Senate: It's the PNP and Herr Puno (not media) who violated the law
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-12-18
The Senate hearing held last Thursday on the media arrests connected with the November 29 standoff at the Peninsula Hotel was no doubt a welcome development for members of the press who became victims of undeserved Gestapo-like treatment.

The Senate hearing clarified grey areas and misconceptions, most of these propagated by the disciple of Nazi Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler — DILG Secretary, Herr Ronnie Puno.

The Senate’s conclusions contrasted sharply with Herr Puno’s arrogant pronouncement in his face-off with media which was organized by the government-friendly KBP at the Peninsula Hotel days after the standoff. In that forum, Puno said he will order the arrest of media members anew if a similar incident happened.

The Senate hearing concluded that:

1. The right of media to cover an important event like the Peninsula standoff is enshrined in the Constitution and is therefore a more important right than whatever PNP guidelines or rules.

2. The SS, I mean, PNP of Herr Puno illegally arrested, illegally cuffed and violated the Miranda rights of the media persons they illegally detained after the Peninsula standoff. Therefore, it is the PNP and Herr Puno who were the violators of the law and not those media persons they illegally arrested, cuffed and detained sans any reading of their Miranda rights.

3. It is improper to craft and suggest guidelines on how media should cover events because that violates the Constitutional guarantee that no law should be passed that inhibits, bridges or limits the right of the press and free speech.

4. Media are best left to their own judgment on how to cover events but will be answerable for crossing the line, if ever.

The Senate allies of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) were visibly ill-at-ease with the issue. Lawyers that they are, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Joker Arroyo must have realized that the actuations of Herr Puno and his PNP were indefensible.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was somewhat placed on-the-spot owing to his having benefited from media coverage of the EDSA standoff when he and Fidel Ramos were under siege in Camp Crame from February 22 to 25, 1986. Without media coverage, there would have been no People Power and Enrile would have been dead meat.

Even State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco, the only government official from the Executive branch who attended, was very uncomfortable being there. Velasco dodged questions by invoking possible complications if cases are filed in connection with the November 29 incident.

Senators Arroyo and Enrile prudently confined themselves to focusing on a technicality which compels broadcast media to abide by the terms dictated by their franchises.

This, however, failed to intimidate the broadcast media executives present during the hearing. ABS-CBN Sr. VP Maria Ressa clarified that the accountability for the franchise was not to persons in power but to the people whose right to be informed is the raison de etre of media.

My friend, veteran newsman Tony Lopez, even reinforced this by pointing out that the evolution of new media technologies has effectively rendered the broadcast franchise an outdated practice. The Internet and the host of mobile technologies do not need franchises to operate yet they can now reach more people than free to air television and radio.

Tony Lopez established very important points during the hearing, such as:

1. The Arroyo regime tops the Marcos regime in the number of journalists arrested. The only journalists who were arrested by Marcos were those cellmates of Ninoy Aquino when martial law was imposed in September 21, 1972. Marcos jailed no more than eight. GMA has recorded 27 illegal arrests on that November 29 incident alone.

2. Marcos uses the law to his advantage but GMA disregards the law as evidenced by the illegal arrests, violation of Miranda rights and illegal detention of journalists.

3. The terms of Cory Aquino and GMA were the most fatal for journalists. But in the case of Cory Aquino, it was due to the climate of the times — Rightist and Leftist uprisings — and not due to government policies against members of media as what is now largely suspected with the GMA regime.

When I talked to Tony Lopez the day after the Senate hearing, he told me that Herr Puno should resign — that it’s a pity that he was not present at the KBP-sponsored meeting at the Peninsula because he would have posed that to Herr Puno himself.

Indeed, Malacañang pronouncements would seem to suggest that Herr Puno’s actions and statements were different from those that Madame Arroyo wanted to communicate. GMA and her other mouthpieces were saying one thing and Herr Puno was saying another. Is it programmed difference as in good cop, bad cop or a clear case of one member of the team acting on his own?

The pronouncements of Cerge Remonde, for instance, were consistent with GMA’s desire not to antagonize media. Even the otherwise outrageous Raul Gonzalez echoed GMA’s desire not to further aggravate a bad situation with media.

All the arrogance and threatening remarks emanate from one source. Is GMA willing to reap the whirlwind for that arrogance?

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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