By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Marjohara Tucay reminded me of Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at then US President George W. Bush.
Although Tucay did not throw his shoes at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a forum in Manila, he, like al-Zaidi, expressed his disgust over US armed intervention in the Philippines. Tucay, editor in chief of the Philippine Collegian, the student publication of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, chanted slogans and unfurled a banner demanding that the Philippine government junks the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
After the incident, GMA 7 decided to invite Tucay to be a guest in one of its programs. The decision to interview the young man would have been considered a good move — if only Howie Severino asked the right questions. Instead, Severino gave the campus journalist a lecture on “ethical journalism.” At the beginning of the “interview,” Severino said Tucay was expected to cover the event and not to protest. He did not even ask why Tucay is against the VFA and the MDT.
If only Severino listened to Tucay, he would have understood that Tucay’s work as a campus journalist, as part of what he calls the alternative press, made him realize that US intervention does more harm than good to the Filipino people. Tucay said he feels strongly about the issue because he was able to interview Lt. Nancy Gadian and victims of indiscriminate bombings in Mindanao. Gadian, a former Navy officer, was the one who exposed that American troops are involved in combat operations in the Philippines. Such truth is an open secret but Severino, the “old fashioned journalist,” wanted to remain “neutral.” In doing so, however, he acted as an offended party rather than a responsible journalist worthy of emulation. He is not alone. The silence of the profit-oriented, dominant press on the continuing violation of the country’s sovereignty is deafening. The coverage of the Clinton visit is proof of this.
In an apparent attempt to shame Tucay, Severino asked what kind of orientation and training did Tucay have. The young man answered that his brand of journalism is writing not from the ivory tower. It was Emmanuel Lacaba, the student journalist, who first said that, when he was editor of Ateneo de Manila’s student paper Guidon in the ’70s.
“Old fashioned, true-blue journalism” in the Philippines, according Georgina Encanto, former dean of the UP College of Mass Communication, has a revolutionary tradition. From Graciano Lopez Jaena’s La Solidaridad to the community papers critical of American colonization and Japanese occupation, journalists and writers fought the oppressors. For Tucay, Clinton, the visitor he tried to shame with his slogans, represents the modern-day oppressors of the peoples of the world. He did not teargas or hit Clinton with a truncheon, the way US state security forces dealt with Occupy Wall Street protesters or how policemen routinely drive away Filipino activists protesting in front of the US Embassy.