Vicente Sotto y Yap-A A +A
Thursday, September 20, 2012
THE lone photograph of Vicente Sotto in his most current Wikipedia entry shows at once the “recalcitrant, principled” man his Senate colleagues described him to be. If you hold it before a clueless commuter, the picture comes out as that of a hoodlum’s—a brush cut, knitted eyebrows, flaring nostrils, an unlighted cigarette in mouth. But, in a suit and coat, you can say you’re looking at an Asian Corleone.
He’d get an interesting description later from a fellow Visayan, the 8th president Carlos P. Garcia, who said Sotto was a “rock of Gibraltar” whose knees knew no bending, his conviction rugged, and his soul made of steel. For one moment, you thought he was describing Optimus Prime. But, no, Sotto was real, as real as his grandson tucking “libel” into the Cybercrime Law while we weren’t watching, or say while we were amused at Corona’s fainting fits and his Ninja smokescreen acts.
Anyway, about the grandfather first. I talk about the grand old man routinely in Philippine literature classes because you can’t deny his contribution to Cebuano literature. You can’t imagine our literature without the “Father of Modern Cebuano Writing,” as local history portrays him to be.
But he is required discussion, too, in journalism classes. One of Sotto’s greatest achievements was his authorship of the Press Freedom Law or the RA 53, which is also known as the Sotto Law. The law protects journalists from revealing their sources.
Looking at it now, you can see the insight in his foresight since today we think that a journalist’s biggest source is the one named “anonymous.” Nameless citizens shed light on otherwise dark trails enterprising journalists have to grope for in the act of truth-telling. Anonymous’s contribution is partly responsible for the success of Julius Assanghe’s Wikileaks.
So on the occasion of the Cebu Press Freedom Week, I also take the occasion of looking back at Sotto’s life because recent events see the sharpest irony of all.
Roughly half a century later, Sotto’s grandson finds amusing to stretch his Eat Bulaga jokes into the august halls of the Senate. When the social network was swamped with Sotto jokes—and I like that photograph showing the façade of the “Sotto Copy Center”—he warned those who took part in the Sotto-bashing to better watch out once the Cybercrime Law is passed.
It turns out he had made “stealthy,” as journalist Raisa Robles describes it, amendments into the law. The comedian copy-pasted, er, imported the libel law into the Cybercrime Law, a dangerous act considering how crude the law gets when placed on a platform whose grace takes inspiration from its inherent freedom. As journalists knock on heaven’s door for the Freedom of Information Bill, Sotto has put up a war on another front.
Think about its chilling effect each time you feel the urge to “like” or “share” a Sotto joke on Facebook. ROFL!
Whatever I talk about, I talk about Sotto, and a student once got curious, “Sir, why do you dislike Sotto?” I told him because I am an Eraserheads fan, which left him with a quizzical look.
Years ago, your beloved senator tried to ban the E-heads song “Alapaap” because it talked about taking a flight into the clouds and that means getting high. I thought his reasoning was clouded so, dude, look who’s stoned.
When Martial Law was declared, Marcos’s first Letter of Instruction was to silence the media, which is like a thief subduing the dog to consummate a crime in the silence of the night. Sotto’s part in the Cybercrime Law is just that kind of gesture. Everybody should “unfriend” him.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 21, 2012.