Quailing before the Palace’s pet Magistrates


Over the weekend, Thea Alberto’s report (Makati court junks media case on Manila Pen arrests ) sent shock waves rippling through newsrooms. And so, the editorials were unleashed: it’s now A crime to cover protests the Inquirer editorial.

And from Business World, the editorial I’d like to quote in full:

A coup against press freedom

ON FRIDAY EVENING, as we in the media prepared the news-record of the nation’s last workday and looked forward to easing ourselves into the weekend, a coup was sprung on us: a court ruling going against us and kept secret since its promulgation seven days earlier was released that evening – released not by the court itself but by the chief of the metropolitan police, Gen. Gerry Barias, himself a beneficiary of the ruling, being one of the defendants.

Evidently Barias had been favored with a first, and perhaps only, copy of the ruling and the opportunity to do what he could with it; we the complainants and our lawyers had been ourselves kept in the dark. Thus, Barias made his revelation at his chosen moment and to his chosen audience, an audience of one, as it happened – a newspaper reporter who, quickly recognizing the critical implications of the ruling on her very profession, sounded the alarm.

But the trick, as familiar as it is, especially to the police, always works. It’s not unlike getting a warrant of arrest just before court business closes for the weekend so that any prompt legal counteraction may be precluded, which in itself constitutes justice delayed at the first instance.

If Barias and the judge, Reynaldo M. Laigo, of the Makati Regional Trial Court, had not been in it together, it would be a huge surprise. The ruling itself was a surprise since the case had not yet been tried on its merits.

At any rate, all this is largely technicality, only the surface of the abomination. The abomination proper is the ruling itself, whose mere five pages are no indication at all of leanness or any other virtue in expression, but, rather, a betrayal of poverty of any sense of democratic principles.

The first four pages are little more than a recitation of arguments presented to make a case for or against the legality of the arrest, cuffing, and detention of journalists who ignored Barias’s order for them get out of the Peninsula hotel on November 29, 2007, as his men prepared to mount an assault against allegedly mutinous soldiers holding out there.

The ruling itself is rendered in two paragraphs and justified sweepingly under the article in the Revised Penal Code penalizing “resistance and disobedience to a person in authority.” No attempt whatever has been made to validate it against superior legal principles, such as laid down in the constitution, in particular freedom of the press. It declares that Barias’s order “was but lawful and appeared to have been disobeyed by plaintiffs” - the journalists, that is - and that in fact “they were so lucky” to not have been indicted.

It goes on to justify the way the police treated the journalists as “being in accord with police procedure.”

Effectively, the ruling puts journalists under the police, nay, at their mercy. It signals to the police that next time any journalist disobeys them they can arrest him, cuff him, haul him to jail, and detain him. It is frightening to imagine what, with such police and judicial mindset, can happen to practitioners in the provinces, where they are particularly vulnerable, as evidenced by the highest number of disappearances and killings among their ranks.

Indeed, Judge Laigo’s ruling sends the biggest chill yet across the media profession, because it kills a journalist’s last chance at keeping his freedom - freedom that he exercises not for himself, by the way, but, as constitutional watchdog on the powers that be, for all of society.

I think the editorial above thoroughly debunks the view (see Philippine Commentary) that the decision is some sort of deserved comeuppance for the press. And yet, as the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility points out,

This incident was the worst of its kind in the history of the struggle for press freedom since 1946. It was worse than any attempt by government to restrain the press during the several coup attempts against the Aquino government. The system for control of the press was clear during the Martial Law period, and there was little of this kind of manhandling of journalists at work. There is no such clarity for the protection of the press during this administration.

The license appropriated by this regime, its stretching the meaning of the law to include putting the “right” of the government to arrest those it claims to be obstructing justice above the constitutionally protected freedom of the press had to be stopped, together with its presumption that there’s a right way and a wrong way for the media to respond to crisis.

Deciding whether to stay and to continue to cover a developing story, or to withdraw from the scene is the editorial prerogative of a constitutionally protected press. No regime has the right to dictate that a decision to stay and cover is wrong and can be penalized. These issues, all vital to the capacity of the press to do its mandated duty of providing the public the information it needs, are among those that the class suit sought to resolve in favor of press freedom.

All writers really have to fight with are words; for that reason, fighting with words, a torrent of them, peppery, angry, indignant, is the appropriate thing to do. It is the first thing to do, but not the only thing to be done. The pen isn’t really mightier than the sword, at least, not usually. But more often than not, what the pen’s produced has a greater chance of outlasting whatever it is sword-wielders have accomplished.

