July 10, 2012
Kalinga Governor Jocel Baac barged into the announcer’s booth of dzRK in Tabuk, Kalinga June 7 last year, went straight to the broadcaster on board and hit him several times using the microphones. Before leaving the booth, he threatened, “Agsao ka pay ta patayen ka (Talk again and I will kill you).”
The entire incident was caught on video, webstreamed in the Internet and heard live by listeners of Radyo ng Bayan-Kalinga, the only radio station operating in the area.
It had taken all of a year and a month for Malacanang to decide what to do with the good governor. And finally it came: one month’s administrative suspension.
Meanwhile, Tuguegarao Asst. Regional State Prosecutor Ronnel Nicolas dismissed as early as December last year the grave threats and physical injuries charges filed by the victim, Jerome Tabanganay. The resolution justified Baac’s action as “a defensive stance purposely to protect himself from further irresponsible commentaries.”
What Malacañang and the Department of Justice are basically saying is that if you attack and threaten a journalist, you will at most receive a slap in the wrist and no criminal charges. That if you do not like what a broadcaster is saying, just storm his station, grab whatever weapon you can find, hit him, threaten him.
It does not matter if you are an elected public official who swore to respect the law and protect the people. It does not matter if Kalinga is a province where human rights seem to be only on paper. It does not matter that in this country, government remains apathetic as the assassinations of journalists continue to make a mockery of our professed democracy.
Barely three weeks before his State of the Nation Address, the President has sent a very clear signal: The right of a Liberal Party (albeit newly sworn in) governor to “serve” trumps the rights to free speech, free press, access to information and security of person.
Lastly, a chilling thought: If it takes a year for a governor to be suspended for assaulting a broadcaster, how long will it take to find justice for the 58 victims of the Ampatuan massacre and all other victims of extra-judicial killings?