THREE weeks back, I had a dialogue with some AB Communication students from La Salle-Dasmariñas regarding their Editorial Management course. My hour-long conversation with them took off from a detailed retelling of the eight-decade history of this paper and the rather complex administration that has kept it from degenerating into a “freak lounge of intellectual Teletubbies.”

Those were the exact words I used to lash at a fellow campus journalist, affected by what I would like to call “messianic constipation” for drumbeating the abolition of the Campus Journalism Act (CJA) of 1991.

His argument was that there is a “voluntary” clause in one of the provisions concerning the school paper’s funding which my curiosity has spurnned me to ask: Where?

Apparently caught off-balanced by my retort, he told me than in practice there is, invoking practicality. Therefore, he continued, the law should be abolished posthaste for the reason that some hawkish school administrators tend to pounce on the “voluntary” funding loophole just to disperse the campus paper tribe from holding barbecue sessions at his beloved alma mater’s courtyard, so to speak.

Barely convinced of his assertion, I held my ground and to my surprise, the usually coy guy I knew hurled a scorching expletive to wit: “Palibhasa kasi hindi mo nararanasan ‘yung nangyari sa ibang mga kaibigan nating writer sa ibang eskwelahan. Ikaw kasi nasa maayos na publication!”

He continued: “Di n’yo naman naranasang ma-harass, mapalayas sa sariling opisina, ma-withhold ang pondo, malait ng mga prof, ng admin at ng kung sinu-sinong nagmamagaling ‘d’yan. Pambihira, ‘wag ka namang manhid, pare. ”

Knowing his journalistic base (he writes for an exclusive school’s campus paper), I replied by asking, “E, ikaw naranasan mo ba ‘yun?” My estranged buddy fell mum and as he groped to regain his composure, he stuttered in between pauses before belching out a mollified “no.”

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Far from being contented with his expected answer, I asked anew, “What makes you think that by merely calling for the scrapping of the CJA predicated on your selective understanding of what that law is all about as well as your hack-eyed concern for the party you deemed were oppressed by such a legal phantom, you can automatically prescribe drastic measures which you feel they sorely need without even bothering to personally drink from their cup of suffering?”

The act, to say the least, is like gracing a Martian’s talkshow as it blabbers about the Grand Canyon or crack some Erap or Gloria joke sans any idea or feeling as to how is it to plow the face of the earth barefooted.

My good friend’s cerebral stunting at that instance displaced me no end. I recalled how a professor chastised some self-declared pro-poor lawmakers in town who would propose bills for the welfare of farmers, fishermen, minimum-wage earners and the like despite being alien to the multifarious misgivings encompassing these people’s lives.

“Ano’ng karapatan nilang magpasa ng mga sinasabi nilang batas pang-magsasaka halimbawa e hindi nga nila naranasang magbungkal ng lupa?” my professor asked.

“Malaki ang pagkakaiba ng haciendero sa paglulupa,” he added, taking a swipe at well-off congressmen who turned out to be local warlords in their own turfs.

Reminding my good friend how, in a particular forum which we both attended a few years ago, a young campus reporter approached him and bade about the textbook definition of a student publication, he, who, I believe was wiser then, immediately referred the kid to its meaning according to the CJA just to make it “more sound” for the interested youngster, as he once said.

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Suppose the CJA, as he yearned for this time, was stricken off the country’s legal shelves and another budding writer approaches him again to ask the same question, where then would he get a “more sound” definition? To the gutters of his own rickety imagination perhaps. Pity then is the kid who will ask him such no non-sense question when “this moment of reckoning,” as he would hasten to brand, comes in short notice.

Given the benefit of the doubt, I posed an analogy which again raised his defenses on high alert, yet this time totally catching him out-of-sync. I then told my friend that while the CJA may be flawed, still it is best to have it around.

“Mabuti nang may tumatabing sa ‘yong ulo kahit yero kaysa wala,” I said, referring to the CJA. At this juncture we agreed the law has neither a provision nor a clause to warrant the punishment of its violators.

Yet my friend, perhaps miffed by my Pilosopo Tasyo tendency, asked me back, “E aanhin mo naman ba ang bubong o kisame na ikinukumpara mo sa CJA kung ang pinagpapatungan nitong pundasyon at pader ay marupok? Babagsak din ‘yon.”

Nailing his pessimism to a cross, once and for all, I gladly responded, “kung ikaw ang pundasyon at pader, babagsak kaya ‘yun?”

In this context, how then does a gangling John get rid of termites on his roofdeck? By razing an entire house to the ground? Come on. Superman, trunks and all, would not even dare that. Doing so is like recording the most unforgivable Freudian slip in history.

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***

SLAP ON THE NAPE. Asked what caused an increased number of freshman sections in Political Science for this academic year, a professor suggested that the NBN-ZTE fiasco may have sparked the upsurge of enrollees who want to “inject change” in government by either becoming “unnegotiably upright” public servants or lawyers.

Good for the future. Bad for today’s celebrated state looters for two reasons: either they will be replaced by a better, more God-fearing, conscience-bearing breed of young public servants or they will be displaced by a far more ravenous clique than they could imagine as they stood by the mirror.

Perhaps the rubbing words of Conrado de Quiros best suits this observation as he exclaims: “We always talk of how the youth of today will one day make a mark on society. We never talk about how the society will one day make its mark on the youth of today, especially the most promising of them.

Easy to think when you are young how you are going to change the world. Not so easy to see how the world is going to change you.” Amen to that.

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