Speaker Nograles has unmasked himself as a bully

Jun. 22, 2009

By National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Davao City

Speaker Prospero Nograles has unmasked himself as a bully, one with no qualms about brandishing the power of his high office to threaten journalists going about their jobs with libel suits and the passage of the unconstitutional Right of Reply Bill.

On June 11, ABS-CBN Davao reporter Paul Palacio filed a report about activists in Davao City protesting the railroading by the House majority of House Resolution 1109, the measure that seeks to convene Congress into a constituent assembly even without the Senate’s participation.

The report incorporated both a picket in front of Nograles’ house on June 11 and the throwing of tomatoes a day earlier in front of his office on Quirino Avenue.

A piqued Nograles called the report utterly false and unfair, denying the tomato-throwing incident and threatening to sue ABS-CBN for libel. He also insinuated that the station’s reporters must be in someone’s payroll to file such a report.

He also latched onto this personal experience of how media supposedly twisted the news as a reason for him to pass the Right of Reply Bill, a measure so onerous and utterly anathema to the freedoms of the press and free expression that leading media groups and outfits have called it an act of terrorism against the independent Philippine press.

And what did ABS-CBN’s twisted report say? Simply this: Kagahapon, nanglabay og kamatis ang mga militanteng grupo ug mga mag-uuma atubangan sa opisina ni Speaker Prospero Nograles diha sa Quirino Avenue, siyudad sa Davao (Yesterday, militant groups and farmers threw tomatoes in front of the office of Speaker Prospero Nograles located along Quirino Avenue, Davao City).

Alas for Nograles, his insistence on his own twisted version of events could not hold water to the footage of ABS-CBN and a photo of the tomato-throwing protest uploaded on the Sun.Star Davao website. In the end, he had to admit that the incident was true.

Be that as it may, we recognize that the Speaker’s denial of factual events, for reasons only he knows, is in exercise of his own freedom of expression.

It is, however, another matter for him to be threatening media with libel suits and the passage of a widely reviled measure for performing their task of delivering information to the people.

Threats such as these show the true color of Nograles and those who, like him, relentlessly seek ways to force the Philippine media to air or publish only their self-serving version of events or to muzzle the press and all open discourse of crucial issues altogether.

We have already seen how Nograles has used his power and influence to persecute Davao broadcaster Alexander Lex Adonis, whom he had convicted and jailed for libel. As if this were not enough, when Adonis was released, there were attempts, through supposed media leaders to convince Lex, albeit in vain, to make it seem he owed his freedom to the very man responsible of depriving him of his freedom for several years.

It is, therefore, not farfetched to predict that Nograles will again wield the power and influence of his office to ram through the Right of Reply Bill the way he did with House Resolution 1109.

But the truly independent Philippine media have spoken and made clear their unwavering position to Nograles and his minions.

We will not be cowed, neither by brute force nor abuse of power, for we are accountable not to the likes of Nograles but to a higher power to whom, if only our hapless and hopeless lawmakers were true to their oaths, they would hold themselves answerable to as well – the people. (June 18, NUJP-Davao City, posted by Davao Today)

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