Wait just a minute | Inquirer Opinion
There’s The Rub

Wait just a minute

FIRST OFF, about Willie Revillame’s comment, “Wala akong ginawang masama sa batang iyon (I did not do anything wrong to that child).”

That’s the problem: Revillame can’t see what’s wrong with it. One is tempted to say that Revillame can’t see what’s wrong with it anymore, but that’s not right. Revillame has never been able to see what’s wrong with it—not then, not now.

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One might be able to buy his argument, or chalk it off to just plain ignorance or insensitivity, if this was the first time it happened. But that was what he said too when he lured a mammoth crowd into the Ultra compound beyond the bounds of safety, and so sparked a stampede that killed several people. He meant no harm, nagkakatuwaan lang, he did nothing wrong.

That was what he said when he protested the procession that brought Cory’s remains from La Salle Greenhills to the Manila Cathedral being shown on his show on the ground that the sight of a coffin dampened the spirit of laughter and merrymaking in his audience. He meant no harm, nagkakatuwaan lang, he did nothing wrong.

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That’s what he said when he and fellow hosts in noontime shows, before he got his break, cracked jokes about the physical attributes of skimpily clad contestants in what passed for beauty contests. He meant no harm, nagkakatuwaan lang, he did nothing wrong.

And that’s what he’s saying now.

I suspect he’s telling the truth when he says he sees nothing wrong with what he did. Which is the really scary thing. He’s not trying to justify the unjustifiable, he just can’t see what the fuss is all about. Willing Willie nga, typical Willie. Since I’ve been saying all this for some time now, long before Jan-Jan came along, I myself would like nothing better than to see Revillame removed from the public gaze to contemplate the error of his ways. We can always tell him we mean him no harm, nagkakatuwiran lang, we’re just doing everything right.

But having said this, I have a problem with the way we’re going about trying to remove him from the public gaze. That includes pressuring the advertisers to pull out of his show and getting government agencies like the MTRCB to cancel it. Those are cures that could prove worse than the disease, at least in the long run.

The problem isn’t black and white. On one side of course I’m very glad about the zeal with which the public has prosecuted its case. At the very least that’s so because it’s good to know that after the profound apathy and cynicism of the Arroyo days, the public has rediscovered its outrage. Enough to cry out before the spectacle of patent oppression, even of a non-political nature, “tama na, sobra na, tigilan na.”

At the very most that’s so because this is a country where consumer rights are virtually non-existent. This is a country where the buying public may not be free to return defective items, where they may not expect to get a refund if a provincial bus breaks down and can’t get them to their destinations, where they may not complain—or get listened to when they do—about the things they are fed with by radio and TV. If the furor can lead to a campaign to strengthen consumer rights, then it will have contributed magnificently to improving the quality of life in these parts.

On the other side, however, there are the infinite dangers of the turns the zeal has taken. I agree completely with my friend, Raul Pangalangan, that an ad boycott is the most dangerous thing in the world. The experience of the Inquirer when Erap called for an ad boycott against, in protest over what he deemed as inaccurate reporting, shows so. Even where the boycott emanates completely from a private source, as opposed to a government one, it is still dangerous. It puts the power to determine, or influence, editorial content in the hands of the advertisers. It’s all very nice that as a result of public pressure, which includes Church pressure, the advertisers are pulling out of the show of a certifiable pain-in-the-whatever. But what if the same advertisers, as a result of Church pressure, start pulling their ads out of TV shows or newspapers that are actively promoting the RH bill?

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The same is true with getting the Church and the MTRCB to impose sanctions, spiritual or secular, on Revillame’s show: It is fraught with danger. The Church has its own crusades, not least against pornography, or what it perceives to be so, and has waged them in ways that border on censorship, if not openly cross the line. Nicanor Tiongson resigned as MTRCB head in 2001 because the new president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, acting on Jaime Cardinal Sin’s insistence that Jose Javier Reyes’ movie, “Live Show,” was immoral and “in violation of (government’s) campaign for moral reform,” banned it. The film had just been exhibited then in the Berlin Film Festival.

Just as well, it’s good that we have a broadminded MTRCB head right now in Grace Poe, and sufficiently decent directors, three of whom have inhibited themselves from sitting in judgment over Revillame because of their involvement with ABS-CBN. But what if you had someone there like Manoling Morato, the shadowy Torquemada-like figure who tried to do everything in his power, and beyond it, to prevent Lino Brocka’s “Orapronobis” from being shown in local theaters? Someone like him, if not he himself, could very possibly get back there in the future. That arms him with a precedent to mess around with this country’s mental horizons.

You have to exercise the utmost care in setting precedents. What can be done before can always be done again. By all means let’s rail at the iniquity that is the Jan-Jan affair, and by all means let’s vituperate against the atrocity that is Willie Revillame. But ad boycotts and government interventions?

Wait just a minute.

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