Journalists and rude behavior

The Philippine Daily Inquirer decided to suspend columnist Vic Agustin for his “rude, boorish behavior” during a press conference organized by Speaker Jose De Venecia last week.

In today’s column, this short notice appears:

Cocktales suspended for one month, Inquirer
Last updated 04:50am (Mla time) 12/13/2006
Editor’s note: In lieu of Vic Agustin’s column, Cocktales, the following note is published in the Business section of the Dec. 13, 2006 (Wednesday) issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

FOR Vic Agustin’s rude, boorish behavior at a press conference last Saturday, a three-person committee yesterday suspended the publication of his column, Cocktales, for one month beginning today. The committee reprimanded Agustin for conduct unbecoming of a representative of the Inquirer. — The Publisher editor’s note: Asked to comment, Agustin told “A good soldier obeys his generals.”

A hard hitting columnist who writes about what goes behind the boardrooms of the corporate world in the Philippines, Agustin is quite popular. But his recent action, caught on video tape, did surprise many including the newspaper he writes for.

Here’s an interesting reaction from a fellow journalist Job Tabada:

Anything can happen under the sun in the tense atmosphere that prevails in the country.

Popular professor and political activist Renato Constantino Jr. caused a commotion during a press conference called by the Cha-cha boys, headed by Marcos martial law remnant Joe de Venecia (why is he still there?), at a hotel in Manila Saturday morning when he lashed at the congressmen.

“I’m completely appalled by your collective gall. You are totally bereft of principles, that’s why you’re without shame,” Constantino said, to the astonishment of De Venecia and his supporters. It’s incorrect to say that Constantino was an outsider.

Rey is a former columnist of a national paper. On the instruction of the irked lawmakers, Rey was whisked away by hotel security men only to be confronted by an irate Philippine Daily Inquirer business columnist Vicente Agustin, who threw water on Rey’s face.

I can understand Agustin, who could be another unwitting victim under a situation that’s full of uncertainties. But buying a fight, if I may put it that way, throws away the prudent option of just using the pen.

The commotion reminded me of a scene from the ugly years. The late broadcaster and hard-hitting Visayan Herald columnist Vic Abangan confronted Francisco Tatad, Mr. Marcos’ information minister, during a presscon at the Cebu Plaza Hotel (now Marco Polo Hotel) with the same degree of anger with reference to Marcos’ arrogant leadership. Cooler heads, including this writer, had to convince Vic to calm down.

One of the books written by Rey’s father, Renato Sr., is “A Past Revisited,” which is now used as textbooks for students. I encourage everyone to read it. The Philippine Panorama (February 22, 1976 issue) says, “Philippine history, as reinterpreted by Renato Constantino, becomes a meaningful instrument for shattering the myths and the illusions which distort our perception of what exists.”

Renato Sr. wrote the book in early 70s when JDV served as among the rah-rah boys helping his martial law master distort facts about the situation of the Philippines, which still finds itself vulnerable to the dictate of the foreign bullies.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also issued the following statement to denounce Agustin’s conducting, unbecoming.


December 13, 2006


The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is embarrassed and saddened by the ill-judged and unconscionable behavior shown by some colleagues in the media who ganged up on activist Renato Constantino Jr. during the press conference called by Speaker Jose de Venecia last Saturday.

We particularly deplore the action of columnist Victor Agustin of the Philippine Daily Inquirer who doused Mr. Constantino with water.

We will not begrudge the journalists concerned if they felt that Mr. Constantino was out of line by speaking at a press conference they believed only the media were entitled to attend.

But for them to berate Mr. Constantino and, worse, physically attack him for expressing himself is tragic. For how can we, who invoke press
freedom and the right to free expression in the exercise of our calling, even deign to prevent others, especially citizens who actually own these freedoms, from exercising these rights?

The NUJP would like to make its stand clear on this sorry incident. Under no circumstances will we abide by any attempt to stifle free expression from which the freedom of the press merely emanates,
especially not through physical means and especially not by one of our own.

Jose Torres Jr.

Published by

Erwin Oliva

Putting a dent on the universe one day at a time