Monthly Archives: October 2007

Blogging is addition

With apologies, of course, to Amang Rodriguez.

I’ve added two more "pages" (permanent posts, so to speak). The second part of a 2003 special report on the Lamitan siege was the subject of a P20-million libel suit filed by Wahab Akbar of Basilan; a reader had asked me for a copy, and since the suit has already been thrown out (by the prosecutor, and then again by the DOJ on appeal), our lawyer gave me the green light to publish it again. It’s titled "Lamitan siege: Officials’ role."

In April 2005, the week Pope John Paul II died and was buried, the Inquirer ran three editorials on the legacy of an indisputably great man; I am happy to say they reflect my own thinking.

I’ve also updated the links on the right sidebar; may I direct your attention to two incisive and well-written blogs? Exie Abola, twice a Palanca first-prize winner, keeps Dogberry; Mon Casiple, as colleague Manolo Quezon has already and repeatedly acknowledged, writes some of the sanest commentary on that continuing act of insanity called Philippine politics.

Here’s to our moments of lucidity.

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Column: Ronnie Puno and the endgame

Published October 30, 2007

In reporting on the circumstances or consequences of Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio’s disclosure about cash gifts in paper bags, some colleagues in the trade found themselves describing his election victory last May as overwhelming. In fact, it was a squeaker. Father Ed’s 219,706 votes edged “queenpin” Lilia Pineda’s tally by a mere 1,147-vote margin — less than one-tenth of one percent of the number of voters eligible to vote for governor of Pampanga province.

The mistake, the myth-in-the-making, is understandable: It is the afterglow effect at work. I remember that, a hundred days into Fidel V. Ramos’ presidency, which he won with the smallest plurality (24 percent) in Philippine history, a survey jointly conducted by Social Weather Stations and Ateneo de Manila found that fully half of all voters remembered having voted for Ramos.

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Between Deadlines: Puno and Razon at the time of the blast

The October 27 column features Julie Alipala of Inquirer Mindanao on where Ronaldo Puno and Avelino Razon first heard the news about the Glorietta explosion; Alcuin Papa on sidelights of the grim search for clues in Glorietta 2; Abigail Ho on Angelo Reyes’s gift of obfuscatory gab; and myself, on a public appearance by Fidel V. Ramos and Jose de Venecia.

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A tragedy, a travesty

Joseph Estrada, convicted of plunder on two counts only last month, was pardoned a few minutes ago by his successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The grant of executive clemency, read by "acting executive secretary" Ignacio Bunye, was premised on three grounds — for a historic decision, incredibly flimsy, paper-thin bases.

A quick paraphrase: Whereas it was the policy of the Arroyo administration to release inmates aged 70 years old, whereas Estrada had already six and a half years under detention, whereas Estrada had publicly committed not to seek elective office, I, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, grant executive clemency …

We in the newsroom knew the decision was coming (as one editor-wag put it, "Pinatay na ang baboy," referring to preparations involving Estrada’s favorite food, lechon), but still, when it came, we recoiled, horror-struck.

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Filtering saffron

Oni_burma The OpenNet Initiative is the work of a consortium of four universities: Toronto, Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford. It has just released a report documenting the Internet shutdown in Burma: what the G-lite revolution was, and how Burma’s generals cracked down on it. Disconcerting reading.

In his email, Patrick McKiernan of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society writes:

“Pulling the Plug” builds upon past ONI research to contextualize the recent technical and political developments in Burma. In turn, the bulletin has implications for the role of information technology and citizen media on democracy and economic growth, which are among the topics that will occupy the Berkman Center over the next decade.

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Column: Losing trust in Gloria

Published October 23, 2007

It bewilders me when even pragmatic businessmen like Babe Romualdez describe Sen. Panfilo Lacson as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s “archenemy.” This is a misreading of the situation that flatters Lacson but undermines the efforts of the loyal opposition.

That he is on the opposite side of wherever it is President Arroyo finds herself is almost a given. But archenemy? That sounds almost like he is to Ms Arroyo what Ninoy Aquino was to Ferdinand Marcos.

