Monday, August 14, 2006

Unsubstantiated Complaint

By Lourdes Escaros-Paet

RECENTLY, THE PALAWAN Press Club, a local media organization that claims to be the official organization of media practitioners in Palawan (minus DYPR, Bandillo and Palawan Sun) filed a complaint against me with the management of the radio station where I work.

They are griping over my emotional and blunt commentary on the morning when Dong Batul was slain, about the polarized local media and the curbing of the alleged corruption of Rod Evangelista and James Viernes, broadcasters from DYSP, as one of the unfinished business of the late Bastonero.

While the complainants claim that my statements about the corrupt practices of some known practitioners have been detrimental to the reputation of the local media, it is already public knowledge that there are local media practitioners who receive money from politicians. Therefore, the complaint is clearly hypocritical.

Besides, Dong Batul had discussed the issue extensively in his broadcast last March 27 and April 25 of this year, right down to the details on how Viernes and Evangelista collected money from Atty. Edwin Gastanes as payment for their demolition job against Cong. Baham Mitra in the last election. Batul even challenged them to sue him for libel, but they remained silent.

This documented incident was also included in the letter dated July 7, 2006 sent by Letty Batul-Cabusao, sister of Dong Batul, to the management of GMA Network. Last week, Ms Cabusao discussed the issue with Mike Enriquez of GMA 7 when she went to Manila. The issue is everywhere.

On the allegation that I maligned the image of the local press by projecting it as a quarrelling group, well, I think the truth will speak for this matter. Contrary to the complainants’ posturing as a united group, division certainly exists between those honorably pursuing their profession and those who prostitute themselves; between those who are for truth and the common good, and those who are in the business of fabricating and spreading lies for private gain.

The truth that the Palawan press has been fragmented with the entry of illegitimate practitioners in government payroll is a fact that existed before Batul was murdered. If the Press Club just took time in analyzing what the disassociation of the three credible media outfits from the group means, they would have seen the pointlessness of their complaint.

The public has become so concerned about the rift in the local media that the Palawan Community Media Council, composed of media executives and civil society groups, has been exploring the possibility of reconciling the quarrelling factions.

I find the complainants’ demand for DYPR to pull out its plug “Mga Palatandaan ng mga Bayarang Mamamahayag” because it supposedly alludes to the fact that indeed, the local press is haunted with corrupt practitioners, very amusing.

It is our way of educating the public on how to weed out the corrupt practitioners from the local press to redeem its reputation, yet they find it offensive! Only those who are guilty of that public-service message will find it hurting and feel threatened by it.

Now, they complain that such a plug hurts the local press, after conveniently ignoring the abuses in the airwaves done by their members in the past. Dong Batul suffered terrible personal attacks from his former colleagues in DYSP and commentators of DYER, owned by the city mayor.

He was even called “Bastonegro” in the GMA’s FM station, a corruption of “Bastonero” which was an obvious mockery of Batul’s dark complexion. The abuse of the airwaves that went on days after Batul was killed even worried Bishop Pedro Arigo so much that the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines to call the attention of the National Telecommunication Commission regarding the matter.

The Press Club would do better by policing its members instead of calling for the pullout of a radio plug that calls for the professionalism of the local press that they claim to represent.

Now, if the Press Club really thinks I’m culpable of libel, well they should stop talking about it: if they have a case, they are free to go to court. Our conduct in the matter has been motivated by the desire to continue the crusade of our fallen colleague, Dong Batul, who suffered endless attacks from fellow media practitioners in his crusade to clean the local media of crooks, and whose memory has been honored by the Catholic Church by a Pro Deo Et Pro Patria Award.

Mabuhay ang malinis, malaya, makatotohanan at de kalidad na pamamahayag sa Palawan!

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