Anti-Planking Act of 2011 – a reflection

‘Anti-Planking Act of 2011’ as read in House Bill No. 5316 has just been blest with public attention never before seen.

As soon as it took off, it hit the chart as top trending topic in the Philippines only to swing back as the third worldwide in the social media networking site, Twitter.

One Carlo Ople opines that it is just a matter of time how this phenomenal social contagion spreads. In short, it has reached unforeseen viral proportion as to be posted in Sunday New York Times Magazine if by way of a comic and the Washington Post, not to mention many other online sites.

A growing negative perception seems to be taking shape, albeit, more from a single sector, call it, the Filipino youth from all over the globe. But that more likely indicates how, as a fad or a game, planking is revered by a whole universe of youngsters.

Understandably, when a youngster hears that, however he may have missed first reading the bill, its explanatory note, and the press statement of the author, the immediate reaction would be a resistance game.

But perhaps, if that youngster, planker or not, only gets to hear the news from the horse’s mouth, in a manner of speaking, this negative mindset might be obliterated. Besides, Twitter is twitting which is not necessarily synonymous with having to at least, ‘think first before you press’.

Be that as it may, it will be instructive to go over the materials made available. The bill itself of its main text, the bill’s explanatory note (an abstract actually), and the press statement that was rolled out are but the three items that one disinterested reader should have at hand to arrived at a more enlightened judgment.

From the outline, the negative global response to Castelo’s ‘Anti-Planking Act’ is one of social epidemic of sorts, viral if you may, that does not have to have a cure any more than efforts by those in support of the legislative measure should also find space in the reading chart.

Let this piece be one.

Something happened in the streets of Espana in Sampaloc, Manila that saw some twenty human planks rolled out to block, presumably, the otherwise normal traffic at that road turnabout.

And it was as if these student protesters that did the planking perform the photo-requiring act as a sign that they sympathize with PISTON, the organization that launched the mass transport strike that caused humungous but undue traffic inimical to peace and order.

With this in mind, perhaps, Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo thought of drafting a measure lest this scene might repeat itself in the future to the point that unforeseen and fatal consequences might arise from it – especially so if soon adopted as acceptable form of free speech or expression.

Except that the author thinks otherwise and some, though quite a few for now, have ‘blogged’ their worldview on the bill appreciative of the salient points raised therein by the author.

So why cry wolf?

What really caused the phenomenal viral epidemic as though one tiny idea invaded the inner recesses of the “Big Brain”?

At bottom, the bill is to my mind, about a concern which could be expressed by anyone, a parent at best, who gets to see in the newspapers pictures of people serving as planks in national highways in order to prevent, intendedly, all sorts of vehicles from crossing a turnabout road.

Is it unfair to be concerned enough?

Let us proceed. In the main text of the bill, a Code of Student Conduct shall be prescribed for use in all schools, colleges, and universities. And Dep Ed takes care of this job in the case of elementary and high school students and CHED in the case of college or university students. Is there anything wrong with that so far?

A code of conduct of whatsoever form is of course always in service of a desired brand of discipline and propriety that any bonafide student should give heed to or shall be a valid basis for suspension to dismissal depending on the gravity of offense. Thus if a student violates what the school or agency of government prohibits, he may have to slapped with administrative sanctions. Is this wrong?

Planking, just planking, is intendedly covered in the bill if it is occasioned by a street rally or similar protest action as a form of redress of grievance. This seems to be the single and only conditionality that the bill proposes to take into account.

It is clear that the bill’s author does not intend to push planking as an art to the archives. Nor does he intend to inject poison into that constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression.

Planking as art, fad, trend or craze remains. It was never under siege.

In the name of safety to life and limb, the bill throws its moorings. And whatever punishment or penalty implied in violation of such proposed bill in relation to appropriate sanctions is something for either Dep Ed or CHED to prescribe when it issues the pertinent rules and regulations to carry out the provision of the Act (as proposed).

From where I stand, it seems difficult to see what awesome germ or virus must have carried with it the contagious illusion that HB 5316 is a fascist move, its release as it were, occasioned by the celebration of the anniversary of martial law.

In that universe called Twitter, most anyone seems to have really thrown their weight – and even curse or swear words – were thrown in the path possibly degrading of Congress if not to the author of a proposed measure. Truth be told, bills are mere proposals from anyone of Congress (either House of Representatives or Senate) that go through a long if stringent process of First Reading, Second Reading and Third and Final Reading. Further legislative rituals follow at that point until the time it goes to the President for signature if likely approved and so on.

In short, any bill at all, to include HB 5316, is part of the territory.

It bears watching how the public debate will lead and turn out to be. But quite frankly, another congressman’s argument opposed to this bill is yet to hold water based on that phone interview between him and Arnold Clavio of Channel 7.

Well, for all the fun and excitement that the bill generated, how we can wish all bills that come out of the legislative mill receive the same vibrant responses, good or bad, of that universe that millions of people fondly inhabit called Twitter. But maybe, let us try to think before we twit.