Speech at 63rd Founding Anniversary of National Press Club

29 October 2015

“If elected, how will you intend to end the senseless media killings and the culture of impunity in our country?”

Induction of our namumuno ng National Press Club, babatiin ko din ang mga ibang opisyal. Ang kaninang ngayon ay nakakatakot na kaya hindi na ako tatanggap dito ng regalo at tsaka premyo dahil pagnakakatanggap ka pala ng regalo sakanya, pagreretayrin ka. The Vice-President Benny Antiporda. The other officers of the NPC and the directors of the National Press Club. Of course, another special guest with us tonight, the good Congressman from the First District of Leyte, we only met tonight. And all of the awardees, congratulations for the awards that you have received for the services that you have rendered to the National Press Club over the years. And of course all of the members of the National Press Club, magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat.

Noong ako’y papunta rito at tinanong ko, is there any particular subject that you would like me to speak about? It was about your theme which is to end impunity. The question that I was asked to answer is, “If elected, how will you intend to end the senseless media killings and the culture of impunity in our country?”

Well siguro, masasabi kong isang diretsuhang tanong, ay dapat bigyan natin ng diretsahang sagot.

Ngunit, Bago po ako magsimula, magliligoy-ligoy pa ng kaunti. Alam naman ninyo, ako’y naghain ng aking kandidatura noong October 13 bilang isang Pangalawang-Pangulo o Bise-Presidente sa halalan sa 2016.

At bilang Pangalawang-Pangulo ng ating demokratikong Republika, ay tinatanong sa akin, anong una mong gagawin kapag nagkataon ay ikaw ang nahalal na Bise-Presidente at ano iyong una mong gagawin bilang serbisyo sa bayan? At ang aking unang-unang gagawin ay napaka simple lamang. Ano pa kung hindi bibisitahin ang ating bagong halal na Pangulo—sino man ang ihahalal ng taumbayan, katambal ko man siya o hindi—upang makipagpulong sa kanya. Ipapahayag ko sa kanya ang aking buong suporta sa kanyang magiging programa at administrasyon, at ipararating ko sa kanya nang buong-puso ang aking pagnanais na siya ay makakapagtrabaho at sana ako’y maging bahagi ng kanyang gabinete at pamahalaan. Ito ay upang makatulong akong mabuti sa kanyang mga layunin at programa para sa ating bansa.

Lagi kong sinisigaw na may lugar ang pulitika ngunit kapag tapos na ang halalan, tapos na ang proklamasyon, dapat ipagsantabi muna ang pulitika at ipagkaisa muli. We must heal the wounds again. The wounds that were open during the campaign. I believe, it is only in this way that we can move the country forward. We have experienced in the past few years, very clearly the opposite approach. Kung saan nakikita natin na alang-alang sa pulitika ay tayong mga kapwa Pilipino ay ipinagaaway-away. Tayo ay pinagwawatak-watak. Ang nangyayari ay nawawatak ang ating lipunan dahil alang-alang sa partido na alang-alang lang sa pulitika. Alam naman natin ang naging resulta ay hindi gumaganda ang buhay ng ating mga kababayan. Kaya’t dapat siguro ay palitan na natin ang ating dating pag-iisip at ibalik natin ang pag-iisip, hindi lamang sa ating mga opisyal, kung hindi sa ating mga mahal na mamamayan na magka-isa na ang mga Pilipino. Kaya’t ito ang una kong gagawin at makikipag-isa ako sa kung sino man ang magiging Pangulo sa kahit na anong programa para makikita natin kung ano ang makakatulong sa taong bayan.

I have aslo been giving some thought to the constant question, as to the possible areas in which I would be most effective, and in which I would be helpful to the next administration.