That being said, the feeble regard the public has for its own freedoms and its own liberties (and with that disregard comes a sweeping disregard for that of others, and society as a whole), a disregard born not out of spite, but ignorance and the breakdown in the transmittal of culture from one generation to the next, means that it may be that Philippine Commentary’s plaudits for the judge reflects the majority view. Being on the periphery, and no longer at the heart, of the values society holds dear, is something the press can barely comprehend because it’s so unthinkable.

But there it is.

This leaves the writer -including the journalist- no recourse but to repeat the words of Martin Luther (not one of my favorite historical figures but one definitely marked by the courage of his convictions):

I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise…

Which is not to say writers instinctively seek martyrdom, though they may, indeed, glory in their suffering from a kind of persecution complex, the self-adulation of the suffering artist whose trials and tribulations may indeed be as much his own doing as they are the impositions of a cruel and ignorant world. You cannot, after all, argue with the kind of small-minded people who view all occupations as mere trades, and who cannot grant -because they cannot conceive, cannot imagine, thus, cannot comprehend- that some occupations, some professions, are as much a matter of having a vocation as they are a means to earn a living (honestly or otherwise). I Am a Bootlicker, I once wrote, as a manifesto of sorts, and it is very much true, in large part because it is the only truth made possible by circumstances that have changed very little since the Middle Ages.

Still, in the face of such myopia, there are times when the writer has no choice but to defy the law. The cleverer may be able to do it, right under the noses of the enforcers of the law, affecting a kind of bonhomie with those who adore the Revised Penal Code in the manner fetishists are aroused by hob-nailed boots. The lucky ones, too. It is human, too, to fraternize with one’s jailers. But all writers, sooner or later, must run the risk of running afoul of readers, fellow writers, publishers, advertisers, the authorities, the public, the state, its soldiers and policemen, the judges in their pockets and the financiers who have everyone else in theirs.

In the case of the court’s decision, there remains an appeal. And until that appeal’s played out, there remains hope. But even if hope of a rectification of the inferior court’s wrongs by a superior court proves fruitless, so what?

You keep buggering on: as long as you can. Until you have no other choice but to give it all up, hopefully temporarily, and write advertising copy or fluff for the lifestyle section when the hob-nailed boots finally kick in the doors of the newsrooms and enforce unity, rule of law, and national security at the expense of all else.

So the judge has given the cops carte blanche? Yet when did the cops ever really need that carte blanche? They always enjoyed it; nothing’s changed; it’s just been formalized but since when did the rituals of those always intent on your destruction ever really matter to you? What, they should have a conscience? And in its absence, you feel hurt?

They are as they have always been; you were luckier than most, and far longer than you should have reasonably expected. They have a point, after all. Whoever said you were special? Pearls before swine! But it was Jesus who said that, and he wasn’t one to quibble with Pilate’s citing the Roman equivalent of the Revised Penal Code, chapter and verse. Or even with the Pharisees, citing the Law of Moses: but then if one’s mission is to preach a New Testament, then run-ins with the proponents of the Old Testament are necessary.

Which, I guess, is my main quibble with the shrieks that have greeted the judge’s pronouncements. They ignore the point and more importantly, ignore the weakness of the judge. He quotes Revised Penal Code, chapter and verse. That set of rules was crafted precisely with keeping writers and anyone else with uppity notions firmly in check. Change the rules, you deprive judge of bully pulpit, and the cops of their legal billy club.

But until that can be done, you take your risks and you can only hope you calculated the odds correctly.

Even in the West the question of governments and the liberties of their citizens -and whether governments are encroaching on those liberties or have already done so, perhaps past the point of no return- is being earnestly discussed (in the media, of course).

In Mary Poppins and Magna Carta: British liberties have been eroded under Labour. Few seem to mind much:

The charge sheet against the government is long and damning. Besides its 42-day detention proposals (and earlier, failed plans to imprison suspects for 90 days), it is accused of colluding with America to transport terrorist suspects to secret prisons abroad. It has created new crimes, such as glorifying terrorism or inciting religious hatred, that, say critics, dampen freedom of speech. Those who breach one of its Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, introduced in 1998, can be jailed for things that are not illegal in themselves (such as visiting a forbidden part of town or talking to certain people). In 2005 the prohibition on double jeopardy – trying a person twice for the same offence – was removed for serious offences. The government has tried to cut back the scope of trial by jury…

…Despite Benjamin Franklin’s famous advice, the public seems happy to trade a little liberty for a little security. Surveys before the 42-days vote consistently showed public opinion in favour. More recent polling for The Economist shows broad public support for many liberal bugbears (see chart). Women tend to be more authoritarian than men, Labour supporters more relaxed about infringing civil liberties than Tories and Liberal Democrats, and richer folk more worried than the poor (full details can be found here). Half of the respondents were consistent in their answers to most questions; this, says YouGov’s boss, Peter Kellner, is rather high.

