Gagging the media / Carmen Rosales, yoh!

HERE'S THE SCORE - Teodoro C. Benigno -
If it’s true that Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan would now deprive the whole of media interviews with so-called terrorists, then this man is guilty of disservice to the Republic. He should be stripped of his stars and made to do 500 pushups. This deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines should shovel his head into Sec. 9, Article IV of the Bill of Rights, which states: "No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances."

General, I presume you read English very well. And so read that article again and again until the cobwebs disappear from your fevered mind. Unless, of course, the military brass no longer respects the Constitution and would shortly impose a garrison state on this country and guys like me should now flee in fear and seek security abroad. But until they do, I propose to speak my mind on the issue which is the very core of my profession as a journalist.

So sir, en garde!

The constitutional right of the press, of media if you will, is all-inclusive. We can write or speak as we please on any issue subject of course to the laws of libel and slander. And I can tell you to your face that you are a lunkhead and a muddlehead, and there’s nothing much you can do about it. File a libel suit, go right ahead, general. In my time, which covers more than half a century of adventurous journalism, I have called presidents worse names. They may not have liked it but they respected my right to say so.

What’s wrong if one day I should interview Jose Maria Sison, the highest of high priests of the communist left? Or Commander Rosal? Or Nur Misuari? Or Eid Kabalu? Okay, they’re likely to tell me our government is rotten (I agree), our political system is a gigantic fraud (I agree), and therefore the whole stinking shebang should be overthrown by armed revolution (I may not agree, but I may see the logic), you would have me thrown into the calaboose?

And for what crime, sir?

For the crime of sedition, or inciting to rebellion, simply because I was able to speak to them in person while, for all your massed military might, you couldn’t do the same thing? And so now, you feel, you the armed forces, you the national police, have been shown up, demeaned and insulted, yes humiliated? And so my crime would be that of consorting or even conspiring with the enemy, giving them publicity they could not have or enjoy otherwise?

Not even the great dictator, Herr Ferdinand van der Marcos, could touch us, or more particularly the foreign press (Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines which I thrice headed as president), during the martial law years. We interviewed heads of the New People’s Army (now called terrorists) at will as well as the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), at the time pounding our army in a series of bloody encounters that the dictator almost called uncle.

He eventually managed to reverse the situation, in fairness to him. He was a very clever man, that Marcos. Diabolically clever.

Now back to our subject. So long as that constitution prevails, so long as democracy is our accepted political creed, we all have to live within these parameters. Adolph Hitler was the biggest, most hideous political monster of them all. He and his bloodthirsty accomplices killed six million Jews, ravaged Europe, killed more millions, sought to plant his swastika, all over the world, with the cult of the super-Aryan, the Superman. But nobody stopped the top journalists of America and Western Europe from interviewing him.

Der Fuehrer, however evil he was, was news, legitimate news. Getting to him to interview him, even to the extent of stamping his face on the cover of Time magazine as Man of the Year, was legit. The pursuit of truth. In fact, all that publicity, all that propaganda backfired. Just looking at the man, just reading Mein Kampf, his bible, was a look at the pits of hell, and the more he talked, the more he strutted, and spewed Nazism, he alienated millions around the world.

He was a mad man and he showed it.

Eventually, Adolph Hitler could not face the music. He and his mistress Eva Braun swallowed poison in their Berlin steel bunker, with orders that they be incinerated immediately after, and they were. History’s moving finger moved in the same direction for Benito Mussolini, and all the assorted dictators and self-anointed Messiahs who sought to bend the world to their wicked schemes. History has a way, general, the anvil on which events are pressed and hammered to white heat have a way. Hideki Tojo in Asia had to hang too as did the convicted in the trial of Nuremberg.

By that, general, I do agree that our media should not give any "aid and comfort" to the enemy. There is a difference between interviewing them and accepting their ideology or soaking this in thyme and lavender. The journalist who violates his creed is equally guilty. The doctrines of international terrorism do not get my vote and Osama bin Laden’s fatwa to kill every American that exists turns my stomach. This man too is mad.

I hope we now understand each other, General Edilberto Adan.

So call off your dogs. Others tried this in the past, and no one can top Ferdinand Marcos in this regard. Leave media alone. We do have our excesses, our mistakes, our shortcomings, and there are times when Philippine media should kneel on broken glass and move to the altar on broken glass.

If I had to have an all-time cinema sweetheart, it would have to be Carmen Rosales. For the rest of the globe, I was thinking of Audrey Hepburn. Carmen was the goods. She had the looks, the shape, the height, the oomph, the allure that made her easily eclipse any other Philippine movie actress. Her movies certainly made the most money. The first time I saw her dancing at the Manila Hotel before World War II, I almost flipped. She was drop dread gorgeous. If I was not mistaken, she was dancing the conga at the time.

Why am I writing about Carmen Rosales today?

She literally leaped at my face from The Philippine STAR entertainment section last Sunday, Feb. 25. The article was titled Carmen Rosales: The Genuine Superstar by Marichu Maceda. It seems there was a tribute for her last Monday, Feb. 28, at the Tanghalang Leandro Locsin for Culture and the Arts. Well, it was about time! For years, for decades Carmen Rosales had completely disappeared from our ken. At one time, there was a sprig of news she had grown old, was very ill, refused to be interviewed, and preferred complete solitude. And that was all. How could our media afford to bury Carmen Rosales? It was like American media burying Greta Garbo.

I have never been a fancier of Philippine movies. But in our times, Carmen Rosales and Rogelio de la Rosa were the exception. They did so many movies together like Maalaala mo Kaya. She had other leading men like Leopoldo Salcedo, Jaime de la Rosa, Jose Padilla, but Roger came on better than all of them. He acted well, he sang well, and he was the handsomest. The two of them together would be like Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor of ancient Hollywood, or Jeannette McDonald and Gene Raymond.

What was it about Carmen Rosales that made her different from the rest?

Marichu Maceda writes: "The camera loved Carmen and Carmen loved the camera. There was something about her always which stimulated and electrified the viewers afterwards. I don’t know how she did it but it was always different when it came to her. She was very possessive about her art. There was a silent agreement between her and the camera which no one was allowed to intrude into. Always, she exuded joy in delivering a performance."

Marichu Maceda goes to town when she continues: "Carmen was bigger than life, a star of the magnitude of Hollywood greats Greta Garbo, Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn. There wasn’t a day when she did not know her lines. And, not only that, she also memorized the other person’s lines with whom she was going to have her scene, down to the cueing, the timing, the pregnant pause before dropping the ultimate piece de resistance, pagtaas ng kilay and the toss of the head to underscore a point."

She was alternately imperious and gentle, macabre and sweet, utterly deadly when she wanted to be as when she sent the young Gloria Romero to her father crying. She told the cameraman: "Huwag mong ilawan ang mestizan iyan." Alas, it’s always the same thing, space is now a wall in front of us, and this lovely woman will have to wait for another column before we can do her justice.

As we have always said, there’s nothing like a dame especially when her name is Carmen Rosales. Yoh!











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