We are forced by necessity to write to you because we feel that journalism right now is being dragged into its lowest and dumbest level. Rather than an arena for intelligent public discussions, it has become an unregulated market in which misleading discourses are allowed to proliferate, sans the benefit of factual and intelligent analysis. We are referring to the avalanche of pejorative and condemnatory remarks featured by dominant media which sows disunity for us as a people.
As educators in the country’s national university, it is our duty to remind media practitioners that freedom of speech does not come cheap. It is supposed to generate the truth, and never obfuscate. But when public sphere, through mass media, is turned into a forum for irresponsible people attacking the poor for being critical of the government, it is not difficult to see the character of such mediation. It is mass media exposing itself as the mouthpiece of the ruling elite.
We note that some people are disgusted by Celia Veloso’s disposition toward the Aquino government. That a women her age does not shirk from the civic responsibility of exposing how government units work against the interests of those who are most in need is no shocking news for anyone in this sad republic. We have urban poor leader Nanay Mameng, historical figures like Salud Algabre, Tandangsora, Ka Oryang, and Teresa Magbanua to remind us that no amount of patriarchal stereotyping of women can actually make them submissive, obliging, and plesantly grateful—the nice types who jump when the master calls.
But for media establishments to feature the flurry of irresponsible remarks of netizens is telling of the level of journalistic ethical responsibility that they can afford to practice. Celia Veloso’s indictment of the state of affairs in Philippine government is a measure of how the most oppressed and exploited class of Filipino families can also be part of the Filipino fighting class. We are not being misled, Celia’s honesty that was more in the order of sincerity is empowerment loud and clear.
We are saddened by how dominant mass media have made it appear like our own people could shout and cry for Pope Francis’ “Mercy and Compassion”, yet can also express wicked death wishes for Mary Jane’s and her family. And simply because the Velosos expressed an unfavorable assessment of how the Aquino government has been handling the case of Mary Jane.
Just exactly what kind of public service do dominant media expect to deliver through the spin that our people have more compassion for our government, the same government that not even released a clear public statement on Mary Jane? At a crucial point, it did not even come out to disclose the full story. The President who did not even visit the Velosos to provide moral support, and who did not apply strong state pressure on Indonesia like the officials of Australia, France and Brazil did. This government does not even disclose the identities of other Filipinos in death rows worldwide.
The public must be told that it is not true that the Philippine Embassy to Indonesia provided assistance to Mary Jane from the start. It was only when MaryJane’s case was already on appeal that it hired private lawyers. It is not also true that it is the idea of the government to arrest Mary Jane’s recruiter. It was already asked by R&P a year ago. It was the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) that filed a complaint against Sergio National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), PDEA and Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT). Let it be known that the Embassy gave the translation of Mary Jane’s transcript to R&E just right before the execution in Bahasa language.
Even more lamentable is Marites Veloso’s (Mary Jane’s sister) account of her painful encounter with a DFA functionary:: “Sinabihan ako ng isang nagpakilalang attorney daw ng DFA. Sabi niya tanggapin na lang daw namin na mabibitay na ang kapatid ko. Ano’ng klase iyon? Sa halip na palubagin ang loob namin at sabihing ginagawa nila ang lahat para maligtas ang kapatid ko, ganoon ang sasabihin. Bakit ganoon? Tapos tumatawag kami, tawag kami ng tawag walang sumasagot. Kumilos lang sila noong huli na ang lahat.”
There are more truths to be uncovered on the plight of Mary Jane and and her family, of which the public should be made aware. This is because Mary Jane’s case is not only her personal trouble. The export of warm bodies worldwide is a public issue that deserves public discussion if we are to move forward as a nation. All accountable individuals, bureucarats or not, should be meted with just punishment. No one can deny that Mary Jane is just one among the countless faceless Filipino mothers who would take risks working abroad rather than endure slow and grinding poverty in our country.
Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 clearly states, “While recognizing the significant contribution of Filipino migrant workers to the national economy through their foreign exchange remittances, the State does not promote overseas employment as a means to sustain economic growth and achieve national development. The existence of the overseas employment program rests solely on the assurance that the dignity and fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Filipino citizens shall not, at any time, be compromised or violated. The State, therefore, shall continuously create local employment opportunities and promote the equitable distribution of wealth and the benefits of development.”
Instead of taking it on the Velosos, it is time we ask ourselves and our government these hard questions: Has our state turned itself into the “biggest pimp” for selling our workers to the highest bidders to achieve 7.2 growth rate? Has our government ensured the rights, dignity and welfare of our OFWs who remitted Php 1.07 trillion in 2014? Whatever happened to the Legal Assistance Funds vetoed by Pres. Aquino in 2015 budget? Is our government creating “decent” jobs and employment when 27 million are unemployed? Is our state creating doing its job to ensure equitable distribution of wealth when only 100 families of 17 million Filipino families to control and rule the country’s politics and economy, worse, 10 families own 60 percent of the P10-trillion combined capitalization of some 300 business companies in the country?
For whom should we be cheering? For whom the bell tolls? Our enemy is not the angry, tired, sleepless, tired, frustrated, impoverished Mrs. Celia Veloso. Our main problem is our government and the system it has spawned. As poor as they are, the Velosos continue to muster the courage and strength to speak of the ills of this system. Must we hate their freedom? Must we must hate their dignity and label them ingrates? Is it so hard to associate freedom, dignity, and critical thinking with poor people? When dominant media irresponsibly facilitate the reign of irresponsible news and comments against the Velosos, we cannot help but conclude that freedom of the press is only freedom for the unthinking public and imprudent media outfits.
Gerry Lanuza and Sarah Raymundo