Advocacy Mindanow: FVR, forever@ PPI! PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 06 May 2014 11:07

BY Jess Dureza


The other night, President Ramos literally was “a hit” all night to the nation-wide members of the Philippine Press Institute who gathered at the Trader’s Hotel in Metro Manila to celebrate its 50th year founding anniversary.  He was 30 minutes early when he arrived    at the hotel entrance already bantering with some well wishers (among them my colleague former Congressman Bert Lumauig of Banaue).   When Atty. Raul Pangalangan, publisher of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and I came down to welcome him, he “welcomed” us instead.  He was clad in his favorite barong, with the native Igorot material lining the seams and cuffs  (calling his barong  “igorotchi” which he described as much better than “Gucci”).

‘EX-PRESIDENT’ — FVR was in his usual jovial self. When I addressed him from the rostrum  “Mr. President” he interrupted me by calling out aloud from his seat, admonishing me: “ex-president, ex-president”! (As if “somebody up there” would be displeased if he used that title — so I had to correct myself! LOL) He listened intently in his seat when Publisher Raul, in briefly introducing him, reminded everyone about the milestones during his presidency that many of us might have forgotten; like   today’s cell phones and the landmark opening up of the Philippine economy made possible by his liberalization policy, the progress brought about by the military bases conversion; his being a “warrior for peace” due to   his unprecedented peace initiatives despite being a soldier.

CON TODO AMOUR’— When he went to the rostrum to give his message, he first called on everyone to please stand up and warmly hug the next person “con todo amour” (with all the love). He said it’s in this light that we, as a people, value our country and should value each other. “Go ahead, embrace each other  “con todo amour” because it is perhaps this way that you can convince our legislators to pass the Freedom of Information bill”, he quipped.  To further demonstrate, he came down from the rostrum and brought up the stage a lady guest and showed everyone how to do it. (Naughty him, he got away with several kisses!) When he started his message, he first appeared as if he was looking for his prepared speech. He then reached down to his socks where his papers were tucked saying: “During the early days, this was where we hid our .45s and ammos”. (As expected, he would throw to the floor every page when done — which his aide would dutifully pick up and gather after his speech.)

CREDIBLE, NOT RESPONSIBLE — He then turned serious and talked about the responsibilities of media and the basic need to be accurate, independent and accountable, hallmarks of a “credible” press. No, he preferred not to describe media as “responsible press” because it might sound all right at first blush.  “But then, it may be relevant to ask: what do you mean when we say ‘responsible’? By whose standards or by what measures do we consider the press ‘responsible’? If you ask those in government or in politics, being a ‘responsible’ press may mean being less a critic and more a publicist. Being called a ‘credible’ press is better as ‘credibility’ is earned”, he said.

SOCIAL MEDIA —Touching on the challenges posed by social media on the printed press, he noted: “Today’s social media, as a rule, falls short of this imperative (of veracity or accuracy). For example, one who finds a post in Facebook and immediately ‘shares’ or ‘reposts’ or ‘likes’ what someone else posted without verification falls short of this rigorous attribute”.

WATCHING ‘WATCHDOGS’ —He related his natural affection for the press which started when he was still a young boy and his father, the former Foreign Affairs Secretary Narciso Ramos was himself a journalist having published the community paper, the Pangasinan News in Lingayen, Pangasinan in the early 1930’s.   He called on media to continue addressing the challenges of  press freedom, security and  media killings, professionalization and capacitation, redress and self-policing mechanisms, among others.  He welcomed PPI’s planned activation of press councils that would  not only provide a grievance  mechanism for the public but shall be  an “ombudsman” of sorts  to act as watchdogs  to watch over the press.

PRESIDENT AS ‘JUGGLER’ —  He then described the difficult  role of the Philippine president as a  juggler who had to do balancing act in the air and keeping aloft “at least ten balls which are national problems”. He stressed: “More importantly, the President himself must never fall off from uncoordinated movements, panic or lack of focus — because the whole nation will also crash with him”. His message was clearly directed at President Aquino admonishing him not to falter while describing the difficulty and the complexity of being in Malacanang. And he asked everyone to help “plug” the holes in the ship of state lest the whole ship sinks with everyone on board. He talked of the common challenge for a higher quality of life for Filipinos;  he traced our heroes’ defiance from Spanish rule — our early  unspoken  longing for freedom. He stressed that today’s clamor is for independence from poverty and bad governance.  He concluded: “This is why — in a democracy — the country’s business is every citizen’s business, as it is the business of the press”.

KAYA BA NATIN TO? — And in his trade-mark call, he asked, at the end of his speech  in a booming voice: “Kaya ba natin ito??” The crowd chorused : “Kayang kaya!” But he was not satisfied. Slamming with his hand the rostrum, he barked:  “Napakahina ng sagot nyo dito!” Of course, the second call got a loud reply from the audience.

PRESS AWARDS —He then presided over the awarding of the 2013 Civic Journalism Community Press Awards under the sponsorship of Coca-Cola Philippines. (He was looking for Atty. Adel Tamano, Coke’s Public Affairs and Communications Director who was in the Visayas and was  able to send in only his video message.) After the program,   he was literally blocked from leaving the hall by the journalists  who swarmed around him.   He gamely posed for souvenir pictures and “selfies” . He  stayed and chatted for   more than one hour after the program.

STAYING POWER —Many members of the media who had covered him even during his incumbency  commented that night about FVR’s “staying power”, despite his age. He still plays regular golf and  prompts everyone to do push ups.  He  continues to hold sway at his lofty office complex  of  the RPDEV in Makati where he  receives regular callers and mulls over  with his stream of visitors current national and international issues and  events, except during  times when he is somewhere abroad sharing his expertise and experience on  the global stage. By force of habit, he has a piece of paper in his pocket where his never ending schedules are listed (as if he is still president.)   His old bulging wallet, held together with a rubber band,  still has give-away copies of printed Philippine Navy Golf Club score cards showing his golf score of “80” with a teaser: “Can you shoot your age in golf or lower? Yes, FVR (at 85 yrs old )  has done it 8 times! Can Tiger Woods? No, lacks seniority!....” Then of course, he hands out discreetly,  especially to the “seniors”, a yellow-colored pocket sized “Great Truths About Growing Old” which contains saucy data like “counting calories” when removing a woman’s clothes, etc. etc. (better left to be read in private than published here. hahaha!)

When finally he was able to head for the exit door that night, he told the accompanying ladies who were persistent in  asking him    about his political plans:  “Please, don’t vote for me. Baka manalo  ako!” Then he flashed his thumbs-up sign and familiar grin.

Someone shouted: “FVR, forever!” as he waived goodbye and headed for the stairs. (Nope,  not the elevator, folks!)