Sunday, August 27, 2006

Inquirer Editorial: Red-baiting


How 2 distinguish btwn norberto gonzales & raul gonzalez. Surname of norberto ends in S, as in Syet! Surname of raul ends in Z, as in Zzzzzz...
Posted date: August 25, 2006


NORBERTO Gonzales is more mild-mannered than his Cabinet colleague, Raul Gonzalez. Visiting the House Session Hall during the debate on the impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Wednesday night, the justice secretary told a government TV reporter: "That's why there's a sergeant at arms and a mace; they should use it. If it were me, I would have refused to enter the session hall and cleared the galleries, then locked the doors." He was obviously mad at critics of the administration. But e en if Gonzales talks more softly than Gonzalez, they both believe in the same thing: the mailed fist.

The national security adviser is concerned about communism. In particular, he suspects that there are communists in the media. "There are big possibilities in the media that there are some practitioners being courted by enemies of the state and probably successfully," he warned. "We are profiling everybody as you are profiling us."

We do not know of any media outfit that keeps dossiers on government officials, unless the newspaper morgue where old issues are filed away can be considered as one. We are more than familiar with the propensity of military and other officials during martial law for compiling dossiers on journalists. Some of our columnists and editors had their dossiers waved at them during interrogations at that time. We thought, however, that the era of intelligence files on writers had passed with the Marcos dictatorship. But apparently, we thought wrong. Dossiers are back, and Gonzales is compiling them.

Gonzales believes that "media practitioners are either mercenaries or sympathizers who will continue to create issues even though they know they are helping the leftist cause." He claims that the media have been infiltrated by communists. Not that everyone in the media is a communist, he says. What's more important "is not ... their numbers or percentage but if they are able to present their views effectively." And he thinks they're doing that.

In case anyone thought Gonzales was just being eccentric, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, a military officer during martial law, did his share to underline Gonzales' message of the day. "It's a cause for concern," Ermita stated. "If we know who they are, we should make sure they do not commit any overt act that violates the Revised Penal Code." Which incidentally also sends the firm message that proposed legislation to purge the Penal Code of its colonial and antidemocratic provisions isn't going to prosper.

The national security adviser unblinkingly said this, too, in expectation of the hackles his statement would raise among media people and the public: "But so far, you have observed that the government has not in any way clamped down on media. Our attitude is that these are additional challenges to us."

It should be pointed out, however, that if the clampdown on the media has not become permanent, it is not for lack of trying on the part of the President's team. Rather it is because the media have been vigilant, the public has expressed its anxiety over attempts to muzzle the press and the courts have restrained the executive from violating the freedom of the press.

What the Palace suggests is an interpretation of the role of the press in a state-controlled environment. Is it the duty of the press to praise and lead the cheering for officials? Is it in the interest of the public for the press to ignore human rights violations, and the "collateral damage" resulting from military activities in the provinces, and the Palace's heightened tendency toward belligerence when it comes to the other branches of government? Must every opinion piece remind us of the days when editorials and columns praised every initiative and project of the government and every news report recalls the infamous headline during Ninoy Aquino's funeral march: "Lightning kills one"?

An administration that protects the national security honorably, conducts military operations humanely and governs well has nothing to fear from the media. Any ideology is toothless if unarmed with the weapons that feed its purposes, and when it comes to the news, the armaments that count are facts. If there are no abuses, there will be no bad news for the media to report.

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