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Dec 05

Colonial legislation, apologia for police actions, and the battle of the letters resumes

In the news, State visit not a junket, say legislators:Deputy Speaker: ‘I’ve not been inside a store’ while the Inquirer editorial says most congressmen were there as a presidential perk.

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Earlier today a very instructive dialogue took place, which ended up being broadcast despite government’s (typical) preference to keep it all hush-hush. In the end, the two parties had to agree to disagree, since Media will still be arrested if police are defied–Puno. I hope a transcript of the whole thing ends up on line.

Main points were three. Jake Macaset pointed out that media and government are classic adversaries. Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro pointed out we belong to a “codal culture,” but that the codification of behavior on both sides isn’t a practical goal. Maria Ressa pointed out whichever way the government slices or dices what took place at the Peninsula -a “hostage situation,” or “terrorism,” or whatever- she can find an identical scenario covered just as aggressively by media abroad, and no democratic government anywhere did to journalists what our government did here at home.

My Arab News column resumes this week with Impatience With Colonial Legislation, comparing the reliance of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore on colonial laws that are incompatible with more modern notions of the relationship between the governors and the governed (two slight errors: autonomy was in 1935, independence in 1946, not both in 1946 as somehow crept into the article; and the Revised Penal Code dates back to 1930 and not 1933). I’ve been thinking about this since 2004, see my September 12, 2004 column Dangerous articles .An Inquirer editorial from June 24, 2007 explains why, and see, also, past entries in Peryodistang Pinay, San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet, and Red’s Herring.

In The Inquirer Current Blog, John Nery in his entry Dancing in the Senate, refers to his column, The limits of outrage.

And his interesting conclusion(s), reached after examining surveys and what they can tell us. In his column Nery says,

The lesson for regime-changers: Corruption scandals do not prematurely bring down an administration, but proof of something else entirely – brazen fraud, gross impunity, lewd dancing in the halls of the Senate.

And in the blog, he points out,

This also suggests that suspending the high-profile Senate hearings on the ZTE case, where revelations not only of corruption but of obvious duplicity or gross arrogance were a real possibility, was a strategic mistake on the part of the opposition.

My entry in the same blog is A new battle of the epistles, where I put together open letters and statements from students and teachers from the Ateneo and De La Salle, on the Peninsula caper.

In his column, Manuel Buencamino argues that,

The argument about means and ends does not apply to the exercise of a people’s sovereign will. The universally accepted principle and practice in that area is “by any means necessary.” Witness the American and Philippine revolutions and the struggle of the Israelis to establish their own country, to cite a few examples…

Thus, it’s a waste of time to argue over the righteousness or immorality of the course of action chosen by Trillanes and Lim. They had a right and a duty to act. And they did.

Agreeing on the form of government that will replace Gloria Arroyo and uniting behind that vision will better serve the public welfare.

I didn’t go to the Peninsula Hotel that Thursday because I saw Trillanes and Lim surrounded by junta advocates. I am against juntas.

An unelected government run by a coalition of ideologues and men in uniform, no matter how pure of heart they may be, is not my idea of a democracy.

Besides, ideologues have no qualms about sacrificing the principles that set apart civilized societies from barbarians–the rule of law, due process, human rights, and civil rights and liberties–on the altar of doctrine…

It would have been nice if Trillanes and Lim called for the ouster of Mrs. Arroyo followed by a snap election. That would have erased all doubts about their commitment to a democratic way of life. Unfortunately, they chose to be vague about the type of government they envisioned.

Be that as it may, I applaud Senator Trillanes and General Lim for their courage and patriotism. They may not have triumphed, but they didn’t lose. There are no losers among those who fight fearlessly for what’s right.

Gloria Arroyo can bully cowards and weaklings, but the courageous and the stouthearted will always remain defiant, undefeated and unbowed.

As for my thoughts on where we are and what to do, please take a look at this comment I posted earlier today.

