Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago delivers a backhanded compliment
on Sen. Jinggoy Estrada's bill and the Filipino twitterverse prattles about it.
|Photo from www.inquirer.net|
"There is no reason why only members of the broadcast and print media should be included in the proposed law," Santiago said. "Due regard must also be given to practitioners of the 'digital media,' or those whose mode of communication is the internet and mobile phones."
"Further, with the popularity of blogs and video-sharing websites such as YouTube, there are now a lot of people who regularly post sensitive political commentaries online, with content similar to those traditionally published in newspapers or broadcasted over the television. Even though they are not traditionally referred to as members of the media, they may actually be exposed to the same dangers encountered by institutional media practitioners," Santiago explained.
Santiago cited as an example the case of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who was reportedly subjected to harassment and threats after his website published sensitive and confidential information, including hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables.Now, I don't know if the punchline in the both the bill filed and statement Sen. Santiago escaped people, but we may all have been victims of a very dry, very subtle humor.
Sen. Jinggoy's Bill Bill
|Photo from www.pep.ph|
First, lets talk about Senate Bill 455 which is titled as AN ACT QUALIFYING THE KILLING OF MEMBERS OF BROADCAST AND PRINT MEDIA ON THE OCCASION OF THE EXERCISE OF THEIR FUNCTIONS AS SUCH, AS A CRIME OF MURDER PUNISHABLE UNDER ARTICLE 248 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE, AS AMENDED.
The bill was filed on July 10, 2010 and was probably among the first ones filed in the 15th Congress. This piece of legislation has been sitting around for about six months and most people only got to know about it after Sen. Santiago opened her mouth.
Including the Explanatory Note, the bill is all of three (3) pages and much like the turon peddled by Manang Merienda on the fifth floor of the Senate Building, it only contains a sliver of banana wrapped around several layers of crunchy, sweet balat.
The bill's contribution to the volumes of laws on crime comprises all of one sentence at the send of Section 1, which reads:
SECTION 1. Article two hundred forty-eight of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Republic Act No. 7659 is hereby further amended to read as follows:
"ART. 248. Murder. Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246 shall kill another, shall be guilty of murder and shall be punished attendant circumstances:
7) WHEN THE PERSON KILLED IS A MEMBER OF THE BROADCAST AND PRINT MEDIA, ON OCCASION OF THE LAWFUL EXERCISE OF HIS DUTIES FUNCTIONS AS SUCH MEMBER.
That's it pansit. That's all he wrote.
I don't know how much thought was put into this piece of legislation, but apparently it caught the eye of one of the country's top legal minds and surmising the implications of such a bill, gave it a backhanded compliment. Kinda like the White Castle girl na sinipa ng kabayo.
Which is far less interesting than Big Mouth singing Santong Kabayo.
I can't believe Kimmel described BM as the Susan Boyle of the Philippines. OMG! Was that a slur?
Let's take Senator Jinggoy's one sentence bill apart and scrutinize it a bit.
What is a member of print and broadcast media? Can anybody become a journalist?
Anyway, the reason why I think that Sen. Santiago gave SBN 455 a backhanded compliment was that the proposed legislation lacks a number of things and among these things are: a section or sections defining what a "member of print/broadcast media" is and defining the circumstances in which the proposed legislation will apply.
I have a bit of a problem with this because without being properly defined in the bill, the term "member of print/broadcast media" can apply to just about anybody who works in a newspaper, radio or TV station.
Even if you were to change the phrase "member of print/broadcast media" to "journalist", you'd still have to define it.
Now, this may get some of my friends frothing in the mouth, but it has to be said that journalism is not like a profession like engineering, architecture, nursing, medicine, etcetera.
It doesn't take years of education, training, and a certification from a body that prescribes standards for the conduct of the profession. Lawyers have a bar and doctors have a board which are empowered to grant and revoke licenses.
