing this would overlap with the plenary session.
Advocates had been hoping this could be put to a vote at the committee so it could be forwarded to the plenary for debate and approved on final reading.
The bill seeks to lift the secrecy surrounding the government transactions and documents and allow for more transparency. The measure is aimed at rooting out corruption and promoting good governance.
Malacañang on Wednesday denied the President was leading the charge to kill the FOI bill, but made no commitment to rally its allies to approve the measure.
Secretary Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesperson, said Malacañang was not delaying its passage, but was deferring to the House lawmakers to deliberate on it.
‘Right’ of reply: It’s not a right, it’s oppression
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
9:13 pm | Sunday, November 18th, 2012
The press does not enjoy anything near the privilege speech. You can always reply to the press even within the press itself, without making it compulsory. Between senators and congressmen who are there to make laws, who harbor the vested interest of wanting to get reelected, and reporters and commentators who are there to inform, and who (except for the corrupt, who arguably fester in media’s pores) can look at things more impartially, who better to trust to expose and correct the various ills of society?
The difference, my dear Conrad, is that we can always vote these bastards out of office, but we are eternally stuck with reporters and columnists and have no say whether or not they get to keep their jobs.
“If President Benigno Aquino believed in transparency, he’d not have pushed for that ridiculous Right of Reply (RoR)” rider smuggled into the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, Political Jaywalkers blogged.
The President repeatedly cartwheeled on FOI, noted Viewpoint in “Indifference’s penalty” (Inquirer, 11/17/12). His grudging façade of support masked apathy. This spurred Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino to insist that his RoR bill—scavenged from measures discarded by the 14th Congress—be stitched into the long-stalled FOI measure.
“There is no connection” between a bill broadening access to information and an RoR that allows “dumb nuts to respond” to critics, Political Jaywalkers added. “Only idiots in the Philippines” try that.
Like Sen. Tito Sotto? “He plagiarized for his anti-reproductive health bill speeches—at least with good judgement,” e-mailed engineer Leonor Lagsca from Iloilo City. Sotto had cribbed from the late Robert F. Kennedy and other reputable sources.
Antonino, in contrast, scoured his RoR from the garbage bin of bills scrubbed by the previous Congress, namely: Rep. Monico Puentevella’s House Bill 3306 and Sen. Bong Revilla’s Senate Bill 2150. Antonino dolled up HB 4252 as an FOI measure.
“Section 10 is an RoR. Antonino hijacked it without by-your-leave. The sources are discredited. No wonder Rep Antonino skipped attribution. To plagiarize from someone, then make it worse, is a rip-off,” Lagsca added.
“Ang magtanim ng hangin, bagyo ang aanihin,” e-mailed “TinimbangNgunitKulang” in reaction to Viewpoint’s column “Unsought legacy” (11/13/12). He who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind. “Man is doomed,” he said.
That column cited the report of Science journal that global warming could overshoot the danger threshold of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Consequences could range from shriveled rice harvests and dwarfed fish sizes to villages swamped by rising sea levels. Too late to cut greenhouse emissions, some scientists argue. Countries should focus on “policies to mitigate harsh impacts of altered weather.”
“Albert Einstein said, ‘Problems cannot be solved at the level of awareness that created them,’” commented The Gum. “[He’d probably] begin solving this daunting problem by saying ‘Consume less, share more, and consider everyone as your equal.’”
Indeed, “the signs are somewhat grim. I’m worried about the arctic permafrost melting, leading to uncontrolled releases of previously trapped methane gases. Time to tax carbon usage and use that revenue to climate-proof the world. But ours is a deaf world. What will we tell future generations? Sorry?”
Viewpoint’s “Those pesky proverbs” (11/5/12) discussed the $345-million contempt fine clamped by the US Court of Appeals on Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The Marcoses tried to secretly ship out of the United States paintings, etc. In exchange, they demanded a 25-percent tax-free share. “Contumacious conduct,” the US court fumed. The Marcoses attempted to bootleg estate assets under litigation. “This caused direct harm to martial law victims.” The court whacked the Marcoses with a daily fine of $100,000.
“The bigger scandal is the Marcoses—Imelda, Bongbong and Imee—still hold government positions,” Pert Cabatana e-mailed. “They dish out the same junk that they’ve been heaping on the Filipino people for decades. We need divine help to stand up against [such]. This is urgent. Please note: the Binays are waiting in the wings.”
