March 27, 2011

A FAUSTIAN DEAL?

It pays to wait--and also to have friends in high places apparently. That is the message I get from the successful evasion by Ping Lacson of his arrest while he awaited the quashal of the arrest warrant and the Information charging him for the Dacer-Corbito murders. All he needed to do was leave the country, cool his heels while there and then return as if nothing had happened.

In the meantime, a tectonic shift in perspective apparently had happened. The Secretary of Local Government, who is nominally (is Rico E. Puno still around?) in charge of the PNP, forgot who he was and became his de facto media liaison, even predicting that he would soon surface. The President even welcomed him back (as stated by his spokesperson), conveniently omitting to mention that Lacson had evaded arrest after congratulating new graduates of the PNPA (that's the POLICE academy--which we certainly hope is not the same academy in the four, or is that five, films) and exhorting them to avoid corruption.

Even before he can face a questioning and curious public, to whom he is accountable, he is eagerly welcomed by his Senate colleagues, not only by his mistah who knows a thing or two also about evading arrest (though not quite as successful as Ping) but even by those who never wore a uniform or a badge in their lives. The reason for the warm welcome? "We need all hands" in the senate trial of Merceditas Gutierrez.

More than the legal technicalities of a Senator and former PNP Chief successfully evading arrest for one year, what is more revealing in Lacson's successful evasion of arrest is the lie that he has put to the capacity of law enforcement agencies (PNP and NBI) to successfully locate and arrest suspects.

Lacson is not a nobody. He has run for President and his face has been plastered across the country before. He is instantly recognizable (even with his preferred disguise apparently, which is described as "a bonnet and dark shades") and short of a face transplant would not be mistaken for anyone else. He is quite the rake and I cannot imagine him dressing up in rags, even if just to conceal himself, and so a well-dressed, tall, fair-skinned, well-coiffed man looking like Ping Lacson would certainly, quite literally, sound the alarms.

There are two possible explanations why Lacson was able to evade arrest. I don't like both simply because if either or both are true, then we are in very, very deep doodoo indeed.

The first would be absolute incompetence. This would explain how, despite the police and NBI looking high and low, neither was able to find hide nor hair of him. If I presume regularity in the performance of their duties, then this explanation is the only one that makes sense.

The second would be corruption and connivance, which in this context would mean the same thing. For this, a presumption of good faith does not exist as this would be the only other explanation for how, despite the Secretary of Justice's pronouncement that the govermment would go all-out, he still remained hid. This might also explain how, despite a cancelled passport, he managed to enter the country.

I don't like the implications of either explanation. Unfortunately, the President appears to not be too disturbed by it as shown by his statements, made through his spokesman; and this saddens me the most.

The President was elected on the highest moral standard possible--a standard he himself set. Remember "tuwid na daan" and "kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap"? The "straight and narrow" road is a road that requires a lot of witnessing, i.e., walk your talk even when--or especially when--it is difficult and it is painful. That would also mean calling the attention of those on your team who do not walk their talk and holding them accountable.

Where was tuwid na daan in the Lacson evasion? Where was "walk the talk"?

What is disturbing about the warm welcome Lacson got from the President and the Senators, despite a clear and documented evasion by Lacson of a then-valid order of the court involving a very serious criminal charge, is the ethical ambiguity that their acts show. It is "the end justifies the means" reasoning--we need every senator willing to convict Merci, so we welcome him back and never mind that he actually did the very thing we would condemn if it were done by any other person.

It is a deal much like Faust's and it is a deal that I cannot live with and a deal I cannot accept.

When we become the very thing we hate in trying to stop that which we hate, what's left of us?

REVILLAME, ET AL.

Yes, Revillame is a hateful, insensitive, and crass man who simply does not belong in polite company let alone public television. I do not believe in censorship in any form, manner or circumstance but if I were to indulge a hypothetical, he (and one other) would be the best excuse for censorship.

He is not however the first and only one to "abuse" children or women on television for the sake of "entertainment" and of course for profit. Other shows on other networks also have done so through the years, though perhaps not to the same degree of crassness.

The formula of showing scantily-clad women gyrating their hips in unison for no discernible purpose didn't start with Revillame. That started a long time ago with another show.

The discovering of talented kids who would dress up like adults and would sing and dance like adults didn't start with Revillame. That started a long time ago also with that other show.

The only difference perhaps is that Revillame simply elevates crassness and insensitivity to a totally different level. If there were dementors for politeness and decency, Revillame would be the chief dementor; the five-star dementor as he simply sucks out all the decency in everything he touches.

Yes, Revillame is accountable for the utter insensitivity he showed to the 6-year old kid but also to his viewing public whom he continually insults with every word out of his mouth. But he is not the only one accountable. The parents of these children, the producers, the advertisers and the networks are also. Most importantly, so also the viewing public which does not switch channels or shut off the television.

File a case? Cancel the franchise? Boycott the show? Boycott the advertisers? All these are legitimate responses to Revillame's latest display. They, however, will not ensure that Revillame or others who wish to become like him will not do it again to yet another 6-year old or other scantily clad contestant on their inane segments.

You want to make sure something like this does not happen again? Change the way you view the people who view your shows. Do not pander to the least common denominator, instead raise that denominator. Put on shows that will raise awareness, educate, inform, provoke discussion (not revulsion) which are well-written, well-made, well-produced and are hip and fun enough to make sure that people do not switch channels. They may not earn as much money but they will earn you the gratitude and respect of your viewing publics. They may not rate as well as a show with scantily-clad gyrating women or kids forced to endure insults and taunts but they will certainly be remembered with great fondness and with much gratitude many years from now.

You do these? Then, Revillame et al. will have no choice but to find work in another solar system far, far away.