The poll suggests that people are vehement in defence of civil liberty and privacy when considered in the abstract. Confronted with specific situations, their resolve wilts, especially when specific security gains are promised (although administrative benefits can overcome libertarian instincts too).

And in the United States, blighted by the Grand Delusion of the Neoconservatives (see Book Review: Crisis in Central Asia), David Kaiser in his blog, History Unfolding, writes of the Manichean struggle “to preserve,” as he puts it, “the Anglo-American heritage of civil liberties.” He points to the case of Boumedienne vs. Bush , in which the US Supreme Court dealt with the taking away of the habeas corpus rights of prisoners in Guantanamo:

As Kennedy pointed out, the government is arguing that because of Guantanamo’s anomalous status, American governmental authorities can govern extra-constitutionally within it. He and his colleagues rightly rejected the idea that our government can simultaneously be a democracy at home and a dictatorship in a foreign possession. “These concerns,” Kennedy wrote, ” have particular bearing upon the Suspension Clause question in the cases now before us, for thewrit of habeas corpus is itself an indispensable mechanism for monitoring the separation of powers. The test for determining the scope of this provision must not be subject to manipulation by those whose power it is designed to restrain.”

(One might hope, parenthetically, that what Justice Kennedy pointed out in the majority decision, our judges here at home will eventually read) But anyway, Kaiser continues by taking the dissenters in the high court to task:

Chief Justice Roberts’s dissent is noteworthy because of the way that he stands the whole question on his head. Kennedy focuses on the right of the government to detain aliens under its jurisdiction and insists, properly in my view, that the Framers rightfully placed explicit restrictions on the government’s ability to detain anyone by denying the right to suspend habeas corpus except in time of invasion or rebellion. Roberts instead argues in effect that the detainees do not enjoy the rights of citizens and that the law Congress passed is adequate to protect any rights they may have. The majority, he says, “fails to show what rights the detainees have that cannot be vindicated by the DTA system.” By casting the issue in terms of the prisoners’ rights instead of the government’s, in my opinion, Roberts is standing the Framers’ intent on its head. Merely his attempt to specify a class of people whose rights cannot be precisely defined is, to me, chilling. Scalia’s dissent has received much attention because of his prediction that the decision will result in the deaths of more Americans, and he cites several news accounts claiming that detainees already released (not, to be sure, thanks to American federal courts) have perpetrated violent attacks abroad. (The possibility that their detention turned them into terrorists he does not of course mention.) But it is equally noteworthy that he spends pages and pages arguing that the writ of habeas corpus was never supposed to apply to places where the US was not sovereign–ignoring that no other country has exercised any authority in Guantanamo for a century, and ignoring the implications of allowing the government to rule territory in which it is not bound by the Constitution.

In another entry, Postscript to Habeas Corpus, Kaiser points out how one Justice who is the darling of the Right simply got it wrong:

Justice Scalia’s dissent in Boumedienne vs. Bush, which I mentioned last week, argued not only that more Americans would be killed as a result of the majority opinion, but that 30 detainees released from Guantanamo had already “returned to the battlefield” and had been responsible for a number of deaths. I do not know how often Supreme Court Justices have been caught putting false information into their opinions, but that is what has happened here. Some Seton Hall law professors, bless their hearts, have published a report exploding this data as an urban legend–one which the Pentagon had already had to repudiate.

My column for yesterday, Our anarchic republic, made reference to the blog Between The Lines.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

91 thoughts on “Quailing before the Palace’s pet Magistrates

  1. saxvilins, you are the one who is WRONG. while a motion to dismiss presupposes truth of the facts alleged, there is no such assumption regarding matters of LAW. truth of allegations that an act is illegal is never presumed. only a court can rule on matters of law. allegations that a right has been violated, or that there is no justification for an act, are legal questions that only a court of law can decide. if you are a law student, GO STUDY HARDER.

    A finding of justification of police conduct is a conclusion of fact. It is supported by factual findings. In this case, the judge said there was a dangerous situation.

    There is no evidence of the “dangerous situation” adverted to by the judge. The allegations of the PNP are just that, allegations. They must be supported by evidence introduced into the record. There is none.

    No I am not a law student. You are not the only lawyer in cyberspace.

  2. but cvj: I actually do not care if you apologize or not. But what I want is to point out — You move away from the real problem — the ferry — and you shifted the discussion to this “….blaming the victims” sensibility. You got in the way of Jeg/KG others continuing to verbalize their observations and thoughts.

