By Elinando B. Cinco
When our first granddaughter was five years old, her mom and dad bought her a toy laptop as a birthday gift. The plaything thrilled her no end what with the gadget solving simple arithmetic problems, distinguishing colors and shapes, and dishing out nursery rhymes.
But the toy contraption did not take long to bore the little girl. After barely a couple of weeks, the laptop would be found laying untouched in just about every available space in the house. She already ignored its novelty.
One day the laptop was found broken and almost in splinters.
Naturally, her dad was aghast. The girl’s nanny told him she saw her daughter slam the gadget to a wall in her room that caused it to break up. When he asked her what she did with the toy gadget, she had a ready answer:
“I don’t know, daddy. I didn’t do anything to it. It just stop giving answers to my questions.”
The President of the Philippines intoned the same kind of answer when asked why the highly critical on-line news organization, the Rappler, was ordered padlocked by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
He said it was SEC that ordered the closure, not the Office of the President.
It is alleged that since it opened its news service catering on-line, Rappler has been hitting Malacañang in a relentless mode. “To a point of being fault-finders,” said an A/M radio commentator.
But its editors and reporters said they are pin-pointing issues that need to be explained clearly to their subscribers and to the Filipino public, for that matter. And what they are doing is mandated by the Constitution – free speech, freedom of expression. And interpreting news to the public at large.
No quarrel about that, SEC said. In the view of the regulatory body, what Rappler’sallegedly violated was that it reportedlyaccepted financial assistance from overseas which the government agency claimed took the form of “foreign ownership.”
A provision in the country’s Constitution says that news media shall be 100 percent owned by Filipinos.
But not a few are looking at another angle. They said Malacanang has had enough of Rappler’s alleged “fault-finding, unfounded criticism, baseless accusations.”
“No, sir. The Constitution that you cited is the same Constitution that guarantees us the freedom of free speech and free expression,” the cyberspace journalists, in a manner of calling them, appeared to reason out.
And they went to court – to the Court of Appeals – contesting the accusations of the regulators.
Meanwhile, Tuesday last week saw a commotion at the entrance of the PCOO building. A female reporter of Rappler covering the Palace beat was barred from entering the edifice by security personnel.
An official of the press office clarified that the journalist is not banned from entering the Palace grounds. What she was not allowed to enter was a hall where the President was meeting a group of foreign businessmen. Good story “sana!”
“On whose order?” the lady asked. “By the President himself,” came the curt reply.
(Readers, please take note that in the earlier part of this piece, the President said he was washing his hands off on the clamping of the Rappler’s offices.)