But Aquino worked closely with Gerry Roxas and Jovy Salonga and Pepe Diokno and the old man Tañada (the only person, incidentally, to be elected to the postwar Senate five consecutive times). I cannot think of a single senator today who seems less disposed to work with other opposition senators than Lacson. (Begin by watching his body language on the Senate floor.)

The enmity between Aquino and Marcos was also real; perhaps there, too, is bad blood between Lacson and Ms Arroyo. But I remember the first time she visited the Inquirer after she assumed the presidency. It was December 2001. At convivial cocktails (those were the days), editors and reporters took turns sitting across from her and firing questions. When it was my turn, I asked her about the palpable animosity between Lacson, Joseph Estrada’s favorite policeman, and her spokesman and confidant, Bobi Tiglao (now the ambassador to Greece). Did her spokesman reflect her own attitude to (at that time) the newly elected senator?

I was struck by her answer: “I think Bobi is more hawkish about Ping than I am.”

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“I never noticed I was crying …”

Personal commitments kept me away from the computer over the weekend, but I did have time to read Manolo Quezon’s necessary round-up of online posts about the Glorietta explosion. We can read them again here and here. I was most moved by angeliz105’s recollection, in part, perhaps, because I was reading it mere hours after the blast. There was the shock of immediacy.

I never noticed I was crying until two elderly chinese couple approached me and asked if I am okay. I was just telling them, ” No, look out there, there’s a dead woman…” I was ushered by the elderly man to sit on the hood of one of parked cars. I didn’t know how long I stayed there, coz the next moment, I am maneuvering my car out of the parking lot.

I was happy to note that Inquirer.net became the first news site to feature information from bloggers, including a photo on the front page. The Inquirer editorial on Monday also took note of the online outpouring.

PS. I had lunch that Friday about a block and a half from the blast site, with a good friend visiting from the States. I left the group early, because of a career talk I was scheduled to give in La Salle Taft; I was about to enter La Salle’s South gate when I received a message (time stamped 1:40, or some 10 minutes after the explosion) which read: “Just got word that a bomb exploded in Glorietta. Not sure about intensity and damage. Fyi.” I was immediately skeptical, but while waiting for my turn to speak, I got other calls too. It all made me think that the audience would be more restless than usual, but it didn’t turn out that way. Perhaps, in times like these, we become more attentive to the possible shape our future may take.

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Between Deadlines: Agnes D and General Kwan

The October 20 edition features Norman Bordadora on "lobbyist" Francis Ver, Nikko Dizon on a well-liked but language-challenged general, Leila Salaverria on the perils of being Agnes Devanadera, and Allison Lopez on Manny Pacquiao’s artful dodging.

The October 6 column features Dona Pazzibugan on Jamby Madrigal’s cooing words for Mar Roxas, Alcuin Papa on a highly superstitious police general (illustrating what we can call the feng shui of succession), and Tarra Quismundo on special preparations undertaken to welcome Jose Miguel Arroyo back to Manila.

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Breaking ranks

Over at Inquirer Current, I retold what an opposition leader said to me the other day, about the looming end of the De Venecia era in Congress. (Note that the limits of this assertion are included in the short post itself.) Now, on dzMM’s TeleRadyo, I see Speaker de Venecia announcing that, as he had promised last night, he had written an appeal to President Arroyo, calling on her to start a “moral revolution.” She can start, he said, by firing some of her Cabinet members.

This, it seems to me, could very well be the signal to start (open) hostilities.

What does this mean? It means, just possibly, that JDV has seen the same thing as the opposition leader did, and has decided to go down fighting.

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Column: Beyond black and white: Among Ed’s ‘first test’

Published on October 16, 2007

At the 2nd Inquirer briefing last week, anthropologist and Inquirer columnist Michael Tan argued that the secondary school setting should be considered an educational “ecotone” — that is to say (in layman’s language, cribbed from the dictionary) a transition area between two biological communities. His point, at least as this layman understood it: The tension between the different ecosystems can be responsible for leaps in evolution. In education reform, much attention has been placed on the basic and the tertiary levels. But we might just get more of the results we need if we devote more attention to what happens in high school.

