Sunday, November 20, 2011

Crab People Power and the Heckler. And Mr. Howie.

Much has already been said about Philippine Collegian Editor-in-Chief Marjohara Tucay's "heckling" during Hillary Clinton's fans club meeting forum And, as I've expected, besides a/n (supposed) opportunity to open up the discussion about the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty and other issues relevant to Philippine society--and in this instance, sovereignty, it is also the chance of some people to air out their sentiments against UP, activism, and everything they hate in this world--except, of course the masters they un/consciously serve.

A "disruptive" incident of "heckling" is a chance for crab people to tell their fellow citizens to shut up and study and work and follow the template of a "normal" life of a "responsible," "law-abiding" citizen for the sake of peace and order and harmony and happiness and rainbows that this beautiful society offers its (sheeple) citizens, with the unconditional love of the United States and its fatherly and motherly bureaucrats that have nothing but the common good in mind. Right? Right. Sick.

At the risk of antagonizing the cultured, the civilized, the people who religiously obey the rule of the law written to contain dissent make us happy and guarantee our democracy and bring out the best in us so we may be successful and empowered, this, ano ba tawag dito, komix, titled "crab people power" is for the hecklers I admire. And this is also for the--uhm, as the chant in an episode of southpark goes--"crab people, crab people, taste like crab, talk like people." Serve the crab people! for breakfast! Kidding lang. Anway,

since there have already been exchanges of opinion regarding the matter, I may as well shut up and share the [facebook note] that had Mr. Howie Severino commenting and deleting his comments afterwards. I wonder what he was thinking as he clicked "enter" to participate in the discussion and "delete" to deny traces of insightful, wonderful words he spilled. Wondering whether that was how he was trained as a journalist, as well. Engage in a debate and remove evidences of the discussion, though aspiring journalists may learn a thing or two from the exchanges. Hm.. How responsible. How principled. Think before you click pala, ha. Lifted the note. I hope Ms. Alaysa Escandor doesn't mind:


Reflections on the heckling by Alaysa Escandor

That Hillary Clinton herself, the US Secretary of State, was heckled by a Filipino, and a young student journalist at that, triggered a debate of sorts on the role of journalists. The heckling was done by Marjohara Tucay, incumbent editor in chief of the Philippine Collegian, the student publication of the University of the Philippines.

A day after the heckling, he was interviewed by Mr. Howie Severino, whose insights include –

“Syempre, ang expectation sa isang mamamahayag ay hindi magprotesta kundi magtanong; Yung mga old-fashioned journalists katulad ko, yung training ay nagcocover; May choice ka dun, kung ano ang magiging action mo: mamahayag o protester.”

Okay, so there’s one huge, disturbing conjecture there – that journalists cannot participate in demonstrations. I wonder though where this conjecture has come from, because I don’t know of any code of ethics that bans journalists from protest actions. From receiving gifts and cash, certainly; from moonlighting, sure; from unfair means of information collection, yes. But never from heckling, demonstrations, rallies, strikes. These are, after all, based on the freedom of speech and expression – the very same rights upon which the entire of journalism is founded.

The freedoms that we have, the liberties that journalists like Mr. Severino enjoy, were won through wide and numerous protest actions. Martial law is a constant reminder of that.

It will perhaps surprise Mr. Severino that some of the best known journalists, some even more veteran than him, have actually been involved in demonstrations and other overt political acts. There was Marcelo del Pilar, also Plaridel, who did not just participate in demonstrations, but was part of a whole movement. There was Anna Politkovskaya, the well-loved Russian journalist who spoke fearlessly against Russia's "dirty war" in Chechnya. And who can forget Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw both his shoes at then Pres. George Bush, all the while shouting “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq!" Al-Zaidi was declared a hero by his people.

It may surprise Mr. Severino even more that the alternative press and other prestigious media organizations – the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Center for Community Journalism and Development and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, for instance – often organize demonstrations and protest actions for various reasons: to commemorate the Maguindanao Massacre, to demand that justice be delivered to the victims of the massacre, to protest the 43 libel cases slapped by Mike Arroyo, to campaign against lay-offs and contractualization, to campaign for freedom of information, to march against censorship, among many others.

Well, in the first place, the heckling should never have been a matter to contend with. It was a public forum. And by definition, a forum should be open to contesting ideas and debates. The event was even described as “ground-breaking” by Clinton’s team precisely because it was supposedly more accessible to the youth. But it reeks of pretense to call the event a forum when there is an immediate clamp down on individuals who convey ideas that deviate from the usual polite, even worshipful, lines.

“Junk VFA! There is nothing mutual in the Mutual Defense Treaty!” These are valid, timely issues presented by Tucay. It would have been the opportune moment to discuss in-depth the repercussions and implications of current US-Philippine relations. But instead of Clinton addressing these concerns, or at least Mr. Severino permitting time for Tucay to expound on them, the student journalist was hurriedly whisked off with the clear goal of preventing another, in Mr. Severino’s term, “disruption.”

Like any other demonstration, the heckling was a created and symbolic event. What the heckling did was to expose the farce that was being played out on national television – the display of liberal democracy values, the supposed existence of freedoms, and the pretense of objective journalism. The heckling exposed it all for the travesty it was.

For all her declarations on protecting democracy, Clinton did not blink when, in a clear act of suppression, Tucay was led outside and barred from re-entering. Would the guards do the same if, instead of “Down with Imperialism!”, Tucay shouted “We love Hillary! We love the US!” while enthusiastically waving a placard that said “Onward with VFA and the Mutual Defense Treaty”?


Tucay was removed from the forum because of the ideas he forwarded – ideas that did not sit well with Clinton and the existing powers-that-be that she represents or supports. And while she, and the forum’s two hosts, tried to appear magnanimous, the suppression that followed exposed their intolerance.

When artist Mideo Cruz’s Politeismo was censored, the banner call was to protect the “freedom for the thought we hate”. Columnist Raul Pangalangan quoted Atty. Robert Jackson to explain: “The freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”

Finally, however we many pretend that journalism is objective, the reality is, it is not. Journalism is rife with subjectivities and suppositions, and therefore, is ideological. It will never be objective or neutral.

Mr. Severino’s own biases and subjectivities were demonstrated in the questions he chose to ask Tucay in the aftermath of the heckling, and in the way he chose to frame the interview – “Yung training sa amin ay nagcocover, hindi tayo ang tumatayo sa gitna ng press con o public forum para magsisigaw. Ganito na ba ang orientation ng journalists sa generation mo?”

Perhaps it’s time that “old-fashioned journalists” like Mr. Severino come to recognize that journalism, being ideological, can either perpetuate the system or interrogate it. The question is – which side will he/they/ you be?

*see interview here -->


BTW, I have printscreened [?] comments from Mr. Severino's comments up until Mr. Kenneth Guda's notice that some comments have been deleted. If you've read the exchanges and you spot some errors or anything that doesn't seem right, please do not hesitate to inform me. And, no manipulation of the text whatsoever except for trying to make the screencap as readable as possible. :L Again, you may visit the [note] to view comments that I have failed to include. [to zoom in, right click and open link in a new tab. or, download nyo na lang, right click and save as...]


  1. ui kalma ka lang bka ma stroke k..

  2. k. keep calm and occupy. strike, hindi stroke.


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