Right of reply bill demystified

Right of Reply bill demystified

The entire debate over RORB (right or reply bill) may well have begun and ended within the proposed ontological realm – a spot in all forms of media – where the protagonists as well as the antagonists would have their fair share, more or less, of space, platform, and air time to engage themselves in the orgy of criticisms and counter-criticisms until the whole issue has crystallized even simplified itself as a simple intellectual nuance. At the length it has reached – an awful waste of time.

It has cut short the otherwise long trip of the bill to its enactment with the immediate spectre of a presidential veto should it rear its ugly head in the Palace. It has seen the signatories retreating from the war as it might place their presidential ambitions in peril and lose a kingdom they have been so blessed to wish for. It has proved how vacuous the argument of the author is as to want to shift the gear in the reverse – soliciting more convincing arguments that would debunk his proposed bill. It has been perceived to have highlighted the ignorance of GMA who has reacted even before she must have read the piece of legislation first. It has been argued to be one of class legislation catering to the needs and whims of the already powerful politicians of body polity. However mistakenly, it persistently points out that it remains the best way to deter the killings of journalists which have risen a bit in recent weeks. And so on and so until the dull ideas mix with the bright ones.

Point is, all signs point of the RORB’s final demise, it cannot hold water. And this is one that happens as a result of the poverty of its own historicism. The author betrays his well-acquired status as a human rights defender for all time since this bill cuts across the grain of what he stood for during the fascist Marcos era – when convictions are not known to change over time – unless they do so now. It then ought to be rather self-deprecating at this point in time logically compromising the well-founded political career of the author who now tries to press square pegs in round holes. It can make one suspect that perhaps, the author is indeed trying to set the stage for some post-retirement scenario when he will have his own show on tv, his own show on radio, or his own column on newspaper. Pray tell, Dean Jorge Bocobo (DJB, was it?) is damn right.

It should be immoral for the State to permit any given number of politicians, say Congressmen A, B, C, D, E or Senators 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 to acquire by force of law or at risks of fines, revocation of franchise, closure, or other such penalties – any free space in newspapers or free air time in either radio or tv as well as in any other forum to put forth their own – self-serving claims. Private ownership, as civilized societies know it – ought always to be inviolable. At no instance can the State acquire ownership into any unit of production involved in privately-owned corporate businesses at their own expense. In this case, no self-respecting legislator should find himself as signatory to a clear piece of class legislation without trying to perpetuate arrogance and stupidity.

It should be immoral to put a strain to the freedom of speech and freedom of the press by erecting a law antithetical to their underlying principles. Studies have not shown that the new RORB would have any deterrent effect in so far as the spate of killings making journalists as their immediate victims is concerned. To argue, however hypothetically that, journalists would not have been killed or assassinated if only their assassins or perpetuators would have been afforded equal space or air time for a right of reply is classic case of pedantic logic – it just does not make sense in the configuration of a – “if p then q”.

It should be immoral to perceive the RORB as intended to tighten the slack on an otherwise loosely-tied libel law. For truth is, this government through its operatives in the House of Representatives and of Senate are all on their toes to shield the president from a political tsunami that is seen already coming, what with the floods of US-sponsored reports on various facets of governance – contracts, projects, human rights, drugs, law enforcement, et cetera. In other words, they want to send “shark-attacks-effect” on our political beach so no one would even enjoy taking a dip in the sand. The pattern of summary killings perpetuated by the PNP against their victims may well reinforce an evolving general mindset the Arroyo regime might intend to introduce. As it is, libel law is already a double-edged sword and the RORB may well be another arrow snapped from the bow.

It must be kind of funny to hear from the ranks of media that the RORB may be intended to give free publicity for all political wannabes and therefore they have all the right to protect their business from being bastardized. Fact is, Fr. Bernas calls it official hijacking which private owners of media organizations have the right to protect. Indeed, the State may just be trying to appropriate for itself through its agents what properly belongs to private ownership. Truth is, the government has its own TV networks, its own radio networks, its own websites – or what else must it ask for? Its own propaganda machine has not afforded Right of Reply space in its domain so how can it even ask for one?

Perhaps, some people in government are entertaining too early the problem of the survival of the Arroyo regime vis a vis developments that are beginning to surface not just in the local scene but globally at that. President Obama’s famous “wrong side of history” phrase may now become writings on the wall as local surveys after another, reports after another, and issues after another – are flashed in our viewing screen telling not just us but them likewise that RP is under siege.