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Mike Tan, Joker, Among Ed

My column for tomorrow is already available on Inquirer.net.

Allow me to list some references:

Michael Tan writes the popular Pinoy Kasi column. We can get the flavor of “ecotones,” the conceptual framework he used in discussing current initiatives in education reform, in this patikim page of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

The dissenting opinion of then-Associate Justice Reynato Puno in the Jurado case is not as famous as it deserves to be; we can read it in its entirety in the ever-reliable Chan Robles site (please scroll down — way down).

The reporting done by Jaileen Jimeno of PCIJ can be found here. One of the many money quotes:

“It’s a big mistake to go after Juliet over this one,” says [former Senate reporter Jun] Bautista. “But it’s natural for (Sen. Joker) Arroyo to react like that, since the report put him in bad light,” Bautista adds. [Ex-senator Rene] Saguisag agrees. “You cannot blame the journalist for pursuing the story. It’s enterprise,” Saguisag says.

The Scotty Reston anecdote, which I’ve used over the years as the primary example of what we can call The Law of the Disgruntled, is in this famous book on the New York Times.

Priests and religious use the Catechism of the Catholic Church, one of Pope John Paul II’s lasting legacies. The discussion on the “sources of morality” can be found here.

The landmark World Bank study on total wealth (referenced once a long time ago in Manolo’s blog, by Carlos V. Jugo, if I’m not mistaken) is not well-known, perhaps because it was first presented to the public as yet another report on sustainable development (and its environmental implications.) But as a probing essay in Reason reminds us, the bank’s attempt to quantify “intangible capital” is a real breakthrough.

I was helped in reaching a kind of understanding of the study by a summary found in this related WB report.

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A small, personal voice

Doris Lessing, 50 years ago:

“The novel is the only popular art-form left where the artist speaks directly, in clear words, to his audience…. The novelist talks as an individual to individuals, in a small personal voice. In an age of committee art, public art, people any begin to feel again a need for the small personal voice; and this will feed confidence into writers and, with confidence because of the knowledge of being needed, the warmth and humanity, and love of people which is essential for a great age of literature.”

A couple of hours ago, Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The story in the New York Times noted that, at the time of writing, her agent didn’t know whether she had heard the news, since she was still out, shopping.

Could the author of The Golden Notebook be the first laureate to actually have her own website?

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Quote: Perfectionism

“… what a burden it must be to see how all things fall into place: where the earth sinks: where the seas flow: how every angel falls.” – Gilda Cordero Fernando

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Quote: Art, high and low

“High art, we might say, is art which presumes knowledge of other art; popular culture is prepared to deal with the untutored.” – John Updike

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Quote: The liberal thinker

The Dictionary of Insufficiently Familiar, Unfairly Obscure or Uncommon Quotations, first entry:

The "liberal or critical thinker, aware of the traps set by his passions, aware of the ambiguity of reality itself, constantly calls his hypotheses and judgments into question. Skepticism? Not at all. The liberal constantly seeks the truth, and he will never budge from his ultimate convictions, that is, his maxims that are as moral as they are intellectual." – Raymond Aron

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Column: Breaking the code of confidentiality

Published October 9, 2007

If you don’t include Lito Lapid (that’s Sen. Manuel M. Lapid to you), only one senator of consequence has been avoiding the Senate hearings on the National Broadband Network and the ZTE deal. Last week, Sen. Edgardo Angara called up from sunny Cebu to explain why.

The law firm he founded is the retained counsel of ZTE Corp, he said, referring to the ACCRA law firm. “Since the issue is all about conflict of interest,” he said, perhaps it was best to give the hearings a wide berth. Besides, he added, there was so much work on the budget that needed to get done.

