Social media and the pause that refreshes
posted 18-Nov-2018  ·  
1,108 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

Knee-jerk: a quick reaction that does not allow you time to consider something carefully; automatic and unthinking; impulsive; spontaneous; instinctive; hasty; rash; reckless; impetuous.

The phrase, its meaning, and all its synonyms characterize the reaction of the social media public to the photos and videos of the Binurong brouhaha that were posted by well-meaning netizens.

The same description would be apt for the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) which immediately sent personnel to investigate the opening of the road.

According to PENRO Marlon Francia, the land owner should have secured an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) prior to the road construction, which he said should have been done by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

In the interview by an equally over-eager reporter, Francia also said his office would file a case if the landowner is found to have committed environmental violations.

It is apparent that, like the social media commenters, the PENRO was equally unaware that Binurong is not public land, thus his suggestion that the DPWH should have undertaken the construction of the road.

As to the ECC requirement, one knowledgeable observer points out that while the ECC is required for all government projects that would affect the environment, national agencies generally do not apply for ECCs save for foreign-funded projects like the upgrading of the Catanduanes Circumferential Road.

Recently, someone constructed a three-kilometer road leading to his farm somewhere in Virac and it would be safe to say that neither the PENRO nor the DPWH had anything to do with it, much less require an approved ECC or compliance with road design standards.

The Sorreta family cannot be blamed for deciding to deny public access to Binurong Point. Such a reaction is entirely understandable, considering the “undue anxiety and emotional stress” the social media criticism brought on the family, particularly the 88-year old war veteran who has title to the island’s most valuable property.

As one blogger notes, venting anger in the guise of freedom of expression may seem liberating, but it certainly hurts those who receive the offensive words. This modern phenomenon, the blogger adds, makes him think that giving people the chance to speak to a huge audience, with no brakes, in real-time, allows those less balanced to exhibit the worst of themselves.

Perhaps, all users of social media should be reminded that neither the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Philippine Constitution nor the First Amendment in the Unites States Constitution do not give anyone the right to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants and to whomever he wants.

Aside from prohibiting hate speech or those advocating illegal activities, the Constitution also places limitation on speech, particularly against obscenity, profanity, or defamation. Into the latter category fall many of the comments seen daily in social media, made by people who think they are safe in the cocoon of relative anonymity granted by the Internet.

But those aggrieved by such irresponsible social media posts can always sue, with the identity of the commenter easy to track in the digital world. Already, one such facebook commenter has been hailed to court by no less than Governor Joseph Cua, whom the respondent described as a drug lord.

Beyond imposing more rules and defining boundaries in the social media, netizens, like all the rest of those who interact with others in the community, should take some time to determine whether what they would be posting is true freedom of expression or a violation of other people’s rights.

As the famous Coca Cola ad campaign in 1929 urged softdrink consumers then, everyone should take “the pause that refreshes.”

Actions or comments made in the heat of the moment always cause regret on the part of the doer later on. It would be better to pause, reconsider one’s options, and, if the message would hurt others, rewrite it in a less damaging way.

Otherwise, public discourse in social media would deteriorate to a level that mirrors the state of Philippine politics today: one with utter lack of respect and civility.


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