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We mourn Boy Mejorada’s conviction for libel

“If you call your opponent a politician, it’s grounds for libel.”

–Mark Russell

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — As a community journalist, I am personally saddened by the decision of Pasay City, Philippines Regional Trial Court Branch 188 Presiding Judge Rowena Nieves A. Tan to convict former Iloilo Press and Radio Club president Manuel “Boy” Mejorada for libel.
The case was filed by Senator Franklin Drilon in 2014 after Mejorada, a former Iloilo provincial administrator, criticized the “overpriced” P700-million Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) and the “anomalous” use of the senator’s pork barrel fund in his Iloilo City projects.
A libel case in the Philippines carries a penalty of imprisonment.
A convicted journalist will be cuffed like an ordinary criminal, a blot in the image of a democratic state that prides itself as having the “freest press” in the world.
Mejorada, who lives in Iloilo City, has been sentenced to spend time in prison for up to four years.

MOTION

If the Motion for Reconsideration to be filed by his lawyer within 15 days since the sentence was out will be denied, a warrant for Mejorada’s arrest is imminent.
He will have to travel from Iloilo City to Pasay City just to be placed behind bars.
This is the kind of “agony” and inconvenience enemies of press freedom would like to happen to purveyors of truth and adherents of transparency in government.
We are worried because Mejorada, who has been a community journalist for more than 30 years now and a senior in media profession, will have to deal with his case in a faraway Pasays City in Metro Manila, considered as “a lion’s den.”
If this could happen to a veteran journalist, any media practitioner who will anger with commentaries and reports powerful and influential political figures in the country like the former senate president, could also suffer the same fate.
In a democratic country like the Philippines, the last thing people would want to see is a news or opinion writer or anchorman being manacled and padlocked in jail for exercising his freedom of speech and expression.

PROSPER

We are aware that a libel case is not supposed to prosper against members of the Fourth Estate in the Philippines.
We are not prejudging the Motion for Reconsideration to be filed by Mejorada in the sala of Judge Tan, and, possibly in the Court of Appeals (CA), but there have been so many Supreme Court rulings in the past that reversed libel convictions involving journalists in the lower courts–from RTC to CA.
Even public officials like Drilon know that in Philippine jurisprudence, no Supreme Court decision was ever decided with finality against newsmen accused of libel.
Even the late former President Corazon Aquino, who hauled to court the late famous journalists Max Soliven and Luis Beltran in one of the most celebrated libel cases in the country, lost in the Supreme Court.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2017 in MEDIA, NEWS!!!NEWS!!!NEWS!!!, POLITICS

 

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We might lose Miriam but not to a brain cancer

“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.” Jim Valvano

By Alex P. Vidal

In all her political life, critics have hounded Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago with catcalls and unsavory allusions to mental illnesses and below-the-belt potshots normally reserved for political gadflies and imbeciles.

A Manila bus carrying truckloads of anti-Erap protesters even emblazoned the vehicle with a giant caricature and a vitriol that screamed, “Miriam baliw!” (Miriam crazy) at the height of the myth called “Edsa II” where former President and now Manila Mayor Erap Estrada was toppled in 2001.

If Santiago “ate death threats for breakfast” during her tumultuous stint in the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation under the late President Cory Aquino, she swam with ridicules and insults from political adversaries allergic to her brand of politics.

Despite the brutal verbal snipes, Santiago soldiered on and nearly conquered Malacanang in 1992—no thanks to the sudden power blackout that lasted until she lost a commanding lead during the canvassing of votes in the presidential race against FVR.

BATTLE

In her battle against an ailment that contributes in the rapid change of her mood from good to bad vice versa, she was pilloried and branded with names.

Her most acerbic enemies in the rival Lakas-NUCD Party called her “Brenda” or brain damage. She laughed it off and “refused to go down to their level.”

