“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” Harvey Fierstein
By Alex P. Vidal
IF they call it a mortal sin, the only fault of Manuel “Boy M” Mejorada was he made a sweeping statement that Iloilo is a “bird’s nest of corruption” in the recent Senate blue ribbon committee hearing in Manila.
Columnist Wenceslao Mateo called it as “probably a slip of the tongue.”
His other “sin” was he dared but failed to topple the Goliath, considered as the most powerful and influential political demigod in the country next to President Noynoy Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay when he fell short during the senate inquiry with his most important ammunition: evidence. (It’s too early to celebrate though since the Goliath is still facing a plunder case in the Ombudsman).
But this does not make Mejorada an unworthy person that would warrant a declaration of persona non grata or unacceptable person from the Iloilo City Council.
Mejorada is intelligent and old enough to defend himself amid the barrage of ridicule and scurrilous verbal and written assaults he has been getting from those agitated by his “bird’s nest of corruption” allegation, thus I am not defending him as if my next meal is at stake in this issue.
In declaring Mejorada as persona non grata, the City Council may have committed overkill and abuse of authority.
Or they may not have done their homework and shot themselves in the foot as a result.
The issue here obviously is political. They don’t like Mejorada’s adversarial fulminations and they hate his guts.
But with all his shortcomings and imperfections, I have not heard of any instance that Mejorada has brought shame to the Ilonggos.
Feud with politicians in defense of his political patrons and media colleagues yes, but they weren’t in the level of demagoguery.
But I have witnessed how he brought honor to the Ilonggos and how he made many of his fellow journalists proud of him.
Former Iloilo Governor Neil D. Tupas Sr. would not hire him as provincial administrator if he was a flash in the pan or a fly in the ointment.
It was Mejorada’s exclusive article in the Asiaweek, an international magazine, in 1985 that prompted the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help hungry kids in Negros.
He was the first president of the Iloilo Press Club (1990-91) to be sworn in by no less than the late former President Corazon C. Aquino (I was a member of the IPC board).
Mejorada was the first outstanding fellow of the UP-Diliman College of Mass Communications-Konrad Adenauer Foundation-sponsored Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Fellowship in 1989 together with Diosa Labiste, a Magsaysay awardee for journalism and now UP-Diliman faculty member.
Only the best community journalists in the country are chosen to the Graciano Lopez-Jaena fellowship.
Mejorada was the first and only Filipino back-to-back fellow in the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1991-1992.
No Filipino or Asian journalist for that matter has duplicated his feat in the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, where some of the best broadcast, TV and print journalists in the world hone their skills.
This was the man they brought to the guillotine and burned at stake for speaking out his mind, for sending a thunderstorm to the establishment; and for saying what others would not dare say before a nationally-televised “live” conference.
“I may not agree with what you said, but I will defend to death your right to say it,” Voltaire once said.
I may not agree with Boy Mejorada, my senior in community journalism, on many issues including some of his political statements, but I will defend to death his right to say them.
His rights to freely express himself about political and social issues are not only protected by the Bill of Rights of our Constitution, they are also enshrined in the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to wit: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The powers vested upon members of the legislative body cannot overrule these paramount rights.
They are buttressed by the doctrine that no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of the press and expression.
Because he went to the senate inquiry as a “former provincial administrator”, only few people knew that he really was, and is still an investigative journalist, thus he was pilloried and sneered at for mentioning that he is an investigative journalist who happened to fancy the Wikipedia.
A journalist, driven by passion and a clarion call for public service, will forever be a journalist.
Mejorada’s knack for investigative journalism did not end when he joined the government service first as Tupas’ executive assistant and subsequently as provincial administrator.
So many politicians, military officers and even members of the church and judiciary have openly and scandalously brought dishonor and shame to the city and province of Iloilo in the past, but they were never declared persona non grata.
Not even a rap in the knuckles.
Councilor Eduardo Penaredondo, a lawyer and the most senior member of the city council who authored the resolution against Mejorada, sounded like a dimwit and hypocrite when he asserted that because of Mejorada’s statement in the senate inquiry investors will now avoid Iloilo.