Quite a few have asked me for more info, and actually there's a lot already spread out on the net regarding the issues at play for those interested to find out more, but still, maybe a sum-up's really in order. My apologies for taking a while. As the funny Jean-Claude van Damme likes to say, "I've beeen beeezzzeeee."
State bullying actually began months ago when news items seemed to come out in orchestrated fashion maligning people, including RC, with the implicit threat of more harassment, possibly graduating into open persecution. Malice was on display and to this quite a few things had to be said.
This was then followed by the threat of indefinite incarceration, a menace that remains very much in play to this day. Middle of November, rebellion charges were filed against RC and other figures openly contemptuous of the Arroyo administration such as former University of the Philippines president Dodong Nemenzo.
What does one do when one is charged with rebellion, which is non-bailable, by an illegitimate government? The last thing you do is to cower. You push back. Click here to read statements by RC related to the rebellion charge and threat of imprisonment as well as the machinations of the Arroyo cabal.
At the Dusit Hotel in Makati City last December 9, as drivers of the Charter Change train attempted to finagle the public once more with a repackaged project that intends to swindle the entire country, RC and Dudi showed up at the presscon of Joe de Venecia and spoke their minds. And then, of course, a wretched excuse for a gossip columnist, who has apparently wanted to play Cherrie Gil's Lavinia in the smash Sharon Cuneta movie hit Bituing Walang Ningning for some time, thought it was a nice opportunity to do so and promptly disgraced himself and the paper he wrote for in the process. Poor thing. If you want to see the original first-rate Cherrie Gil act, click here.
On live TV yesterday, ANC reported that Lavinia-wannabe's own paper initiated investigations regarding his unethical dealings, focusing on charges that the columnist has been on the payroll of politicians for some time. Lavinia-wannabe's response was interesting -- he virtually replied that his paper was infested with folks who were also on the take, coyly smiling and warning against the move saying "Well, baka maraming tatamaan." ["Well, maybe many will get it too... "]
In any case, first he was suspended for a day. And then a three-man panel of the paper was convened and he was suspended for a month. Lavinia's response? "A good soldier obeys his generals." Fair enough, except that one kinda has to ask the question as to who his generals are or rather who he is soldiering for....
Human rights icon and former senator Rene Saguisag, who maintains a column in the Manila Times, observed mischievously that "Now, Vic Agustin is seen as Joe’s man. Vic once told me that he received an envelope from Imelda Marcos during the dictatorship, containing P50,000. Contrite, he said he could not be on the take from Mike Arroyo given how he had lambasted the latter. When did Vic reform? This may be unfair to both. Suspected of being on the take from people he strokes, Vic suggests that he may not be the only crook in his paper. Oh, boy! Is he a blackmail artist? Vic, let it all hang out, para sa bayan."
Truly time to spill the beans...
On the news today is the announcement by De Venecia et al that they are backing off on their rape attempt, also known as Con-Ass, a move that Gloria Arroyo commended as "an act of statesmanship." Only in the Philippines is a decision temporarily backing off from intentions to rape called "statesmanship." Beautiful.
Efren Danao, a columnist from the Manila Times, called RC's decision to bring their opinion straight to De Venecia et al as "the height of boorishness." The choice of words is interesting. On the one hand, Lavinia's very own paper called the water-thtrowing, silly show of fealty to people in the Dusit Hotel presscon -- who may be his real employers -- as "rude" and "boorish".
To be fair, from a newsman's point of view, Danao's negative reaction at RC's presence is understandable. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in fact eloquently noted that it did not " begrudge the journalists concerned if they felt that Mr. Constantino was out of line by speaking at a press conference they believed only the media were entitled to attend." However, added the NUJP, "to berate Mr. Constantino and worse, physically attack him for expressing himself is tragic. How can we, who invoke press freedom and the right to free expression in the exercise of our calling, even deign to prevent others, especially citizens who actually own these freedoms, from exercising these rights?"
The NUJP called Lavinia's behavior "ill-judged" and "unconscionable." Danao, though, did not comment on Lavinia's behavior and in fact even appeared to approve of it, which made it even more interesting. Danao's sentiments were echoed days later in a bizarre way by the journalist Amando Doronila of the Inquirer, who channeled an intriguing stream of venom entirely at RC, whom he branded a "militant leftist activist," an "interloper" and a "usurper" who was "out to create trouble" -- a "raging bull" who was on a "rampage," a "hijacker" out to create a "mob-rousing platform that had nothing to do with expanding public knowledge of critical public issues." Regarding RC's expressed view of Con-Ass as one of the most brazen attempts by thieves to swindle the republic, Doronila said: "polemical drivel."
