Facebook and Doronila

The connection looks remote. The first is a social web phenom, albeit an abuser of privacy rights of those who choose to join. The second is an old-school journalist in the Philippines who, unfortunately, has ‘lost it.’

Because Facebook exists, I have decided to make good on a teeny protest against the inanity of broadsheet newspapers, especially the Inquirer, who thinks highly enough of Amando Doronila to keep running his unreadable stuffs. And stuffs they are. The protest is simple: I will no longer be a paid subscriber to the Inquirer’s print version. In any case, I’m sure the newspaper will survive (it has enough ‘friends’ in the economy who will pay for ads). It’s also a protest against the presence of one Rigoberto Tiglao on the newspaper’s pages.

The protest is on balance easy, even profitable. Some news is still important. But aha, that’s where web 2.0 kicks in. The news I think important are those some FB friends consider as well. I noticed that we ‘help’ each other by linking to things we may agree – and more often – disagree on. This makes for an interesting experience. My news world has expanded to include the two Times (Los Angeles and New York), the Philippine Star (which used to have some kind of strange bias a while back), the Manila Standard (which is fast becoming the better version of the Daily Tribune), something called the Onion, and even that openly unbiased wanna-bee called Rappler.com. The reality is that everything out there has a bias, so caveat lector be.

Doronila has already taken up enough of my time. Fool that I was, I kept hoping there might still be some redeeming value in his pieces, but it seems that the better ‘gamble’ is to just say No. Now, I no longer have to pay real money to the Inquirer, but can keep a tab on what’s up through FB friends’ links. The nice thing is that pulling the plug was painless. I simply told the household help to call up, on the landline, the local news vendor. The dogs will miss barking at the delivery guy, but they have other folks to bark at.

It now turns out that FB has some personal value even if I can’t get a piece of its IPO incomings. I get to avoid P1,000/month of news print subscription fees. That’s not exactly peanuts. (It’s more expensive by twice than the monthly dues on an unli-call/text postpaid plan at the post-merger Sun.) The capitalized present value of this opportunity ‘gain’ is roughly US$1,200. Not bad as my valuation of my FB friends’ news-wise wisdom.

Finally, I must thank Mr. Doronila for getting me to think about the matter. He didn’t exactly show me the way, but, hey, you can’t win it all.

The last Cassandra and the French Revolution

Mr. Amando Doronila may well be the last Cassandra in the mini-drama of today’s Philippine politics. He believes that the President has “narrow political objectives” in unpacking a packed Supreme Court, and implicitly that the “daang matuwid” is not so straight after all. He warns that people power of the EDSA I model cannot be used “to bail us out of a constitutional crisis.”

But is Mr. Doronila in the right? Or is he pleading for an old corrupt order?

He may well be right about the “packing” of the Supreme Court by the previous President to favor herself in future controversies. One can argue endlessly that such packing might have been avoided if Supreme Court justices were required to obtain Congressional approval as under previous constitutions. But this is a matter for constitutional amendment.

What may be bothersome are the twin substantive premises of Mr. Doronila’s argument.

One is that there is today a “constitutional crisis.” He calls it “the fiercest confrontation yet between the presidency and the judiciary in the political sector since the founding of the republic.”

Is it? A “crisis” might well have arisen when the Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Department of Justice (DOJ), but such a crisis would have been one where the Executive might have told the Court to man the immigration counter at the airport and take responsibility and “honors” for granting Mrs. Arroyo her constitutional right to travel. Instead, the DOJ read out the Due Process rulebook, arguing that notice through the media is legally insufficient, and (somewhat belatedly) that compliance with conditions in the TRO be duly certified. The DOJ had and still has a point: if a TRO makes the main issue moot, such a TRO itself violates Due Process. In short, there can be no crisis when the matter is not in the black and white with which Mr. Doronila paints.

But where the Executive and the Judiciary do not see eye to eye is no crisis. It is part of Checks and Balances. It is part of the political and national conversation on matters of public interest. It is ordinary.

Mr. Doronila’s other premise is that there is a grand design to upend the constitution through mob rule. He considers a scenario (an “option”) where the President and his supporters would “harness the streets to storm the high court and drag out Corona and other suspected pro-Arroyo justices with another ‘people power’ show of force.”

Is Mr. Doronila serious? With the Arab and Russian springs, as well as the Occupy Wall Street Movement, what is happening is that ordinary people want their voices heard but obviously not to the extent of the chaos of the mob rule of the French Revolution of the eighteenth century. If anything, this newer version of people power is as genteel as a grandmother who has just learned to tweet.

What seems clear from reading Mr. Doronila’s “piece” is that he draws a straw man (“mob rule”) so that he can argue for the Rule of Law, even if what we have is a rule of law that does not produce Justice. No one has a monopoly on how to define Justice, which is why we have political discourse. Mr. Doronila’s brand of justice favors the rich and formerly powerful but not those whose rights have been ignored. Surely, those who suffered the inanity of the previous Administration have a right to seeth. That is why Mr. Doronila’s piece rankles.

Laptop luxury and strained logic

Luxury on the keyboards

A dispute between Sec. Carandang and Rep. Magsaysay leaves one undisputed fact.  The folks in the Palace like Mac for their laptops.  I don’t know about the hapless citizen who can barely afford to go to an internet café to do research, but surely public monies are better spent on generic laptops at half the price.  Unfortunately, the matter is a “political question,” so it seems we have to wait for redress.  It’s a tough world out there, but at least they have Macs.

PS:  On public funds aspects, ABS-CBN reports.

Strained and strange logic

A broadsheet columnist, Mr. Doronila, doesn’t like the investigation of poll fraud in 2004 and 2007.  He believes it is the investigation that damages the integrity of elections.  Huh?  If you suspect a wrong, do you damage the integrity of the right by investigating?

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