This post is antedated. This was my column November 30, 2011.
This was my column on the date indicated above.
I can understand why the death is newsworthy. Ramgen Revilla was murdered in his home. The fact that a young promising life was snuffed out by unknown assailants deserves attention. Unfortunately, it appears that it is his family background that has become the intense focus of media attention. There have been days that it seems Ramgen’s death has become a peripheral issue rather than being the issue in itself.
The mystery behind the murder and the fact that family members – his own siblings – have been implicated in the whole sordid mess have turned the whole thing into a complicated story with twists and turns that rival the most convoluted telenovela. There are now allegations of conspiracy among siblings, unfair treatment from other branches of the family, and of course, a money trail.
So yes, the story is compelling and I can understand the whole attention given to it.
What I don’t understand is why the whole case is being unraveled in public media. Even worse, I don’t understand why it seems certain media personalities have taken over the case and is now trying to solve it. There are even those who are already trying the case rendering judgment on the culpability and guilt of some of those implicated. Clearly, media has overstepped the bounds this time around.
At some point last week, one member of the Revilla clan issued an appeal to all and sundry to allow them some privacy during their time of grief. The appeal fell on deaf ears as media people hounded them for every bit of drama that could be wrung out of them.
Even stranger, I don’t understand why the Revillas have been scrambling all over themselves to grant interviews about what they know, what they think, and how they feel about every single development about the murder case. It’s as if every bit of evidence or theory related to the murder has to be cleared with, or deserves commentary from them.
I don’t understand why the various factions of the Revilla family are exchanging lurid accusations in social media and through television and radio shows. Surely someone among them have had the sense to remember that notwithstanding the various aggravations, they are still a family and that some things need to be discussed only within themselves, outside of the prying eyes of media.
I don’t understand why the police authorities are granting interviews left and right - explaining evidence, sorting out motives, and revealing theories in media. For crying out loud, surely this is not the way to handle a police matter. Can someone among our generals in the policy hierarchy please knock sense into the skulls of their subordinates and remind them that the protocol around murder investigations do not involve having to explain to media and to the general public every single detail of a case that is yet to be solved with finality?
I can understand why media people are all in a frenzy trying to get exclusive interviews and source information that would preempt competititors about the details of the flight and personal circumstances of Ramon Revilla (the sister of the murder victim who is also being implicated as a suspect). It’s certainly a matter of public interest. But what I cannot understand is why certain media personalities have abrogated among themselves the role of police investigator, prosecutor, and judge. I watched a clip of ABS-CBN’s Karen Davila in the network’s website showing her in a state of extreme agitation lashing out at Ramona Revilla and issuing a barrage of questions that she said she (Ramona) must answer, as if she was some magistrate that everyone was beholden to. I’ve also seen quite a number of other media personalities aggressively hounding members of the Revilla family and demanding answers as if everyone was a suspect that had to be absolved by media people.
In the last few days, we have been fed too many details about the Revillas that clearly violate their right to privacy. Media has become so intrusive and no detail has been spared.
People have feasted on that bit about how Ramgen’s branch of the Revilla family was receiving a million pesos in spending money every month from the Revilla patriarch. This has led to all kinds of speculations about the source of the money – a news story published in the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer went into details about the Revilla’s financial worth and business interests – and many people in various social media have suddenly become qualified to render judgment on the morality of giving that much spending money on nine children! Another story in another paper detailed the various branches of the Revilla progeny, making an accounting of, we have been told, all 82 children and 16 wives. Some have unearthed details about the various wives and their ages when they first started bearing Revilla’s children. Even little details about the Revilla patriarch’s health have not been spared. What all these have got to do with the murder is beyond me.
But what stupefies me even more is why no one among the Revillas and among the pundits in this country have seen fit to point out that all these line of investigative reporting is way out of line. They are irrelevant.
I don’t understand why Senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr seems to think he is beholden to the media on things that are clearly family matters. There he was Friday evening in a late news telecast sputtering inarticulately as he was put on the spot and confronted with details about his half-sister’s flight out of the country. Surely, we can allow a senator some dignity in the face of such a complicated family tragedy. As a result, he was forced to crucify his own half-sister in public media because as he said, he is “senator of the whole Filipino people not just of the Revilla family.”
When have we become so overzealous to the point of being unnecessarily - and therefore excessively – intrusive? It’s approaching bizarre proportions.
A state prosecutor I was talking to last week told me that the police has been pinned against the wall on this case and are forced to justify their actions because of the personalities involved and the aggressiveness of media. Apparently, one police general was left with no other choice but to explain what they were doing because television reporters would not let up with the questions and were already interfering with the official investigation.
Like I said, I understand the inherent curiosity that has attended this case. People want to know what really happened. We all want some form of closure. A young man is six feet under ground, his girlfriend is fighting for her life in a hospital, and a younger brother is languishing in jail without a warrant of arrest or a charge sheet. We don’t have to force the wheels of justice to turn faster in order to satiate what seems to be hunger for salacious details.
If I loved this country any less, I would probably be living and working in Thailand. I love many things about Thailand and the Thai people including the contradictions in their culture, which, by the way, are just as plentiful as ours. But what I love most about the Thais is the way they have valiantly tried to protect their cultural heritage even as they aggressively marched towards becoming a tiger economy.
