Home Opinion The Prez vs. The Press

The Prez vs. The Press

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FERDINAND THE Great may have been the worst, but his successors too had had their own impositions of the heft of presidential power on the media. In varying degrees though far removed from the Marcosian extreme.

Why, even the sainted Corazon Cojuangco- Aquino was unchristianly unforgiving of the celebrated columnist Louie Beltran after he wrote Cory had “hidden under the bed” during one of the many coup attempts against her. She, going to the extent of lifting her bed covers to show the physical impossibility of her fitting under it – in her all too literal take of Beltran’s idiomatic usage.

Cory sued for libel and got Beltran convicted. Alas, “His Immensity” – as Beltran was fondly called by peers for his built – did not live long to see the triumph of the press with the reversal of the conviction by the appellate court.

A news photographer was banished from presidential coverages after the publication of his photo of Cory mouth agape while eating with her bare hands in some boodle fight in a remote military camp.

Cory’s animosity towards certain women journalists, notably Ninez Cacho-Olivarez, was an urban legend that went beyond the confi nes of media circles.

It was nothing more than presidential pique that pushed President Joseph Ejercito Estrada to launch an advertisers’ boycott of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and his taking the Manila Times to court for libel.

Beset with rumors of military restiveness and one really serious attempt led by coup pals navy officers Antonio Trillanes IV and Nicanor Faeldon, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo went almost Marcosian with her Proclamation 1017 in the wake of the arrest of Scout Rangers commander Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim in February 2006.

Among the grounds of that proclamation was “reckless magnification by certain segments of the national media” of the “destabilizers’ claims” against the government.

Malacanang was quite explicit in its warning to the media: “It will be within the parameters of national security. For example, anonymous callers calling media without basis, or footage showing the formation of the Presidential Security Group, or a situation of media reporting that generals or military units are helping those who want to bring down the government. If media are used or allow themselves to be used to further the interest of these groups, then government will come in.”

So, the Arroyo government did not merely come in, it barged, sans any search warrant, in the premises of the Daily Tribune in the most ungodly hour of 12:45 a.m. of Feb. 25, 2006 and promptly padlocked the publication. (Come to think of it, Tribune publisher-editor Ninez Cacho-Olivarez holds the distinction of having had not-so-pleasant issues with the two women presidents of the Philippines!).

Lest we forget, it was during Arroyo’s term that happened the biggest single slaughter of media workers in all the world, in all of history that was the Ampatuan Massacre.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III was never shy to publicly show, aye, to verbalize, his displeasure towards anyone he favored not, the now lamented Chief Justice Renato Corona included.

The BS’ in-your-face tirades against thenimmediate past vice president broadcaster Noli de Castro while guest speaker at an anniversary event of ABS-CBN Network appears now but a precursor to the more virulent fits of pique at the media by his successor.

Thus, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte who has not had the least civility to mask his utter disdain for the media since the presidential campaign period, forcing its way out at every chance, indeed, finding ways, any way, to spew it out at the least opportunity invariably peppered with expletives. Coupled with his open emulation of Marcos, it makes me wonder why his tyrannical antics still get any surprise from all of us.

The shutdown of Rappler and its chilling effect on media but one manifestation of some systematic disordering, if not dismemberment, of the democratic space – integral to the Charterchange being shoved down the people’s throat by the rabid mongrels in Congress, the demonization of the Supreme Court, the bedevilment of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Human Rights, the co-optation of the Commission on Elections pursuant not so much for the dubious ends of federalism as for the installation of a Duterte despotism.

That is the tried, tested, and all-too-tired, way of all tyrants. And this makes Duterte not only different from, but most dangerous, of all the presidents apres-Apo Ferdinand.

This then is no mere issue of freedom of the press and expression. This constitutes a clear, present, and grave danger to the Republic. Marcos, nunquam iterum! Never again!

So, we heed and join the people cry:

Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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