“When Marcos won the presidency in 1964, our foreign debt totaled $600,000. Within Asia, we were second to Japan economically,” Greg Andymar wrote. After almost 20 years, our foreign IOUs have ballooned to about 33,333 times the original $600,000.
“In simpler terms, the Marcos presidency borrowed an average of about $2.74 million every day—for 20 years! This explains how the Marcoses and cronies became multibillionaires. The very sad part is we are still paying up to now money borrowed by the Marcos presidency.”
Where did “he Marcoses get the nerve to gripe and “adopt pathetic royalty postures?” wonders Lilia Firme. Puede ba, sa Libya o Syria nga kayo tumira?
And Romeo asks: “Bakit walang plunder case laban sa kanila?”
“It’s Cory’s fault,” says TinimbangNgunitKulang. “She should have had them all executed during her rule. To make up for her shortcoming, her son should finish the job.” Indeed. The Marcoses should be thankful that they are residing in a civilized country, Domingo G says. If what they did happened in Libya, Iraq or Egypt, matagal na silang nadispacha.
Viewpoint’s “Faces not forgotten” (11/3/12) was “a moving piece,” writes Phoenix Political Party. That column remarked on the passing of Tom Palmeri, a former Jesuit scholastic. Palmeri and wife Diane spent over 30 years feeding thousands of malnourished kids on Camiguin Island. They treated wounds, got crutches for the lame, enrolled hundreds in schools—without self-seeking publicity.
“When Palmeri wrote, ‘They are no longer there, they are here,’ was he pointing to his heart?” asks Phoenix. “The poor will always be there, pathetically struggling. Look at the good things you got!” the musical “Superstar” (referring to Christ) says. In the movie “Desiree,” Napoleon addressed his defeated troops: “Though I love you all, I cannot embrace you all.”
“My heart goes out to Palmeri’s wife and family. And in his final resting place on the island, may the winds sing a hero’s eternal song.”
A teacher of mine, an American Maryknoll nun, once shared a piece of advice her mother had given her: “Don’t put down on paper what you don’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.”
No matter where you write it—in a letter to a friend or lover, your diary, an e-mail message, your blog, or even your tweet—someone (other than your intended recipient or recipients) is bound to read your words and may take offense. Or worse, may decide that your words are indeed deserving of space in the New York Times or in the Inquirer, or of being broadcast to the wide, wild world of social media and the Internet, where they will live forever and ever, downloadable and open to any and all comments.
It still surprises me how people expect their privacy to be respected on the World Wide Web. It seems extremely naïve to believe that “privacy” options could protect one from adverse reactions or comments, or from having incriminating words and images reproduced and reaching those you really don’t want to reach.
True, those St. Theresa’s Cebu students may not have wanted or meant their teachers or administrators to see photos of them in bikinis. And I do agree it was a private social event and had no connection whatsoever with their school or with their identities as students. But c’mon. If you upload “incriminating” photos on Facebook or some other social site, you’re not just exposing yourself, you’re also asking a great number of people to view your photos and perhaps “like” them or comment on them. That some of those folks turned out to be the prudish nuns and censorious teachers of your school was just bad luck, although, in the larger scheme of things, bikini pictures are not exactly deserving of expulsion or suspension.
* * *
FACEBOOK founder Mark Zuckerberg once famously declared that in the age of social media “nobody has any privacy.” In this world, everybody’s life is open to scrutiny and comment, or at least the parts of one’s life that one chooses to put out there.
And nobody knows the truth of this better than former CIA director David Petraeus, who decided to step down from the US spy agency after agents of the FBI uncovered incriminating e-mail messages he had sent to a (former?) lover.
The scandal took the sheen out of an illustrious military career and brought to a premature end a promising political one as well. Incredibly, Petraeus had managed the most difficult of political twists: earning the approval of both Democrats and Republicans. In fact, his name was already being mentioned as a possible Republican nominee for the presidency in 2016, a possibility that now seems to have withered on the vine even before it could blossom.
But the fate that befell Petraeus should send chills down the spine of not just superspooks but even ordinary folks like you and me. If other folks—and not just FBI agents—can access your personal files and expose your weaknesses and flaws, then all of us are vulnerable, our secrets, lies, opinions, and rants subject to public exposure, and us to ridicule, shame and blame.
