Grappling Rappler

‘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?’

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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. 

11. Finally owning a copy of the book you love

“Yes, it’s a blasphemy to treat a book as more special than its neighbors by just the cover, or the author, or the summary at the back cover. But we’re all guilty of this crime, aren’t we?”

TRUTH BE told, being a book hoarder or a book lover is not easy. You plot your calendar with nearby book sales, you ask your friends if they want to donate their books to you or you carry a basket around a bookstore and try to limit yourself with the budget for that month. Most of the time you fail. You just don’t know why.

But there are just some books that even if you wanted to own them and embrace them and smell them the first time you saw them, you just couldn’t. You wait for the right timing, the perfect opportunity. Sometimes, they are the hardbound books with glossy pages, full of pictures and texts that can blow your mind away. You crave for them. They are the type that you prepare for, think about, and not just settle for if you don’t want to go home empty-handed after going for a hunt in the mall.

Yes, it’s a blasphemy to treat a book as more special than its neighbors by just the cover, or the author, or the summary at the back cover. But we’re all guilty of this crime, aren’t we? We have our favorites. We fell in love in the author’s way of thinking, their perspective, their choice of words; the structure, the voice, and the characters they created.

Tonight, I am going to open the pages of a coffee table book by Kuya Daniel Razon. The title of the book is Get It Straight with Daniel Razon. Tonight, I am going to revisit the interviews the award-winning journalist had, the issues that have been tackled, the truth at every turn of the page. Tonight is the night that I’ve been waiting for. I was not present during the book launch more than a month ago but to understand that there’s more to the book than meets the eye is a treat itself.

Stephen King, Malcolm Gladwell, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Adam Grant are some of the greatest authors today and I own a copy of almost all of their books. But that one purchase, that one black coffee table book by Kuya will always be in a league of its own.

So at this point, think about that one author that you admire most. Think about the things that you realized after reading one of his or her works. What did you feel when you first held it in your hands? What were your thoughts?

Of the mountains of books that a book hoarder or a book lover has in any part of the world, there will always be that book that will stand out the most. And that book, whether hardbound or not, whether made of glossy pages or not, is what they’ve long waited for.

It’s all worth it, isn’t it?