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180 comments

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  1. Bokyo

    If you are good in logic you will know that that has the same calculated risk like when you ram an APC and firing a thousand rounds of bullets in the hotel. The only difference is that you are putting you and your men at the risk of getting killed or hurt rather than the civilians and the media men. You knew for sure that Trillanes group will not fire the first shot. Like I’ve said it’s good nobody was hit by that hundreds or thousands of rounds of those bullets. The worst thing that can happen if you came inside unarmed is that there can be a fist fight.

  2. Bokyo

    The use of force is only and will only be justified if you are forced into it, by having to save more lives if you have to, only then when you can say that collateral damage is justified. You cannot just say that you can use force everytime you engage in such a situation. The primary duty of authorities in all cases is to save lives, even that of the criminal they are arresting.

  3. supremo

    “If you are good in logic you will know that that has the same calculated risk like when you ram an APC and firing a thousand rounds of bullets in the hotel.The only difference is that you are putting you and your men at the risk of getting killed or hurt rather than the civilians and the media men.”

    I’m sure the PNP knows the risk. They were willing to take it and the consequences that come with it.

    “The primary duty of authorities in all cases is to save lives, even that of the criminal they are arresting.”

    I’m sure that there will be bloodshed if 1000 negotiations were done before action were taken.

  4. benign0

    “and what abt solutions benigs?”

    I thought you’d never ask! 😀

    Check my proposals out here:

    http://www.getrealphilippines.com/solution/

    – 😉

  5. cvj

    Benign0, i’ve read the above when you promoted two months back. I had a question which i hope you can answer:

    …In your chart (with the red and blue lines), what unit of measure does your y-axis represent and can you provide the underlying numerical data? Also, can you put dates (not necessariy exact but could be the general time period) for your x-axis?

    October 13th, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    I need to know the basis of your chart to be able to evaluate its validity either way.

  6. Jeg

    Bencard: i believe there was a violation of the following provisions of the revised penal code, as amended by PD No. 299, 9/19/1973 and BP Blg. 873, 6/12/1985.

    But what happens when those laws smack into the Bill of Rights, Section 4? “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

    For example, if a person in authority says, “Dont speak against the president in this rally.” Or, “You reporters, leave now and stop reporting!!” The Constitution says those ‘persons in authority’ could be ignored, correct?

  7. Jeg

    Vi Massart: You were surely referring to the incident involving the German consul general or deputy head of mission at a reception in Manila in 1998?

    Honestly, I dont recall the details. What I do recall is my reaction after reading it. It was as if Mr. Soliven (God rest his soul) considered an affront to him an affront to the Filipino people.

  8. The Ca t

    It would have been nice if Trillanes and Lim called for the ouster of Mrs. Arroyo followed by a snap election.

    So why are you surprised that any effort to remove GMA does not succeed?

    Because the opposition groups do not agree even to the choice of leaders.

  9. Geo

    Ay naku —

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear. In sum, there is a law that allows the law enforcers to establish a yellow line; a no go zone. That is common in many countries. And it is very logical, as well.

    What is NOT clear is what is the law when some people (like media) are already INSIDE the zone? MUST they come out?

    After talking with several lawyers at a get-together last night, it seems the police can dictate MANY things at a crime scene, especially DURING the commission of a crime.

    They also have quite a bit of latitude in detaining anyone who was at the scene of a siege, hostage-taking, etc.

    That is not a carte blanche to make whimsical arrests, however. The ultimate decision would, of course, depend on the judiciary…if ever a suit is brought to court.

    If anyone ignores the commands of an officer in these cases (for ex — doesn’t come out voluntarily when the opportunity is presented), they might now be considered innocent, unwittingly obstructing justice (which can simply be the serving of a warrant), aiding and abeting the criminals, or as being one of the criminals.

    Having a media ID doesn’t clearly point to which category a mediaman belongs to. Those who aren’t even media will have a harder time claiming innocence and non-participation in the crime.