* * *
JOE Nocera, a columnist for the New York Times, writes that “the Petraeus scandal could well end up teaching some very different lessons.” He observes: “If the most admired military man in a generation can have his e-mail hacked by FBI agents, then none of us are safe from the post-9/11 surveillance machine. And if an affair is all it takes to force such a man from office, then we truly have lost all sense of proportion.”
At heart, the scandal can be traced back to the cozy relations between military bigwigs and socialites in Tampa, Florida, where two important bases are located. Jill Kelley, the Tampa hostess who chose to focus on wining and dining the uniformed brass, enjoyed unprecedented access to the generals, including Petraeus. This may have provoked the “threatening” e-mails allegedly from Paula Broadwell, the author of a Petraeus biography who had or is having an affair with the ex-general.
In the course of investigating the e-mailed threats (courtesy of an FBI agent and friend of Kelley who managed to convince his superiors to pursue the investigation), the FBI discovered the incriminating messages from Petraeus to Broadwell. If the head of one of the most powerful espionage agencies in the world could leave himself so vulnerable, one wonders what other secrets could still lie in wait, setting up landmines for other officials.
* * *
NOCERA looked up the cyber-stalking statute and now says a crime has been committed “when e-mail ‘causes substantial emotion[al] distress’ or places the victim in ‘reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.’” The FBI has worked hard, says Nocera, “to make Broadwell’s e-mails as threatening as possible. But once they leak out, as they surely will, I strongly suspect that we’ll see that the law was just a fig leaf.”
He concludes: “I wish the president had said that although General Petraeus had made a mistake in his personal life—an all-too-human mistake, made by millions of people every day—the consequences of that mistake should be dealt with by him, his wife and his former lover. I wish he had said that the affair should not trump his decades of public service, or stop him from continuing to serve. I wish he had said that the Justice Department’s inspector general was going to conduct an inquiry into whether the FBI had acted appropriately in handling Kelley’s complaint.”
And we—Americans or not—should debate what Nocera calls “the ease with which the government can look at our e-mails and peep into our bedrooms.” The anti-cybercrime bill could stand some rethinking, don’t you think?
Earlier this month, four columnists (two from the Star, one from Manila Standard Today, and one from Malaya Business Insight) were observed using the same talking points—the term of art is “column feed”—to attack Sen. Franklin Drilon and his proposal for higher “sin taxes” on tobacco and alcohol.
As a quick search on Google would show, the columnists shared not only the same point of view or the same angle of attack, but also the same language: Three of the columns, for instance, described Drilon as having “a hard time keeping up with his colleagues.” Two columns had two almost identical and consecutive paragraphs, with telltale idiomatic twists giving the game away: “put Drilon on the hotspot fielding queries;” “appeared to be also grasping at straws.”
But was it corruption? No one doubts that there is an aggressive tobacco lobby, which favors the tax plan originally proposed by Drilon’s predecessor as Senate ways and means committee chair, Sen. Ralph Recto; did the concerted column-writing mean the lobby had reached out to the columnists?
And even if it did, was the outreach necessarily corrupt? Journalists attend briefings and take meetings and conduct interviews all the time; is, say, a press conference a form of corruption?
I do not mean to complicate the discussion; the reality is complicated, and teasing out the ambiguity is necessary work.
But this is not to say that the four columnists (one of whom explained the almost-miraculous coincidence in language and perspective to online reporter Angela Casauay as the result of journalists “who regularly play golf together”) don’t have some explaining to do. At the very least, they need to clarify how, Tito Sotto-like, they came to use, in their voice, someone else’s words.
For this reason alone, I hope all four columnists will take part in the ninth Media Nation conference this weekend. An annual opportunity for journalists from various organizations and working in various platforms to talk shop, to dwell on concerns held in common, Media Nation has inspired both new media activity (for instance, Che-Che Lazaro’s Media in Focus, which ran on ANC for several years) and the occasional review of organizational practices.
And for the first time, the annual conference will be turning its collective gaze on corruption in the media. Not an easy subject, but with the 2013 midterm elections only a few months away, a timely and necessary one.
* * *
The Media Nation conference in Tagaytay City will be bookended by two keynote addresses. On Friday, Nov. 23, President Aquino will open the conference. As he has done on at least four other occasions, he is expected to speak plainly with and to talk tough to the media; I have heard at least one Cabinet secretary say that Mr. Aquino sees it as part of his responsibility as head of state to “educate media.”