    I don’t know how good you are in brainstorming sessions at your office, but in my opinion, you are doing poorly with regards systems analysis for the ferry accident. You are doing poorly because you allow your thin-skin about “blame the victim” and your bias about “blame the rich/blame the oligarchs” to get in the way.

    1. Why do passengers keep using Sulpicio? Someone in his right mind who knew Sulpicio safety record would have avoided that ferry!!!!
    — Is it “… the passengers knew Sulpicio safety record” and still boarded?
    — is it “… the passengers really did not know Sulpicio safety record”‘;
    — is it “… there was no choice except MV Princess Stars”.

    2. The ship sailed with storm warnings within 5 kilometers of sea lanes.
    — did the ship sail in conformance to rules/regs? If “yes”, then action may be to change the regs.
    — If ship sailed against rules/regs…. Where was the point of failure? And WHO were the points of failure????

    3. Many of the folks who died were in the lower cabins. Is there any actionable item? [ Side-note: Systems analysis of deaths from SuperFerry14 concluded — there could have been less deaths if there were sprinkler systems. ]

    4. What were the mitigating factors related to those who survived? On-deck versus below-deck. Life-vests? Life-boats? Crew-training? Drownproofing/swimming skills?

    There are many more points of failure, including the corruption associated to maritime-safety-equipment contract under Tabako.

    But head-in-the-sand attitude is weak. Really, it is weak, and tougher-skin is needed because there probably will be another ferry sinking within the next 5 years.

    [above words express my opinions…]

    And where is the captain now? [The odds that the ferry captain chose to go down with his ship, in my opinion, is very low.]

  3. On the sinking of the Ferry Princess of the Stars, there were allegations that the Engines failed during the voyage. This should be also taken into consideration into the inquiry of the mishap to cover all bases. How many times or how often the failures has occured before the final one?

    Many ships had been in the eyes of the storms and can easily evade or take shelters if the Engines and all other Equipments on Board are in good shape and well-maintained.

    It is only one of the factors, but one of the most important, because the next time the storm could hit while in the middle of the voyage and if those engines fail again, then we will have another tragedy and an avoidable one and it could happen even in a fair weather.

  4. I criticize cvj for influencing-too-strongly how KG and Jeg presents their thoughts while I do the same, but who says we have to live by the same rules, right? 😉

  5. UPn, where i come from, whenever we analyze systems, we make sure to focus first on the key elements (i.e. context, components, interactions etc). The question of why there were still those who patronized Sulpicio is a peripheral one (what you would call a ‘sidenote’). Bringing these up at this juncture betrays a lack of understanding of order of magnitudes.

  6. vic: right you are. Fair-weather sea ferry accidents have happened; one of the last was in the Red Sea. Fire broke out just an hour after ferry left port, the Egyptian captain continued the voyage instead of returning to port-of-origin. Net result — fire got worse, ferry sank, hundreds of deaths (most of the dead were those trapped inside the cabins). Radio and automatic-alert electronics (like the ones Tabako admin gave an award to but failed to install) also failed — the authorities concluded a ferry was missing only because the ferry did not arrive at the destination; something like 10 hours after the ferry had already sunk. American and brit ships offered help; egyptian authorities said “stay away”. The crew badly-trained; captain-and-crew were first to abandon ship; many lifeboats became unavailable to passengers. Those who were above-deck but unable-to-get-lifevest and can’t-swim drowned.

    ferries with their flat-bottoms are much more vulnerable during storms. More appropriately, ferries are top-heavy, hence, more prone to capsizing.

    and then, there are the ro-ro’s, which an article (that KG pointed to) is getting more and more use in Pinas. Ro-ro’s need more strict supervision and better-trained crews. They are more prone to capsizing (when the cars/trucks/cargo are not securely fastened and the ro-ro balance gets seriously out-of-whack) or when mechanical failure results in the wide-mouth (point-of-entry for the trucks/cars) dropping and becoming point-of-entry of the waves. Ro-ro’s require 20%-less time to sink than normal passenger ferries.

    And then, there was a ferry — sydney to tasmania — which never made any high-visibility news item nor wikipedia entry. The ferry encountered 20-meter high waves in a storm. Several passengers said “… I’ll never ride a ferry again!!!” after they got off the boat when the ferry returned to Sydney. Loss-of-life — zero. Cargo-loss — zero.

  7. one more time, saxnviolins. when a court dismisses a case for lack of cause of action, it is saying, in effect, that assuming that all your allegations of facts are true, they don’t constitute a violation of the law, or an infringement of your right. the issue of “justification” is one of law, not of fact. sorry, i usually don’t make a big deal out of a mistake of another lawyer but you come a little too strong for me with your derisive attitude.

