Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stop the killings

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto wants the funding for the country’s tourism ads in CNN pulled out because of a feature the news network aired that portrayed the practice of “pagpag,” or scavenged left-over chicken that are washed, re-cooked and resold. His argument sounded too familiar: since the country poured in a good amount of precious dollars for the airing of “it’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign, CNN should have returned the favor by featuring only flattering stories about the country.

Sotto doesn’t even realize it, but his position on the issue has put to the fore the corruption that prevails even in what a lot of us still consider as the last frontier in the country’s struggle to finally start walking the “daang matuwid” talk of PNoy. He must have forgotten that media has the responsibility to tell stories worth telling, and to tell it the way it is, advertising clients notwithstanding.

I’d like to see how the Philippine media would treat this issue, for I can’t help but be reminded of how not a few of them kept the protest movement to save the 182 trees on Luneta Hill out of prime time and the front pages for some time and the most logical reason for the apparent news blackout was SM’s advertising money. Which begs the question, is it justified when a media outlet kills a story to protect its bottomline?

This is very dangerous, for the message that Sotto is sending to the people is this - public trust be damned, as long as the money keeps rolling in. All the Sys, the Sm’s, Cojuancos, the Luisitas, the Coronas, and yes, even the Ampatuans need to do is pour some money in the form of advertising contracts into the industry to keep their personas untarnished in the public eye. In the meantime, we, the people, will be kept in the dark, or at best shown only a part of a whole picture, and we end up with an uninformed citizenry.

Democracy? Nah. That’s a conjugal dictatorship of the elite and the supposed Fourth Estate.


While on the subject of murder, the recent Luneta Hill related features in several national papers, particularly in the country’s acknowledged leading broadsheet, seem to be an attempt to shift the focus away from the real issue, which is plain as day: is the killing of 182 trees for the benefit of a single corporate entity that’s already enjoying a lion’s share of the consumer market justified? There was Ramon Tulfo, who cast a doubt on Bishop Carlito Cenzon’s intentions, by postulating that the bishop’s opposition to SM’s expansion plan is all about money for the local diocese owns a mall just a stone’s throw away from SM. What’s this, they’ve given up debating the issue on its merits and have resorted to character assassination. Then there’s Conrado Banal, who headlined his column thus: “Store Wars: Attack of the Clowns,” effectively dismissing the whole protest movement as nothing but an orchestrated attack perpetrated by SM’s business competitors.

As far as I know, Michael Bengwayan, the initiator of the protest movement; nor Attorneys Cheryl Daytec and Chris Donaal, lead counsels of the protesters; nor local artists Bubut Olarte, Bumbo Villanueva and Ethan Andrew Ventura; nor the youthful Richard Dean Basa and Karminn Yangot do not own a mall, nor any other business ventures that’s in direct competition with SM.

I know for sure that I don’t. Pray tell, Mr. Banal, how do I explain to my own children, who have had to sacrifice a lot because of lost opportunities in our collective struggle (yes, they are actually complainants in the case filed against SM, DENR and DPWH) to save those 182 trees that you have called them, and all the rest of us who are protesting against SM City Baguio's expansion plan as clowns with malicious intentions?  My children, who can sit in front of you and defend their principled stand, and tell you about what’s wrong about killing those precious trees for more money, and educate you about the importance of respecting and protecting the environment, how wrong it is to be greedy, and how we, as human beings, must live our life in harmony with our natural environment and not against it.

While you, who have no real knowledge of the culture, history and heritage of this city and these mountain people you so viciously dismissed as clowns; you, who have never experienced having your home buried in mud and garbage in a landslide; you, who do not live your life with the pine trees, the mountains and rolling hills, the healthful climate, the cool, invigorating air of Baguio, have the audacity to judge the citizens of this city, as few as a lot of your kind claim we are, who found it in their hearts to go against a very powerful corporate monster to defend their environment, heritage, history... dignity... their life? You have no idea.

Preventing relevant stories to be told. Character assassinations. The death of a free press not by censorship but by corruption. The mass murder of 182 trees.

Stop the killings!

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