As the date is the third anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, I would expect the President to pay tribute to the fallen, but devote most of his time to explaining why the Freedom of Information bill has languished in Congress. If he will attempt to explain his recent notion that journalists will have nothing to fear from the “right of reply” proposal, he will find a respectful but absolutely unsympathetic audience.
The event will end with an address by Lech Walesa, the iconic founder of the Solidarity labor movement, who tangled with his country’s media when he served as Poland’s president.
* * *
When I started reading Denis Murphy’s commentary yesterday proposing the late Jesse Robredo as a modern-day saint, the surprise I felt (the shock of the truly new idea) quickly gave way to sympathy and appreciation. Blessed Jesse Robredo? Now that’s a thought.
To be sure, Murphy was making a nuanced suggestion, at once out of the blue and (like his own work among the urban poor) down to earth. He asked: “Will the Church canonize brave young people like Pedro [Calungsod] who know nothing of our modern world and little of their own world, or will it honor mature men and women of this age who have mastered the modern world’s sciences, systems, technologies and disciplines for good ends and still possess a heart and a mind for our traditional faith, and a mind and a heart for the poor?”
This is not a false choice, because, as Murphy writes, the world needs both kinds of saint. But the possibility that a married man, a long-time public official at that, could have lived a moral life of heroic virtue is tonic, for both the Filipino Catholic faithful and the Catholic church itself.
The suggestion reminded me of something I came across in my research on the Southeast Asian legacy of Jose Rizal. The hero’s personal conduct had led many to imagine him, if not a Catholic saint, then a moral statesman worthy of emulation.
A report in the April 6, 1907, issue of the British Medical Journal, for example, gave its readers a belated look at the life and death of an accomplished physician, who ended up choosing the martyr’s path. The report’s title: “St. Joseph Rizal, M.D.”
I realize this is not the sort of sainthood that Murphy has in mind. But it makes me think that the people may be ready for Murphy’s idea: mature men and women of the age, who have mastered the modern world, and yet “still possess a heart and a mind for our traditional faith, and a mind and a heart for the poor.”
^^^ It is one thing, John, to have been at a press conference and taken the same notes of the same statements given by the same people. It is quite another to write four columns that contain many of the same statements. Unless all four of those colleagues of yours sat down at the same press conference, or at the same hearing or session, and the pooled their columns and just took the bits and pieces they agreed would make the best writing, then indeed what you have described was precisely corrupt journalists all taking aim at Senator Drilon. And that is why as important and essential as the FOI is, so is the ROR. It's not like these four colleagues of yours write for trashy tabloids who make more off raunchy pictures. Point of fact, they write for major broadsheets, including your fellow "Big 3" member the Philippine Star. For godsakes, your phrasing in the interogative only bolsters the contention that indeed, just like any big industry, Big Media cannot be expected to police its own ranks, and thus requires a strict regulatory regime like all the other big industries.
(The Philippine Star) | Updated November 23, 2012 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang appealed to lawmakers not to be absent and vote on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, just like the Reproductive Health (RH) bill that has been pending before Congress for sometime.
Secretary Manuel Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, said President Aquino had been reminding lawmakers of the need to have these bills passed no matter how controversial they were.
Mamba, however, said the right of reply bill or provision in the FOI bill was being pushed by its proponents to compel the media to give people they criticize or expose equal space and time to air their side and defend themselves.
He said the elections in May were also a factor to the decision of the lawmakers both on the FOI and RH bills.
The Catholic Church is against the RH bill while according to sources, officials are afraid the FOI bill will force them to open up records that can be used against them during elections.
Mamba said they were working hard to reach a consensus and would not want to end up as losers when these bills were put to a vote.
“We are still hoping that these (bills) will be passed,” Mamba said, quoting the President as telling the lawmakers they were the leaders of the land so “don’t be absent” and do what the people were expecting from them.
“They are avoiding a vote and we are having a problem on the quorum,” Mamba said.
He said they were aware of the delaying tactics and the nearer the elections, the harder it would be for them to push for these measures.
Mamba said it would be ideal if all media organizations were balanced and give everyone the chance to air their side before publishing or airing reports.
Sadly, this is not the case, Mamba said, and thus lawmakers would want a right to reply and make it an obligation for the media to always get the other side.
Mamba said this was being seen as an infringement on freedom of the press but a compromise would somehow have to be reached.
He said all inputs must be considered and that it was useless to accept any amendments if the FOI bill would not be passed after all.