With the way things are in the News Media, anybody who can listen, talk, read, and write can submit an article to a newspaper or deliver a report on the radio. Thereafter, that person can be referred to as a reporter, correspondent, or journalist.
I don't know if anyone will admit this, but there is truth in the saying "pinabili lang ng suka sa kanto, naging reporter na."
So, if you don't define what a journalist is, the term -- as far as SBN 455 is concerned -- may be applied to just about anybody who might have gotten a few hundred words in the newspaper, radio, or television.
Of course, that isn't to say that definitions cannot be constructed from definitions made by organizations of journalists, but that just makes it a messy affair for those who'll have to use the law later.
Then again, it's a bill that is pending on second reading and perhaps the simple task of defining "journalism" can still be done by other legislators.
Killed... on the occasion of the lawful exercise of his duties functions as such member
I feel bad about bringing this up but it's the only story I know of personally that will serve to illustrate one of the points I'm going to try to make. I offer my apologies to anyone who may be offended for whatever reason.
Many years ago, Hazel Recheta and her crew were on their way home from covering an eruption of Mayon Volcano when they met an accident. Their crew cab collided head-on with a bus and everyone in the crew cab died.
My wife, who was a dear friend of Hazel, stayed with her broken body while it awaited the helicopter that was going to bring back her remains to Manila. Ed Lingao, Alvin Elchico, and a couple of other reporters were there too. Reporting the tragedy was probably the hardest thing they ever did in their entire lives.
(And if some reporters wonder how they'll report on people who died tragically, perhaps it would be easier to figure it out if you started thinking of the person you are reporting is actually someone whom you knew like a colleague or friend.)
Going back to Sen. Jinggoy's bill. Without properly defining what is meant by "occasion of the lawful exercise of his/her duties", Hazel's death -- which would have normally been classified as "homicide due to wreckless imprudence" -- would now be treated as a murder case.
Now, I can't say for certain, but this may just intensify and prolong the grief of the family of the deceased.
One reason I can think of is that, perhaps, it will automatically characterize what could be an accidental death into murder and that may not at all be the case, or worse, it may be utterly false. Even as I write this, I can imagine that the wounds of this tragedy have not been completely healed and with SBN 455, such wounds may be re-opened.
Another reason, and I just heard this from a couple of lawyer friends, is that charging a person with a higher crime when only a lower crime has been committed increases the chances of the case being dismissed.
Sen. Jinggoy's proposed law has the potential to muddle and mangle the "definition of murder" to the detriment of society at large.
All you'd have to prove would be 1) membership in a media organization and 2) that such a member is killed.
Perhaps other people in the online community with a real legal background can weigh in on this matter, because this is as far as I go.
Let's call it for what it is: brown nosing
I guess it bears saying that the only intent of SB 455 is not really to afford journalists or members of print and broadcast media protection, but to suck up to them big time.
And the timing of the bill's surfacing is damning evidence that it is pitched towards the victims in the Maguindanao Massacre.
You have to credit Sen. Jinggoy's legislative staff for doing what good lawyers do and that is to anticipate opportunities to further their cause -- which is not really to make laws, but to make their boss look good.
Sen. Defensor-Santiago's God-awful joke
The way SBN 455 was crafted, it was perhaps quite easy for Sen. Santiago to see it as a joke of a bill and she extended the punchline by adding that it should include people who engage in social media (bloggers, twitterers, facebook users, and such).
If you don't get it, let me explain it this way: It's bad enough that members of print and broadcast media aren't sufficiently defined, she adds yet another ambiguous category in the mix -- people who publish articles, images, video, and programs of all sorts of functionalities. THAT CAN BE ANYONE.
If I could get my neighborhood basurero to open up an e-mail account, register a twitter account, a blogger account, and a facebook account, he would gain "protection" from SBN 455 if it gets passed into law. So, in the event that my dream of him getting accidentally run over by a garbage truck comes true, the garbage truck driver would be charged with MURDER.