And there was more bile to spew. RC "excels in shouting matches that pass for reasoned arguments," wrote Doronila. "His harangue was a monologue of abuse ... No citizen has a right to slander people whose views they don’t agree with." Right. Marcos was not a tyrant, a murderer and a dictator. He was just a powerful, opinionated man. There were no official thieves or rapacious cronies during Marcos' time; only vigorous and energetic presidential business partners. And so on and so on. Doronila even lashed out at the NUJP for criticizing Lavinia, with the newsman even going so far as to say there were and there should be limits to freedom of self-expression. Coming from a senior journo like Doro, the response is just yikes... This is the line that the NUJP had taken and which Doronila was pissed at: "Under no circumstances will we abide by any attempt to stifle free expression from which the freedom of the press merely emanates, especially not through physical means and especially not by one of our own."
Of Lavinia's conduct, Doronila could not even bring himself to call it a provocative act. For Doronila, Lavinia's fluid freak-out can only be "deemed to be a provocative act." Deemed to be. Susmaryosep nga. Doronila likened Lavinia's act as akin to "baptismal water poured on the head of a child being christened," [Diyos ko po], and went on to say that "Constantino was even more provocative in launching his tirade at the press conference." Ano daw?
Popular broadcast journalist and now also print columnist Arnold Clavio has a few things to say about context. "If you think about it," mused Clavio, "it was Mr. Agustin who actually had the right to be there. But in an interview on our radio show yesterday, he admitted that his presence was not borne out of any interest in Speaker JdV’s Con-Ass. He was there because he wanted to ask Manay Gina de Venecia if their Dasmariñas property was up for sale. So it was ironically the gatecrasher, activist Renato Constantino, who went there to speak against the topic at hand. If the press conference was not the proper forum for the uninvited non-media Constantino to denounce and berate administration congressmen for pushing their political agenda, neither is it the right venue for a real-estate transaction, 'no?"
Another Manila Times journalist, the veteran Dan Mariano, observed on the other hand that "Speaker Jose de Venecia and his House underlings are fond of describing their charter-change campaign as a bid to unite the country. Well, they appear to have done just that." The solons have united the public against them.
Of the effect of Lavinia's water-throwing silliness, Mariano had this to say: "Constantino, better known as RC, has developed a reputation for resorting to dramatic gestures in protest. Countless times he has been at the receiving end of police baton, tear-gas and water cannon attacks. The dousing RC and his wife Dudi got from Inquirer columnist Victor Agustin -- what were you thinking, Vic? -- wasn’t even a comparative pinprick.
"The righteous indignation at the con-ass lawmakers that RC expressed was just a symptom of the greater ailment that afflicts Philippine politics. The noble-sounding idea of constitutional reform has been revealed to be no more than a fix for the addiction to power afflicting many politicians."
Mariano in a subsequent column described the effect of the RC and Dudi's attempt to speak their mind succinctly: "Notwithstanding -- or perhaps due to -- the hysterical reaction of two newspaper columnists at Saturday’s press conference, Renato "RC" Constantino Jr. helped dramatize public anger at the majority congressmen’s bid to railroad Charter change through con-ass. In many blogs on the Internet, for instance, readers have been hailing Constantino as a hero." Jay, a reader and visitor of this blog, for instance, sent an email and wrote ""Hello Red. In behalf of my family, I just want to ask you a favor to extend our gratitude to your Dad. I just don't know what to say but thanks to him, for standing his ground against those clowns. I am so proud of him, sir!!!" Meanwhile, said Mariano, "the two columnists who tried to silence him are scored for what is publicly perceived as coming to the defense of the con-ass congressmen" -- an accusation that Mariano, a veteran of the sector who knows a sizeable number of media folks (including Lavinia and the other media member who screamed at and tried to prevent RC from speaking, the Philippine Star's Carmen Pedrosa), believes is unfair. Perhaps, but it is difficult not to think of Cherrie Gil when it comes to Lavinia. "In any case," Mariano noted, "the two columnists have done Constantino a favor by turning him into a martyr of the Cha-cha train."
Another Inquirer columnist, Manolo Quezon, had this to say in his column: "[F]orgive me if I was left unmoved by the sight of Pedrosa shrieking “Respect your representatives!” while Victor Agustin tried to hose down RC Constantino with the contents of a water glass.
"What was--is--there to respect?" Quezon asked pointedly.
Mariano shared an important perspective that is worth thinking about: "In quite a number of these media forums, non-journalists have been allowed to speak out by members of the working press, who value -- or at least, ought to -- free speech. Besides, such sidelights often add "color" to otherwise boring media briefings. Why do ordinary citizens like Constantino -- who actually used to write a column for, among others, the now-defunct Isyu, an all-opinion tabloid -- feel they need to interject themselves in press conferences? Rather than score these 'interlopers' for being 'out of order,' journalists should view such incidents as warnings that the news media have probably not been doing their job according to the public’s expectations. Far too many publishers, editors, reporters and columnists rub elbows with the high and mighty that they often lose sight of their real constituents -- the ordinary citizens who spend good money to follow the news in newspapers, radio and TV. These are the ordinary citizens who hang on to every word journalists write or speak in order to get a handle on what is happening all around them."
International Herald Tribune correspondent and blogger Caloy Conde suggests that actually, "a lot of columnists do PR work. This is mainly because of the nature of their medium: they opinionate and their columns are not usually subjected to the same rigorous standards (fact-checking, balance, fairness, “objectivity,” etc.) that news reports have to go through. In this country, about the only qualification for one to become an opinion columnist is the ability to regurgitate views and, in many instances, crap. (Readable crap, but crap just the same.)
