Tuesday, December 3, 2013

ANGRY AT MEDIA? Enrile shows how

by Jess Dureza
 ( Author is a lawyer and the chairman/president of the Philippine Press Institute, a national organization of Philippine newspapers and publications. He also sits in the Philippine Press Council representing Mindanao.)

 METRO MANILA ---The Philippine Press Institute (PPI) met the other night in downtown  Makati and discussed how to deal with the complaint filed by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile against the Philippine Daily Inquirer.  It stemmed from the publication of PDI of a story that identified him  as allegedly the "mastermind" or "brains"  behind the alleged PDAF scam of Janet Napoles.  Senator Enrile vehemently denied this.
        Instead of filing a libel or civil case in the regular courts, it was instead filed before the Philippine Press Council (PPC),  asking for an investigation and the corresponding sanctions imposed, if warranted. I will not talk here  about the merits of the  Enrile complaint. I will just show to you what this process is all about.
        This grievance procedure is not known to many. But at PPC, an aggrieved citizen can lodge a complaint against the newspaper concerned without going to court and seek redress from the print media sector itself.    PPC is  composed of sectoral representatives from the academe, civil society and private media. It somehow serves as a "watchdog" in that an individual can lodge a complaint against a PPI newspaper-member if he feels aggrieved due to a published article and he needs to also have his side reasonably heard as a way of vindication.  It is a mechanism that allows the  media sector itself the matter of policing its own ranks and disciplining its own members and at the same time upholding press freedom. 
        However, there are certain "jurisdictional elements" that must be present to set in motion this procedure of seeking redress. Here are some basic things to bear in mind before the council can take cognizance of a complaint.
        First,  the newspaper subject of the complaint must be a PPI  member. This is necessary because sanctions cannot be imposed on non members for obvious reasons, the press council being an instrumentality of PPI.  Secondly, there must be no other pending case in court or in any other body over the same subject matter. In this case, a certification submitted by the complainant must first attest to this non-pendency. Thirdly, there must be a waiver on the part of the complaining party as to judicial recourse, meaning he will forego of his right to go  to the regular  court or any other administrative body to seek redress if he submits to the jurisdiction of the press council. Lastly, the complainant must show proof that he had  communicated to the newspaper concerned to give his side to a published derogatory report  but this has not been given due consideration by the said publication.
        If all the above elements are present, the press council shall then take cognizance of the complaint and after due investigation and hearing both parties, a decision is rendered. An erring newspaper will be required to publish the decision of the council and/or  will be ordered to give reasonable space for the publication of the complainant's own side of the story subject of the case. If the newspaper refuses to comply, a possible fine can be imposed and the other PPI  newspaper-members may then proceed to publish in their own publications either  the decision or the side of the aggrieved party or both.
        This mechanism for redress has not been resorted to too often by aggrieved citizens principally because this procedure for redress is not known to many yet. In fact,  there were not too many of such  complaints lodged  before the council up to the present. According to records, the most notable and the latest case so far heard was the case filed by former Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo against the late  Philippine Star columnist Max Soliven, for the latter's  series of commentaries allegedly derogatory to former ES Bert. But this happened  many  years ago.    In fact, incumbent PPC chair Tony La Vina said the council had been inactive for sometime and needs to re-charge batteries now with the Enrile complaint filed before it.
        Provincial or regional press councils may also be organized by the local press groups to address their own local problems. I was informed that the press council that is most active and functioning today  is the press council in Cebu City. I touched base with the council through Ms. Cherrie Lim when I was in Cebu  last week.We need to replicate this mechanism nationwide. For the moment, the Philippine Press Council has been moribund and it got out of long slumber only  with this recent complaint filed before it by a senator of the Republic.
        This will now bring me to some other  important points I wish to stress. If the press council is active and functioning and worthy of the public's trust, there is in fact no more need for Congress to pass  the controversial  "right to reply bill" that media is opposing.  I understand the "right to information"  bill that media is pushing is still pending in Congress and is subject to a "quid pro quo" deal where the last time I checked,  Congress seemed to push for an  "exchange deal"  for  the latter's baby, the Right to Reply bill. Come to think of it,  there is no more need for this "tit for tat" arrangement. The intendment of the "right to reply" law is rendered moot by this press council mechanism. Moreover, by  availing of the press council grievance machinery, we all avoid and prevent  long, tedious, expensive and acrimonious  law suits and cases between the press and litigants seeking redress.
    We always also  hear the advocacy of de-criminalizing libel. This press council mechanism, if normally availed of by those who have complaints against newspapers, will bring about this desired end -- even before the law is amended. Ultimately, this  will all bring us  a more responsible ,  a much livelier and  freer press -- a necessary bulwark of our democracy.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Katarungan dapat makamit ng mga biktima bago bumaba si Pnoy sa 2016

MALOLOS—Tuparin ang pangako, ipagkaloob ang katarungan sa mga biktima sa Maguindanao Massacre sa Hunyo 2016.

