Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Truth is Always Sharper than Bravado

Bravado is a texture of character. It does not at all indicate a bravery of character; it implies quite the opposite. On the other hand, the bearer of truth needs no attractive packaging of any sort -- no sugar-coating, no gloss, no bravado-- just truthful packaging of the truthful content and its bearer.

It was not columnist Mon Tulfo's moment of bravado when I first saw him in a jail cell in Bataan more than a decade ago, and accompanied him out of it. He was solemn. There was quiet dignity about him that a kibitzing heckler from afar might choose to describe as "hilas caayo" acting. There was dignity in his position then that it did not need any posture or showmanship.

Mon was right, so he could afford to appear to be simple and humble. That did not dawn on many of our colleagues in the media profession who were trying to dissuade Atty. Ricardo C. Valmonte from coming to Tulfo's defense. Ric was the founding president of the Philippine Movement for Press Freedom (PMPF), and he decided to send me as then PMPF secretary-general to Balanga with papers from his law office to be presented to the authorities that would effect Tulfo's immediate release. The columnist was then being detained on orders of Olongapo Judge Esther Bans (if i recall the name rightly) for refusing to reveal his source on a story he wrote that became subject of a suit. He was right. The Sotto Law was squarely behind him. And PMPF was squarely behind him.

However, his character texture of bravado seemed to antagonize many media colleagues at least a bit and they were not eager to help him or to let us help him in his predicament... even if he was correct in his refusal to be forced to reveal his source, even if he was correct, even heroic, to be willing to go and stay in jail where the judge sent him, even if he did not mobilize resources for bail to spring him out. Even if he was right and was principled to do as he chose.

Some even said Mon Tulfo was overacting, nagpapamartir, adding that "hindi bagay sa kanya!" I think i lost some friends back then, before and after my Bataan trip, trying to defend the PMPF position on the Tulfo case. Later, when PMPF was supporting Masbate journalist Luis Reyes who had been force-fed a page of his newspaper by one Norberto Manaog of the PNP and was being subjected to emotional blackmail to go through a lie-detector test just to validate his allegation, Valmonte showed me, with his characteristic broadminded smile, a clipping where Tulfo was amplifying Manaog's dare on Luis Reyes and implying nasty things about his victimized media colleague. Some people do have short memories, Ric and I agreed, smiling and shaking our heads. But we agreed, too, that PMPF does not regret having helped him somehow; he was in the right! Also, after all, I think Mon's bravado texture has been at least partly a costume, he must have thought this was an apt packaging for his "on target" column title.

If Jun Lozada gets the Inquirer issue of this morning, May 7, and reads Mon's heckle depicting him as just a trying-hard "actor" (very similar to what some of his own colleagues were saying of Tulfo himself as he chose jail over giving up principle), Jun would hopefully just react with his own characteristic broadminded smile, take it as just another pain to be endured by anyone wh wants to be upright in this kind of society.

Taken together, the bravado of all columnists and commentators in the Philippines who hit mercilessly at much lower and weaker officials of the government may not even compare with the actual accomplishment of the very sharp TRUTH this mild-mannered DETAINEE had dared aim at a very powerful target, for the sake of the people. He was the one who had chosen the correct target, albeit a very dangerous one. Many other persons of weaker spine, including Lozada's own former friends, would just choose to be comfortable, convenient, and even richer. And Lozada's critics would just be so understanding of their "pragmatism" (read: opportunism).

Most of Lozada's quiet supporters don't write blogs or columns like Mon and I do. But they are out there, concerned about the force of logic and truth in relation to the logic of force of the powerful. They are, we are, getting educated by Lozada and others like him about the urgent imperative of building a culture of truth in this country. Indeed, not all are asleep or pretend to be asleep in these very dark days in our history. While some of us are even sleeping aloud!

Wake up, Mon!

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