Monday, November 07, 2011

Incomprehensible

This was my column on the date indicated above.This post is antedated.


The whole country has been riveted on the circumstances around the death of Ramgen Revilla, son of movie icon and former Senator Ramon Revilla Sr. and half-brother of actor and incumbent senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr.

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.

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