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The other Pacquiao-Barrera fight

I caught the fight on radio. At around noon, I stepped out of the car for a bit, and as a result missed rounds 2, 3, and 4, but the rest of the fight I followed closely through the dzBB broadcast, listening to the car radio. Unfortunately, the broadcast seemed to report an altogether different fight.

Don’t get me wrong. By and large, the dzBB coverage, anchored by mainstay Orly and backstopped by analyst Mike (I think he works for, or may have been hired for the fight by, Solar Sports), was commendable. The two (mostly) kept out of the way, during the actual fight. Mike had interesting things to say about the art and science of boxing. Orly could be funny at times.

And yet: I was witness to another fight. For some reason, perhaps because we already take Manny Pacquiao’s take-it-to-the-enemy style of fighting for granted, not much was said about the Pacman’s aggressiveness. There was a lot of impressed commentary over Marco Antonio Barrera’s counter-punching skills. At one point, late in the fight, Orly and Mike discussed Barrera’s stylish way of sidestepping to the right to avoid Pacquiao’s attack.

As a result, seeing the fight through their eyes, I thought Pacman was perhaps running behind on points. Even after Manny had shaken Barrera in the 11th round, and after a point had already been deducted from the Mexican hall-of-famer for a foul, the commentary was still about how close the fight was. When the 12th round started, I distinctly remember the analyst Mike say, Whoever wins this round wins the fight. It was that close. When the fight ended without a knockdown, I started to worry in earnest. Considering the experience, the wiliness, the sheer craft, that Barrera had displayed (and that dzBB reported on the air), I felt a sinking sensation. When Michael Buffer roared into the microphone to announce the scores, I pulled over (oh, yes, I was driving much of the time), gripped the steering wheel hard, and flinched. The way it sounded, Manny might lose, perhaps by a split decision. Mike the analyst told listeners how he scored the fight: It was 114-113 in favor of the Pacman, he said. Mentally discounting patriotic pride or a nationalistic bias on his part, I thought: Man, it could be a split decision, in favor of the older, craftier boxer.

And then the scores were read. The first two judges scored it 118-109; the third 115-112 —- all in favor of Pacman. What the …

How could the scores, especially those of the first two judges, be so lopsided?

When I finally watched the fight on TV in the afternoon, I understood why. I saw all those things that perhaps, out of sheer familiarity, were not reported on radio. Pacquiao controlled most of the fight. Pacquiao dominated the center of the ring. Pacquiao played the aggressor’s role, taking the fight to the enemy again and again. Pacquiao landed more punches, and connected more often. And perhaps most important, in the later rounds Pacquiao did not look at all like he was peaked.

It was a radically different fight from what I had heard on the radio. In fact, I would have probably given the Pacman a lopsided score too, if I had been following the fight on TV. How lopsided? Maybe three, four rounds for Barrera. The rest, clearly, was Manny’s.

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A heads up

I’m thinking of changing the look of the blog. Not by much, but enough to be obviously different. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

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SRN 164 and 165

My column tomorrow, "Breaking the code of confidentiality," centers on two Senate resolutions filed on the same day. Both seek an investigation of the September 26 "executive session," but a comparison of the measure filed by Ping Lacson and that filed by Joker Arroyo is revealing.

The column also references this defense of Jarius Bondoc by top blogger and Malaya columnist Ellen Tordesillas.

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Beyond saffron

This commentary is more than a week old, but it suggests a more useful way to look at the crackdown in Burma: as a crisis in the transition from authoritarianism to totalitarianism.

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Journalists and their sources 3

First, and if you will allow me, a recap of some of the main points I raised on Ricky Carandang’s Big Picture program.

1. On Jarius Bondoc’s ethical dilemma: We try not to be judgmental, but we certainly need to be critical. I hope Jarius appreciates the difference.

2. I sympathize with his situation, I understand where he’s coming from; but I am not alone in thinking he made the wrong choice.

3. He is torn between his responsibilities as a journalist and as a citizen; in my view, he would have fulfilled his citizenship responsibilities by meeting his obligations as a journalist.