Santiago may have lost her chance to win the top position in Malacanang due to a ramshackle political party and probably to poll cheating, but she remains the darling of young voters and university students wherever she goes all over the country—and the most sought-after commencement exercises speaker to boot.

When no one was gutsy enough to defend the politically deteriorating Erap in 2001, Santiago defied the odds and risked her disastrous 2004 senatorial reelection bid by siding with the besieged president.

Santiago, a constitutional expert, always had a mouthful to preach about the rule of law and the majesty of the constitution–which made her even more unpopular in the eyes of nondescript politicians unaccustomed to her unconventional style in interpreting ambiguous provisions of law.

VOTE

Her gallant vote against the move to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona along with fellow senator-judges Joker Arroyo and Bongbong Marcos stood as a towering principle amid rumors of Malacanang payoff and bribery via the doomed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) or pork barrel to cast a yes vote.

In the most recent debate related to the P10-billion pork barrel anomaly engineered by Janet Lim-Napoles, Santiago torn to shreds those whom she perceived to have connived with Napoles, including Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, in a scary speech that had the spectators–those present in the senate gallery and those watching on TV “live”–on the edge of their seats.

Santiago is fearless. A one of a kind warrior. When the 69-year-old daughter of La Paz, Iloilo City attacks an opponent, she is merciless and relentless. She always goes to war “bloodied but unbowed.” When she opens her mouth and begins her spiel, the firebrand senator produces a staccato and parody that provides unlimited excitement and entertainment to her audience.

ADMIT

Her admission last July 2 that she had a stage 4 lung cancer devastated her fans. Fighting tears, the maverick lawmaker assured the nation she could survive if given the proper medication.

“I have cancer of the left lung, which makes it difficult for me to breathe. I think you have noticed that for the past years, I’ve always had difficulty. I’ve always had shortness of breath,” Santiago told a news conference.

It’s risky to speculate on the real condition Santiago is in today. Stage 4 is an alarming state. What we can do for now is to pray that she can overcome the deadly disease.

God forbid, we might lose her to a lung cancer – at least not to a brain-related disease, which her critics had been trying to maliciously insinuate since time immemorial.

 

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Pork verdict a World Cup goal for Filipinos

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” Nelson Mandela

By Alex P. Vidal

While soccer fans were waiting for the coronation of either Germany, The Netherlands, Argentina, or Brazil in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Filipinos already secured their World Cup victory courtesy of the Supreme Court’s 13-1-0 goals against the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) recently.

Malacanang-backed DAP collapsed like a deck of cards and exposed this administration’s subservience to pork barrel to finance infrastructure projects and the like.

Malacanang’s embarrassment, however, became the nation’s victory. A victory sweeter than the FIFA World Cup.

Results of the Filipino People vs DAP championship dominated the major news headlines even in the Middle East, Americas, Australia, Europe where there are large Filipino communities.

Now that DAP has been declared unconstitutional and nipped in the bud, the bleeding of the national treasury will now come to a screeching halt.

STOP

The Supreme Court ruling stopped the thieves masquerading as public servants in their tracks.

But the sweetest World Cup goal came from the higher court’s order for those who have siphoned millions of DAP or pork barrel share to return the money.

The money belongs to the Filipino people and the SIN-nators and other lawmakers who feasted on DAP under this administration shouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, ordered the Supreme Court.

But while we are jubilant about our own domestic World Cup conquest, we feel sad that some of the major infrastructure projects that have started rolling down the city and province of Iloilo are among those expected to be torpedoed.

Senate President Frank Drilon’s name came out first in the list of sin-nators with large sums of DAP appropriations at P100 million as of December 2012.

PROJECTS

Drilon picked the tab from the DAP of most multimillion pesos worth of projects being implemented through the Department of Public Works and Highways and  inaugurated by no less than President Noynoy Aquino in Iloilo City last June 27.

Drilon has confirmed that DAP partly funded the almost P1-billion Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) at the Iloilo Business Park in Mandurriao district.