    NOTE: This info still doesn’t give a final answer. That’s why there are lawyers and courts. The nature of the crime and the level of participation of each individual will have to be argued. The actions of the police can be judges as well, of course…especially regarding the media arrest/non-arrest question.

    We can argue til blue in the face, but it’s the courts who will decide. The authorities have rights to enforce the law, but these rights have limits. Civilians (incl media) have freedoms, but these are also not limitless.

  10. leah

    we can start by repealing Commonwealth Act #1

  11. grd

    The question is why the use of force knowing there are civilians and media people inside. They are being congratulated because of its success, but how about the worst case scenario. What if Trillanes group became desperate and did not surrender?.. bokyo

    what a question. try asking the russians.

  12. grd

    grd, the first hand account is what ellen owes you, the reader, no? you can then judge whether you agree or disagree with what she did every step of the way… mlq3

    mlq3, owes who? maybe the anti-gma forces, no? but yeah, thanks to her & the others who insisted on staying to cover the event (not to protect trillanes et al, no?) the rambunctious phil media is once again in the limelight.

  13. mlq3

    grd, the reader, the reader, the reader. and as always, if you are so appalled, please, get your tax pesos’ worth and restrict your news and views to the government networks.

  14. mlq3

    leah, sen. biazon has proposed a new law to replace ca no. 1. although, you have to recall that ca no.1 was establishing the basis for national defense (an essential attribute of sovereignty) and ca. no. 2 established the national economic council, today’s neda, planning one’s own economy being the other attribute of sovereignty. the purpose of the law was far different from that of the law that established the revised penal code. both laws represented basic building blocks of nationhood.

  15. grd

    mlq3, so again, and as always, you think it’s all about the pro-govt & anti-govt forces why people like me are so disgusted with the participation and attitude of the media before and after that manila Pen siege?

  16. mlq3

    grd, no. it reflects fundamental attitudes towards law and order, authority, government legitimacy in general, but of course one’s fundamental attitudes towards all these will be informed by views on the administration. obviously though, there are anti admin people also upset by what trillanes did, pro government people upset by how the government handled it, and every possible permutation, including those who maintain scrupulous neutrality on political issues in general.

    but if you are upset with media, i’m just saying you have every right to take your viewership/readership elsewhere, which means reading/viewing nothing at all, or taking your patronage to the government networks, or the other networks that aren’t the big two or the government propaganda corps.

  17. Silent Waters

    I think what grd is getting at is that media should have just been recording the event, if possible from a safe distance. The moment media decided to stay put, they decided to become part of the event and therefore, should not be protesting if they are rounded up after operations for so called processing.

    Correct me if I’m wronf grd…

  18. Silent Waters

    When people have the opinion that media was right to stay put so that nothing untoward will happen…it implies a huge assumption on their part and that is that the authorities are not trustworthy to do their job right.

  19. grd

    but if you are upset with media, i’m just saying you have every right to take your viewership/readership elsewhere, which means reading/viewing nothing at all, or taking your patronage to the government networks, or the other networks that aren’t the big two or the government propaganda corps… mlq3

    that’s your sound advice manolo? you’re basically saying that if we don’t like what the media is doing, then stop viewing or reading but never criticize? it’s a matter of patronage? and i thought you want the people to wisen up.

  20. grd

    silent, yes, that’s the idea. i just don’t get it. they were ordered to get out (about 100). the rest except the 20 something stayed put. and then after, they cried foul. clearly they have violated something for defying the authorities order.

    someone up said, what if something wrong happened like trillanes et al did not surrender? as if the whole thing was just a game to them. those who stayed actually acted as a willing shield for trillanes et al.

    When people have the opinion that media was right to stay put so that nothing untoward will happen…it implies a huge assumption on their part and that is that the authorities are not trustworthy to do their job right… silent

    agree silent.