  8. cvj:

    But in a sense the question why people still patronize Sulpico Lines (SL) given its dismal record is quite relevant as it relates to the “environment” which will help in pinpointing the guilty party. For example, the question will provide an answer (pardon the play on words) if the regulators were remiss in inspecting SL’s vessels and warning the public.

    In business analysis, scanning the environment (the macro setting) is the first order of the day. I’m not sure if it is included in your context component, though.

  9. cvj…. my mistake. you are the better analyst than Jeg.

    However, I did see Jeg bring an idea to the table – there were still those who patronized Sulpicio despite safety record. And the idea is actionable, too — better education.

  10. Okay here’s one from the illustrious JBL Reyes.

    Petitioner finally questions the legality of his arrest without warrant by the Manila Police officers on August 10, 1966. Since the accused petitioner has already come under the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance of Manila, upon the admission of the information (amended) against him on October 3, 1966, this Court is of the opinion that this particular issue should rather be submitted to, and threshed out in, the Court below. This is all the more advisable because of the probability that the determination of the lawfulness of the questioned arrest will involve a detailed inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the same, and evidence thereon may have to be introduced and considered. For these reasons, this Court abstains for the present from making a ruling on the question.
    (In the matter of the petition for habeas corpus of Marmolito Catelo v. Chief of the City Jail, Manila G.R. No. L-26703, September 5, 2967)

    In the Laigo case, Tordesillas et al were questioning their warrantless arrest and alleged illegal detention. The PNP, of course, says it was a mere “processing”. But, precisely, in evaluating the motion to dismiss, the allegations in the complaint must be hypotheticaly accepted as true i.e.

    (1) that an arrest was made,

    (2) that no warrant was issued for the arrest,

    (3) that there was no crime being committed to justify a warrantless arrest (Plaintiffs alleged that there was no basis for a warrantless arrest). If Defendants say that there was basis, then that is a mere allegation that requires reception of evidence. What is the factual basis for the warrantless arrest?

    You still insist it is a question of law? Fine I will agree to disagree.

  11. and cvj: I have this thought (no proof, just a thought) that you trivialege the Pinoy Jeg’s point because Jeg spoke plain-vanilla English. I suspect (no proof, just a thought) you would have been more attentive if a Brit had spoken about …. Information Asymmetry, where one party to the transaction (in this case, the seller) knows more than the other. It belongs to a class of problems in Economics known as ‘Principal-Agent’ problems. Passengers (the principals) did not realize know what they bargained for when they bought the ticket from Sulpicio (the Agent) e.g. defective engine, reckless navigation etc.

    So I will ask directly? Is it Jeg who, for this moment, has trivial comments? Is it that Information Asymmetry is irrelevant, or is it that you do not have a solution to offer for Information Asymmetry problems?

  12. cvj: You saw it already, yet you trivialized Jeg.

    Any and improvements to the “Information Asymmetry” conumdrum makes less likely where less-informed cvj’s cast their vote for the GMA’s of this world.

  13. and no, I will not comment on which is more important : the Info-Asymmetry conumdrum for maritime accidents or the Info-Asymmetry conumdrum for who gets into Congress and/or Malacanang.

    But the problem is NOT TRIVIAL.

  14. saxnviolins, since it appears that you are a lawyer, i’ll grant you the courtesy of another response though, i think, our exchanges are becoming circuitous.

    when a party in an action invokes a law, citing the provision and supporting jurisprudence (precedents), along with the arguments of counsel, is enough. there’s no need to present evidence of fact to convince the court what the law is. in fact, theoretically at least, the judge is supposed to know the law; otherwise he can be sanctioned for ignorance of the law.

    while the allegations of arrest without warrant in the complaint are deemed true for purposes of a motion to dismiss, it is the province of the court to rule whether or not the warrantless search is in accordance with law, without the need of evidence on that particular issue.

  15. btw, saxnviolins, stop listening to the layman’s arguments of tordesilias, vergel santos, and other “journalist”. i’m worried about their counsels who could be undertaking a frivolous appeal after filing a frivolous suit. suits and appeals are not cheap – what with the costs that could be doubled or trebled against the losing attorney.

  16. UPn, huh? If i thought the issue that Jeg raised (at 4:09 pm) was trivial, then i wouldn’t have taken time to think about it and respond. And if i thought that the problem of Information Asymmetry was ‘trivial’, why then did i bother to bring it up?

    PSI (at 12:56am), i think the question of ‘why people still patronize Sulpicio Lines given its dismal record’ is secondary, and less helpful to pinpointing the accountable party(-ies), to the separate (but admittedly related) question of why Sulpicio lines has remained open given its dismal record.

    If there were only eight passengers (instead of 800) who chose to take that ill-fated voyage, would it have lessened Sulpicio’s (or the Coast Guard’s) accountability?

