MANILA, MARCH 11, 2009
(STAR) HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes - Isn’t it ironic that the chief architect of the Right of Reply Bill (RORB) should be opposition senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr.?

But isn’t it more ironic that it was Malacañang that spurned the passage of the bill?

Frankly, we cannot recall any instance in which media had “victimized” Pimentel by depriving him the “right” to reply.

In fact, we cannot recall any instance where Pimentel was vilified in media. What we remember is that, for the most part, it was Pimentel who has used media to attack his political nemeses, the Palace in particular.

And for the most part, those whom he accused were the ones who never got to reply.

Not only ironic, but puzzling. It’s a fact that that when Pimentel speaks, it almost always gets media mileage, especially when it is an attack on the President or the First Gentleman.

So, why is Pimentel moving heaven and earth to have a bill which tends to portray media reporting as innately biased, unfair and imbalanced into law?

It cannot be helped but for the question to be asked whether or not Pimentel is doing this for somebody else or for some interests unknown to all of us. He could not be doing this for his own protection since he has always been a media darling.

For the most part, our legislators have always been on the offense-side as far as media presence is concerned.

One of the rare instances where a lawmaker came under fire in media was that unfortunate episode in the life of former Senate President Manny Villar who was accused by fellow senators of double-insertion into the national budget which would have benefited his vast property holdings south of Manila.

Yet, we do not recall media depriving Villar of the chance to reply to accusations or to mount his own counter-offensive.

So, who needs a right to reply backed by threats of stiff sanctions against media?

Definitely not our legislators.

If at all, it is the President who would have demanded for such right. In fairness to the chief executive, she had been mostly at the receiving end of brickbats and media criticism. Still, the President has opted to spurn the RORB.

The fact is that the ability to reply in media or the lack of it may have much to do with the approval ratings of the Palace. The ratings may have nothing to do with performance. It has more to do with the inability to engage her political nemeses in sustained and protracted media wars.

At the end of the day, Senator Pimentel and company may not be standing on solid ground in the effort to portray media as being unfair and biased against them. They must admit that when they speak, they land in print and broadcast media.

Senator Pimentel made a name in national politics because of media. That is a fact that he cannot deny.

And that is a fact that has made the RORB one really big irony.

Not so hidden agenda

Last March 2 at the Manila Hotel, women’s groups headed by the UP Center For Women Studies Foundation, Committee on Women of Congress, Ugnayan ng Kababaihan sa Pulitika, Asian Women’s Network on Gender and Development, and Banahaw Sustainable Development Center hosted an early celebration of Women’s Month and the launching of Justice Leonor Ines Luciano’s biography.

The foreword of the book is authored by no less than Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno; and the preface by Justice Ameurfina Melencio Herrera, president of the Philippine Judicial Academy. Testimonials came from former President Fidel Ramos, the late Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma, Philippine National Red Cross secretary general Corazon Alma De Leon and Bishop Roland Tirona.

The book chronicles the achievements of Justice Luciano as a jurist introducing innovations in the treatment of juvenile offenders, inter-country adoptions, family interventions, and as member of the expert team which produced the Child and Youth Welfare Code, and later the New Family Code.

On the humanitarian side, she relocated thousands of families of juvenile offenders from their crime-ridden surroundings in Quezon City, to two Tanglaw Villages providing them housing and livelihood opportunities. She also set up the first detention home for youth with court cases, “The Molave Youth Home” to separate them from hardened criminals in crowded city jails.

As sectoral epresentative for women for two terms, she drafted and authored laws which protected women from trafficking and domestic violence including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and raised their level of equality economically, politically, and socially with the elimination of discrimination.

Economically, with the support of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Trade and Industry, her Countryside Development Fund and the Presidential Fund, she was able to establish more than 400 women’s cooperatives all over the country to help women overcome their dependence and subjugation to men, and establish Women’s Development and Resource Centers in 14 cities to provide women with capacity-building programs.

Today, Justice Luciano heads the Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Committee, protecting victims of armed conflict, abused OFWs and their families, and recently established a holding and crisis center for returning OFWs with the help of the Philippine Amusement and Games Corporation (PAGCOR), through the International Social Service Philippines President Katherine Gordon.

As a religious leader she headed the Catholic Women’s League for two terms, clarifying women’s role under Vatican II in a church undergoing “aggionarmento.” As a civic leader, she headed the National Council of Women in the Philippines (NCWP), publishing more than 20 primers explaining to women the intricacies of laws and how to take advantage of them. Now, she works for the Coalition on Decency and Morality in the face if today’s moral downtrend.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved