It is difficult to take a nuanced position, or strike a balance, if you’re an eminent public figure up against the necessarily simplifying drive of mass media. Consider the case of Archbishop of Manila Gaudencio Rosales.
I understand his remarks on last week’s "wet" dispersal near Malacanang as a delicate attempt to look at the picture whole. But because some of his remarks (here’s the Inquirer story, and here’s the Star version) are an implied rebuke to the three bishops who were present at Friday’s prayer rally, mass media has had no choice but to treat his statement as us vs. them.
To me, the most striking thing about his statement yesterday was the following:
"Leadership without vision is treason — I’m betraying my God and the people I serve," he said, adding:
"Filipinos do not know where they are going. They just move from one crisis to another, from one rally to another."
Treason! That is hardly a vote of confidence in the President. But because the most recent major event happened to involve three of his fellow bishops, his words about their protest action — as a "personal decision," as an attempt to "sneak" into Mendiola, and so on — ended up, necessarily, as head and lead.
Dong Puno has the luxury of columnhood (or columny, as more than one wag has said, in general, of the commentariat) of doing exactly what Archbishop Rosales did, and by and large be taken on his own terms. He strikes a balance. For instance:
In addition, if the PNP wants to rely on provisions of B.P. 880 to justify its actions, it should apply all the provisions, not only those which appear to advance its cause. Under that law, the operative policy is "maximum tolerance" not "calibrated preemptive response" (Sec. 10(a)). Subparagraph (c) of Section 10 prohibits the use of "…water cannons or any similar anti-riot device" unless "the public assembly is attended by actual violence or serious threats of violence, or deliberate destruction of property" …
Rally organizers should not play games either. B.P. 880 clearly requires that a written permit is required for any person or groups to organize or hold a public assembly in a public place. There is no exception for "prayer rallies." The only exceptions are assemblies in designated "freedom parks," private property or "the campus of a government-owned and operated educational institution." Unless B.P. 880 is invalidated for unconstitutionality, there is no escaping its requirements.
Straight down the middle.