  17. cvj: my mistake. It may have been saxnviolins or maybe it was ColdKing who said :

    The question of why there were still those who patronized Sulpicio is a peripheral one (what you would call a ’sidenote’).

    And things have gotten clearer. Your effort is systems analysis to pin blame.

  18. oh, wait… you said that… and you are right.
    The question of why there were still those who patronized Sulpicio is a peripheral one to producing a report that pins blame.

  19. saxnviolins on, “that there was no crime being committed to justify a warrantless arrest (Plaintiffs alleged that there was no basis for a warrantless arrest).”

    This is the kind of inequity that the people would like the court to address given the powerful and inherent police power of the state. The court has the opportunity to protect the weak who have not committed a crime from unnecessary arrest and detention. This is miscarriage of justice.

  20. “Effectively, the ruling puts journalists under the police, nay, at their mercy. It signals to the police that next time any journalist disobeys them they can arrest him, cuff him, haul him to jail, and detain him.”

    This is a very dangerous precedence if uphold by the appelate court (am sure the appeal is on the way). The ruling itself trivialize the importance of warrant of arrest and the protection it has provided.

  21. btw, saxnviolins, stop listening to the layman’s arguments of tordesilias, vergel santos, and other “journalist”.

    I only mentioned Todesillas because she is one of the Plaintiffs. The complaint was drafted by their lawyers. I quoted the factual allegations of their complaints, not their “laymen’s arguments”.

    The arguments are mine. The quote is from the immortal JBL.

  22. dangerous precedence? warrant of arrest? try doing it there in your adopted country. get in the way of the operations of the police see what happens if you don’t get a roughshod treatment from the cops. i think you’ll be lucky if you’re not beaten black & blue or get arrested and charged.

  23. You know what? I changed my mind. I blame the passengers. If they didnt get on board that boat, it wouldnt have sunk. 😀

    Seriously, cvj has always been a fair chap. I see no problem with cvj’s misinterpretation and appreciate the subsequent mea culpa for it, but I have to point out the absurdity of the misinterpretation (“They blame the passengers!”).

    But I have to bring up another point that may have been misinterpreted. My comment was not about assigning blame. Blame was trivial to it in fact. I leave the assigning of blame part to you guys.

  24. i have read somewhere that Arroyo is cancelling Northrail?
    with 7100 islands, our country needs a water travel project. An infrastructure that will connect the islands. It would be cheaper for the government to buy sulpicio’s shares like 1 cent per share. this company has no real value, anyway. Ships are old and engine are slow.

  25. vic: On the sinking of the Ferry Princess of the Stars, there were allegations that the Engines failed during the voyage.

    IIRC, that was due to some survivors’ account that they heard a loud noise before the ship floundered. However, it could be due to the fact that waves caused the ship’s propellers to intermittently break the water’s surface. It makes a loud and scary sound, one of my seaman friends told me. Caught in a storm in the North Sea, he said it was like the engine about to blow up.

  26. water travel in the provinces is a necessity. it’s like the train system in Manila. We borrowed lots of money from WB because of all those projects and almost none or very little budget was allocated to connect the islands.

    when the government cannot balance the needs of the 7100 islands… we will never experience real democracy. when a government provide the right infrastructure in one place, people will be attracted and will move to that place. Have we not questioned about congestion and traffic?

  27. Actually, I’m wondering why there aren’t any Rules of Engagement / Guidelines regarding coverage of “crisis situations” like coups, bank robberies, hostage situations, rebel assaults and other similar high risk situations between media and our security forces.

    Also wondering why media would refuse to have one. Sakin lang, parang common sense siya. At least, next time, regardless of what happens to the class suit, klaro na, di ba? Rather than remain in this situation where both parties – the media and the security forces – are insisting uncompromisingly on their respective roles in society.

  28. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” — Thomas Jefferson

    It declares that Barias’s order “was but lawful and appeared to have been disobeyed by plaintiffs” — the journalists, that is — and that in fact “they were so lucky” to not have been indicted.

    Since when does the judiciary make the presumption of guilt as the basis for a resolution dismissing a civil complaint versus agents of the state.

    That is not the province of the judicary. Under the theoretical basis of the separation of powers

    First the agents of the state (both the police and military)allowed men under legal custody to walk out of their scheduled hearing. There is a police station right next to the Makati City hall.

    At the most the people who refused to leave the Peninsula Hotel should have been charged with interfering with a legitimate police operation.

    After a failure of the police itself.

    Why were no charges filed against all members of the press? The press decided to stay as was their right as they saw it and the police did what they had to do as is their responsibility.

    That is what the idea of freedom is.

