cheche & censorship

what does it say about philippine journalism when one of its top icons, a multi-awarded veteran broadcast journalist, producer, educator, and talkshow host (also maria ressa’s idol) says that art for art’s sake is secondary to the will of the man with the purse, and that artists give up freedom of expression when commissioned to do a work of art.

or something to that effect. cheche lazaro’s scripted wrap-up in the last 15 (10?) seconds of media in focus last thursday was so rushed, i may have heard wrong, i hope i heard wrong, because how could she be so okay about censorship?

says john silva, senior consultant to the national museum:

“The cavalier and contemptible manner by which the National Press Club blithely desecrated a work of art is evidence enough that these so-called journalists haven’t a clue about freedom of expression. In a free society, contending thoughts, contending works of art are allowed and respected despite its inherent inclinations and viewpoints. The National Press Club’s actions has just put their profession to ridicule, painted themselves as cowards, and now insinuates itself as being in-the-pay of the powerful. Fellow journalists who abide in the freedom of expression should call for the immediate dismissal of the club officers.”

says raul pangalanan, dean of the u.p. college of law:

“The National Press Club (NPC) apparently thinks that just because it paid for the mural, it has the power to alter it as it wishes. The NPC must realize that ownership of the thing does not mean ownership of the copyright. Granting that the work was commissioned by the NPC for P910,000 and assuming that there was no other agreement, ownership of the thing itself would belong to the NPC but copyright remains with the artists. The ownership of the NPC is limited to the physical thing, which it may sell like any other property — but only the artists, as copyright owners, have the right to transform their art work. The owner may only keep the work ‘as is.’ Transforming it is an exclusive ‘economic right’ of the artist.

“In addition, the artist has ‘moral rights’ to maintain the integrity of his work and oppose ‘any distortion, mutilation or other modification of … his work … prejudicial to his honor or reputation.’ Indeed, moral rights may not be waived entirely, especially if the effect is ‘to use the name of the author with respect to a work he did not create.’ The NPC may be liable for damages, criminal penalties and fines for the infringement of their intellectual property rights.”

says luis teodoro, former dean of the u.p. college of mass communication:

“The NPC leadership was not being ‘apolitical.’ It was being crudely, brazenly political – first, when it asked press freedom’s worst foe since Ferdinand Marcos to inaugurate the mural, and second, when it censored it. What’s even worse, what the NPC did was not to expunge ‘leftist’ elements from the mural, but to deface it so as to hide the truth.

“Truth-telling is the fundamental value and responsibility of journalism. But here’s the NPC suppressing such truths as that Jonas Burgos was indeed abducted by military agents, and that the anti-terrorism law, deliberately misnamed the Human Security Act, has grim implications for press freedom. These are neither leftist nor rightist claims, but facts – the very stuff of which competent practice and ethical journalism are made. Has the NPC leadership even heard of either? Anyone engaged in the suppression of facts has no business calling himself or herself a journalist, the appropriate word being ‘hack’ – preferably with the words ‘bought and paid for’ attached to it. ‘Quack’ also applies.”

ah, how i wish we had writers like john silva, raul pangalangan, and luis teodoro hosting tv public affairs talkshows, thinkers who as a matter of course go beyond he-said-she-said, truly probe into issues, and dare take a stand, no matter how anti-establishment.

but it ain’t gonna happen. they’re not pretty enough or popular enough, and they are neither hacks nor quacks.


  1. i suppose (that is, if i heard right) cheche agrees with national artist for literature f. sionil jose, whose piece in the philippine star “paint as you are paid” of nov. 12 i just read. thing is, as with all commissioned work, the npc should have closely monitored the work while it was in progress, and conflicts should have been ironed out then. and kung di sila nagkasundo, then pnpc should have stopped paying and found another group of artists to hack it.

  2. Philippine Updates

    The very few times that I watched bits of her show, I noticed that she never failed to try to get the guests views about blogs. I think she doesn’t like the idea that there are people who can freely express ideas, as effectively as the big networks.

  3. What some fail to appreciate is that the wonderful thing called “freedom of expression” covers a very broad swathe of human activity, all the way from sublme works of art to the most mundane piece of journalism or other intellectual labor, such as architecture, mechanical design, or magazine copy.

    Now therefore if we paint the relationship that existed between NPC and Neo Angono as that of “patron of the arts” and “a great art collective” then of course when something like this happens we call it desecration, or suppression of artistic freedom.

    But that wasn’t the relationship between these two parties at all.

    There was a contractual relationship to produce something that both believed the other would be happy about. It did not turn out that way, but I tend to blame the producer more than the procurer.

    They forced their own message on the mural. But I think NPC’s position was not unreasonable.

    Even a newspaper is a daily work or muralism.

    But if every reporter, copy editor, or deskman were to assert “artistic freedom” over the editor in chief and her decisions, where would that go?

    I think NPC had a right to be unhappy over what Neo AC did, and Neo AC as a supplier basically left NPC in a lurch one day before unveiling work of art they had hoped to be proud of. Sure they “desecrated” it by modifying the thing, but in a way the artists collective left them no choice.

    They abandoned their customer at a time of need, simple as that. Then when the usual ideologues turned it into a cause celebre, a thing of censorship and victimological things, they went along with it.

    harhar. how sneaky.

  4. I agree it was hypocritical, or let me say “inaccurate” for NPC to claim they wanted something “apolitical”.
    I’m pretty sure they meant they wanted something political but not a demo poster on extrajudicial killings. susmaryosep!

    It’s gotta hang in their restaurant fer crying out loud. hehe. think of it! It has to be about Press Freedom naman!

  5. peyupian

    I agree fully with DLB Rizalist. At first glance, we might prejudge the NPC and its officials. But by doing so, we deprive the NPC men- who are not as stupid as others may paint them to be- their own right to freely express themselves. We should listen to the NPC first before making conclusions. The Angono artists are the ones at fault here. Their ineptitude and unprofessionalism caused the them dearly. They made a howl over a non-issue. They thought they were righteous whne in fact, they were paid hacks. They are hypocrites! As virginia wolfe said: real artists are those living by their own means. The art community should in fact, start denouncing these fellows, who I was told are indeed propagandists of the political left. Neo Angono Artists Collective (NAAC)— Narciso Antazo Aramil Command. With regards to che-che’s comments, I trusted her insights. aside from being a contracted project, the mural (oversized painting) should please the patron. If the artists would not do that, they should have returned the money and walked. that simple. To me and other rizal artists. These Angono guys are REAL STUPID.