Issue of March 10, 2019
Mt. Province

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The good, the bad, and the honest

The Baguio legal community, especially our lady lawyers, received both good and bad news this week.

The good news is that Bar topnotcher and Baguio lady lawyer, Janet Abuel, who is an undersecretary of the Department of Budget and Management, was named officer-in-charge of the DBM. The good news would even be better if she is appointed permanent DBM secretary.

The other side of the coin, however, is that another Baguio lady lawyer, who once served as legal counsel for alleged pork scam mastermind, Janet Napoles, was disbarred by the Supreme Court. She had previously been suspended for five years by the court, and then last week was disbarred for defrauding her clients by drafting a fake Court of Appeals decision.

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In October 2018, in a speech by the President in Davao, he emphasized the importance of honesty in government. He said “to those of you intending to enter government, my criteria is you must be honest and you must be competent. That’s it.” He reiterated these same virtues in another speech he gave last December.

Was he joking? Or was that another presidential “hyperbola”?

After some of the senatorial bets of the administration were criticized for lying and lack of honesty, the presidential daughter now says that honesty should not be an election issue.

According to her: “Walang isang kandidato d’yan na hindi nagsisinungaling, kaya hindi dapat nagiging issue ang honesty ngayon.”

The take of our good friend, and former spokesman for the Supreme Court, Atty. Teddy Te, is this: “Honesty shouldn’t be an election issue. It should be an everyday issue.”

We agree.

Senatorial candidate, Chel Diokno say: I still have faith that Filipinos want decent and honest candidates. I still believe they are looking for leaders who tell the truth. As they say, a person who lies about the small things cannot be trusted even more with the bigger and more important things.”

We also agree.

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After the administration went after Maria Ressa and Rappler, it has turned to another media personality. The Manila Times columnist Francisco “Kit” Tatad has written his last column for the paper. But his last column never saw print.

Kit was the Marcos spokesman during a great part of martial law. We cannot forget how uncomfortable he was when he was made to announce the declaration of Martial Law, and read the Martial Law proclamation live on television. To his credit, he never took offense with the opposition stance that we took as a writer and political leader during Martial Law. Whenever he came up to Baguio and we would happen to chance on each other, he was always most cordial and friendly, if not jovial.

After writing for several years for The Manila Times, the management has asked Kit to stop writing. His columns have badly infuriated the present president. What broke the camel’s back were the columns he wrote reporting on the health of the President.

The reaction of the President about the Tatad columns on his health was so violent that in a speech in Bulacan he threatened to slap Tatad, if they should meet, and to even violate his wife’s honor. To prove that he was not sick as Tatad wrote, the president said: “Gusto mo subukin kung meron pa? May asawa ka? Pahiram mo sa akin.” He wanted to borrow Tatad’s wife for 10 minutes.

Of course, he was joking or that was more of presidential “hyperbola.”

Now the owners of the Manila Times have decided to solve the President’s problem, and Tatad is out. Even if his last column may not have been printed, it can easily be found in the Internet.

While we did not see eye to eye with Tatad on many issues during the Marcos years, we sympathize deeply with his present predicament. There is a certain portion of his last column, however, that we must take issue with.

He writes: “Ferdinand Marcos at the height of his power never asked any newspaper publisher or editor to throw any writer under the bus just because their opinions had become personally unbearable to him.”

Excuse me, Kit, but as a columnist for the Baguio Midland Courier during the Marcos dictatorship, we suffered exactly the same fate that you are now experiencing.

Of course, Marcos himself did not order Baguio Midland Courier to stop my column. We were not that important. But a ranking member of his Cabinet delivered the message. And the publishers of the Baguio Midland Courier promptly complied. It was auntie Cecile’s unpleasant task to relay the message to us.

In any authoritarian regime, among the first victims will always be media and freedom of the press. The assault can take many forms. Those of us who lived and wrote during the dictatorship, easily feel and recognize when history is repeating itself.

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