Dahil ang aking pangunahing misyon ay ang pagpapalakas sa ating paggawa at pagpapalawig ng trabaho sa bansa, iaalay ko sa kanya ang aking serbisyo sa DOLE. Siguro iyon ang magiging first choice ko. Dahil ang isa sa pinakamalaking problema na hinaharap ng ating mga kababayan ay iyong trabaho. Marami naman tayong maaaring magawa. I hope and I think that my background and training in economics will help me this regard na alam natin, 90% ng empleyado ay nasa private sector. 10% ay nasa public sector. Kaya naman ang trabaho dapat ay gawin ng gobyerno ay magtayo ng mga programa at proyekto para ihanda ang mga manggagawa para makapasok sila sa mga trabaho na nandiyan sa private sector.

However, I would also offer my assistance to the President in solving other equally urgent problems. I have experienced also in local government. That is where I came from and that is where I continue to champion. But I am also very frustrated watching the problems of the DOTC. And I would ask, bigay mo sa akin iyong DOTC, para maayos ko na iyong mga problemang iyan. Hindi naman siguro ganoon kahirap. But we may be getting ahead of ourselves as this is something that we still have to work very hard for and 6 months as we all know is a very long time in Philippine Politics.

The other problem that I think that we should face and that we should squarely address is that of criminality in our country. The rising criminality in our country and the public perception that we are gradually descending into a state of chaos.

No less than the PNP has recently reported that there is a 46% spike in the national crime rate. Sabi nila, improved reporting of crimes daw. Meaning, our crime rates really has not gone up, ngunit mas maganda na rin ang naging reporting kaya’t now although it is has not increased, now we have an accurate figure. And because these low crime stats came from official PNP reports, the press relayed and cascaded the same to the public.

And to this we shall relate the very alarming statistics about the abominable media killings here in our country. I say that it is related, because taking any person’s life, especially that of an innocent—is always abhorrent, as it is contrary to natural and moral law. It is always wrong. To even entertain the thought, one would have to come up with strong moral justifications and excuses to overturn the natural order, and present an acceptable or at least a palatable less-evil alternative—for example, to save someone else’s life, to prevent further suffering of the person and to put to public order and the common good.

It’s the same when a journalist or media person is killed. It is just as senseless as any other ordinary homicide or murder on the streets. It is always revolting, and deserving of public condemnation and outrage of the highest degree.

But what sets apart the journalists and the members of the media is the peculiar nature of their functions in our society, the function of which is characterized as a kind of public service and essential to the healthy functioning of the society. Media is this special army of our citizenry, who, by their profession, bring light and speak and write about things, which the general public would not have the capacity or the time, or would not even have the knowledge how to collect this information.

Hindi tulad ng pangkaraniwang mamamayan, nananalaytay sa DNA ng mamamahayag ang pagiging mausisa, ang “maraming tanong-tanong”, ang pagiging masigasig at makulit, at ang pagiging buskador at husgador.

But it seems that the role of the media and the value of the media’s public service and function in Philippine society are either not appreciated or clearly misunderstood, or even opposed.

It has been reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that we currently stand third in the rankings of the world’s most dangerous place to work for a journalist in, next only to Iraq and Syria. And what is very disturbing here, aside from the sheer numbers, is the fact that we are not even in a state of conflict or of war whether internal or regional.

The CPJ cited not only our weak and snail-paced justice system but also this so-called “culture of impunity”- both of which prevent adequate protection and redress for the aggrieved victims of media violence and contribute to the vicious cycle of unabated and senseless violence directed at the media practitioners.

I dare submit that this problem of media-directed violence is related to the problem of rising criminality in our country, and both are born of a cancerous cultural problem that we seem to be suffering from. This cultural problem is made possible and, at the same time, perpetuated by a toxicity in our very system, which ultimately creates this vicious cycle.

If we view this as a cultural problem, then the most effective solutions are necessarily those that will address the problem at its roots, down at the individual core components of our system that are affected and paralyzed by such a malignancy.

If we understand the problem at its root, we will realize that while indeed we are not in a state of conflict or war, we are in a state of conflict with our own selves, it seems.

