On The 18th World Press Freedom Day- May 3,2008

( or Observe Bulan And Win! )

A free press can of course be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom it will never be anything but bad. . . . Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better, whereas enslavement is a certainty of the worse.” Albert Camus

 “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786.

 Yesterday, the world celebrated the 18th World Press Freedom Day. As expected, the Internet and news media were filled with reports of all kinds pertaining to freedom of the press.  

It is true that we Filipinos are freedom-loving people for we had in the past expelled out of the country all those foreign invaders. Coming out from those hundreds of years of forced silence, it is no wonder why  the freedom of expression and of the press has been given importance right on day one as a free republic as can found in the 1897 Constitution of Biak-na-Bato in ARTICLE XXII:RELIGIOUS LIBERTY  which states, “Religious liberty, the right of association, the freedom of education , the freedom of the press , as well as freedom in the exercise of all classes of professions, arts, trades and industries are established.”

Today, 111 years after 1897, the Philippines is famous for intimidating or killing investigative journalists, a clear transgression of the law of the land. Protection for journalists at work is also poor. In fact, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)  Impunity Index lists  the Philippines one among the worst countries ( together with Somalia, Russia, etc.) in the world at prosecuting journalists’ killers.This is a clear-cut evidence that corruption is embedded strongly in our politics, in the heads of many of our politicians and that all claims of democracy is but a sham. For the logic of our powerful oligarchs is greed and they control the machinery to sanction truth-oriented journalism.

Still, no matter how the powerful few play around with our constitution, we will continue to hold on to it for it is the truth that we have agreed upon as a nation to guide us as we blaze the trail of civilization.

Here’s what our 1987 Constitution says about communication and press  under Bill Of Rights:

 Section 3. (1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law.

 Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

Section 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.

Here’s are two  examples of using power to disregard Section 7 of the Bill Of Rights:

In the Manila, here is a case in point:

“We are deeply concerned that the First Gentleman, Mike Arroyo, is not using this libel suit to seek legitimate redress. Rather he is redefining libel, a clear affront to the Philippine press. As we know, the test of libel is the presence of malice. But Mr. Arroyo disregards this basic tenet and recklessly uses libel to intimidate and silence the press. The message we’re getting is this: anything that hints of criticism of the First Gentleman or is considered unfavorable coverage of his activities is “libelous.” In effect, he hinders the public’s right to information on matters of public concern.” Pinoy Press

In Bulan, the incumbent mayor caused a scandal that went around the world for refusing to show  to the mandamus petitioners the documents pertaining to her and her husband’s controversial Central Bus Terminal Project. Visit the Sorsogonnews “Kabatas” blogsite ( see Blogroll ) and search for Luisito Panelo’s entry entitled “The Truth About The P80 Million Bulan Bus Terminal Mandamus”.

If you have been reading carefully, you would have noticed that Section 4 is a very defined written law- for it does not express any exception or limitation as opposed to Sections 3 and 7. But all together, these three Sections form a formidable unit of protection and legal basis for every citizen’s right to inform and be informed- verbally or in written form.

Here’s a good news for all Bicol, Bulan Journalists !

According to the Center For Media Freedom And Responsibilty, “the 2008 Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism (JVOAEJ) will focus on corruption/governance, human rights and environmental issues, for reason that ” The country has been rocked by one corruption scandal after another, even as the human rights situation and environmental degradation have worsened.” For Bulan-related articles, go to Sorsogonnews “Kabatas” blogsite and search for the entry ” Bulan’s “Blood” Sand”.

The winning articles can be either investigative or explanatory reports, and will receive the usual cash prize of P70,000 each. Other meritorious investigative/explanatory articles will also be recognized and accordingly awarded.

The awardees will be presented in a ceremony preceded by the JVOAEJ journalism seminar, which this year will be on June 26.”

So, go with your pens, photo/video cameras, observe Bulan write and win!

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer