Tabada: Dear PJ

Mayette Q. Tabada
·2 min read

PARDON, Pablo John F. Garcia, representative of Cebu’s Third District, head of the Technical Working Group (TWG) recommending denial of the franchise application of the ABS-CBN Corp., and one of the 70 members of Congress (#28) who blocked the network from using a frequency in the country’s broadcast spectrum for 25 years anew.

Once I walked with you as a “kauban” during a 1980s rally of workers and tricycle drivers in Mandaue. While distributing leaflets, I reread the manifesto and wondered: What if you had written that tract, slashed out the polysyllabic words, and rendered the substance spare, vivid, pellucid?

For I know you better through your writing. As columnists, we laid our infants—my younger son and your first-born—with the other newsroom babies photographed lying on a conference room table in 1998, the launching of “Cebu Daily News.” Your irreverent column was a favorite in the daily that challenged the two-corned competition between the two English papers in Cebu.

Writing grows with the writer. Since you graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) - Cebu High School with a Gold Medal for Journalism and became editor-in-chief of “The Philippine Collegian” while studying at the UP College of Law (fourth-placer in the 1993 Philippine Bar Exam), the years honed your pen.

Acuity, parsimony. A phrase you wrote could cut when a lesser writer would need a page to inflict a graze on repute. As the blogger Onion-skinned, you skewered in your exposés of Cebu media. Was it then that unease crept like a slug because these journalists were critical of Cebu governor Gwen Garcia, your sister?

Your sting as a gadfly of media rests on a deep familiarity with the workings of the press. So I wonder why, after rereading the 40-page TWG report, I could not find a mention of at least one merit of the ABS-CBN company: it brought essential information to a public.

Public service without the office. As you emailed me on Aug. 2, 2014 for an interview I requested for my graduate thesis: “people rely upon journalists for their information... even in the shaping of their views.”

So it is that the TWG report rife with the demerits of an applicant seeking the “privilege” of broadcast frequency stands out in my mind not for the 40 pages of legalese or for that telling phrase—“this matter is in no way related to the freedom of the press”—but for an absence as palpating as silence.

What you wrote of the blogosphere in your August 2014 email ricochets: “There are relationships involved in every ecosystem, so it’s essential to point out what these relationships are. And to remember always that, like every ecosystem, it also generates its own trash.”