Bloggers in the news

Blogging is supposed to be a medium which ordinary folks can use to publish anything they want, be it a personal rambling or something that concerns the world. But lately, particularly here in the Philippines, blogging has somewhat been mistaken as some sort of journalism with bloggers bizarrely landing in the headlines.

Blogging is supposed to be a medium which ordinary folks can use to publish anything they want, be it a personal rambling or something that concerns the world. But lately, particularly here in the Philippines, blogging has somewhat been mistaken as some sort of journalism with bloggers bizarrely landing in the headlines.

I’m referring to the controversial confrontation of two families who figured a brawl in a local golf club and a set of whiz kids who were suspended by their school principal. In both cases, blogging was the primary element.

In the golf brawl, the blog (http://vicissitude-decidido.blogspot.com) detailing the incident elicited huge reaction among Filipinos mainly because the alleged aggressor was a powerful political clan from the south -- the Pangadaman family, whose patriarch, Nasser Sr., is a member of Pres. Arroyo’s cabinet. According to the blog, the official didn’t even lift a finger when his sons, one of them a town mayor, was beating the Dela Paz family black and blue after a misunderstanding on the fairways.

Since a great majority, if not all, of the news organizations which picked up the story got their leads from the blog, the Pangandamans naturally came out as the evil guys who shamelessly abused their power over hapless ordinary citizens. Newspaper columnists were quick to join the blogosphere in condemning the Pangandamans’ wanton display of feudal mentality.

But the situation was turned upside down a few days later when an investigation undertaken by the golf club revealed that it was the Dela Paz patriach, Delfin, who actually instigated the brawl by poking an umbrella at Pangandaman’s mayor-son. The club then voted to expel Delfin dela Paz from its membership, while the elder Pangandaman was suspended for two years for not doing anything to prevent the mêlée. Both of their children, who were also involved in the brawl, were banned from playing in the golf course.

The second story, as reported by the Philippine Star, concerns the near-suspension of four students of the Quezon City Science High School for allegedly making disparaging remarks on their school principal in their blogs. The blogs have reportedly since been taken down and the suspension order deferred by higher education officials.

Education Undersecretary Franklin Sunga was interviewed on television saying that suspension order had to be reviewed since it was the first time that they had encountered such a case. “If we are to regulate the blogs, how far can we go in regulating it?” he asked.

I have an answer for Sunga: there’s no use regulating it, and even if you regulate it, you can’t control it. Blogs are like rumors, the more you repress it, the more widespread it becomes.

There’s a lesson that we can learn from this blogging incidents: there’s a guaranteed freedom of expression under the UN Declaration of Human Rights and we all should learn to respect everybody’s opinion. The school principal should have just taken the blog comments with a grain of salt; anyway, it was published in a blog that everybody does these days.

As for the golf brawl, I agree that blogs are a complementary tool which reporters can use for news gathering. However, unless a blog is part a news site or has earned a decent reputation, a blog is merely a personal online journal.

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