"I'm bemused by Ressa's latest antics."
I was more than a little elated when the office of Senator Ping Lacson responded to my column last week with an op-ed piece that came out the very next day. Columnists are craven attention-getters, even if the attention is disagreeable.
My elation was dampened somewhat, however, when the senator’s office also replied to a column by the redoubtable Kit Tatad in the Manila Times, who apparently agreed with my views on the same issue (Lacson’s “institutional amendments,” otherwise not known as pork).
Lacson’s people darkly speculated that Kit and I had engaged in “copy-paste” journalism from the same “common source”, and within just a day of each other. I’m tempted to offer an alternative explanation for this coincidence: Great minds think alike.
But since the senator’s office appears to be a humorless lot, I will simply advise them not to be surprised if columnists who want to be topical end up writing about the same hot-button issue at pretty much the same time.
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What can I say about the comments from Lacson’s people on my latest column?
One: They claim that Lacson’s “amendments” to the national budget are well-thought-out responses to funding requests from the implementing agencies. By comparison, the “insertions” by congressmen are nothing but personal interventions by the lawmakers, done without consultation, and tantamount to the “whimsical and arbitrary” projects proscribed in the Supreme Court ruling in 2013 against pork barrel.
Reply: These are fighting words from Lacson indeed, which it really is up to the congressmen to answer back. They’re big enough to carry their own water—perhaps starting with a challenge to the senator to name specific unworthy projects “inserted” by the House, the congressmen involved, and why he thinks they’re unworthy. Everyone loves a good catfight.
Two: Continuing silence from Lacson’s office on the truthfulness of his claim about a thousand percent increase in Arroyo’s “pork,” to a humongous P606 million worth of projects in 2019. Congressman Nonoy Andaya, a former budget secretary, has already flat-out denied those numbers exist. So is Lacson calling Andaya a liar, or is the senator himself the liar?
Three: Lacson’s people claim that he’s already “made peace” with Arroyo. That would bring tears to the eyes of any lover of peace—were it not for the still-unsubstantiated story he spread about the humongous pork in her district for this year.
If this is how the senator treats those he’s “made peace” with, I’d sure hate to be an enemy lined up in front of his infamous cross-hairs.
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I’m bemused by the latest antics of the screaming, screeching diva at Rappler, the doyenne of online yellow journalism, Maria Ressa.
This time around, she’s converted a libel case filed against her by a private citizen, businessman Wilfredo Keng, into a human rights offense of the highest order that has even usually level-headed ladies like Christiane Amanpour and the distinguished diplomat Madeline Albright up in arms on her behalf.
One can only blanch at the credulity being evidenced at the highest levels of punditry. As P.T. Barnum usefully reminded us, there’s a sucker born every minute.
Stories are now coming out about how Maria waited literally for days for the charges to be filed and the NBI agents to knock on her door so she could manufacture a tale of official persecution made for TV. It’s so blatant that even the National Press Club distanced itself from her antics and advised her to cool it. If anybody knows from libel as an occupational hazard for media men, it’s the NPC.
At a TV talk show, Maria repeatedly bobbed and weaved—Manny Pacquiao would have been impressed—at the repeated reminders from Palace spokesman Sal Panelo that the law was just being followed. It’s the same bob-and-weave strategy she’s followed in evading the cogent issues brought up against her: tax evasion, violating the Constitution, and lately, shilling for the yellows as Facebook’s mistakenly-appointed online watchdog.
Most recently, online stories have been coming out about how her accuser, Mr. Keng, was recently rewarded a Manila Bay reclamation contract. The stories clearly state that it’s the provincial government of Cavite who awarded the contract, and nobody’s showing any shred of proof of misbehavior by Keng. But one can always count on the yellow hucksters-—when they totally can’t connect any of the dots—to resort instead to blowing smoke up our asses to convince us there’s a fire.
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My own experience with libel suits is limited to just once. Decades ago, when I was cooling my heels in a martial-law prison, a Lyceum student leader named David Odilao charged me with libel for something I had written against him, not even as a journalist, but as a hot-headed know-it-all.
The suit had me being flown to Cebu several times for the trial, always in handcuffs, in the company of a personable Constabulary officer named Lt. Lopez. I looked forward to the trips as opportunities to leave the Crame stockade and hang around ordinary people on the outside. It certainly never crossed my mind to blame President Marcos for the suit; he’d already thrown the maximum charge at me—subversion—and this was clearly nothing more than a personal beef by Odilao.
In the end, I think the libel charge was dismissed. I never met Odilao, but if he’s still around, I’d love to get together with him over a beer or two. I think we’ll both agree that libel is essentially a private quarrel that shouldn’t be elevated into a cause celebre by people who want us to believe they’re martyrs but are really just plain law-breakers.
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