POSTSCRIPT / February 24, 2009 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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'Right-to-reply' bill to kill Fourth Estate

AMOK BILL: A monster bill that is close to final approval in the House and the Senate seeks to force print and broadcast media to always publish or broadcast the side of anybody who feels slighted by a media report.

It seems the objective of the “Right to Reply” bill is to snuff out press freedom and harass the Fourth Estate into extinction.

Aside from their regular issue, newspapers will have to print an extra issue the next day to run in the same spot on the same page, with the same prominence, the side of anybody feeling unfairly reported on. One story could have several people insisting on giving their side, making their reaction longer than the story being answered or clarified.

Radio and TV stations will have to postpone or rearrange regular programming every other day just to broadcast in the same time slot, with equal prominence, the side of persons who complain having been violated.

If the complainants are not happy with their reactions as published or broadcast, a new round of correction stories or shows could follow.

It is crazy, but stranger things have been concocted by our overacting senators and congressmen. 

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YNARES DERBIES: It has turned out that the Pasig City government has not issued any permit for anybody to stage cockfights and gambling, big-time or small-time, in the Ynares Sports Arena in the provincial capitol grounds on Shaw Blvd.

This much we learned officially from Ma. Lourdes T. Austria, Executive Assistant-V in the office of the Pasig City mayor, in her letter to Postscript dated Feb. 17, 2009.

This raises the specter of charges being filed against those holding the cockfights, euphemistically called “derbies,” at the sports center sitting on government land. And what about the prominent politicians, businessmen, and others betting large sums, sometimes running into millions?

The derby sponsors are publicly known. Many concerned residents of Pasig have complained of the cockfighting, gambling and the open defiance of law and morality, but no official action has been taken.

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NO ‘SABONG’ PERMIT: In her letter, Ms Austria said: “The provincial government of Rizal (not in any way connected with the Pasig City government) applied for a building permit for the renovation of its multi-purpose building and, based on its submitted plans, same is intended for basketball, volleyball, badminton and tennis games. Cockfighting is not among the purposes mentioned in the application.

“The Business Permit and License Office of the city did not issue any permit to the same allowing the conduct of any cockfighting except that for which it was built and, for the record, the same office has not issued any permit for cockfighting in the city other than the Pasig Square Garden at Barangay Santolan.

“…We would greatly appreciate it if we can be furnished evidence to substantiate your report that the multi-purpose building is being used as a cockpit….”

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PROVE IT!: The “Prove it!” attitude of top officials linked to irregularities or who are called upon to act is spreading like an epidemic. Even among us civilians, we sometimes ask for “evidence” when unsavory comment is made of us or somebody.

A variation of the evasive tactic is for enforcement and regulatory agencies to demand evidence from the complaining public instead of jumping into action motu propio (on their own volition).

We have reported in detail the cockfighting at the Ynares Sports Arena, sometimes quoting concerned citizens. The sponsors have advertised and sent out fliers and programs on the derbies. The whole shebang is public knowledge.

Now the office of the Pasig City mayor wants us to compile evidence and turn it over to them before they can “institute immediate appropriate action.” This attitude is unbelievable!

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CABALEN JUDGES: President Gloria Arroyo will address today the judges and lawyers of her home province when the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (Pampanga chapter) will celebrate “Aldo ning Parangal” at Clark Field.

Heading the IBP chapter is Imelda Quiambao Tuason who will honor the past chapter presidents, the first one being Silvestre Punzalan, a friend and law partner of the late President Diosdado Macapagal.

Also to be honored are incumbent and former justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, the most distinguished of whom is Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos who was martyred when the Japanese killed him for refusing to collaborate with them during World War II.

Of all the provinces, Pampanga has produced the most number of Supreme Court magistrates, including immediate past Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban.

In the ’90s, eight of the 15 incumbent SC justices were capampangan. The number of SC justices from Pampanga is down to only two at present.

There are 22 branches of the Regional Trial Court in Pampanga, two of which are vacant. Of the 20 incumbents, 11 are Arroyo appointees, 10 of them women.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 24, 2009)

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