“Partly funded” means money has already been funneled to the gigantic structure President Aquino described as like the Sydney Opera House.  

What was shocking and repulsive, to say the least, was the revelation that some of the sin-nators who claim to be “champions” of public service and integrity like presidentiables Francis Escudero (P50 million), Allan Peter Cayetano (P50 million), Loren Legarda (P50 million), and Antonio Trillanes IV (P50 million) are also closet pork eaters.

 

 

  

 

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Why jailbirds were more popular than Miriam, Drilon in Iloilo

“What’s right isn’t always popular. What’s popular isn’t always right.” Howard Cosell

 By Alex P. Vidal

Because of their showbiz background, jailed senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada were once upon a time more popular than Senate President Frank Drilon and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago–even in Western Visayas, the bailiwick of the two Ilonggo legislators.

In 2004, during the campaign period in Iloilo, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Negros, and Guimaras, shrieking fans mobbed both actors, kissed and embraced them, danced with them on stage like rock stars and cult leaders.

Mga pare tulungan ninyo si Bong. Kailangan natin siya sa senado (Friends let’s help Bong. We need him in the senate),” outgoing senator Ramon Revilla, Sr., Bong’s father, appealed to us while he was inside a car during a political rally at the Plazoleta Gay in downtown, Iloilo City.

Even without Nardong Putik’s appeal, the Kapitan would have still won by an overwhelming margin. The bakya crowd was unstoppable and they believed only their big screen idol Bong Revilla could snatch them away from dire straits.

Most of the 253,934 voters in this city’s 180 barangays and the province’s 941,380 voters from 1,721 barangays lived in slums and far flung rural areas where screen actors and actresses are adored and idolized like kings and queens.

BACKGROUND

These are the places where voters normally don’t care about the educational background and competence of candidates for national and local offices, thus they cast their votes based on name recall and popularity.

Since many of them are hooked on telenovelas, soap operas and showbiz scandals and entertainment–plus the fact that only a handful of them read the newspapers and monitor political events on TV and radio–Bong Revilla, 47, and Jinggoy Estrada, 51, who starred in hundreds of action and drama flicks, are instant hits in these areas.

If the jailbirds will run for higher offices in 2016 (granting that they will be exonerated in the plunder charges they are facing for allegedly pocketing hundreds of millions of people’s money in pork barrel scam), their lesser-known rivals could end up eating the dust, given the electorate’s myopic mentality.

In fact, Revilla (19,513,521 votes garnered) and Estrada 18,925,925 votes) topped the 2010 senatorial elections where Santiago (17,344,742 votes) and Drilon (15,871,117 votes), both prides of Iloilo City, wound up third and fourth, respectively. Juan Ponce Enrile (15,665,618 votes), the third senator expected to join Revilla and Estrada soon at Camp Crame custodial center, was fifth.

HUSBAND

Former interior and local government undersecretary Narciso Santiago, husband of the 69-year-old feisty Iloilo senator, lamented to us at the Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center that even Hollywood stars can never beat the Marcoses in Ilocos. “Ilocanos are solidly behind the Marcoses especially during the national elections,” fumed Santiago, the senator’s former classmate in the College of Law before they became husband and wife. “But here in Iloilo, they are not united. Miriam even lost (in her reelection bid for senator in 2001) because Iloilo failed to deliver the needed votes for her.”

This was when Senator Santiago was smarting from her “lowest” popularity for being a staunch defender of then scandalized and eventually ousted President and now Manila Mayor Erap Estrada.

Let’s hope sweetheart Narciso did not forget to thank the Ilonggos when they gave his beloved wife a resounding victory when she staged a comeback in 2004 and in 2010 (her term as senator expires in 2016).

Lest sweetheart Narciso forgets, the Ilonggos nearly installed honey Miriam into presidency in 1992. What most of us still remember is that the sudden power blackout during the canvassing of votes dashed all our dreams to pieces.

  

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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