The World of Political Artistry and Media Battlefield

Dagiti artista iti lubong ti politika. Pang-Oscar sa met. Di met nalpasen ti Oscar, siguro next year. Grandslam tayo ken daytoy.

Nakaam-amak ti mapaspasamak kadagiti miembro ti media. Adda pay damag ti panagturay kano ni GMA iti maysa nga TV station. Daytoy kadin ti rugi ti diktatora?

A heart to heart talk with GMA
By Max V. Soliven
The Philippine Star 03/10/2006
(An Excerpt)
As I’ve said, its an exaggeration to cry out that GMA’s recent tough measures and the tough talk of her Cabinet officials are equating her with the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. (I was amused to see on television last Sunday, Macoy’s admittedly bright and charming daughter, Ilocos Norte Congresswoman, Imee Marcos, coming to the "help" of the protesting Philippine Marines, ostensively in the defense of democracy and freedom. Susmariosep!)

The late Apo Marcos took away our freedoms one dark night, on September 21, 1972. What he imposed was real martial law. The darkness of his hegemony persisted until February 1986. We indeed had "law and order" under Marcos. However, behind the neon-lit fa├žade of the "discipline" of martial law, the country was systematically looted, thousands were arrested as "subversives" and dumped in prison camps, and hundred – including 22 journalists and media men – were "salvaged" (meaning kidnapped and murdered) or assassinated in straightforward fashion.

Sadly, the "new day" promised by President Corazon C. Aquino never really dawned. Our troubles did not end when Marcos and his profligate wife, Imelda, were banished from paradise by the angel of Edsa with a flaming sword. Disappointment soon began to set in. The liberated newspapers (25 of them!) were soon in full cry against a new wave of alleged "graft and corruption." But at least, they could cry. The Filipinos could stamp their feet and yell. Unfortunately enough, so could the real subversives, from the Communist to the radical Left who most enjoyed the full use of Cory’s proclaimed "democratic space." Oh well. Those same radicals and Red Guards are still the noisiest today. That’s both the peril and glory of democracy.

As for the sainted Tita Cory who is now demanding the resignation of GMA, this writer and one of our leading Philippine STAR columnists, the late Luis Beltran were sentenced to jail on October 22, 1992, Judge Ramon T. Makasiar of the Regional Trial Court of Manila convicted me to up to two years of "prison correccional" on the basis of a libel case filed by President Aquino. In addition, Louie Beltran and I were ordered to "jointly and severally" pay complainant Corazon C. Aquino "the sum of P2,000,000 as moral damages.

My crime? Although I was several hundred miles in the south in Davao City in Mindanao island when columnist Beltran’s offending article was written and published on October 12, 1987, the judge declared that "it is no defense that the article in question appeared without his (my) knowledge and consent, "nor was I" relieved of my "liability" simply because "the defamatory article was published without malice" on my part! Needless to say, whatever the outcome of our petition for reversal of that harsh decision by the Court of Appeals, Judge Makasiar’s 39-page ruling in favor of the ex-President had what one Supreme Court Justice rightly described as "a chilling effect of the media."

By golly. The fact that I had been the cellmate of her husband, the late Senator Ninoy Aquino in military prison in Fort Bonifacio, and one of my dearest friends, indeed my "brother" did not save me.

Now, who has been harsher on media, Santa Cory or La Gloria? When a president sues you for libel, you are royally screwed. She was St. Joan of Arc, while poor Louie and I were the villains. She personally went twice to the Court to testify in our case. The harassed Philippine STAR lost millions of pesos in advertising, perhaps 60 percent of our anticipated income.

We were finally acquitted by the Court of Appeals years later, almost three years after Louie Beltran had died of a heart attack. At least he was vindicated posthumously!

We must take today’s events in the context of reality. Of course we must complain if our freedoms are truly threatened. But what we are getting today are merely pinpricks not commensurate, I think, with the screams of agony now dominating the airwaves and some of the print media. I believe I can say this as one who has fought in the trenches of journalism, from reporter to foreign correspondent, to where I am today – a scarred and battered old warrior almost ready, as they use to say about horses, for the glue factory.

I have been kicked out of three countries for my reporting, Singapore, Burma (Myanmar), and the former South Vietnam. Perhaps I can contribute this small comment to the furor which is raging today. * * *
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