    It is for the court to arbitrate issues that are brought before it on matters of laws pertaining to freedoms.

    The judge crossed the line. He should have made the agents of the state explain the facts to the court on why the press was handcuffed and kept in detention.

    The cops had to follow due process. If you are arrested you have to be told why and told your rights.

    You were found to be at the scene of a crime. Tresspassing and other issues.

    Where was the process? Was martial law declared? Was a state of emergency declared?

    The judge had to have known or is he ignorant of the process afforded citizens who are placed into custody?

    Today even the highest law enforcer in the U.S., W. is being told by the judiciary that due process was must afforded all prisoners under U.S. custody classified as enemy combatants.

    It would be interesting to see and the Bush government is well aware of it that the worst probable terrorists could see their convictions set aside because of the violation of due process even under the GWOT.

  29. to Jeg: If one always stayed with “… must not blame the passengers, don’t even bother looking at the passenger list and their behavior when investigating a ferry disaster”, then the sinking of Superferry14 would not have been solved. [Reminder: the blame for the sinking of Superferry14 truly fell on passengers, the Muslims with the TV set that contained the explosives. Not negligence, not an accident, it was criminal action of passengers who caused Superferry14 to sink and hundreds of passengers to die.].

    Now, Jeg…. from you first raising the idea of passenger-behavior came the concept of “Information Asymmetry” and the thought that the population has forgotten already about MV Dona Paz. Uninformed about Sulpicio past history, the Sulpicio load factor remained high. The action for the future —- a Travel-safety-Week education program to inform passengers (and the general population) of maritime safety practices (and performances of the different carriers). This is much less about assigning blame and much more about “… finding ways to lessen the body bags should there be future ferry sinkings”.

  30. Got it, UPn. Like I said, I leave the assigning of blame (and the recommendations on what to do next) to you guys. There will always be disasters at sea. Our ‘archipelagic’ geography and the fact that we’re sitting smack dab in the middle of the typhoon superhiway guarantees it. The task is, as youve mentioned, lessening the number of body bags.

  31. Jeg, your pointing out the absurdity of my mis-interpretation is just fair. That’s certainly more reasonable than the kind of reaction i normally get from Bencard under similar circumstances.

    UPn (at at 3:17 am), your reformulation is at best a half-truth. We are both interested in root cause analysis, only that you seem to want to highlight the matters that are secondary such as the swimming skills and the buying decision of the passengers. I’m not saying that they should not be looked at (they should at the proper time and on a regular basis as areas for targetted for continuous improvement), but have some sense of timing and proportion.

    As for the ‘blame’ part, i do recognize that there is a trade off between assigning blame and the amount of truth uncovered (which is why you have South Africa-style Truth Commissions, for example) and that the former normally hinders root cause analysis. However, this is one of those situations which require justice, i.e. both in the form of restitution and retribution.

  32. grd on, “try doing it there in your adopted country”.

    Check your own advice before offering it to somebody. The issue is Philippines and not US.

  33. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the decision may have strong legal grounds, but the manner that it was released is again open to some sinister interpretation.

    That is if the report of BusinessWorld is accurate.

  34. dodong, it means, don’t mind us and mind your own business in your adopted country. you’re of no help anyway.

  35. If people are arguing over press freedom, then there is press freedom.

    But if you are asking if there is the presence of that freedom, it follows that there is none. Because you dont feel and sense it.

    Why would you ask the validity of something, if you feel and sense it. The mere fact that you are wondering whether something exist or not is an admission that it is lacking.

    So, no freedom because we are looking for it.

  36. The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination

    by J.K. Rowling
    June 5, 2008

    President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation
    and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents,
    and, above all, graduates:

    The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has
    Harvard given me an extraordinary honor, but the weeks of fear and
    nausea I’ve experienced at the thought of giving this commencement
    address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have
    to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself
    into believing I am at the world’s best-educated Harry Potter

    Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I
    thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The
    commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British
    philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock.

    Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this
    because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said.
    This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that
    I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in
    business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay
    wizard. You see? If all you remember in years to come is the ‘gay
    wizard’ joke, I’ve still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock.
    Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement.

    Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to
    you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own
    graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years
    that has expired between that day and this.

    I have come up with two answers.

    On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your
    success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure.
    And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real
    life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination. These
    might seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me.

    Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a
    slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has
    become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance
    the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected
    of me.

    I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to
    novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished
    backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view
    that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that
    could never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension. They had hoped that
    I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English
    Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied
    nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages.

    Hardly had my parents’ car rounded the corner at the end of the road
    than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor. I
    cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they
    might well have found out for the first time on graduation day.

