Grappling the Rapplers?

‘The question then is: Will they let their names be dragged into a pit of shame by illegally operating or by cheating the Filipino public? Will they directly sell their integrity to foreign influence? Is it worth the risk after their years of “bar none” services?’


IT’S FRIDAY and the company where I was working was on dress down. I chose to wear a pair of jeans and a black shirt. But as I was riding the northbound MRT-3 train, I looked around and wondered if there were other passengers wearing the same colour of shirt as I do. There were few of them and I sensed that they were also curious. Yes, curious if my wearing black is a form of support on the Black Friday Protest for Freedom action organised by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). The NUJP earlier severely criticized the Securites and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) decision revoking the registration of the leading news website Rappler. 

In their website, it’s indicated that Rappler comes from the root words “rap” (to discuss) and “ripple” (to make waves). Without a doubt, they are making waves these days not of stories of various personalities they cover, or of news reports about other entities, but the legality of their existence. When the SEC and Rappler issue broke, I sulked. I couldn’t believe that such incident can happen to one of the media organisations I look up to. Some of the most respected, prominent, and award-winning journalists and writers I know work for or are connected with Rappler. Maria Ressa. Marites Vitug. Chay Hofileña. Glenda Gloria. Patricia Evangelista. 

The question then is: Will they let their names be dragged into a pit of shame by illegally operating or by cheating the Filipino public? Will they directly sell their integrity to foreign influence? Is it worth the risk after their years of “bar none” services? 

While the SEC decision was not final and executory, with the political climate the Philippines has, the possibility for the case to reach the halls of the Supreme Court is not startling. But online forums and the comments section have been filled with opinions. For them, Rappler has reached its final destination.

“Maria Ressa is wearing a victim’s cloak” a netizen commented. “In need of attention just like the previous president.” Some of my Facebook friends also despised Rappler for their alleged violation. Suddenly, constitutional experts rose on the occasion. They are doomed, one added. But did they first read the 21-page decision of the SEC before expressing their thoughts online? Did they examine the facts before judging those who side and believe in Rappler as ‘Yellowtards’ and fools?

I’ve seen it before and I am seeing it again. In our attempt to simplify things, we resort to one-liners, labels, and generalizations. These do not accomplish anything but create more divisions. 

In his book Blink, renowned journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell wrote: “We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.”

When Rappler published my opinion piece about the subpar MRT-3 train services, some of the commenters were quick to assume that I was a paid writer whose objective was to discredit the actions of the government in addressing the transport system issue. They even judged me as just another Rappler writer who doesn’t see the good in the current administration, its achievements. Without conducting a simple Google search or patiently reading the whole piece, they came up with their own conclusions. These are classic examples of false and uninformed accusations online. 

Because the truth is I care about my country. We write because we believe that something can be done, that there’s still hope, and that those in power didn’t fully shut their ears to listen to another point of view, to fresh perspectives. For a democracy to work, there should be checks and balances and the media play a valuable role in guarding and being the platform for people to practice their right to speech and expression. Yes, they put their lives, their principles on the line. 

With everything’s that’s going on, it’s easy to be swayed by the popular, the majority opinion. Some choose to stay silent because of fear and inconvenience. If indeed Rappler intentionally committed grave contraventions against the provisions of the constitution and that they should be held liable, let the courts decide about it. If they published malicious articles beyond the ethical standards of journalism, which are meant to degrade or disparage a public official and put him or her in bad light, file cases. Let’s recognise the proper forums backed by existing laws and give emphasis on due process. 

Opposing opinions can coexist without us losing our humanity in the process with respect. It can be done without grappling the pens and the mouths of our fellowmen who cry for truth, freedom and justice whether we agree with them or not. Because in the end, while we are busy figuring out how others are different from us with all their ideals and perspectives, we forget to listen, to read, to research, and ultimately, to convince ourselves that in times like this, it’s best to pause and pray for our country with a black shirt on or whatever colour we believe we represent. 


16. Published

“I believe that everyone’s a storyteller but the challenge is to have a grasp on what’s worth writing about.”

WHEN I first held a copy of Philippine Daily Inquirer years ago (the largest and greatest of Philippine broadsheets) and realized that they accept column article submissions, I told myself that someday, I should get published there. I fell in love with its opinion column ‘Young Blood’ where the twenty-something and below gets featured. It was then that I dreamt of being a writer.

I’m still a work in progress, every aspiring writer will tell you that. But after getting published, it kindled hope in me to be a regular contributor. It became a catalyst for me to be a better observer, a finer listener, and to pause more. A lot of things are going on and it is our job to translate them into words. Sometimes I sulk after learning that an unexpected thing happened which is natural.

I can say that being idealistic is an important element to be able to write. You have to hope that there’s a better world ahead and you have to be part of the public discourse, a contributor, to get it. You may fail miserably, you can get rejected multiple times but these are all part of the process. I can’t think of a successful writer today who never experienced rejection.

To understand that there’s a gatekeeper who filters all of the submissions makes it beautiful. To understand that millions of people wanted to write but die dreaming about it places writing at a whole new level. I believe that everyone’s a storyteller but the challenge is to have a grasp on what’s worth writing about. We have our own gift, our own passion when it comes to creativity. We all have our own point of view which surely differs from others; different opinions on an issue or an idea. different mindsets.

But isn’t it true that every published work humbles you? It is not easy to generate ideas. You have to keep moving, keep believing, keep working. Yes, it’s work because you spend time, energy, and intellect to accomplish it. But since you enjoy doing it, time flies by without you knowing it.

I still have a lot of dreams but I hope that this will remind me every now and then that they are attainable. And I hope that it will do the same to you.

To just keep going. To write.