I have always regarded the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a carrier of fair, honest, just and responsible news reports. It therefore saddens me to be attacked by its March 2 editorial on the Right of Reply (ROR) bill.
The editorial ascribed to me statements that were taken out of context and made it seem like I trivialized the killings of journalists. This representation categorically denounces the extrajudicial killings of Filipino journalists. Nothing can justify these killings and I will never justify the same.
The ROR bill is not a feeble attempt to justify the deaths of our journalists. Yes, the bill may decrease these incidents but I never claimed that the ROR bill is a solution. It is therefore unfair to say that this representation, ?cynically offer[s] the bill as a belated and brazenly irrelevant answer to a life-or-death issue.?
The editorial has portrayed this humble representation as a blind defender of the ROR bill. I categorically deny this. My hand is on this bill as a matter of duty, being the chair of the Committee on Public Information to which the bill has been referred. But it is also my conviction that the right to life is as important as the protection of one?s honor and dignity, and for me, without honor and dignity, life is not worth living.
The editorial stated that my argument is a ?fatally flawed reading of reality.? The ROR bill seeks the whole truth of every illegal and immoral affair and transaction in government or otherwise. Then and only then can we say that there is a correct reading of reality.
The ROR bill is all about the responsible exercise of the freedom of the press and the importance of one?s freedom to express. The bill encourages critical yet constructive democratic discourse and harmony of the constitutionally protected and judicially upheld freedoms of the press and expression. This representation will never be party to the curtailment of press freedom and the freedom of anyone to express his or her grievance.
What the editorial failed to ascribe to me are the proposed amendments I introduced in the ROR bill for the protection of the press such as the reduction of the proposed penalty for its violation, removal of the proposed penalty of imprisonment, removal of the proposed penalty of closure of the print medium or broadcast outlet, and the involvement of key media institutions such as the KBP, National Press Club and major TV and cable television networks in formulating the implementing rules and regulations of this proposed law.
The editorial also failed to ascribe to me my unwavering belief in the freedom of the press, my continued support of the move to decriminalize libel and my strong opposition against unwarranted and baseless suits against media practitioners?suits that are intended merely for harassment.
I would like to believe that the Inquirer would do justice to what it always says: ?balanced news.?
?REP. BIENVENIDO M. ABANTE, JR., TH.D.,
6th District of Manila,
chair, Committee on Public Information