Noted Constitutionalist and jurist Joaquin Bernas, SJ points out that the tape(s) are within every representative’s right to play (though the majority can then kick out a congressman for doing so), and are a matter of public interest. His inaugural column for the Inquirer thus positions the House of Representatives to reject the Palace’s call to suspend the hearings on the tape(s):
Finally, we cannot discuss this matter without alluding to freedom of expression in general. The contents of the alleged wiretapped materials are not merely of private concern; they are matters of public interest. Even if they are the product of illegal wiretapping, there is good reason for allowing disclosure-as in fact they are already being disclosed by private parties. In the 1971 historic case of New York Times v. United States, New York Times won the right to publish stolen Pentagon Papers on the ground that the material was of great public concern. But what of privacy rights? Privacy concerns must give way when balanced against the interest in disseminating information of paramount public importance. Anyone who accepts public office also accepts an attendant loss of privacy. Jurisprudence is replete with assertions of democracy’s “national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open.”
When Bernas speaks, or writes, people pay attention. His views, on the the issue being of vital interest to the nation, should please concerned media practitioners, including the UP College of Mass Communications, which recently issued a statement you can read here.
Tonight, at 7 p.m., the President is due to address the nation on “an issue of vital concern” which many hope will mean addressing the issue of the tape(s) but which, in fact, may be about the price of gasoline. Still, if it’s about the tape(s), then the President must be worried about the soul-searching going on in Civil Society. The Inquirer in its editorial today, suggests as much:
Not least, by failing to speak on the issue, she has also drawn the so-called middle forces, her erstwhile allies, into the fray. A statement from the Ateneo de Manila community, for instance, does not mince words about the President’s moral obligation to tell the truth. While the 300-plus signatories from the university where Ms Arroyo taught for many years recognize the possibility of “a calculated plot to discredit the government and destabilize the country,” they also criticize the President for creating a climate of uncertainty.
Lawyer Oliver Lozano has also filed an impeachment complaint against the President. Lozano is a Marcos loyalist, and a former candidate of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan in past elections. He questioned the legality of President Arroyo’s proclamation in 2004.
Today’s opinion-writer’s roundup includes Jarius Bondoc on howPalace insiders are now willing to leak that the man they fear is Panfilo Lacson; Ellen Tordesillas on trouble in Cebu; Tony Abaya thinks Bro. Eddie is the man to watch; Billy Esposo tries his hand at being a CSI; Cocktales gives the inside scoop on the weekend of long knives at ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs; Socialist indie press website bulatlat.com has a piece on what Jim Paredes, John Silva, and others believe on the prospects of another Edsa. On another point, is PCIJ crossing the line between media advocacy/reportage and outright politicking, when it also makes available “Hello Garci” ringtones?