Aquino parries criticism, turns the tables on press
By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:35 am | Monday, November 26th, 2012
President Aquino pushed the Philippine news media to an agonizing ordeal of self-criticism at the media national summit in Tagaytay City on Friday in the guise of being helpful in improving their standards and addressing corruption in the industry.
He delivered the keynote speech at the summit, attended by media executives, proprietors, editors and other journalists, especially reporters.
In his speech, the President called on the media to lift their game, thereby shifting the focus of criticism of his administration’s parlous economic performance and flagging commitment to social reform—particularly in agrarian reform in Hacienda Luisita, owned by the Aquino family, poverty alleviation, and sluggish job creation—to media shortcomings. These issues have been the focus of media criticism.
Although the President spoke in less confrontational language than in his previous attacks on the media for highlighting “bad news,” there was little ground for many media observers at the summit to believe that the encounter in Tagaytay had opened a new era of amity between the media and the administration.
Mr. Aquino noted that the summit had adopted “corruption in the media” as its theme. He then quickly tried to turn the tables on the media.
He raised the issue of the need for “consistent standards” in the media, the lack of which is alleged to be the source of “conflicts of interests” that leads to corruption.
In regard to the issue of conflict of interests, he said there were many questions left unanswered. For instance: What are the parameters concerning endorsements? What are the requirements for sources? And when anyone is unhappy with how a journalist conducts himself, what are the mechanisms for redress? Is there an ombudsman in the media to whom aggrieved citizens can turn to?
While the absence of a set of standards that applies throughout the industry does not directly lead to corruption, “it does lead to make corruption easier to take place,” according to the President.
These questions stem from the ignorance of institutional mechanisms already in place in most media organizations.
Speaking from personal knowledge, there are mechanisms, such as readers’ advocate, rigorous daily review by editors of news priorities, weekly review of editorials by an editorial board, and critique on grammatical lapses, and there’s a code of ethics against which journalists can be held accountable.
Yes, of all institutions with public interest functions, the media are the most overpoliced. Mechanisms in place include grammar police, ethics police, not to mention working under the constraints of criminal libel law.
The media need no further self-disciplining mechanisms to make them disposed to write “good news” of an administration whose lethargic record of delivering results is the hallmark of governance.
The media have their own “daang matuwid” (righteous path) creed, but they don’t remind the public about it, they don’t pay lip service to it.
They just do their jobs quietly and put out a newspaper every day, and let the reader judge them whether they are producing a paper worthy of their continuing trust and patronage despite the whining by the government about “unbalanced” or “bad” news.
The President likes to point out that newspaper owners should pay their staff well, implying that low pay is a cause of corruption on the level of reporters.
But if we examine closely payrolls of news organizations, records will show that the media generally pay their news staff higher salaries compared to those of civil servants.
The President has no superior claims to be a protector of the reporters, who are on the frontline of news gathering every day.
No need for apology
Responding to the President’s speech on behalf of the media industry, Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez, the Inquirer’s president and CEO, did not dodge the issue of corruption.
According to a report by Rappler (not by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which made a laid-back report), she said:
“The basic questions we ask of any news today were first asked and refined several generations ago by print journalists: Is it accurate? Is it solidly attributed? Is it fair?
“Because print was first, those who worked in it have also struggled with the problems of journalism, including corruption. I must tell you that from my own experience and of others in similar situation, one of the most disheartening, disappointing and frustrating things is for one to find out that someone you’ve tried your best to support, whose independence you’ve nurtured breaks that trust by selling valuable editorial estate.
“This betrayal weakens the institution deeply and must be addressed with great conviction.”
She told Mr. Aquino: “Mr. President you have sometimes spoken about being bombarded by negativity, from critics who define negative and positive in their own way. We feel for you … But the Constitution grants that the press is fundamentally free as it allows the press to define negative or positive in different ways. This is the diversity of opinion in the heart of democracy.”
She need not be apologetic to the President for the media doing their constitutionally mandated job.
Truth will take care of itself
Speaking of good or bad news, Lord Northcliffe, the British publisher, said years ago, “News is what somebody wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.”
Add to this Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian communications theorist who said, “The real news is bad news.”
More elegantly. Albert Camus, the French journalist and philosopher, put it this way, “A free press can be good or bad, but most certainly, without freedom a press will be anything but bad.”
Newspapermen of the old school, to which I belong, have not forgotten the injunction of the celebrated editor of the Kansas Emporia Gazette, William Allen White: “The facts fairly and honestly presented, truth will take care of itself.”