THE FEBRUARY 18 decision of the Supreme Court is at best only a partial victory for free expression.
The Court declared the provisions of the Cyber Crime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA10175) on unsolicited commercial communications (Section 4c3), real-time collection of traffic data (Section 12), and blocking access to computer sites found in violation of the Act unconstitutional. These were among the key provisions the petitioners against the Act had identified as unconstitutional and infringing on several rights including the right to free expression.
IN A piece that won’t win any Pulitzer Prize, one of those individuals on whom the media have conferred the title of “political analyst”– Ramon Casiple– asked if Benigno Aquino III was committing political suicide. It was a question more rhetorical than literal. Casiple’s answer is yes, the country’s President, with three more years to go before he leaves office, has been killing himself politically.
He cited as proof Mr. Aquino’s statements and actions in the last six months or so of this particularly problematic year. On the pork barrel issue, for example, Casiple noted that Mr. Aquino chose to defend the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP) which those Filipinos still capable of any kind of thought regard as a license for Presidential patronage politics.
THE December 16 Metro Manila bus disaster in which 22 people lost their lives and 20 more were injured was far from unique. On the same day, in Badian, Cebu, a drunken bus driver lost control of his vehicle while negotiating a curve and killed several people, including his own wife and daughter. Barely two months ago, on October 9, a bus collided with a truck in Atimonan, Quezon, and smashed into two other buses, two cargo trucks, a trailer truck and a van that were going in the other direction. Twenty people were killed and 54 others were injured.
In 2010, a bus crash in Balamban, Cebu, killed 21 people and injured 26 others. A journalist and member of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication Journalism Faculty, Chit Estella, was killed by a speeding bus along Quezon City’s Commonwealth Avenue in 2011 that rammed the taxicab she was in. Although Estella was the only casualty in that crash, her death cost the country one of its leading journalists.
TO THE DISASTERS that have struck the Philippines this year, the latest being typhoon “Yolanda” (International name Haiyan), the Philippine media have responded not only with regular, often by-the-hour reports, but also with the background material needed to enable their audiences to better understand why disasters happen and how to prepare for them.
Even before the advent of the rainy season, which Filipinos correctly identify with typhoons, floods, landslides and other disasters, the major broadcast networks and broadsheets were already watching the weather. As the country’s long rainy season began and deepened, they devoted significant amounts of time and space to reports on the progress of storms and typhoons and their potential and actual impact on the communities.
JOSE “Jinggoy” Estrada is one of three senators of the Republic – the two others are former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. – being investigated by the ombudsman for possible complicity in the vast conspiracy to defraud the Filipino people through the theft of billions in pork barrel funds.
The Department of Justice wants the passports of all three cancelled so they won’t leave the country to escape the plunder charges the ombudsman may eventually file against them. But because no such charges have been filed, Estrada is free to leave the country for any destination on the planet.
THE claim that it’s not Benigno Aquino III who really wants to keep the pork barrel system intact, either by renaming it or by insisting that discretionary funds are not part of it, is straight out of the Marcos period.
Then it was Imelda Marcos who was being accused of all the terrible things Marcos was doing. Today, so some Aquinophiles argue, it’s either the Liberal Party, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II , or all of them together who want to preserve the pork barrel system.
DID WE GET that right? Was Benigno Aquino III blaming the Arroyo regime for the 15 percent drop in his September approval ratings?
Mr. Aquino blames his predecessor’s administration for the corruption that has metastasized in the public sector, the poverty that afflicts millions of Filipinos, and the poor performance of the economy, among other ills. But perhaps because this was the first time his approval ratings have had a two-digit decline, Mr. Aquino, whose approval ratings had been phenomenal since he took office, also blamed that on the Arroyo administration.
MANNY Pacquiao has every right to aspire for the Presidency, for which post he could run by 2022 when he turns 43. Currently 34 years old, Pacquiao will qualify as a candidate for the post in 2019, when, according to the most sanguine predictions (or most pessimistic, depending upon one’s preferences), Jejomar Binay, having been elected in 2016, would be in the middle of his term as the 16th President of the Republic.
That’s to start the count with Emilio Aguinaldo, who was President of the First Philippine Republic, and to include in the list Manuel Quezon, who was President during the Commonwealth Period; Jose P. Laurel, who was President under Japanese auspices during World War II; and Sergio Osmena, who was interim President in the restored Commonwealth.
“CHANGE” has been the mantra of all administrations since at least the Marcos period (1965-1986).
Ferdinand Marcos vowed to “make this nation great again” when he was elected in 1965, and to “reform society and save the Republic” when he placed the entire country under martial law in 1972. Both proclaimed intentions supposedly looked to the future, but the first was a hearkening to a past–the 1896 Revolution–in which greatness was defined in terms of both resistance to tyranny and commitment to social justice.
AS SOME congressmen have argued, not necessarily because they themselves benefit from it, pork barrel funds have been known to help far-flung communities, even if it’s only in the form of a basketball court, a bridge, a road, or a barangay hall.
Some pork barrel-built roads do lead to nowhere, and pork barrel-built barangay halls have been known to leak like sieves when it rains. But that isn’t always the case. The chances are one can find, somewhere in the length and breadth of this archipelago, roads that do start and end somewhere, and barangay halls that have been known to adequately shelter community residents when it doesn’t only rain, but pours.