  21. Silent Waters

    Like I always said, some people here play too much counterstrike/rainbow six/combat grounds(?)…akala nila may 2 more lives sila…..:-)

  22. Geo

    People and groups and sectors have to start believing in one another.

    If we don’t work together, who else is gonna fix this country?

    All media and all police are not bad. Many — if not most — want things to get better. Energies can be spent growling at each other, or constructive dialogue can be pursued. Which one makes more sense?

  23. Silent Waters

    Geo

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. The problem really boils down to the people who actually view things in Black and White (no pun intended on the B&W group). Compromise is not an option. The “pataasan ng ihi” then becomes the norm rather than the exception. Or I guess it’s a game of who blinks first.

  24. Geo

    I don’t even know if compromise is the most required ingredient.

    The way I see it, Ramos was the one who most clearly spelled out the ultimate reality: It’s the Philippines vs the other countries in the region and the world.

    This country doesn’t need compromises; it needs effective solutions. Now.

    No more us vs us; lots more us vs them. How can we do that?

  25. mlq3

    grd, i think the default attitude of media, anywhere, is governments are not to be trusted. this is an attitude as old as the concept of a fourth estate or that of the press as an institution.

  26. mlq3

    grd, by all means criticize, as you have been. i’m just pointing out your nuclear option.

  27. mlq3

    i was being snarky at grd. he has an absolutely valid point, which is, if you don;t like what media’s doing, sock it to ’em. and yes, media has to listen and learn because also, no one wants to drive people to watching nbn permanently… so apologies to grd, i was out of line.

    i think commenter ace in the other thread dissected things quite well:

    http://www.quezon.ph/?p=1608#comment-658254

    note that i never opposed “processing,” just the manner, i thought it was excessive and was for other purposes than clearing the scene properly.

  28. Bokyo

    “someone up said, what if something wrong happened like trillanes et al did not surrender? as if the whole thing was just a game to them. those who stayed actually acted as a willing shield for trillanes et al.” – grd

    What I said was it would have been more justified if the police authorities have used less force not like what they’ve done. I also would have agreed filing cases against those journalists who stayed and defied the order of police authorities and the proper court will decide if they really have violated a certain law or not. But what strikes me is that the police authorities still have to use excessive force, not taking into consideration there are civilians and some journalists left inside (even if they chose to stay). I can’t see how can they say that they made it difficult or obstructing their line of work if they will still use excessive force that way anyway.

  29. Silent Waters

    Geo

    I agree with your comment. What I was actually pointing out really with respect to compromise is not in the sense of getting into a middle ground to agree to but rather being less extremist. Yun para bang it’s all or nothing stance that will just drive the opposing force to not even come to the table to talk as there is no point anyway.

    Not engaging the boss lady and her minions, antagonizing them to no end means there’s less of a chance to somehow fix the issues hounding government.

  30. grd

    mlq3, no need for an apology really but appreciate the gesture. i understand where you’re coming from. being part of the media, i expect you to defend strongly the actions of your colleagues right or wrong. but it’s good enough for me ordinary citizen that you recognized the point i’m driving at (as with the others). IMHO, i still believe though nothing’s excessive with what the authorities did in the manila pen siege concerning those who chose to defy the order during police operation. no one was actually hurt except media’s bruised ego on the manner of the “processing”.

    i’m not being biased against the media. i do appreciate a good story whenever i happened to view or read one but not with this particular incident, just like the rest of the public who happened to follow the stories behind the siege, i am equally disappointed.

    carl wrote it quite well in another thread here:

    Wow, for the first time, Inquirer and major broadcast media stopped pandering to public opinion. Media threw support squarely behind their journalists (ever read a dissenting editiorial on the supposed supression of press freedom by the police?) — despite public opinion telling them otherwise.

    The more I get to read the posts here, the more I realize media has become so biased in this issue — so biased that they swing between being defensive and being hysterical. And they are alienating readers already. Now if i want smarter and balanced opinion from both sides, I hit the blogs… carl

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