POSTSCRIPT / July 4, 2006 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Jamby should grow up and stop playing footsie

JUVENILE JAMBY: First of all, this girl Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal should not have been in the Senate. Senators worthy of the office are cast from sterling silver, not from cheap copper.

Secondly, Madrigal should not have been in the Netherlands breaking bread and negotiating by her lonesome with avowed enemies of the state and then signing a joint statement that goes against a publicly stated government policy.

If Madrigal had enough sense, she should not have tried buying cheap publicity by huddling with old operators running a revolution by remote control from the comforts of a foreign haven and who, in the process, have earned the tag of international terrorists.

If Madrigal gave any sum to the rebels during their meeting, she should disclose it, especially if her trip was funded partly from taxpayers’ money. The Senate should order an audit.

Any donation would be tantamount to aid and comfort given to the enemy. It could also be a shameless attempt to buy favorable treatment (in case) — an act that is akin to paying revolutionary tax back home.

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BAD NEWS: There is this amusing report about Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila unburdening himself while in Madrid about media reports in the Philippines staining the country’s image before the international business community.

“Don’t feel offended but what they are telling me here is that they read the local dailies and there is really news that causes concern,” Favila was telling Filipino reporters after his meeting with Spanish businessmen during President Gloria Arroyo’s visit there.

The businessmen brought up disturbing reports from their contacts in Manila and similar news culled from online or Internet editions of Philippine dailies. They cited bureaucratic red tape, lack of infrastructure and the Congress’ failure to pass the budget.

“Favila did not explain how these concerns were the fault of the media,” PhilSTAR reporter Aurea Calica said edgewise, taking the wind from Favila’s sailing into that now familiar anti-media diatribe.

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IMAGE VS OBJECT: Private media, who are just doing their job, are the wrong people to talk to about, or blame for, this communication problem of the Arroyo administration.

Favila should have talked instead to Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, the propaganda chief of the Office of the President, or even to the President herself about the bad image getting in the way of their road show.

If any correction or adjustment was needed, that should have been effected not when everybody was already on the road but way back when they were still back home.

What needs basic correction is not the image, because that is just a reflection, but the object it represents. In short, if they see a corrupt, inefficient, incompetent bureaucracy in media reports, the thing to do is to reform the bureaucracy, not to change or scold media.

It is really that simple, but overworked officials can lose their sense of direction. Favila is very competent and hardworking, and is honest, but like many harassed bureaucrats, he could just fall and take the line of least resistance — which is to blame media.

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BLAMING THE MIRROR: Before thinking of recasting the government’s image, those responsible for managing it should think about cleaning and reforming the object behind that reflected image.

Bunye could have advised Favila on the futility, the folly actually, of pinning the blame on media.

In hindsight, what did Favila accomplish by talking like that to the media, particularly to reporters whose main concern (because it was their assignment) while with the President’s party was simply to report events as they saw them?

It has been said a zillion times, but it bears repeating: Media merely hold a mirror to society. We and the rest of the world see ourselves in that mirror.

If we do not like what we see, let us not hastily blame the poor mirror.

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STAINED GLASS: Favila said that media sometimes fail to provide the right balance and perspective, but dwell on the negative side of things.

He has a point there since it happens at times that the mirror that some media hold to society is distorted, dirty, cracked or unsteady.

But by and large — when discussing subjects spanning various concerns over the long term — the unfavorable reports cannot all be products of distortions or malicious negativism.

The administration must pause, look inward and examine itself. Those negative reports cannot all be wrong. Many times, later events validate press reports of some wrongdoing or misgovernment.

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CLEANING UP: The bottom line is — if the product that Favila & Co. are peddling is really that good, they should not find difficulty selling it here or abroad. And I dare say that media would be disposed to reporting on it more favorably.

From experience I can say that media — even without being asked to help or without being subjected to Favila-like lectures — will come out in support of good government projects when they spot them.

There is a conscious effort of media to look for the positive side of things. This may be just a reaction to criticisms that we are always seeing the hole and not the doughnut, but whatever the reason, we are now trying hard to find the doughnut, if any.

Government propagandists should note this: Private media loathe seeing some dirty hand manipulating official processes or a well-connected consortium or influence-peddler cashing in on a project to the prejudice of the public.

Clean up the bureaucracy and a cleaner image will surface. Do not waste saliva lecturing media.

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WISH LIST: Let us support the reported “wish list” of Filipinos working abroad who still cherish their ties to the mother country.

Victor Barrios, convenor of the San Francisco-based Global Filipinos Coalition, has told visiting members of the Advocacy Commission for Charter Change that their aspirations are based on the principle, “once a Filipino, always a Filipino.”

Among other things, they want to retain the right to vote, run for office under the party-list system, be entitled to proportional representation in Parliament, and be allowed to elect their own direct representatives to Parliament.

They may not secure all those items on the list, but there is room, and I hope time, for constructive discussion on their ideas.

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PROPORTIONATE: Postscript was among the first to advocate that Filipinos abroad be allotted at least 10 percent of the seats of the upcoming Parliament, in case there is a shift from the bicameral congressional system.

This proposition is based on the fact that Filipinos abroad, who are generally better educated and more economically established, comprise some 10 percent of our total population. And their number keeps growing.

Since the allocation of parliamentary or congressional district seats is based on population, it is but proper that this big bloc abroad comprising 10 percent of the national population be given 10 percent of the legislative seats.

Then there is the other fact that they send to the home country at least $13 billion yearly, which is the biggest single block of foreign exchange so critical in keeping the economy afloat.

These are enough justifications for giving overseas Filipinos a proportionate representation in Parliament, or in the Congress if we keep the present setup.

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LEGAL ISSUES: One serious legal bar I see is if there are laws in their adopted country of residence or citizenship forbidding them from claiming or enjoying certain rights pertaining to their native country.

Filipinos abroad are caught in different legal and political situations.

Some of them can enjoy dual citizenship without having to do anything except to fill out the needed forms. But in other cases, there has to be repatriation or the applying for and claiming back of lost native citizenship.

The process could be complicated if they had become citizens of their adopted country of residence by naturalization. Sometimes naturalization requires the renunciation of one’s allegiance to the old country. This presents some legal problems.

The case of children born abroad to Filipino parents is different. Depending on some conditions, they may enjoy dual or even multiple citizenships. They can exercise certain rights as dual citizens without violating the laws of either country.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 4, 2006)

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