POSTSCRIPT / March 2, 2006 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Edsa-1 dilemma is over; GMA can now come out

CRUDE, CRUEL: Veteran journalist Noel Cabrera, our ambassador to Romania , was confined days ago at the Kidney Center for a major surgery.

If that was not bad enough for Noel, he suddenly received reports that Malacanang was sending a certain Ruth Pardo to replace him as ambassador. In fact, the woman’s advance party was already in Bucharest to clear the way for her takeover. I still don’t know if the patient has recovered from the double whammy.

While Ms Pardo’s qualifications may have been made impressive with the reported support of a powerful religious group and that of Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo no less, she should not barge in in such an unceremonious and unkind manner.

Why did Malacanang have to kick a man who is literally down in a hospital bed? Is somebody in the Palace feeling so beleaguered that all civility had to be tossed out the window?

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INSTANT EXPERTS?: I cannot imagine President Gloria Arroyo or any of her communication “experts” rewriting the universally accepted tenets of a free press in a libertarian setting. How can they possibly “improve” on them?

But that is what Malacanang experts are reportedly set to do under Proclamation 1017 declaring a state of national emergency. The media, we were told, would soon receive revised standards and operating procedures for news coverage and commentaries. Wow!

Even the White House, the beacon where Malacanang sometimes look for guidance, would not dare revamp on its own the accepted principles under which the free press ranged around and against the government operates.

We have more than enough laws on libel, treason, sedition, torts and damages, respect for privacy and a myriad other concerns guiding responsible journalism.

If Malacanang is not happy with them, it should go to Congress for amendments instead of issuing it own decrees.

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BACK TO NORMAL: But relax. Some friends with Palace access have assured me that the dark clouds hovering over media would soon clear up. Maybe before the Supreme Court could rule against Proc 1017?

They add that Proc 1017 would be lifted after an assessment is announced that while the security threat continues, many (but not all) of the personalities in the plot to grab state power have been neutralized.

Note that while they want the outside world to think we are returning to normal, they have to keep a reservation for the local public that some enemies still lurk in the shadows. Hence the mention of a continuing threat.

I take this assurance on its face value, because the Edsa-1 celebration that prompted the issuance of Proc 1017 in the first place is over — and Gloria Arroyo can now safely come out and conduct normal business.

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EDSA DILEMMA: That Edsa-1 anniversary celebration days ago was a big problem for obvious reasons:

  1. Anti-GMA forces, including the Left and some wayward soldiers, were sure to use the rites to launch mammoth rallies that could, with expert manipulation, explode into another Edsa uprising that may topple the unsteady incumbent.
  2. With former President Cory Aquino — who has demanded GMA’s stepping down — taking center stage with her prayer brigade, how would GMA wiggle herself into the program without looking out of place despite her being the president?
  3. As Edsa-1 is about change, how can GMA explain in a hurry during the program the administration’s failure to effect meaningful reforms for those who had embraced Edsa for deliverance?

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GMA=STATE: If only there was a way to erase the Edsa-1 celebration from the calendar or if only GMA had a good excuse to be elsewhere — even abroad — that would have been a big relief, actually a great escape from an impending reality check.

Anyway, the Edsa-1 nightmare of GMA has passed with only minimal incidents. She can now revert to Normal mode and, kunwari, claim a measure of success in pursuing enemies of the state. She can now recall Proc 1017 with a smile.

The term “enemies of the state” as translated from official jargon ignores the distinction between the President’s enemies and those of the State. Like Charles de Gaulle, it seems that Gloria is the State to some of her rabid handlers.

The term “enemies” also includes the pesky press. This is not strange since the President’s strategists regard all media who are not feeding from their hands as her/their foes.

Mali pong assumption yan. I dare say that the better approach — although it could be risky — is to regard irreverent media not as permanent enemies but as potential allies. Let us give each other room for adjustments.

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ILL-ADVISED RAID: That raid on the Tribune editorial offices, for instance, was a blunder. The administration could have safely ignored the Tribune.

Without meaning to offend Ninez and her valiant staff, that paper is not heavyweight enough to land a killer punch.

The benefits of cracking down on it are far outweighed by the damage wrought by the warrantless crackdown on the administration’s image.

Of course the raid satisfied somebody’s penchant for venganza, but that is counter-productive. It only betrayed a deep feeling of insecurity in the Palace. It also antagonized the rest of media.

When I say much of media can be safely regarded as potential allies, I am not saying that Tribune editor & publisher Ninez Cacho-Olivarez may become GMA’s pal during the latter’s presidency. That is in the realm of the impossible.

Still, Malacanang could have just ignored Ninez’s hopelessly oppositionist paper. And if she violated any law, they could have sued her without fanfare and without having to hide behind Proc 1017.

Now even the competitors of the Tribune are rallying around their sister in the trade.

* * *

WHY PROC 1017?: We have started to collate the responses to our Postscript survey on how our readers regard Proclamation 1017.

I will report on the survey results next issue. Those who want to catch up and have their votes (voice?) counted, can rush their response to the question:

Why did President Arroyo issue Proclamation 1017 at the risk of validating the impression that we have an unstable government in a divided country led by someone who is still trying to win a mandate?

Choose the right answer:

  1. A paranoid President Arroyo just overreacted to the destabilization.
  2. The administration was laying the basis or testing the waters for a more sinister scenario in its calibrated response to threats.
  3. It was scaring targeted sectors into behaving.
  4. All of the above.
  5. None of the above. There is another reason (Please mention).

Send responses to: manilamail@pacific.net.ph (if by email) or to POSTSCRIPT, c/o Philippine STAR, Port Area, Manila (if by snail mail or messenger service). No text or SMS responses will be entertained.

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IMPORTANT: If sending by email, type “PROCLAMATION 1017” in the Subject field so our computer will divert it to a dedicated folder for faster handling. Some early responses got lost because the senders ignored this instruction.

As in past POSTSCRIPT surveys, respondents are requested to give their Name, Age, Sex and Location for confidential statistical purposes. The sender’s name may be tacked on to a comment that is published, unless he/she does not want to be identified.

Experience has shown that most readers are not contented with simply indicating their choice, but will insist on giving us a piece of their mind. We plead with respondents not to exceed 100 words if and when they do add a comment.

I reserve the right to edit comments to fit space in case they are to be published.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 2, 2006)

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