Interpreting the world

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TWELVE years after passing the eCommerce Act of 2000 (RA 8792) which regulates commerce via the Web, and after about the same number of years of practically ignoring the Internet, the Philippine Congress has enacted a law that a number of lawyers, print and broadcast journalists, and bloggers and social media users have described as restrictive of free expression.

President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act No. 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, last September 12. The haste with which it was signed contrasted sharply with the glacial progress of the Freedom of Information bill that practically everyone now agrees is unlikely to pass during Mr. Aquino’s watch, and the lassitude with which Congress has addressed the demand to decriminalize libel, particularly in the context of a 2011 declaration by the UN Human Rights Committee that the 82- year- old Philippine libel law that criminalizes libel is excessive and must be reviewed.

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The failure of success

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IDIOTIC even in this country of chronic absurdity is the claim, by students from one so-called university who were asked what they thought of martial law 40 years after it was declared on September 21, 1972, that Ferdinand Marcos meant to discipline the country, and that the immediate cause of it was the “assassination of Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile.”

Time magazine did say in one cover story on Marcos in 1966 that his central problem as President was “instilling discipline among a contentious people.” But that was Time magazine, which in the 1960s and 1970s was echoing the US government’s support for Marcos in article after article noting his “brilliance,” praising his World War II military record, and gushing over his “beauteous wife” — in the process validating the observation by linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky that while privately-owned, the US media might as well constitute a US Ministry of Information.

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Still at it

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FROM SOME organizations working among the indigenous peoples comes the information that the slideshow called “Knowing the Enemy” is still being presented by some military units making the rounds of rural schools as part of the government’s anti-insurgency campaign. A participant in a roundtable conference on political vilification — tagging individuals and groups as “subversives,” “terrorists,” etc.– held early this week at the University of the Philippines claims that her daughter was in a class in her community elementary school where the military presented the slideshow.

“Knowing the Enemy” is a PowerPoint presentation the media and the public came to know about when the fisherman’s group Pamalakaya got hold of a copy and released its contents through a press conference in 2006, during the disputed presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

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Hero, anti-hero — trapo

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HE claimed to have been the “real hero” of the Battle of Besang Pass, and, with 27 medals in his collection, the US Army’s most decorated World War II hero, thus pushing Audie Murphy out of that niche. But he was said to have spent much of the war in a hospital bed, and, according to the late Congressman Bonifacio Gillego, a former Philippine Army intelligence officer, he could only have won all the medals he claimed if he could have been in several places at the same time.

While a law student he was accused of murdering his father’s political rival. Convicted of that offense by a lower court, while representing himself he managed to win acquittal in the Supreme Court, but might have gotten away with murder not so much through his legal acumen as through his father’s and godfather’s political influence. A lawyer who sought to justify practically his every public act in legal terms, he unleashed the most lawless regime in Philippine history on a people he once said could be “great again.”

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