    Of all subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put
    to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing
    the keys to an executive bathroom. I would like to make it clear, in
    parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view.
    There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in
    the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel,
    responsibility lies with you.

    What is more, I cannot criticize my parents for hoping that I would
    never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have
    since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an
    ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes
    depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships.
    Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something
    on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticized only

    What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but

    At your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university,
    where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and
    far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing
    examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in
    my life and that of my peers.

    I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted
    well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent
    intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the
    Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has
    enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.
    However, the fact that you are graduating
    from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with
    You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire
    success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from
    the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown

    Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes
    failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria
    you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional
    measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on
    an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded,
    I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in
    modern Britain , without being homeless. The fears my parents had had
    for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by
    every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

    Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun.
    That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there
    was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of
    fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and
    for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a

    So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because
    a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself
    that I was
    anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy
    finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded
    anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed
    in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.
    I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized,
    and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and
    had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the
    solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

    You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is
    inevitable. It
    is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live
    cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which
    case, you fail by default.

    Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by
    examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have
    learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more
    discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends
    whose value was truly above rubies.

    The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks
    means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive.
    will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your
    until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true
    gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to
    me than any qualification I ever earned.

    Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old
    self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a
    check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your
    CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and
    older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and
    beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will
    enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

    You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of
    imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but
    that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime
    stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a
    broader sense.

    Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that
    which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and
    In its arguably
    most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that
    us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

    One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry
    Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those
    books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day
    jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch
    I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department
    at Amnesty International’ s headquarters in London .

    There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled
    out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking
    imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to
    them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace,
    sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the
    testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I
    opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and
    executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

    Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had
    displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the
    temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our
    office included those who had come to give information, or to try and
    find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave
    I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older
    than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had
    endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into
    video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot
    taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the
    job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this
    man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with
    exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

    And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty
    and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and
    horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the
    researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink
    for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news
    that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s
    regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

    Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how
    incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a
    elected government, where legal representation and a public trial
    the rights of everyone. Every day, I saw more evidence about the
    evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or
    maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about
    some of the things I saw, heard and read.

    And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty
    International than I had ever known before. Amnesty mobilizes
    thousands of people who
    have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on
    of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective
    saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal
    and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save
    they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that
    was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

    Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and
    understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves
    other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places.
    Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is
    morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or
    control, just as much as to understand or sympathize.

    And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They
    to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience,
    troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than
    they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages;
    they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not
    touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

    I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that
    do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to
    live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and
    that brings its own terrors. I think the willfully unimaginative see
    more monsters. They are often more
    afraid. What is more, those who choose not to empathize may enable
    real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil
    ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

    One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor
    down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I
    not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What
    we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

    That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times
    day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection
    with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives
    simply by existing.

    But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch
    other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work,
    the education you have earned and received, give you unique status,
    and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart.
    great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining
    The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure
    you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your
    borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

    If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on
    behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only
    with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability
    to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your
    advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who
    your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality
    have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change
    the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already:
    have the power to imagine better.

    I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is
    that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation
    day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents,
    the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble,
    who have been kind enough not to sue me when I’ve used their names
    Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection,
    by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and,
    of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic
    that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime

    So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And
    tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine,
    you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when
    fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in
    search of ancient wisdom: As is a tale, so is life: not how long it
    is, but how good it is, is what matters.

    I wish you all very good lives.

    Thank you very much.

    2008 Harvard University Commencement,
    June 5, 2008. Copyright of J.K. Rowling, June 2008

  37. There is an Acid Test of the extent of press freedom. Get on google or any other news search engine of your choice. Compare, on any given day, what gets written up and broadcast in Philippine media, with what comes out in any other country or group of countries that you choose. Then, if you are so inclined, filter the comparison through whatever standards of editorial objectivity, media access, investigative hard-hittingness, etc., that suits your fancy.

    Look at the results. How on earth would you be able to conclude anything else but that that press freedom is screamingly alive and well in the Philippines?

    Two caveats.

    First, the borderline between the prerogatives of the State and the prerogatives of the Fourth Estate is an ever-shifting one. It is meant to be. That’s what the law is for. Each generation sets that borderline in the place that suits it best. The common sense of the majority will eventually make itself felt.

    Second, the murder of journalists for whatever reasons is inexcusable and a terrible blot on our nation’s democratic standing. However, these crimes do not appear to have a massive impact on press freedom in a general sense. A lot of rot still comes out into the light of day, which is the way it should be.

  38. marcelo, the death knell of any right in a democracy is its abuse. a demand for absolute freedom is a sure-fire way of losing what was there to begin with.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.