The recently held senate hearing on fake news was a revelation on many fronts. It, for example, showed just how much mainstream media companies – competitors in the best of times – can come together in the face of a common threat to their economic monopoly on the production, distribution, and sale of “the news.” There’s really nothing that can unite oligarchs faster than someone trying to cut in on their bottom lines.
It showed how ordinary people like Margaux Uson and RJ Nieto, names which Filipinos would not have known a year ago, can fearlessly stand up to the bullying tactics of Bambam Aquino and Kiko Pangilinan. And it also revealed how low the Aquino’s and Pangilinan’s of this world have gone. Knocked from their lofty perches above the masses, to the garbage pits of political history. There to rot with the detritus of their once powerful cabal of backroom wheelers and dealers.
The hearing also highlighted intellectual limitations of our senators, namely Joel Villanueva, the author of senate bill 1492; otherwise known as the “anti-fake news bill.” Copied from a recently enacted German law that penalizes social media companies (i.e. Facebook and Twitter) who fail to curb the spread of fake news on their platforms, Villanueva misses the mark when he sneaked in a provision that infringes on the citizens’ constitutionally protected right of free speech.
But even as the worst of the senate was in full display during the hearing, so was its best. I particularly appreciated how Sen. Grace Poe comported herself during those times when things seemed most chaotic. And just as in her handling of the Mamasapano investigation, Poe allowed everyone to say their piece, but was quick to jump in when they went overboard. Like when she slapped down Bambam Aquino like an over active puppy during his badgering of Asec. Mocha Uson.
Watching Poe at work, it’s hard not to compare her with other women in government. One comparison in particular comes to mind, that with alleged vice president Leni Robredo. The contrast between the two cannot be any more stark – Poe is everything Robredo is not. A hardworking, dedicated, no-nonsense public servant. While Leni has busied herself with attacking the Duterte administration every chance she gets, Poe has shown that she can put partisan politics aside for the sake of the public.
Except for that ill-advised run at the presidency in 2016, Poe is actually showing a lot of political maturity and class. Again, something that Leni and the rest of her LP cohorts lack. Taking her defeat in stride, Poe has worked with quiet dignity – often away from the limelight – and in the process has regained people’s respect.
Poe is actually in a better position now to rise to higher office in 2022. My hope for that is an all-woman tandem with her and Inday Sara Duterte. That’s one line-up that’ll send shivers down the spines of all these pretenders to the throne. The Duterte wannabes with their fake swagger and put on toughie image.
Which is why it pains me to see her sterling performance wasted on a non-starter of a bill like the one Villanueva foisted upon her. She deserves better. Grace Poe deserves to be chairing a committee that would look into matters of more importance. Issues that would bring about peace… progress… development… something momentous and historic… anything but this piece of shit legislation that only aims to stifle our democracy.