Press Release
April 27, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today cautioned Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez against investigating broadcast journalist Che Che Lazaro for showing an interview with fugitive junior officer 1st Lt. Sonny Sarmiento in a recent edition of her weekly program Probe over ABS-CBN Channel 2.

Gonzalez questioned the propriety of airing the interview with Sarmiento of the Magdalo group in which he warned of the plan of rebel officers in the military to carry out another attempt to overthrow the Arroyo government.

In a democratic country, the balance is always tilted in favor of liberalism, meaning to say, to allow TV shows and media exposures on what is happening, provided that the media outlet concerned is not being used really to disseminate the propaganda of the other side, he said.

Pimentel criticized Secretary Gonzalez for acting as if the country is under a strongman rule in which media stories critical of, or unfavorable to the government are censored as a matter of course.

If you stretch that circumstance a little wider, what is to prevent Gonzalez from saying this TV or radio station which interviewed a rebel by cellphone and the rebel expressed views contrary to the government? What is to prevent the administration from saying that this is also a rebel propaganda outlet and therefore that outlet must be suppressed. And that will send not only a chilling but freezing message to the media, he said.

Reacting to the justice secretarys admission that the media are still being monitored by government despite the lifting of Proclamation 1017, Pimentel said in a democratic country, there is no role for Big Brother in which the government monitors the activities of the media.

The Constitutionality of Proclamation 1017, which placed the country under a state of national emergency for seven days last February, is the subject of pending petitions with the Supreme Court.

He noted a recent incident in the United States in which a group of striking policemen got angry when they found that they were being monitored by government agents, with photos of their protest actions taken without their permission.

Why are you doing this? To intimidate us? the striking policemen ranted. They said they were acting only in accordance with the law which allows them to strike as a means of seeking redress of their grievances.

Pimentel challenged the Arroyo government to stay true to its claim that it respects the freedom of the press and of expression by not resorting to acts intended to harass or intimidate mediemen.

In other words, in a genuine democratic country, monitoring of the activities of the legitimate media cannot be constitutionally done, he said.

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