4. The journalistic privilege is indispensable to the free flow of information; Justice (now Chief Justice) Reynato Puno, in a stirring dissenting opinion in the landmark Jurado case, declared that “independent sources of information” must be protected, otherwise the press as the agent of the people won’t be able to meet its duty to inform.

5. Journalists must keep an open line with “insiders” in the government or other power centers; these sources must feel confident enough in the discretion of the journalists they deal with to continue talking to them.

Second, and I think you may find the following more interesting, a quick roundup of the things that did not get said on air, that were shared in the corridors of ABS-CBN or in the lulls between takes.

1. All of us, the three guests and host Ricky too, most definitely want the probe into the ZTE scandal to continue.

2. But we all agreed that there was a right way to do it; when journalists become part of the story, the issue becomes murky, muddled.

3. Vergel argued, and I agreed, that what Jarius could have done, in outing Romy Neri, was to write a news story, not an opinion piece —- in large part because more editors would have had a chance to vet the story, and because the discipline would have required a stricter accounting. (Actually, come to think of it, Vergel said this on air, too.)

4. Jarius aired his concern about Romy Neri being severely under duress —- but his decision to out him and reveal some of the information relayed in confidence surely placed Neri under more stress.

5. (In other conversations with other journalists) Romy Neri spoke to several other journalists, not just Jarius alone.

I don’t doubt that, if there had been more time, these too would have found their way to the public discussion.

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Journalists and their sources 2

Last night’s Big Picture talk show, hosted of course by Ricky Carandang, was “taped as live” at 6 pm, so I had the chance to watch it when it aired at 8 pm. My friend Deannie Bocobo watched it at the same time too, but apparently he was watching a different show. (Insert big smiley face here.)

A few facts, in no particular order.

1. The “shield law” Philippine journalists invoke to protect their sources is not RA 53, but RA 53 as amended (some 10 years after it became law) by RA 1477. The amendment is crucial, because the right of confidentiality was further qualified. The reminder that invoking the right was “Without prejudice to his liability under the civil and criminal laws” was made explicit. And revelation of sources could be forced only if the “security of the State” was at stake. This qualification considerably narrows the scope of legal compulsion, because originally the “interest of the State” was reason enough. I distinctly remember making this point sometime during the discussion, but perhaps Dean missed it.

2. Vergel Santos most definitely did not say that the Star should fire Jarius Bondoc. What he said was that Jarius asked him, before Jarius decided to out Romy Neri and a few more of Neri’s assertions, whether what he contemplated doing was a firing offense. Vergel said yes, it was or could be considered a firing offense, but whether the Star would fire him would depend on his newspaper’s appreciation of the issue. He definitely did not say that Jarius ought to be fired. Dean’s assertion, that “Vergel Santos opines that Jarius Bondoc ought to be fired for such breach of journalistic confidentiality by the Philippine Star,” makes sense only if, well, he was in fact watching a different show.

3. The words “stands by their story,” which Dean seems to attribute to me, was actually said, with some variation, by Juliet Javellana. Ricky asked me, “Does the Inquirer stand by her [Juliet]?”, to which I answered, “Yes, definitely.” (I know, I know. On this particular point, Dean got the essence of this particular exchange right, but journalism is a matter of details faithfully reported, yes?)

4. Nowhere in the discussion did any of Ricky’s three guests (Vergel, Juliet, and me) say anything about there being “no higher or more inviolable privilege than that of confidentiality between a journalist and his or her sources.” I do not think so; I doubt if the others think so. But we stuck to the matter at hand, and tried to analyze the concept of this journalistic privilege (so intimately related to the free flow of information) on its own merits. If by focusing on the subject matter we were invited to discuss Dean wants to commit (with eyes wide open!) the fallacy of emphasis, well, that is his own lookout. None of us had the chance to talk about other “codes of confidentiality” —- for instance, the lawyer-client privilege, or the privileged nature of communication between spouses, or the seal of confession.

I could go on, but Ricky’s show will be replayed at 1 pm, a few minutes from now. It occurs to me, maybe if I watch it again, I might finally catch that dang show Dean was watching!

