by Alex Roldan
IT was quite amusing to me to see the facial expression of a distinguished member of the BAR and once my idol, Atty. Romy Macalintal, when he blamed media for making a big fuss over the million-peso dinner of the President and her entourage in an upscale restaurant in New York.
I never thought he was capable of reciting words that would undermine his uprightness and even his status as a lawyer of high caliber. In the TV news footages that aired his comments, one could see the face of a flusttered man. He smirked at the members of media in front of him, his square jaws showing defiance as he threw back stupid questions at them like he doubted their competence to deal with the story issue.
It was simply squid tactics on the part of Macalintal as he tried to muddle the issue of Presidential extravagance and challenging mediamen for them to come clean, otherwise they don’t’ have the “k” to put the President in ridicule.
But, who was making a mockery of the President? Weren’t they, the people around her, themselves mocking the highest official of the land by giving conflicting versions on who actually paid for that expensive dinner?
The President is at the same time a victim in this situation, at the hands of those who joyride on the power to satisfy their craving for lavish meals paid for unwittingly by their countrymen through the taxes they pay. I have the feeling that the President didn’t order those $500 per pop wine and expensive caviar and steaks (well done or rare). It is not the President’s task to do that. The people around her designed the feast! The splurge was mainly to gorge themselves, never mind that what was spent was the equivalent of 16 years of an ordinary Filipino worker’s salary back homer. However, the liability of the President was in her inability to control the craving of her entourage for a moment of expensive pleasure. Except for Sen. Lito Lapid who clearly didn’t feel at ease as he glared at all those silver spoons, forks, knives, etcetera and wondering what to do with them. So, he griped over what he said was lousy food not to his liking. He must have missed his favorite Capangpangan recipe. Oh, well.
My once-upon-a-time idol, lawyer Makalintal, knows what the role of the media in a democratic society is. They are obliged to inform the public of what our public officials are doing, how they use the people’s resources, among others, as a critical mechanism for effective governance. The press is not called the Fourth Estate for nothing!
If “being clean” is a pre-condition for the privilege to tell the public of what our government officials are doing, then nobody among the living adults in this land would qualify. If you are presumed “unclean” (whatever that means), does it mean that you also lose the ability to perform a task and are no longer worthy of any trust?
The analogy could be applied to lawyers when they defend their clients despite having knowledge of their guilt. That’s a lawyer’s role under whatever the circumstance. Does that make lawyers “unclean”?
The media may not be clean as what Macalintal wanted to accentuate in his statement, but the journalists’ code of telling the truth is not only a matter of principle, it is about being true to their profession.
The question here is not about who is clean or not, it is about the behavior of our officials. Lavish spending for meals in times when many of your countrymen are going hungry, even if does not involve people’s money, is still hypocrisy. Even the claims that they have racked up billions of investment for the country from that foreign trip, still, it cannot justify such extravagance.
Atty. Macalintal, being a seasoned lawyer, must be aware that it is easy to defend the reputation of a client who is innocent and who tells the truth. He must not be frustrated if this time, he finds it difficult to do his job. Most importantly, he should not blame others if he fails.
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