Allow me to offer a diagnosis of the problem. Let us lay down the typical scenario.

When a journalist is killed almost always, or 97% of the time, it is connected with the performance of their duties. It is connected with a report or a commentary that was made that is critical of a person in power, a person in authority, or a person of influence, or a public figure, who is vested with public interest and entrusted with public funds.

The problem is that the people who are invested and entrusted with the public interest and other similar public figures do not understand the essence of why they are in power in the first place, and, hence, in constant public scrutiny. They are unaware of their social contract with the people, and more often than not are inebriated by a false perception that they are in power, rather than that they are in public service. Worse, they have this grossly mistaken illusion that they are untouchable, that they are above everybody else, and that they are above the law.

Sa ganitong mga opisyal at sa mga taong ganito, ang tingin nila sa taumbayan ay mga balakid o mga sagabal, o ‘di kaya mga peste at mga makukulit na tao na nagmamakaawa para sa tulong mula sa kanilang gobyerno. Ang nasa isip nila sa mga ganitong klaseng mga ito ay: “Walang basagan ng trip!” No one should dare to get in their way—certainly not the media. Kapag ikaw ay nakitang haharang-harang at nakakasagabal sa kanilang mga gawain at ikaw ay makakasira sa kanilang magagandang mukha at mabangong pangalan sa publiko, tatapusin ka!

Clearly, we see that either the role of the media is not understood, or it is the role of the public servant and the public official that is not viewed correctly. Or perhaps it is a dual misunderstanding of their roles in our society.

The key here is education, it is empowerment, which should be constant and which should continue. We have to continuously educate and remind our public servants and our own people themselves, as regards the essence of public office and the role of the media in it. All of us have to be made aware and ingrained into our thinking the basic precept of the sovereign Filipino people that “public office is a public trust” and that public officials are always accountable to the people, which principles are etched no less than in our Constitution. We must educate and empower our people such that we elevate into public office only those who are aware and mindful, aggrieved and believe in these non-negotiable sovereign principles, bar none.

Continuing with our typical example of media violence, what happens if violence against a member of the media is perpetrated? Of course, by routine legal process, the matter is brought under our criminal justice system.

Now, we have to admit that all the five (5) pillars of our criminal justice system are flawed and have inherent weaknesses. Hence, we also have to do something about the defective institutions within the pillars of the criminal justice system. We must be willing to work with the departments under the Executive branch to map out and implement the solutions to improve our institutions and their processes.

There is much to be desired in our four (4) pillars—Law enforcement, Prosecution, Courts, and Corrections. They should always be effective and efficient, diligent and relentless in their mandates—from investigation and case build-up to the filing of cases, from arrest to prosecution, up to promulgation of judgement, and up until execution of penalties. And we have to ensure that the convict serves out the sentence with complete deprivation of liberty, power and resources—and not with complete amenities and comforts of home or iyong tinatawag nilang “kubol”!

And in doing so, the government pillars must always be free and insulated from the influence of politics and the very tempting “bad apple” of corruption.

While we are at it, let us find ways to speed up the entire criminal justice system. Justice is measured not only by the ultimate triumph in a drawn-out litigation war, but also in the daily battles suffered and won by the families of the aggrieved during each passing hearing date in court en route to what possibly may just be an illusory victory in the end.

I read recently that the Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno recently said in a forum: “If only a fraction of the attention given to “AlDub” can be lavished on issues in reforming the justice system then truly, the Filipino people will reap the best that technology has to offer. This is a message of hope for us, because no less than our Chief Justice is eager and bold to try how technology can be harnessed to reform our judicial system.
The executive must build workable channels with the Supreme Court through which it may be possible for The Executive and The Judiciary to work hand in hand to help implement the program of judicial reform of the Chief Justice and how its implementation could tie up with efforts of the Executive branch in order to improve the overall efficiency of our criminal justice system.