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Journalists and their sources

Colleague Ricky Carandang of ANC is devoting his Big Picture program at 8 pm tonight to the sometimes vexing relationship between a journalist and his (in the case of Star columnist Jarius Bondoc) or her (in the case of Inquirer senior reporter Juliet Javellana) sources.

The following may come in handy, during the discussion:

Republic Act 53 (the Sotto law, named after the first Sen. Vicente Sotto)

AN ACT TO EXEMPT THE PUBLISHER, EDITOR OR REPORTER OF ANY PUBLICATION FROM REVEALING THE SOURCE OF PUBLISHED NEWS OR INFORMATION OBTAINED IN CONFIDENCE

Section 1.  The publisher, editor or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news-report or information appearing in said publication which was related in confidence to such publisher, editor or reporter, unless the court or a House or committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the interest of the State.

Sec.  2.  All provisions of law or rules of court inconsistent with this Act are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.

Sec.  3.  This Act shall take effect upon its approval.

Approved, October 5, 1946

Republic Act 1477

AN ACT AMENDING SECTION ONE OF REPUBLIC ACT NUMBERED FIFTY-THREE, ENTITLED “AN ACT TO EXEMPT THE PUBLISHER, EDITOR, COLUMNIST OR REPORTER OF ANY PUBLICATION FROM REVEALING THE SOURCE OF PUBLISHED NEWS OR INFORMATION OBTAINED IN CONFIDENCE”

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:

Sec. 1. Section One of Republic Act Numbered Fifty-Three is amended to read as follows:

“Sec. 1. Without prejudice to his liability under the civil and criminal laws, the publisher, editor columnist or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news-report or information appearing in said publication which was related in confidence to such publisher, editor or reporter unless the Court or a House or committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the security of the State.”

Sec. 2. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.

Approved, June 15, 1956.

The majority opinion in In re Jurado (1995), written by Chief Justice Narvasa

First excerpt

This opinion neither negates nor seeks to enervate the proposition that a newsman has a right to keep his sources confidential; that he cannot be compelled by the courts to disclose them, as provided by R. A. 53, unless the security of the State demands such revelation. But it does hold that he cannot invoke such right as a shield against liability for printing stories that are untrue and derogatory of the courts, or others. The ruling, in other words, is that when called to account for publications denounced as inaccurate and misleading, the journalist has the option (a) to demonstrate their truthfulness or accuracy even if in the process he disclose his sources, or (b) to refuse, on the ground that to do so would require such disclosure. In the latter event, however, he must be ready to accept the consequences of publishing untruthful or misleading stories the truth and accuracy of which he is unwilling or made no bona fide effort to prove; for R. A. 53, as amended, is quite unequivocal that the right of refusal to disclose sources is “without prejudice to liability under civil and criminal laws.”

R. A. 53 thus confers no immunity from prosecution for libel or for other sanction under law. It does not declare that the publication of any news report or information which was “related in confidence” to the journalist is not actionable; such circumstance [of confidentiality] does not purge, the publication of its character as defamatory, if indeed it be such, and actionable on that ground. All it does is give the journalist the right to refuse [or not to be compelled] to reveal the source of any news report published by him which was revealed to him in confidence.

A journalist cannot say, e.g.: a person of whose veracity I have no doubt told me in confidence that Justices X and Y received a bribe of P1M each for their votes in such and such a case, or that a certain Judge maintains a mistress, and when called to account for such statements, absolves himself by claiming immunity under R. A. 53 or invoking press freedom.

Second excerpt

It is argued that compelling a journalist to substantiate the news report or information confidentially revealed to him would necessarily negate or dilute his right to refuse disclosure of its source. The argument will not stand scrutiny. A journalist’s “source” either exists or is fictitious. If the latter, plainly, the journalist is entitled to no protection or immunity whatsoever. If the “source” actually exists, the information furnished is either capable of independent substantiation, or it is not. If the first, the journalist’s duty is clear: ascertain, if not obtain, the evidence by which the information may be verified before publishing the same; and if thereafter called to account therefor, present such evidence and in the process afford the party adversely affected thereby opportunity to dispute the information or show it to be false.

