POSTSCRIPT / June 6, 2000 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Juvenile journalism fans religious conflict

SOME newspaper owners may want to ask themselves if it is right to publish pictures and stories that stoke religious passions and derail ongoing efforts to find a lasting solution to the Mindanao conflict that has been tearing the country apart.

A major newspaper published on its front page last Friday a big color picture showing soldiers exulting in front of a bombed-out mosque in Camp Bushra, a camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front overrun Monday by government troops after heavy fighting.

Last April 3, the same newspaper also splashed on its front page another color picture showing a Catholic priest raising the chalice for the veneration of Christian troops offering Mass after their retaking of another Muslim stronghold in Lanao.

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THE pattern of playing up such pictures is disturbing. Those staff-taken photographs were chosen from hundreds of good shots brought in from the battlefield. It is obvious that they were used precisely because of their religion content and inflammatory message

To make sure the message was delivered, the captions even called attention to the religious character of the setting.

The publishers and editors could not have been unaware of the impact on readers, including the Muslim minority, of the prominently displayed pictures.

The publication of the inflammatory pictures on two successive occasions (April 3 and June 2) shows a disturbing bias for editorial material that stokes religious feelings in the middle of a war. What is the intention of the paper? It is not to sell more copies. It must be something else.

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THE paper can justify its editorial slant by saying that the scene depicted was for real, that the mosque was actually hit by government air raiders, and that freedom of the press is guaranteed by the Constitution.

We concede that there should not be prior restraint on media and that freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution. Of course, that paper is free to use those pictures, however offensive and inciting they may be to some readers.

But we’re not talking here of freedom of the press, but of the social responsibility of a free press, of mature versus juvenile journalism — especially while a war is ongoing.

* * *

INFOCOM Technologies, a leading Internet Service Provider controlled by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., must be in deep technical trouble. Despite the frantic trouble shooting of its experts, it could not solve our dial-up connection problem for four days until yesterday.

Instead of connecting us, the Infocom server was sending us this error message: “The computer you’re dialing into cannot establish a Dial-Up Networking Connection. Check your password and then try again.”

(Postscript: The problem was apparently solved around 5 p.m. yesterday, saving us in the nick of time from the specter of not being able to deliver our column to the STAR base before the deadline.)

* * *

MIKE C. Bolos, a reader in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, tells us: “There are two possible reasons for the error message that you are continuously getting when you try to make a connection if your account is set up properly in your computer.”

“Either the ISP is full to capacity and cannot accommodate your connection or something is wrong with it. Instead of telling you the truth, they programmed their system to give you such message.”

“If you were able to make a connection previously using your own account and were able to make a connection later only by using a borrowed username and password, it is possible that someone else was using your account without your knowledge at the time you could not make a connection.”

The thought of somebody surreptitiously using our password is frightening, but that’s how it is in the borderless cyberworld.

* * *

AND look what we started. Another reader going by the initials JD complained about his own ISP – My Destiny.net:

“Yes, they (My Destiny) were the first cable ISP in the country, but they certainly do not live up to their claim of being 200 times faster than a phoneline ISP. In fact, the subscribers are lucky to get twice the speed of a normal ISP. They claim that to be on cable Internet means fast speeds and no dropouts. Ha, what a laugh.

“Subscribers pay a higher fee to be with My Destiny, but certainly until now have not had the service to justify the extra amount they pay.

“The ISP consumers in this country need to get together and demand better service. We pay higher subscription fees than other countries but seem to get a lot worse service. In any other country such as America and Australia, these ISPs would have been taken to court by now for false advertising.”

* * *

A FOOTNOTE is in order. The usual ISP uses phonelines to connect the subscriber’s computer to the ISP’s server, a special high-end computer that in turn connects the user to the rest of the Internet world.

The unreliability of phonelines (most of them PLDT) sometimes accounts for the slow and erratic connections and downloading. My Destiny shuns phonelines and uses direct cables to subscribers, the same cables used by its cable TV service.

In the same way that cable TV is said to be more reliable than traditional broadcast TV, connections to an ISP using cables is supposed to be much better. At least that’s the claim of My Destiny.

PLDT’s Infocom generally uses the phone company’s lines that, as everybody knows, are not that reliable. But it has embarked on its own cable TV business (Home Cable) and is packaging its cable TV with Internet access using direct cables much like My Destiny.

Since PLDT owns Infocom, the assumption is that its ISP will have the industry’s broadest band, the fastest Internet connections, the most number of lines for users’ access, etc., but as our experience has shown there is still much room for improvement.

* * *

ON making the North Luzon Expressway into a Traffic Safety and Discipline Zone (or Safdiz with a long “a”), Emer D. Cato of Woodside, New York, agreed with the idea, saying that trucks, specially those carrying sand and gravel, should stay at the rightmost lane unless to pass.

He batted for the banning of heavy trucks from the expressways as provided by RA 2000 (and as pointed out earlier by reader Richard Santiago of Makati). Cato said: “The truck drivers do not follow traffic regulations. When their trucks are fully loaded with sand or gravel, they travel quite slowly — but they hog the fast lane and do not give way to fast vehicles and cause chaos.

“They should be taught a lesson and the best way is to ban them from using the expressways. When empty, the trucks are not even cleaned. They travel so fast that whatever was left on their trucks fall off on those following them.”

* * *

JONATHAN David L. Navarro, IT consolidation leader at IBM Global Services, gave these examples of vehicles posing a hazard on the expressway (with Postscript adding italicized comments):

  1. Trucks with bright lights on the left side facing rearward.(Are these lights intended to blind anybody attempting to pass?)
  2. Vehicles doing less than the 60 kph minimum.(Since speeding is associated with reckless driving, some drivers entertain the notion that being slow is being safe.)
  3. Vehicles, mostly trucks, doing less than the 60 kph minimum while overtaking even slower vehicles.(Probably trying to break a turtle-pace record of sorts.)
  4. Vehicles, mostly trucks, doing less than the 60 kph minimum on the left lane even when nobody is on the right lane.(Some drivers still do not know their right from their left.)
  5. PNCC patrol personnel allowing all of the above.(They might die of overexertion if they went after erring drivers!)
  6. Clogged toll entrances and exits.(The state of toilets in a country is an indication of the state of the nation. In this blighted country, not only toilet bowls are clogged.)

* * *

THE Philippine National Construction Corp., which operates the Luzon expressways, must have found the Safdiz idea too challenging. An insider said their executives have been trying to write a reaction paper, but until late yesterday we have not seen it.

The Safdiz concept is simple and doable. It involves proper engineering for the NLE and strict 24-hour enforcement of the rules. We think that no-nonsense enforcement would educate motorists not only on road ethics but also on other aspects of citizenship.

Consistent enforcement could condition motorists to drop their bad driving antics upon entering the NLE and automatically switch to disciplined expressway motoring. Filipino drivers will obey the rules gladly when they see fair, consistent enforcement.

We have seen this traffic discipline in Camp John Hay and the Subic Free Port. The PNCC can adopt the Safdiz idea, achieve the same transformation of the Filipino driver, and thereby contribute to his education as a law-abiding citizen.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 6, 2000)

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