“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press... (Sec. 4, 1987 Philippine Constitution)”
While in Manila last week, I met an old dear friend (but still young looking) Journalist Jullie Yap Daza (lately with the Manila Bulletin). She gave me a copy of her latest published book enticingly entitled “MISTRESSES PLAY… MEN STRAY… THE WIVES STAY” . There are anecdotes and stories there telling about love affairs, some about high public figures, both public and private, although without their true names used. Ms. Joyce Pañares and Christine Herrera , both of Philippine Standard swore to me that Jullie’s anecdotes had several items where I can easily recognize some public characters I personally know. Although the true identities of the characters are not disclosed, one can tell who they are in real life by the way Jullie tells her salacious stories. Jullie is not worried about libel. She worries more, I think, about her long and seemingly unending, perhaps hopeless, wait for being a mistress herself! To get materials for her next edition, I suspect! But from the stories in the book, there are more tragic endings than happy ones. Lessons to learn.
She promptly autographed my copy with the following note: “TO JESS — NO MISTRESS NEEDED… P.S. YOU’RE ALREADY MARRIED TO ONE….Jullie.”. (naughty!) For sure, that will make my wife Beth all the more feel secure!
MEDIA REUNION—During the week, I had a reunion of sorts with friends in the Manila media. Many of them I last saw when I was still press secretary about 4 years ago. The board of trustees meeting of the Philippine Press Institute discussed the dangers to infringement of press freedom posed by several bills pending in Congress. The following day, we attended a congressional committee dialogue to air our views.
An example is the Data Privacy bill which is almost a law now because the bicameral version was already ratified by both chambers and it will go the President Noynoy’s table for signature. Congressman Roman Romulo ( Sec Bert Romulo’s able son and famous Shalani’s hubby) did a good job at explaining that it was intended to provide a legal framework and give comfort to clients of BPOs (call centers, etc) and attract more foreign investors because their private and confidential information will be secure and protected under lock and key by data gatherers in the business. Those who will disclose or reveal such information, if not authorized, will be punished. Cong. Roman made it clear that the press was purposely spared from the coverage of the proposed law. Media however believed otherwise and complained that hearing the views of the press only now was too late in the day.
Some suggested that President Noynoy should veto it because it somehow restricts access to information, with some constitutional undertones bugging it. But a presidential veto is a long shot because this law is reportedly one of the “deliverables” of the President when he goes to attend the next APEC meeting a few months from now. We got word that APEC was lobbying for its passage. A veto can also give a wrong signal to foreign investors. Others said it may be good to give it a try and seek amendments later on when things go wrong in its implementation. If it infringes press freedom in any way, then it must be trashed!
Personally, I hold the view that every new law that has some provisions affecting the press, is always liable to restrictively affect press freedom, even if it purports to promote it. We need no new laws to protect that freedom. There are enough. The less laws, the better for us. And this applies not only to media. But to any law for that matter. The less government gets into our private lives, the better for all of us.
LESS LAWS, NOT MORE — When I was in Congress before, I got the feeling that many of us legislators were acting as if for every problem that needed a solution, a new law passed would do the trick. Just take a peek at the daily congressional journal and you’ll see a steady barrage of bills filed every day, practically on any subject on earth. Unknown to many, some of these bills were just shoved under the congressman’s door by some lobby and interest groups. Some ” enterprising” legislator, for lack of competence to craft his own pet bill, would conveniently type his name to the paper and file it with his name as principal author. Others who would take fancy at just the title and perhaps not bothering to study the bill, would promptly sign as co-authors. It would serve a good purpose to be cited as part of the congressman’s achievements in Congress in his campaign leaflets during elections! Never mind if that bill never got approved and just doomed in the congressional archives!
I remember the controversial statement of our late Speaker Monching Mitra who disparagingly commented — with some amount of truth — that congressmen would quickly sign even on toilet paper, evoking images of lobbyists approaching congressmen for their signatures even in comfort rooms!
I began to appreciate then that we didn’t really need new laws. There are already enough laws in the statute books. Some however need revisiting and updating. The more laws there are, the more complicated our normal lives will become.
TIDBITS…. This is time of the year when every family with schooling children gets squeezed with school opening expenses. Hard times!
…. A friend’s young son is sick with cancer in a Manila hospital. My friend, ”Bolabs” is an ordinary, upright bureaucrat whose salary is just enough. Cancer treatments surely drain those already meager family resources. Any kind souls? Let me know ASAP.
…. AGAD Inc, a golfers’ group in Davao was commissioned by the Davao city chamber of commerce to run and manage the forthcoming golf tournament in conjunction with the Investment Conference (ICON) here in Davao. Watch for it!
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