POSTSCRIPT / October 30, 2018 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Who’ll now police the police, general?

THE QUESTION of who will police the police is an adaptation of the Latin phrase “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal which translates as “Who will guard the guards themselves?”

Its original context was in watching out for marital infidelity (which even at that time in the 1st/2nd Century referred, unfairly we think, only to a woman’s cheating on her husband), but it still reflects our being wary of “bantay salakay,” or the guards themselves looting the premises.

Our raising the point was prompted by a GMA News video showing NCRPO Director Guillermo Eleazar bawling out PO1 Eduardo Valencia who had allegedly raped a 15-year-old girl in exchange for the release of her parents who had been arrested on drug charges.

Valencia reasoned out to his chief: “Sir, may pamilya po ako. Sir, hindi na po bago sa ating mga operatiba ‘yung ganoon (raping a suspect’s kin) kapag may nahuli po tayong drug pusher, Sir.”

(He was saying “I have a family, sir, but isn’t that the practice among us operatives when we catch a drug pusher?” We were waiting for Eleazar to shoot the handcuffed policeman Tokhang-style — another “accepted” police practice — but he did not.)

The incident at the Manila police station not only poses the question of who will watch the watchmen, but also examines the moral fiber of persons in authority, their fitness as role models to subordinates and to the masses exposed to their moral/immoral influence.

When the President himself shows no qualms about tolerating immorality, or saying the mayor should be first in line in the gang-raping of a pretty missionary, or telling soldiers to shoot the vagina of captured female rebels, or calling a married OFW to the stage and kissing her on the lips in slow-motion, et cetera….

With all due respect, for we are all sinners, such uncouth and unpresidential conduct has the effect – intended or not — of lowering moral standards as manifested by, among other things, widespread vulgarity, cursing in official functions, extra-judicial killings, and runaway corruption.

If the ulterior motive is to erode moral and legal standards, thereby making the public accustomed to a new normal and becoming more tolerant of officials’ misconduct, the administration has been eminently successful.

Pardon our having to say these things, especially since we are not in the best position to cast the first stone, but somebody has to speak up before we are all engulfed by our common degradation.

The economic difficulties weighing down on us feel heavier because the administration has no moral compass to help guide us out of the morass.

We remember former Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez who was ambushed on July 21, 1982, in Quezon City. Bleeding from bullet wounds, he asked then QC Police Chief Tomas Karingal who had rushed to the emergency room: “What’s happening to our country, General?”

Today, a bleeding nation wants to know: What is happening to our dear Philippines?

• Reporting on Pinoys in trouble abroad

THE MENTION of 56-year-old  Cesar Sayoc, tagged in some reports in Manila as a “Fil-Am terrorist” being the suspect in the mailing of explosives to several prominent Trump critics, has set off a minor debate on how the news media operate.

The sensitive nerve touched was with reference to Sayoc’s being partly Filipino. Assuming he is Fil-American (or Italian-American?), what has his ancestry got to do with his abnormal behavior?

Monitoring on US TV the bomb-in-the-mail story, I have not caught any major mention of Sayoc being Fil-American. But Manila media held on to that thread of his being another Pinoy in trouble abroad.

In Sunday’s Associated Press report of 937 words (as long as this Postscript column) it was only toward its end that a cousin of his was quoted saying: “Sayoc was born in New York City. His mother was Italian and his biological father was Filipino, and his parents separated when he was a young boy.” There was no other reference to his Philippine ties, except his having mailed the bombs using manila envelopes.

Records show that he was born in the US in 1962, making him as natural-born American as his idol President Trump. Sayoc never claimed being a dual citizen, has never been to the Philippines, and US authorities never identified him other than being an American.

So, some netizens asked why the local big fuss over his being part Filipino, and a terrorist to boot? Is the Manila media’s focusing on that obscure detail calculated to boost sales or circulation?

The answer to that is a big No. When we write news or opinion pieces, we editorial people do not bother with sales. We just write the best way we can under the pressure of strict deadlines. Selling the paper is the problem of another department.

So why do we mention Sayoc’s Filipino blood, even if not highlighted by US authorities? We do that for the same reason why we cite Filipino athletes, artists, soldiers, pioneers, professionals, workers, etc., who did something significant or at least interesting abroad.

Among the key elements that come into play are affinity, proximity (physical or psychological nearness), identification – which establish a link between the story’s subject and the Filipino reader/viewer wherever he is in the global village.

If a Pakistani maid fell off the seventh floor of a condo in Dubai, for instance, we would likely not bother with it. But if she were a Filipina, however obscure her origin, we would go all out to report on it. We would nag consular and labor officials for details, and track down her family in the Philippines.

Even if the Western press glosses over Sayoc’s father being of Filipino descent – who left the family when Cesar was just a kid – we are interested for our readers/audience.

But I believe we should not tag him as a “Fil-Am terrorist,” especially in the headlines. The description has an alarming ring to it and is not fair to Filipinos in general. More info on Sayoc:

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 30, 2018)

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