If the information is not verifiable, and it is derogatory of any third party, then it ought not to be published for obvious reasons. It would be unfair to the subject of the report, who would be without means of refuting the imputations against him. And it would afford an unscrupulous journalist a ready device by which to smear third parties without the obligation to substantiate his imputations by merely claiming that the information had been given to him “in confidence”.

It is suggested that there is another face to the privileged character of a journalist’s source of information than merely the protection of the journalist, and that it is intended to protect also the source itself. What clearly is implied is that journalist may not reveal his source without the latter’s clearance or consent. This totally overlooks the fact that the object of a derogatory publication has at least an equal right to know the source thereof and, if indeed traduced, to the opportunity of obtaining just satisfaction from the traducer.

The dissenting opinion of Justice Puno, concurred in by Justice Padilla:

First excerpt

There is another aspect of freedom of the press which the majority failed to consider. The sanctity of a newsman’s source of information is not only intended to protect a newsman but also the source of his information. When a person transmits confidential information to a newsman, he is exercising his freedom of speech on condition of anonimity. In Talley v. California,[17] an ordinance which penalized the distribution of any handbill which did not identify its author was struck down as unconstitutional. It was held that “identification and fear of reprisal might deter perfectly peaceful discussions of public matters of importance.”[18] It is thus arguable that a newsman by himself does not have the option to reveal or not to reveal the identity of his source of information. His source may have an independent right to the protection of his anonymity in the exercise of freedom of speech. This issue, however, need not be resolved in the case at bench but in a more appropriate setting. Be that as it may, I bewail the precipitate majority ruling that a newsman has an unqualified option to reveal the confidential source of his information for its inevitable effect is to discourage people from giving confidential information to the press. Again, the impairment, of the flow of information to the public will suffer an irreparable harm.

Second excerpt

Again, with due respect, I submit that the majority misappreciates the role of the press as a critic of government in democratic society. The Constitution did not conceive the press to act as the cheer leader for of government, including the judiciary. Rather, the press is the agent[29] of the people when it gathers news derogatory to those who hold the reins of government. The agency is necessary because the people must have all available information before they exercise their sovereign judgment. As well observed: “The newspapers, magazines, and other journals of the country, it is safe to say, have shed and continue to shed, more light on the public and business affairs of the nation than any other instrument of publicity; and since informed public opinion is the most potent of all restraints upon misgovernment the suppression of abridgment of the publicity afforded by a free press cannot be regarded otherwise than with grave concern.”[30] As agent of the people, the most important function of the press in a free society is to inform and it cannot inform if it is uninformed. We should be wary when the independent sources of information of the press dry up, for then the press will end up printing “praise” releases and that is no way for the people to know the truth.

NEEDLESS TO SAY, I FIND PUNO’S REASONING MORE SYMPATHETIC — and a better guarantee of that democratic ideal, the informed consent of the governed. This line, in particular, with Holmesian succinctness, bears repeating: “As agent of the people, the most important function of the press in a free society is to inform and it cannot inform if it is uninformed.”

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Column: The ‘bully’ in Mar Roxas

Published October 2, 2007

I took part in a rousing three-hour forum on media ethics at De La Salle Lipa last week; there were so many questions we didn’t have time to answer them all. I had described a journalist’s fundamental moral obligation as one of fidelity — to the situation (or the news event), to the “language” of journalism (the craft), ultimately to the journalist’s conscience. One question, in particular, stood out, not least because it conflated all three dimensions.

A discussion on the sensational coverage of the seven-year-old girl found dead and stuffed in a suitcase reflected the dilemma that I said many journalists experience when they handle rape stories or stories about minors. Inevitably I made a reference to the “Nicole” case, where the name of the victim was protected. This led one student by the name of Kristine to ask: Why name minors who are rape victims just because they are dead?

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Abalos resigns

That must mean he read the situation in the House, and saw “impeachment” spelled out.

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