"The facts are pretty straightforward."
The recent conviction of Rappler’s Maria Ressa for cyber-libel has upset the usual suspects. But even from the likes of them, it was a really low blow for St. Scholastica’s resident NDF-in-chief Sister Mary John to scold the lady judge behind the verdict as being unworthy of her diploma from that school.
Abroad, Mrs George “Amal” Clooney weighed in from the Soros crowd, but I won’t hold it too much against her because I remember that she also took former President Arroyo’s illegal detention case to international court years ago.
The Ressa case is now being conflated with the cancellation of ABS-CBN’s franchise as the latest example of the death of press freedom “by a thousand cuts,” as the latest Ressa documentary breathlessly claims. But the facts of both cases are pretty straightforward: in the case of ABS-CBN, they just waited too long to apply for renewal even though the deadline was staring them in the face for ages. It’s only when you read about both cases from the yellows and reds that you think the country is going to hell in a Davao handbasket.
In Ressa’s case, the verdict is dozens of pages long and meticulously argued. So far the only credible criticism I’ve seen is that the case should have been covered by a more recent one-year prescription period rather than the older 12-year period. It’s a technical issue that lawyers will dance around. Of course, the yellows invoking that technicality were up in arms before when, say, Meilou Sereno was kicked out of the Supreme Court on a quo warranto case that rested largely on technicalities.
For those who prefer substance, I offer the following couple of takeaways:
One, the context for Ressa’s libelous piece was its publication as part of a larger campaign, nearly ten years ago, to destroy the reputation of former Chief Justice Corona in order to bring about his impeachment, but which ended up in his fatal heart attack. The main blame for that death rests, not with Ressa, but with the autistic anomaly Pnoy.
Two, Ressa as well as ABS-CBN owner Gabby Lopez have been pilloried for their foreign citizenships. This should prompt us to remove the Constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of mass media. In today’s interconnected world, what should matter is the content of any media product, not the passport of its producer. There were a lot more Filipinos complicit in the Corona lynching than there were foreigners. They are, if anything, even more liable.
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Moving on to everyone’s favorite topic these days: health, shelter, and rice were the key issues on our minds in the midst of the pandemic during the second quarter, according to my media guru friend Eero Brillantes. His company, BluePrint PH, uses big data analytics imported from Singapore to scour literally hundreds of millions of public social media data points—from posts to shares to mood icons—for insights into the public pulse.
Over the last quarter, out of half a billion data points mined, more than 300 million points concerned health issues. Eero says many of our people expressed anger over the mistreatment of health frontliners, while positive feelings were evoked by stories of their sacrifices as well as perceived good performance by various mayors.
The second key issue, housing, was also influenced by the widespread experience of enforced stay-at-home under the lockdown. Across over a hundred million data points, the housing issue usually came up in conjunction with work, family and security concerns. It was also concentrated in Metro Manila, where the severity of lockdown was most widely felt within this densely populated area.
Rice was the third key issue, with over 50 million data points, as government at all levels sought to address the social impact of the lockdown by distributing food packs containing rice during the first weeks of the crisis. Eero opines that the rice issue “represents a rare combination of national concern, local leadership, and an essential aspect of the Filipino identity.”
Eero scanned a total of 11 issues over the period, including peace and order, rice, health, unemployment, housing, small business, education, utilities, OFWs, access to information, public transportation. This whole new approach to taking the public pulse addresses the usual concerns about bias in traditional sampling-based surveys by bypassing the samples and going straight to the population itself. With everybody online these days, combined with today’s computing power, it’s a technology advance that promises to change the way democratic governance, as well as private commerce, is conducted.
Readers can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.