CHICAGO (JGL) – Incoming Philippine President Rody Duterte is right. There are corrupt journalists, whom he classifies as the legitimate ones he calls “crusaders, who bare all to the public”; the semi-legitimate he calls “mouthpieces of vested interests,” and the illegitimate “hao ciaos” and/or “block timers” he calls “lowlifes.”
Hao ciao journalists are those who attack a person or institution a
nd get paid (collect) and defend the same person/institution and get paid (collect), which is also called “AC/DC” or lagareng hapon, like a saw that cuts both ways) in street lingo.
But these “mouthpieces of vested interests” and “lowlifes” don’t deserve to die! They just want to survive, to feed their family or perhaps to keep up with their frivolous lifestyle.
But if Duterte and his Cabinet will be as austere as he says they should be, I hope reporters covering his administration will just be as frugal as they are, too!
On the other hand, if the feisty Davao mayor really wants to find out the root cause of the corruption of “lowlifes,” he should look at himself.
As a career politician (being a congressman and a mayor) himself, President-elect Duterte must have been aware that there are more politicians than “lowlife” journalists, who were charged in court and convicted of corruption.
And because of the preponderance of politicians being haled into court, the Ombudsman, also known as Tanodbayan, was created by the 1987 Constitution.
Has he thought about the reason why more politicians are being charged than the stars in the sky?
And is he ready to lick the problem?
Government officials, like a mayor, are drawing minuscule salaries. After spending millions during the campaign, how do elected officials recoup their campaign fund expenses?
When I was a crime reporter of Metro Manila for Manila Bulletin, I asked the late Paranaque Mayor Florencio Bernabe why he was collecting “tong” (protection) money from poor stall owners in Baclaran.
Mayor Bernabe, who later became my sponsor in my wedding, told me: “Joseph, kung may namamatay sa aking bayan, magpapadala ako ng bulaklak; kung merong bibinyagan, magbibigay ako ng pakimkim; at kung merong ikakasal, aasa sa akin ng regalo, saan naman ako kukuha ng mga ibibigay ko sa aking mga bumuboto?” (Joseph, if somebody dies in my hometown, I will send out flowers; if there is baptism or wedding, I will give them gifts. Where am I going to get those giveaways?) Mayor Bernabe asked me? I could only look up to heaven. I remember, Mayor Bernabe gifted me with Chinawares on my wedding.
So that the politicians will not be burdened by the patronage requests, I would suggest that constituents of mayors or governors should urge Congress to amend the Local Government Code to allocate “intelligence funds” for the mayors or governors, so they can draw “petty cash” from these funds to donate to their poor but deserving constituents, who might ask for personal favors like donations to the funerals, to baptism or weddings or to buy prescription drugs. Not all Filipinos are members of Social Security System, which provides funeral expenses for members. But these petty cash disbursement should be properly documented! Right now, a favorite stash source by governors and mayors are “jueteng” (a poor man’s numbers game) tong collections.
At the same time, Congress should upgrade the salaries of the mayors or governors or barangay captains so that their salaries will keep pace if not exceed inflation and they will not be tempted to steal taxpayers’ money.
If the salaries are upgraded, penalties for graft and corruption should also be upgraded so these politicians will not be tempted to accept bribe from those applying for business permit, for instance.
This should also be applied to owners of newspapers, television and radio stations and employers of social media. These owners should also upgrade the salaries of editors, managers, reporters, photographers, freelance writers and contributors, and should provide health insurance and workmen’s compensations so that in case, they run into moneyed political warlords, who would hire a gun-for-hire instead of retaining a libel lawyer, and order a hit on any of the reporters and the reporters got killed, they have some money left behind fortheir survivors.
LIFE INSURANCE FOR DRUG LORD WARRIORS
Because Duterte is planning to field policemen and military men on his war against drug lords and criminals, he should buy every member of his team a life insurance coverage in case his men are killed in the crossfire while in the performance of their duties. The survivors should not depend on abuloy (alms) for their funeral needs.
In the U.S., there is Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), a life insurance available to all active duty and reserve members of the uniformed services of the United States. Supervised by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the program is administered by the Prudential Insurance Company of America.
This benefit must be familiar to my email friend, incoming Secretary of National Defense General Delfin Lorenzana, who was a workaholic and low-key Philippine Veterans Affairs official at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C.
This benefit has a low-cost premium of $0.065 premium per month per $1,000 of insurance coverage and is available in increments of $50,000, up to a maximum of $400,000, regardless of members’ age. An additional $1 per month is charged for traumatic injury protection. Accordingly, a $400,000 policy costs $29 per month. Notably, the SGLI does not have a war clause exclusion which otherwise precludes benefits if death results from combat.
So, if reporters are embedded with the police or military men in Duterte’s war against drug lords and the reporters got killed in the crossfire, I would suggest owners of newspapers, television, radio stations, social media, etc, accredited to cover the operation, should also buy life insurance protection to their reporters that the police or military have.
Aside from the bullet-proof vests and body camera that the policemen and military men may have, these reporters must also be provided by their own employers with bullet-proof vests and helmets, like those provided war correspondents, who covered Iraq War. Of course, these reporters will also be trained how they would conduct themselves during the operation.
Any money that would be recovered from the drug lords should be used as bonus in the form of increased allowances to the policemen and military men. And whatever drugs that will be recovered should be publicly disposed of (televised/posted on Internet/youtube) after proper documentation to avoid being recycled.
If salaries of journalists and freelancers are upgraded and paid on time, they will not be tempted to become “mouthpieces of vested interests,” nor become “lowlifes” because if they are exposed as such they will lose their jobs or cease to become freelance contributors because their contributions will no longer be used/posted by the newspapers or electronic or social media and they will be charged with extortion.
The National Press Club of the Philippines, which I am a lifetime member, can start cleaning up its bloated membership by not allowing non-regular members or “hao ciao” members or associate members to vote during its elections.
Duterte cannot kill these “mouthpieces of vested interests” or “lowlifes” because the bribers of these people, if they turn out to be government officials, are also as guilty. Killing both the extortionist and the bribe giver will not be a commensurate punishment because the maximum penalty that can be imposed on the crime of robbery extortion is seven years imprisonment while murder is life imprisonment. Duterte’s Congress has yet to reinstate death penalty to include the extortionist and the bribe giver to be penalized with capital punishment before killing them.
As to Duterte’s dare that he and his Cabinet need not be covered by the media, that’s not a problem, for as long as the press release and audio and video release that he dishes out in his website are truthful, transparent, full disclosure and not doctored and recycled. If the press release is fraught with mistakes, they have to own up their mistakes, and not deny, and apologize for their indiscretion and not to repeat the same. Otherwise, the press release issuer should be fired!
The media is supposed to have an adversarial, not cozy, relationship with government officials. The media must keep an arms-length distance from government officials. Otherwise, the relationship will lead to cover-up!
President Marcos did this during martial law. He let journalist Primitivo Mijares write the press release of Malacanang and fax this press release to various Marcos-controlled outlets. The only problem: the press releases were not able to explain away where the taxpayers’ money had been spent and did not mention victims and perpetrators of abuses, disappearances, tortures and murders, like the assassination of Sen. Ninoy Aquino, which was never acknowledged by Marcos to have been murdered by military escorts but by a civilian (Rolando Galman), who inexplicably was able to penetrate the heavily guarded Manila International Airport. And when Mijares turned against Marcos and wife, Imelda, and exposed the martial law excesses, Mijares disappeared into thin air!
As a result of his massive cover-up, Marcos was kicked out of Malacanang. I hope, Duterte will not repeat history.
(Contact columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org)