POSTSCRIPT / August 17, 2004 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Journalists et al. live in climate of violence

JOURNALIST TARGETS: We have the scorecard on Filipino journalists assassinated since 1986. Compiled by the National Union of Journalists, the list has 55 names, 36 of them (65 percent) provincial broadcasters.

Naturally, the working press — an endangered species — is complaining vehemently and demanding action from the authorities.

Action of government: President Arroyo issued a press release expressing sympathy and ordering the police and the NBI to get the murderers. Wow! The police offered to allow newsmen to carry guns to defend themselves. Double Wow!! Speaker Jose de Venecia put up rewards for the capture of the assassins. TripleWow!!!

Expected results after the matter is forgotten, which is in about a week from now: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Quadruple Wow!!!!

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SOLUTION RATE: Most personal crimes in this violence-prone country are hardly the type that even an efficient professional police would be able to prevent.

In this neck of the wood, when somebody has the motive, the means and the opportunity to harm anybody, he just goes ahead and the police are hardly in a position to stop him.

The test of the police tasked with securing the population is not in preventing such obsessive personal crimes, because, as we said, there are crimes that will be committed despite the presence of the police.

The acid test of the police is in their being able to solve the crime and get the perpetrators punished. The police may not always be able to prevent a crime, but we expect them to solve it.

Among the murders of 55 journalists listed since 1986, how many have been solved? We don’t have the updated figure on this, but going by experience we won’t be surprised if the solution rate is dismally low.

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CLIMATE OF VIOLENCE: One reason why the police find it difficult to prevent, much less solve, some personal crimes is that there is a breakdown in citizens’ respect for authority.

Citizens’ collaboration is vital in crime solution.

The erosion in people’s respect for authority is not confined to the police and other law-enforcing agencies. The disease has infected all of government, horizontally and vertically.

We have gotten used to flouting the law. We see others getting away with violations and getting ahead, so many of us now ask why they should bother to observe the rules if that would just slow down their personal progress.

Another big reason concomitant to the breakdown of authority is the climate of violence hanging like a black shroud over our nation.

These two points — the erosion of respect for authority and the climate of violence — are an indictment of officials who use their niches in government to advance their personal interest instead of the public welfare.

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A READER ON ROMULO: I received from a concerned reader a copy of his letter to The Philippine Press Council, attention: Mr. Marvin Tort, chairman. I am using excerpts from it on the belief that it carries matters of public interest:

“In his letter to the PPC, (Mr. Robert R. Romulo) was whining about the supposed campaign of vilification launched against him by Philippine STAR Publisher Max Soliven. In his best imitation of Cicero the Orator, he then asked what recourse he could take. After that rhetorical pose, he launched a preemptive email hate campaign against Mr. Max Soliven and the Philippine STAR by shotgun blasting his letter in the hope that it would get forwarded to one and all.

“I’m so appalled at this brat’s attack on Mr. Soliven, who has been around so long that he knows the good guys, the bad guys, and the wannabes. How dare he attack Mr. Soliven this way when those who are in the know are aware of the fact that Mr. Soliven bases his columns on unimpeachable sources? Romulo’s father was the quintessential diplomat. But with the way Romulo is acting, (he) doesn’t do justice to his father’s name. Romulo’s arrogance is repelling. Therefore, there is truth to what has been written about him over the years.

“A case in point is when Romulo had to resign as Foreign Affairs Secretary in 1995. His bungling of the Flor Contemplacion case was inexcusable. He dismissed an abused, hardworking OFW as ‘just a maid.’ His insensitivity is what gained him infamy. This is the real reason why he was fired by President Ramos. DFA employees felt that the undiplomatic and heartless remark revealed Romulo’s true callous self. In reference to Romulo’s pontificating about the Peace Bonds issue when Sen. Tessie Oreta questioned the appointment of Finance Secretary Jose Camacho, a February 2002 editorial by Today even said, ‘What are we to expect of the man who casually dismissed the outcry over the hanging of Flor Contemplacion with a glib, ‘Why all the fuss over a maid?’ ‘

“It is just proper for Romulo to have assumed command responsibility and resign over the Flor Contemplacion affair. But he still tries to make it appear that the whole nation, on bended knees, is indebted to him for his reluctant resignation. Utang na loob pa natin that he ‘sacrificed’ himself. Truth to tell, the public was just so outraged about the whole thing that they were demanding his head. Unfortunately, Labor Secretary Nieves Confesor was prompted also to resign her portfolio.

“Another point is his insistence on his ‘good name. ‘ In an incident at the Manila Polo Club last year, Mr. Toledo, a member of good standing, wanted to inquire about the club’s finances. Romulo, who prides in calling himself Mr. Governance, normally doesn’t like being questioned even if it was Mr. Toledo’s right to ask. After the meeting, the irritated Romulo went up to Toledo and called him a piece of shit. What would you make of that unprovoked behavior?

“The Davao Insular Hotel incident is another example of his arrogance and lack of humility. Attending a conference, Romulo found his toilet seat a tad too dirty for his effete taste. He then vented his spleen by ranting and raving at management and staff in the lobby. Romulo even threatened to call the owner, Don Jaime Zobel. The Ayala patriarch wrote Romulo and made it known in no uncertain terms that he really wasn’t his father’s son. This public display of arrogance certainly isn’t expected from a man who claims to be well-bred.

“Finally, Romulo is an influence-peddler and a meddler in government affairs. He wants the influence but doesn’t care for any shred of accountability. He just blithely assumes that the DFA is a family heirloom. Tito Guingona, one of our most respected statesmen, left the Department of Foreign Affairs because of Romulo’s meddling in DFA affairs in his effort to ingratiate himself with the Americans. He wanted to be known as ‘America’s Boy’ even if he sells the whole shop. Rep. Raul Gonzalez, who was Deputy Speaker, blamed the Romulo-led Sikatuna Group for the widening rift between President Arroyo and Vice President Guingona. The Sikatuna Group was undermining concurrent Foreign Secretary Guingona by skillfully poured innuendoes and intrigues. ‘Obviously, they are feeding the President wrong stories about Guingona, and it appears that the President is lending an ear to this private group that has a hidden agenda,’ said the Iloilo congressman on this group.

Another case of selling the shop through influence-peddling was when Romulo got involved in an Air Agreement with Singapore that was signed by President Arroyo in August 2001. Through his ‘We Bulong’ tactics, Romulo was able to convince the government to support an agreement that was patently disadvantageous to PAL and other local carriers. Even if Lucio Tan is not somebody Romulo likes, the fact of the matter is that he should have supported PAL as our flag carrier. We can only hazard what quid pro quo he received from those who were pushing the deal. The man was born in the wrong century because his skills would have made him a great courtier in the 14th Century Medici court. He is truly a Renaissance Man, in his own dark mind.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 17, 2004)

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