Ito ang nagkakaisang panawagan ng mga mamamahayag sa Gitnang Luzon ay Pangulong Benigno  Aquino III kaugnay ng ika-apat na taong paggunita sa Maguindanao massacre kung saan ay 58 katao ang pinaslang kabilang ang 32 mamamahayag.

Kaugnay nito, nagpahayag din ng pag-asa si Hukom Jocelyn Solis Reyes, na posibleng makamit ng mga biktima ang hinahangad na katarungan bago bumaba sa kanyang puwesto si Pangulong Aquino sa Hunyo 30, 2016.

Angpanawagan para sa katarungan sa darating na 2016 ay binigyang diin ng mga mamamahayag at mag-aaral sa Bulacan at Pampanga kung saan isinagawa ang paggunita noong Nobyembre 21 at 22 ayon sa pagkakasunod.

Sa panayam ng Mabuhay kay Fred Villareal ng National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Pampanga chapter, binigyang diin niya na sa paghiling ng katarungan, dapat ay may nakatakdang panahon.

“Kailangan ay timebound ang ating demand,” sabi ni Villareal ng makapanayam sa telepono noong Martes,Nobyembre 19.

Iginiit pa niya na simula sa Enero ay sisimulan na ng mga sangay ng NUJPang pagbibigay ng countdown para sa kampanyang “Justice by 2016.”

Ito ay tatampukan ng buwanang paggunita sa Maguindanao Massacre na isasagawa tuwing ika-23 ng buwan.

“We cannot have a countdown kung walang malinaw na panahon na dapat itong matupad,” sabi ni Villareal.

Gayundin ang naging paninindigan ng sangay ng NUJP sa Bulacanna kanilang inihayag sa pamamagitanng isang pahinang ;pooled editorial na inilabas na noong Nobyembre 21 kaugnay ng paggunita sa Maguindanao Massacre na isinagawa sa harapng bantayog ni Gat Marcelo H. Del Pilar sa harapng kapitolyo sa lungsod na ito.

Sa nasabing pahayag, sinabi ng NUJP-Bulacan na ”hinahamon natin ang administrasyong Aquino na tiyakin na makakamit ang katarungan para sa mga biktima sa Ampatuan massacre bago siya bumaba sa tungkulin sa Hunyo 2016.”

Hinamon din ng NUJP Bulacan ang mga  ang administrasyong Aquino at iba pang mga lokal na opisyal na tiyaking ang maayos na working envitonment para samga mamamahayag sa bansa.

Samantala, iginiit ni Rommel Ramos, station manager ng Radyo na Bulacan na samantalang humihiling ng katarungan ang mga mamamahayag sa 2016, dapat ding tiyakin ng pamahalaan ang zero casualty o wala ng mamamahayag na papaaslanging mula ngayong hanggang 2016.

Ito ay nangangahulugan din ng responsableng pamamahayag sa hanay ng mga mamamahayag.

Ang magkakaugnay na panawagang ito ay tumutukoy sa patuloy na pagtaas ng bilang ng mga mamamahayag na pinaslang sa bansa.

Batay sa huling tala ng NUJP,umabot sa 157 ang pinaslang na mamamahayag sa bansa mula noong 1986.

Ito ay higit na mas mataas sa naitalang 153 noong nakaraang taon.

Para naman sa Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ),  at Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), binigyang diin nila ang bhilang ng mga mamamahayag na pinaslang sa panahon ng panunungkulan ng bawat pangulo ng bansa.
Batay sa pag-aaralng PCIJ at CMFR, umaboty na sa 23 mamamahayag ang pinaslang sa loob ng 40 buwang panunungkulan ni Pangulong Aquino.

Ang nasabing bilang ay mas mataas sa naitalang 21 mamamahayag na pinaslang sa panahon ng panunungkulan ni dating Pangulong Corazon Aquino; dating Pangulong Fidel V. Ramos (11), at dating Pangulong Joseph Estrada (6).

Sa panahon naman ng siyam na taong panunungkulan ni dating Pangulong Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,umabot sa 80 ang bilang ng pinaslang na mamamahayag, kasama ang 32 sa Maguindanao Massacre noong Nobyembre 23, 2009.

Ang nasabing araw at itinakda rin ng International Freedom of Expression Xchange (IFEX) bilang International Day to End Impunity (IDEI).

Ang impunity ay nangangahulugan ng kawalan ng napaparusahan sa pamamaslang sa mga mamamahayag. (Dino Balabo)