Season’s Greetings: Betrayed by public servants

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By Nef Luczon

Pencalibur

Sunday, August 31, 2014


IT HAS been part of the Filipino majority’s customs that at the beginning of the “ber” months (September to December) is also the beginning of the holiday season that will lead to Christmas and New Year celebrations.

But ‘tis the season NOT to be jolly because while we are gearing for a holiday feeling and after the recent festivals and fiestas we had a week ago, our “honorable” politicians just pulled off some sinister schemes that could cripple our liberties.

This is when another absurd House Bill has been introduced that gets a faster elevation to third reading compared to centuries-old bills that should be legislated. So, here comes HB 4807 or the Protection against Personal Intrusion Act which is now geared for the third reading in the plenary.

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They even nicknamed it as “Anti Selfie Bill” which is obviously misleading because it is not the act of doing a “Selfie” per se, but it is when a person become civilly liable in the "intrusion of personal privacy" when "any person who willfully intrudes into the personal privacy of another, without the consent of that person and with the intent to gain or profit therefrom, shall be civilly liable to the offended party."

This means that when a person captures a video. photograph or records an audio impression of other people and use it for “commercial purposes,” he/she may be charged under that bill. The “Selfie” comes in when a person makes a “Selfie” shot and when persons of interests were also captured in the background. If that persons in the background are not delighted, the one taking the selfie can be charged as well.

The disturbing problem is the failure of this bill to specifically defined what “commercial purposes” covers, because its typical notion is when you say it’s commercial in purpose, it involves profit and income generation from those who produced the video, photographs or the audio.

And since it is vague, this could hit the media industry big time especially to news organizations and journalists doing investigative reporting. Because basically, media platforms mostly are also commercial in nature, where else would they get the money for their staff to be paid (and in the Philippine context, mostly underpaid)?

The Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP) and the College

Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) already issued statements regarding their apprehensions and objection on the said bill, saying it can cripple yet again, freedom of expression. As if the Anti-Cybercrime Law with an Online Libel provision was not enough.

This bill was filed by house representatives Jorge Almonte, Gwendolyn Garcia, Linabelle Ruth Villarica, Lito Atienza and Leopoldo Bataoil, and Cagayan de Oro’s very own Rufus and Maximo Rodriguez.

It is with heavy heart to think that Rodriguezes supported this bill when just recently they helped Cagayan de Oro Press Club’s renovation of the old building. Had the Rodriguezes thought of its disturbing effects in the democratic exercise of freedom of expression before endorsing it to plenary? Are we still in a democratic country, are we not? Truly, the Rodriguezes were a disappointment, a heart-breaking disappointment.

This bill obviously served the interest of the politicians and big private companies (who might be financially supporting these politicians) who have something to hide. Like libel, they will use it to harass the press in finding out the truth!

When bills like Freedom of Information (FoI) and Anti-Political Dynasties were being shrugged off, which are supposed what the people really needs for a transparent, “Tuwid na Daan” government.

And the President Aquino himself once again changed its mind making FOI “not a priority” in his last two years sitting on the throne, so truly we are doomed.

Let’s not wait for lightning to struck in their heads before realizing their blunders, so long as these inutile bills and laws existed, we are always in danger in our own country.

[Email: nefluczon@gmail.]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 01, 2014.

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