Thus, it’s been with some measure of sadness that I have been monitoring the situation in Thailand over the last few weeks. The immediate concern, of course, was for an older brother and his family and some friends and former students who have made Bangkok their home for the last couple of years. Fortunately, keeping track of their situation has become a lot easier thanks to social media. Many of my friends in Thailand have been assiduously posting updates on their situations in various social networking sites for the benefit of everyone else who have to contend with what is often hysterical reportage from the traditional media. Truly, one of the great benefits of social networking is that one gets to hear about developments straight from the people concerned themselves, without the static that usually accompanies third-party reporting.
I was also worried for the temples and the other landmarks of the city. Initial media reports screamed about the possibility of the Grand Palace, Bangkok’s majestic main tourist draw and former home of Thai monarchs, being inundated by waters from the Chao Phraya river. Fortunately, while floodwater did enter the complex, the damage has not been massive so far. I am aware that some people might find my concern for Bangkok’s cultural heritage out of place given the fact that I am Filipino, but I have always believed world heritage sites belong to all people of this world regardless of where they are.
So yes, parts of Bangkok are under water. To be specific, about seven of the city’s 50 districts are under water, with some parts flooded by as high as four meters. Floodwater has reached the runway of Bangkok’s domestic airport Don Muang, forcing authorities to close it down. Those alarming pictures of planes seemingly floating on water, were taken from this airport. Reports would later indicate that those picturesque photos were of planes that have been decommissioned, in short, they were planes that had no engines! Many countries, including the Philippines, have issued travel advisories warning citizens against traveling to Thailand but the country’s main international airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport, has remained operational and is actually flood-free.
For now, the inner areas of Bangkok have survived the peak tides that were scheduled to hit over the weekend. Most were worried that the network of dikes and sandbags walls that have been built precisely to protect Bangkok would succumb to the rush of floodwater from other parts of Thailand. My friends asked me to convey to everyone else that the situation is not as dire as what others would project it to be. Of course, they are having problems sourcing drinking water and other basic commodities such as diapers for infants, but that’s mainly because of panic buying and hoarding. They expect things to normalize in the next few days as the flooding recedes and clear weather begins to set in. Actually, they said that the flooding in some parts of Thailand has been there for almost three months now and it was only when the floods threatened to hit Bangkok that everyone else in the world sat up and noticed.
But the rehabilitation work that needs to be done in Thailand is daunting. Many industrial estates were affected including those that produced most of the world’s computer parts. Some predict that there will be a spike in the prices of computer parts in the next few months because of the flooding. Thailand’s government has announced a massive rehabilitation plan that would cost around $30 billion. And there is ongoing debate over the capability of Thailand’s new Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra (sister of deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra) to lead Thailand out of the mess. Thailand’s first female PM was widely seen as a political novice who has been unprepared to deal with complexities of managing a country. There are those who insist that this situation is similar to the one prevailing in our country at the moment.
The flooding that hit Thailand has parallels with the situation operating in our country. We’ve also been prone to flooding in the last months. What has been ironic though is that the situation in Thailand has happened despite a well thought-out irrigation strategy that aimed to collect rainwater during the monsoon months to be used for farming purposes throughout the year. This strategy has enabled Thailand’s agricultural industry to boom in the last few decades. Proof, indeed, that nature cannot be reined in although I dread the thought of people in this country using that justification to defend the absence of similar strategies to store rainwater during the monsoon months for use during summer.
The reality is that we’re in a “feast-or-famine” situation. Some parts of the year would see heavy flooding, but at the same time, experts predict that the drought season would also be severe. Our dams are bursting at the seams at the moment, but that doesn’t mean there would be more than enough to tide us over during the months when there would be no rainfall.
And like what happened here during the onset of heavy flooding, accusations that authorities deliberately sacrificed some areas in order to protect others were also prevalent in Thailand. Citizens around areas in Bangkok launched protests and even destroyed floodgates in order to help alleviate the flooding in their areas even as these meant exposing industrial estates in Bangkok to flooding. In our case, there have been accusations that flooding in some parts of the country happened because authorities tried to “protect” other parts of the country such as Metro Manila.
And just like what we see here, quite a number of citizens have refused to leave their homes even when the floodwater was already seeping into their homes. This is a cultural phenomenon that many people don’t understand; but really, the concept of “home” and the act of defending it defies logic. To most of us, a home is not just a structure of brick and wood—it is a reservoir of many things, memories, a sense of identity, etc.
But what we need to remember is that water—and nature in itself—is difficult to control. As we learned in physics, it seeks its own level. We can try to put in place mechanisms to re-route floodwaters, but there is only so much we can do. What we need are more collaborative and long-term strategies to address the problem that is expected to become a constant problem in the coming months. We need to learn how to see floodwaters as a force that need to be managed although we cannot possibly control it.
I would have to end this column with a rant. In the last five days, I have been largely difficult to reach because I lost my cell phone last week. I was issued a SIM card with my old number last Friday and was told that mobile services would be re-established within two hours. It didn’t happen on Friday. I called Globe’s hotline Saturday and was assured it was going to happen within twenty-four hours. It still didn’t happen as of Sunday. I called Sunday afternoon and they told me there was no record of earlier transactions and I had to make another report. I was still incommunicado as of Monday. They finally got around to reconnecting me to the world yesterday, after five frigging days.
What can I say, the service of Globe sucks.