Shooting the messengerBy Jobers Bersales
Cebu Daily News
Two issues are raging these past days in the media: the “Blood Ivory” issue of National Geographic magazine and the Cybercrime Law which took effect yesterday.
On the face of it, these are two seemingly separate issues. But beyond the immediate and palpable, both share two things in common.
One, their messengers are under attack. In the NatGeo article, the author, Bryan Christy—who went by the name Paul Christy when he was here in Cebu—is now under attack for hiding his true intentions while enjoying the hospitality of innocent newfound friends who opened their doors gladly to him. The other is Sen. Vicente Sotto III, grandson and namesake of the most colorful newspaperman and politician Cebu has ever produced. The good senator, the present one, has admitted to inserting a libel provision in the Philippine version of a law that even the lamer version made by legislators in the United States have been unable to pass.
Two, these two issues have something to do with the use or misuse of information dished out to the public. In the case of NatGeo, Cebuanos find it hard to understand how a 28-year-old case involving Msgr. Cristobal Garcia, long settled in a United States court, became part of an article that had to do with the illicit trade in ivory. Moreover, it is quite difficult to understand how Christy elicited information about the ivory trade and the obsession of some people for ivory without informing them that their words might find space in an article about the whole environmental threat facing elephants in Africa.
Incidentally, I share with Fr. Brian Brigoli of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral his elation that the only ivory that he has is one which produces suds while cleaning his body in his bathroom.
But kidding aside, we may feel good shooting the messenger but we must not lose sight of the message. And what Christy has written is loud and clear: some people, mainly those who can afford the steep price, have been buying ivory statues made after the 1989 CITES ban, making them status symbols to the detriment of the lives of elephants. But Archbishop Jose Palma has in the same vein also made a strong pronouncement: “We do not kill for our faith.” The Roman Catholic Church never encouraged the faithful to seek ivory images of their favorite saints or as an expression of their faith.
In the case of the Cybercrime Law just passed, the use or misuse of information on the Internet is now to be the subject of much scrutiny, with the threat of an outright ban, a “pull-the-blog” scenario normally happening only in China, no longer a remote possibility for all netizens in the Philippines.
In an ironic twist, if Sen. Vicente Sotto, described by Dr. Resil Mojares as the “Maverick Senator”, were alive and surely blogging today, his blog would have been the first to be banned because of his grandson’s law. The grandpa was responsible for the law that upheld the journalist’s right not to disclose his or her source. Now the grandson seeks to curtail the very right the grandpa fought—and paid—so dearly for: free speech. This much makes the case that sometimes the apple (or in our case, the mango) may sometimes indeed fall so far away from the tree as to be totally indistinguishable from its source.
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While the Blood Ivory issue raged in Cebu last week, Ruel Rigor, Masi Cabañes, Aldrin Solano and I were busy doing the rounds of the different cities and municipalities of the province to conduct consultation-workshops with heritage advocates and workers. With only about seven months left before the next officials shall take over the reins of leadership from the governor down to the municipal councilor, it is time to take stock of the gains in the area of heritage promotion and preservation in Cebu and prepare a policy paper for the next elective officials to pursue. A province-wide heritage congress will soon be held to look at best practices and success stories in the heritage front ending in the drafting of a heritage agenda for 2013 to 2016.
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has successfully harnessed Cebuano culture and heritage and Cebuano pride of place in her unique brand of governance. It should not end with her departure from the Capitol. It is time to set the agenda for the next three years and let all candidates for all elective positions pledge to pursue it.
More from this Column:
- Rejoinder from non-pigs in the pigsty
- Cebuanos in a pigsty
- Culture and heritage: The unfinished agenda
- Ka Bino’s diapers
- Digging San Remigio anew