The fifth pillar of the criminal justice system, the Community, is likewise in need of strengthening. Let us develop stronger communities, crucially aided by constant education and empowerment of the people. Echoing once again the Chief Justice, let us take advantage of technology. We have to improve our procedures for security and our tracking and communications systems. I remember an attack against a local journalist made inside the studio of his radio station years ago. The sole reason that we know about it and that it went viral and the speed which it caught the public’s attention and instantly generated public outrage was precisely because of the existence of the CCTV footage.

Kung puwede siguro at praktikal, sana may dala-dalang CCTV ang lahat ng media practitioners kahit saan sila pumunta. Pero ang mangyayari siguro diyan, mawawalan tayo ng mga peryodista at saka journalists at dadami ang ating media personality, kung hind mga “showbiz personality”.

Of course, we also have to reform our laws, in such a way that the legal system will not be abused by those in power and used against members of the media, by way of leverage and harassment in order to force media to negotiate with them and to accommodate their wishes. We have to decriminalize libel against journalists. As a former member of the Senate and the House of Representatives, l could work with my former colleagues to build consensus and the will to repeal and amend the outdated libel law.

However, at the same time, we have to ensure that a fair and effective remedy for redress against the media is put in place. Siyempre, hindi natin maiiwasan na meron talagang masasaktan sa mga banat ng media, at maghahanap ng kaukulang remedyo. But, of course, I recognize that the remedy should be internal or within the media industry itself, meaning, it should be characterized by effective self-regulation.

With that effective remedy in place, the subjects of media criticisms will have full faith and confidence in the system and will be able to lodge their grievances with the proper forum, in the hope of getting fair and commensurate vindication—rather than be tempted to take the law into their own hands.

The media profession and the free press itself should work towards improving itself, and develop itself to be stronger and united albeit diffuse and diverse. It has to remain credible and ethical, free and independent, organized and brought together only by their common ideals and aspirations to improve their profession. Their differences in opinions and their varied organizational and corporate allegiances should always be subordinated to their primary roles in public service, which should be measured only by credibility, accuracy, freedom, independence, ethics, and responsibility—true to the ideals enshrined in the Journalist’s Code of Ethics.

Through effective self-regulation, abetted by a healthy spirit of competition, the Philippine media industry can discover the natural order of things within its ranks, and be able once more to separate the real and genuine from the pseudo-journalists, the “media vampires”, the “media zombies”, or to borrow your own language, the so-called “hao shiao” media.

To recapitulate, through a holistic diagnosis of the problem of media violence in our country, we will see that it is in fact a complex problem, with malignancies operating locally and separately at various levels and institutions of our society in general, but producing an effect that is gruesome and atrocious to our humanity and our decency as a society. In order to address this complex cultural problem, we have to go down to the very root causes. I am committed to devote my entire term to work out and implement the solutions pursuant to this previous analysis.

Sa aking mga layuning ito para sa kaayusan ng ating mga pamahalaan at lipunan at sa kaligtasan ng taumbayan, lalo na ang ating mga mamamahayag, ang hiling at dalangin ko ay ang inyong suporta para sa inyong lingkod upang ang mga ito ay ating mapagtulungang maging katotohanan at hinaharap.

To end, I offer these ruminations, and my hope for a better tomorrow for our country, to the memories of the thirty-two (32) journalists who were slain in Maguindanao in 2009. I also dedicate this to the memory of Mark Welson Chua, who was murdered in 2001 as a consequence of his exposition of corruption in his school. Even as a student, he knew that “sunlight was the best of disinfectants”. He now lives on as a symbol of fearless journalism amongst our youth and amongst our people.

Likewise, I offer this to the memory of the countless other journalists and media personalities who in the course of our history have died in the exercise of their profession and in the service of a truly informed and empowered and intelligent Filipino people.

Mabuhay ang malayang pamamahayag sa Pilipinas at sa buong mundo!

Mabuhay ang National Press Club!

Magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat!