Spins, lies, and videotape

Notebook Apr 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

By Hermie Garcia

 

The recent weeks have seen a vicious smear propaganda campaign against me as a person and as president of the Philippine Press Club of Ontario. Not a few people have asked me: Where is all this ill will coming from? It has worsened to a level so low that many people advised me not to dignify the attacks with a reply. But I told them I can reply with dignity to put the record straight on certain incidents and issues. But just for the record, I am only the latest target of these kind of attacks from the same source.

So here the are facts:

1. The video incident of April 14, 2013. Romy Marquez came past 11 a.m. and after taking photos or videotaping some sections of the restaurant, he went on and aimed his camera at members of PPCO and guests. At this point, he did not talk to anyone of us to introduce himself as “attending in behalf of Tess Cusipag of Balita,” as he would later claim in a subsequent story; or assigned by Balita to cover the event. He had already been videotaping us for about 20 minutes or maybe half an hour when some PPCO members and guests were becoming uneasy and uncomfortable. (So what’s this spin about being prevented from covering the event?) They were of course familiar with what he had written in the past months and the videos he had posted online that are negative to certain individuals in the community, some organizations and the PPCO and its leadership. Some of these had severely criticized the PPCO leadership for allegedly being friendly to individuals the author and his publisher didn’t like. Some of the attendees have had the experience of being personally written about by Marquez and put in a bad light. Some of them were joking that others would be the next target of Marquez’s articles. In short, many were not comfortable and felt being harassed by the videotaping that was going on. Some asked me to ask him to please stop videotaping them because they felt painfully uncomfortable.

That’s when I approached him and told him that there are requests for him to stop videotaping people in the gathering. This can be heard from his video posted online. He said yes, he would stop but he didn’t. I put my hand in front of his camera to prevent him from further videotaping us. I asked him again in a civil but persistent way. He said he would stop if Mila Garcia stopped taking his picture. (I asked Mila to take his picture to document what was going on since his presence was becoming a concern to the members.) This can also be seen and heard from this video.Mila stopped but he still didn’t stop. He turned his camera to me at some point and said he was sent by Balita. I told him it was a private gathering and to please leave us alone. People didn’t want him aiming his camera at them. He said he would leave but continued using his camera on us.

It was a private gathering. It was named Brunch Get-Together of PPCO. It was not a public event. It was like a big group of people who come from one organization having a lunch and chatting about anything.

Marquez had been using his camera for a long time when he was requested to stop since people were already getting uncomfortable and felt being harassed. He must have taken enough footage for his purposes before he was asked to stop. But he continued on despite the civil request and that became the basis for his story. Now we’re being accused of preventing Balita from covering the event. He had already covered it before he was asked to stop because of people’s feelings of harassment. Shouldn’t he have been sensitive enough of people’s feelings? And isn’t it a right of people to refuse to be videotaped? Especially since he had already taken too much?

While it was going on, the manager of the restaurant came out and witnessed the confrontation between Marquez and myself. He called the police and this was shown in the video. Marquez left immediately. The police came after he left and talked to the manager. The police said they could have arrested Marquez had they witnessed what happened. The restaurant manager said he would ban him from the restaurant.

2. The Petition on Ethical and Socially Responsible Journalism. The numerous articles and emails coming from Cusipag and Marquez pinpoint me as responsible for the PPCO’s having received the petition and now have tabled it for discussion among members. These stories impute motives like my supposed friendship with Oswald Magno, one of the petitioners, that is responsible for PPCO’s actions on the petition.

Here are the facts: A letter of complaint dated Dec. 17, 2012 addressed to then PPCO president Ricky Caluen was received by the Board. It asked PPCO to investigate articles published in Balita and raised questions about ethical and responsible journalism and media bullying. The PPCO Board met on Jan. 23, 2013 (Caluen had resigned by then as president) and decided to “respond in general terms” to the petitioners. (Note, there was no mention of “sanctioning” a PPCO member nor “junking” the petition.) The response was not drafted and the March 3, 2013 election for president and vice president took place.

This was when the spins and the lies escalated. First, after the ex-presidents and the current president of PPCO met for a chat on March 8, a story circulated online declared the petition had already been “junked”. I issued a press statement that it was a false report. The reply was, it was “an opinion based on an opinion.” (Why didn’t he verify his “scoop” with me as president of PPCO?) That’s when I realized it was futile to reason out with those who refuse to be reasonable.

When it became obvious that the petition was not “junked,” then came the story that there was already a “consensus” from inside and outside the PPCO to “junk” the petition, but offered no substantiation except statements from three persons, two of whom were not active members of PPCO.

When word spread that PPCO members were being asked their opinions about the petition, the attacks against me were taken to a new high and centered on the argument that I was a friend of Magno, the person they hated so much. Therefore, and this is the most ridiculous spin of all, I “entertained” the petition of which Magno was supposedly the initiator, and further therefore, I was working against the interest of PPCO and its members and should therefore be expelled as president. They cannot deny that this is their line of logic. They said it in so many articles and email messages.

The PPCO Board met on March 24, 2013. It decided to find out the views of the members about the petition and formed an ad hoc committee to implement that decision. (Note, the decision was not to sanction or penalize anyone.)

The decision to “respond in general terms” to the petitioners was made by the Board that did not include me. And the decision to determine the views of the members on the petition was made by the Board on March 24 and not by me, which is what my critics want people to believe through countless emails and stories. Now, they have broadened their attacks — that I’m a leftist, communist, living on grants, harassing a reporter and preventing coverage of a PPCO event, bullying, etc. Not so secretly, they are telling friends they will dig for skeletons in my closet, a not so prudent way of exposing their motives.

People are asking, why are they so afraid of the petition being discussed by members and being published in community papers? For those interested in reading the most-feared petition, here’s the link:

http://petition.fairjournalism.info/

For the letter to former PPCO president Ricky Caluen, here’s the link: http://fairnessadvocacy.blogspot.ca/2012/12/letter-to-philippine-press-club-ontario.html

Here are some questions that have continued to stupefy many people in the community: Why is there so much ill-will coming out of one source in this controversy? Why is vile language so easily resorted to that achieves nothing but intimidate others? Why has a “climate of fear” gone so widespread as to silence people from speaking up against what they truly feel is wrong? It is not too late. I hear the stirrings and protestations getting louder and indignant each day. Let us welcome them.