Twenty years ago, on 19 April 1995, a disaffected veteran named Timothy McVeigh drove a Ryder truck stuffed with explosives into downtown Oklahoma City and destroyed a federal office building, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and maiming hundreds of others. That much we know.
We also know that, within 90 minutes of the bombing, McVeigh was pulled over near the Kansas border and arrested, alone, at the wheel of a glaringly improbable getaway car, an ancient, spluttering rust bucket of a Mercury sedan with no licence plates, which made him a sitting duck for any passing highway patrolman.
How could such a callous, carefully planned attack have come to such an incongruously slapdash end? After a vast investigation headed by the FBI , three trials mounted against McVeigh and his co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, and an avalanche of court documents, there is still no definitive answer to that question.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the Oklahoma City bombing – by far the most destructive act perpetrated by a home-grown assailant against fellow Americans – is not how much we’ve learned over the past 20 years but rather how much we still do not know.
Oklahoma City bombing: 20 years later, key questions remain unanswered, Andrew Gumbel, The Guardian
Another equally-riveting incident but closer to home was that captured on CCTV footage in 2014 of the artist Vhong Navarro mauled by a certain Cedric Lee and companion after Navarro raped the actress Deniece Cornejo, well, that’s according to media reports at the time. It repeatedly televised the footage and speculated on it like ten thousand judges speaking at the same time long before the trial had even started. In fact, analysis by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility shows it was a field day for media companies,
Turns out, those statements about that particular footage were misleading (there was or were other footages that media didn’t include in it’s broadcast, one of which of Cornejo and Lee kissing after they had brought Navarro to the police station). And so, just two days ago, the DOJ decided for the acquittal of Navarro.
What these imply is that, judgement made on criminal or illegal acts is not made basing solely on CCTV evidence; much more information is needed in order for a crime to be attributed beyond reasonable doubt on the accused.
One is the required authentication of CCTV recordings in order for these to be admitted as evidence (in court). The authentication procedure is provided for in the Rules on Electronic Evidence of Republic Act 8792 (E-Commerce Act of 2000),
(Section 1, Rule 11) [a]udio, photographic and video evidence of events, acts or transactions shall be admissible provided it shall be shown, presented or displayed to the court and shall be identified, explained or authenticated by the person who made the recording or by some other person competent to testify on the accuracy thereof.
(Section 31) access to an electronic file or an electronic signature of an electronic data message or electronic document shall only be authorized and enforced in favor of the individual or entity having a legal right to the possession or the use of the plaintext, electronic signature, or file and solely for the authorized purposes.
Also, as posted earlier, the Broadcast Code of the Philippines has provisions for the handling of similar material,
Sec. 4. NEWS SOURCES
4.b. Only news that can be attributed to a source shall be aired. When a source cannot be identified by name, the reason for this should be made clear in the news report.
4.d. News sources must be clearly identified, except when confidentiality of the source was a condition for giving the information.
4.c. Information provided by confidential sources may be aired only if it is in the public interest to do so.
4.e. Before airing information provided by a confidential source, an effort should first be made to look for a source who can be identified or who can corrobotate the information provided by the confidential source.
4.f. Rumors or gossips shall not be aired in the guise of news. Using terms like “anonymous source”, ” confidential source”, or “unknown source” shall not justify the airing of rumors and gossips especially in news programs.
Sec. 7. UNCONVENTIONAL NEWS GATHERING AND REPORTING
7.a. In the most extreme circumstances, when information being sought is vitally important to public interest or necessary to prevent profound harm, the use of hidden cameras or microphones and other similar techniques of news gathering and reporting may be resorted to. Before resorting to such techniques, conventional methods must first be exhausted. In all cases, the use of such techniques must conform to the law.
7.b. When material obtained through such techniques are broadcast, this must be presented fairly, factually, and in the proper context. The right to privacy must be observed and harm to the innocent avoided.
7.d. When materials that have been obtained through unconventional techniques are received from third parties, their broadcast must conform with the relevant provisions under this section.
Other relevant legal provisions include,
- The Data Privacy Act of 2012, protecting citizens from the misuse of data for profit;
- The Anti-Wiretapping Act of 1969, deeming it unlawful for any person, not being authorized by all the parties, to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire or cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication or spoken word by using a device;
- Executive Order No. 2 of 2016 on the freedom of information
SECTION 3 . Access to information . Every Filipino shall have access to information, official records, public records and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development.
SECTION 4 . Exception . Access to information shall be denied when the information falls under any of the exceptions enshrined in the Constitution, existing law or jurisprudence (ie. Bill of Rights, Revised Penal Code, E-Commerce Act, Data Privacy Act, Anti-Wiretapping Act)*terms in parentheses, mine
These relative to media’s practice of broadcasting CCTV footages begs the question, are the footages authenticated? If not, then the public has been, or is being fed with unverified recordings. The public, at least those who passively believe what they see and hear a hundred and one percent, are made complicit in the perpetuation of speculations presented as news. Take the case of Vhong Navarro. (Or, the camera footages shown the past two days of the President’s partner Honeylet Avancena. The first was a teaser of some sort, the report containing no other details just that she’s in NYC “attending the UNGA”. The second one, shown on the following day, was a bit more detailed ie. she’s on a personal trip to attend First Lady Melania Trump upon the latter’s invitation and that expenses are on Avancena. What do media outfits want to convey by this? By broadcasting the footage ahead of the basic who, what, why, where, and how, the reporters came off as mere paparazzi stalking a celebrity, in effect, degrading themselves and their profession and missing the opportunity to promote the capacity of a Filipino woman to discuss global or regional issues with other women leaders of the world). The news coverage, based entirely on one footage, and despite Navarro’s subsequent acquittal had inadvertently planted the seed of doubt in the mind of many a Filipino. That’s irreparable damage to name and reputation not to mention emotional trauma and the resulting ill effects on the body, loss of potential income (as a result of potential employers shying away), and the slow-but-sure birthing of a mindless bully public. Imagine this being done through the screen on a daily basis, just because.
Broadcast media companies should take a serious look at their business model – how is their kind of journalism different from actions of human rights violators that they report hard about, how is it not peddling moral panic and an influence to impunity and toward establishment of a Surveillance State as a result of it’s indiscriminate use, in effect, promotion, of recordings of citizens to summarily sentence them without fair trial – and revamp it. Media holds a very important role in building a stable State, nation building, and development. It should hold itself up to the standards of that role.