According to Conde, this may explain "why PR agents and those who have vested interests and agenda to pursue almost always go to columnists firsts (though I have to say here, as we who spoke Visayan would say, puwera sa maayo). You think corruption among reporters is bad? Corruption among columnists is even worse!"
"It is so bad," Conde wrote, "that, in many instances, the PR guys themselves have become columnists. And there are columnists who sit on the board of profitable government corporations. Compared to the hao-siaos who knock on the hotel doors of politicians to ask for fare money, that is a pretty neat racket, don’t you think? And I’m not just talking about some two-bit, fly-by-night tabloids here. You can find these people in the largest papers."
Lots of truth there, but of course Conde does not mean everyone. And it is also quite an important thing to point out -- often people have the mistaken idea that the bad eggs come largely from the ranks of reporters whenever the subject of corruption in media is being discussed.
There are many who are still more than able to call a spade a spade, and Luis Teodoro is one of them. A veteran media tribune who currently writes a column for the Business Mirror, Teodoro exercised familiar restraint recently in the words he employed in order to describe the Arroyo administration and De Venecia Con-Ass gang: “shameless, abhorrent, brazen, despicable, wicked, vile, loathsome, malicious, self-serving, appalling, odious, repulsive, disgusting, detestable, depraved, base, nasty, insufferable, repellent, putrid, sickening.”
What do other bloggers think about the issues on hand? There seems to be a gazillion views out there and rather than wade through each one, which is what many brave blogging souls do but which I don't, I've just chosen a few that may indicate quite a few things or nothing at all, depending on where one sits. Actually, depending on how one sits or what one is sitting on...
Click here to find out writer Stella Arnaldo's thoughts on Lavinia's response to RC and on Con-Ass.
"What a lively, colorful, passionate country this is," the blogger Delio tells us. Delio had little to write about Lavinia but had interesting things to say about Pedrosa. Click here to find out.
Miko Samson's take on the issues is also provocative. Here's what Samson says: "Justifying Constantino's verbal attack on the speaker is an exercise in futility. He's wrong. Period. [But Doronila] Justifying Agustin's physical attack of sorts on Constantino isn't an exercise in futility. It's an exercise of weird thinking and, in my opinion, an utter lack of fairness. Question is, can we blame Constantino for being so angry? I can't, and I won't. I share a lot of his sentiments. I'd fight for his right to say them. His expression of them, however, is an entirely different matter. I won't fight for how he did it." Get the full post of Miko Samson's take by clicking here.
The view of the blogger Strychnos is clear and strident: "It’s about damned time for any self-respecting person to show his outrage with the unilateral havoc that the demons in the Lower House are wreaking. Were it up to me, I’d give the verbal equivalent of a pie-face to each and every motherfxxxxx one of those administration legislators. The consequences be damned. And if I get thrown out of the press conference for speaking my mind? Let me just echo this particular line: Middle finger is the flag that I wave when I’m silenced!
The lbogger who maintains the site called pinaysoloops-portia.blogspot.com proposes alternatives to water temperatures. This time, I can't help but wish that I was at the press conference. I would have gladly thrown a glass of water, make that scalding hot water, in Mr. Humpty Dumpty's face.
Eric the Grey One tells his readers his thoughts regarding the show hosted by Ces Drilon, after the Dusit Nikko Hotel Con-Ass press-con of De Venecia et al, with RC and Pedrosa as guests: Find out why Eric wrote "I'm glad I got to see the newscast last night" on his blog here.
Jobert Navallo also weighed in and explained his take on the water-aspect of the issue. "Renato Constantino, the unfortunate receiver of an instant shower, must have been rude to the point of being annoying in that press conference." His complete post is here.
What do RC and Vina Morales have in common? Blogger Benito Vergara gave each of them a piece of his mind. Read all about it here.
Sheryl Ebon cringed and jumped and gagged and her blog will tell you why. So find out what she has to say by clicking on this.
And here ends my attempt to do a media wrap-up and blog sum-up -- can't do it often; actually haven't done it all till now. Media wrap-ups and blog sum-ups play important roles in the opinion-shaping, information-sharing and oftentimes awareness-raising process that is actually just beginning to unfold in the online world. Some excel in such efforts; unfortunately, as should be evident by now, I don't. Interest in doing particular things of course plays a large role in all too many things -- and my interests lie in doing other things, to be honest about it. The hats I continue to wear simultaenously also means that time will not be on my side for a while. I had in fact just arrived from Kenya, and then found myself in Bangkok in a matter of days, when the Big Con issue had begun to heat up -- and I had just come from Vientiane when the Dusit presscon of the Con exploded. But taking a blog-stab at the issues is just too important and too close -- I know it's a week late, but like I said, there's a lot of things on the plate at present, and I'm not very good at putting these online things together in quick, neat fashion.
But still, hey, thanks for dropping by.
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