JunV made my day

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

THE sudden demise of dear friend and colleague Jun Velasco again dawned on me that everything and everybody comes to an end when you least expect it. Everything good or bad must end someday, some way, somewhere. 

While I’ve long accepted that mortality gives no rhyme or reason, or no reason not to happen to anything or to anyone. And that there’s nothing to understand about it but know the meaning of the word END. There is no WHY to ask with each end that passes.  The same is true for JunV’s demise.

All that really matters now is knowing how JunV’s presence on earth impacted on other people’s lives.

Over the week, I’ve since read and heard many thoughts about how JunV mattered in their lives and it’s heartwarming to know how deeply he cared for other people. Frankly, JunV and I never had much opportunity to bond personally, unlike others who were more fortunate to see and feel him other than being a journalist.

In my case, he occasionally called me and engaged me on the phone about what I had written in my last Punchline. Every time he did that, I felt good knowing that at least one actually read what I had written. (Come to think of it, only JunV called to say what he or she thought of my last column).  So, I guess I’ll never get a studied reaction again. 

I remember having talked to him briefly at the onset of 1972 martial law inside the Lingayen PC headquarters. He was with other suspected subversive youth leaders who were detained for two days. (He was not subversive and he suspected he was picked up only because he had friends who were). I didn’t know him too well then except that I knew he was writing for another newspaper at the time. It was that one time when I sensed in him a serious concern mixed with some excitement being young and adventurous. Imagine. him smiling with a raised eyebrow.

As time we went by, I noted how active he always was in local and national press club activities. Everyone knew of him as someone who personally knew all the political biggies in the province. He was so popular that most other local community papers chose to have his syndicated columns. When we bumped into each other one day, he asked if he, too, could write a column for The PUNCH. It was the opening I was waiting for, for the longest time. I liked his style. He was definitely interesting.

But I felt it was not going to happen because our policy in The PUNCH was (still is):  We write for The PUNCH alone in Pangasinan. And since I knew he was writing for others, he would not write for The PUNCH after all.   We parted ways with no commitment until a week later he called to say: “When can I start!” He decided to stop writing his syndicated columns.

That call made my day. JunV was with us! And many things have happened to The PUNCH since. Among other things, it was he who enticed PDI’s Al Mendoza to join us as well. Then,

as our associate editor, JunV, too, was impleaded together with six of us in the libel case filed by Citystate Savings Bank to harass us. Like a true journalist, he took it all in without rancor, knowing it’s all part of the hazard of the trade.  

But I knew he would not be left alone, what with his experience, skills and reputation. It was inevitable that another local weekly would snare him. And it happened… and we parted as professionals and friends, with permanent friendship bonds.

JunV, without a doubt was a class of his own. 

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HYPOCRITICAL ASSUMPTIONS. Lost in the ongoing debate on the proposed lowering of minimum age of age criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 12 or 9 are realities of our social environment.

Lost is the fact that relativity of age is not as relevant as what influences life in communities today.

The 15-year olds 30 years ago were correctly evaluated to be considered too young to discern what’s criminally wrong. After all, no 15-year old would normally dare rape another minor, or dare try drugs lest he’s found out by parents and siblings. Access to pornography and violent films were still controlled in many aspects.

Today, internet has completely changed societal behavior. Information on internet is aimed at both added knowledge and disinformation, and both are reaching the young on their own, and God knows what they choose to believe.

E-games and movies have glamorized violence on the internet and commercial TV. Our young are exposed to plots that show crimes do pay until you get caught. In short, every potential areas of possible conflict with the law are already being dramatized in traditional and social media. So at the rate these are being produced and aired, is it still possible that kids in grade school are not aware of what can get them into conflicts with the law? I don’t think so.

I submit, therefore, that the age of discernment is no longer the issue. Our kids have discernment from the day they have access to mobile phones and tablets. The issue that needs to be addressed is how to make the kids in conflict with the law are properly and sufficiently made to account for their actions. Simply returning them to their parents is the worst thing that we can do for them.

Putting them behind bars is definitely out of the question. But first-timers can be made to perform community service for weeks in their villages. Only habitual offenders should be charged in court with their parents.

What I find hypocritical among the bleeding hearts is their consistency in invoking the most humane penalties for young offenders like finding foster homes for the latter. As usual, they’re quick to point to others to take responsibility but would not volunteer to do the same. Would any family take on a child who’s been arrested for theft and robbery or for acting as courier for drugs?  Would the proponents volunteer? Not on your life.

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OUTMODED AND OUTDATED PLATFORMS. It’s time the DepEd rethinks the format for the National Schools Press Conference.

NSPC is still stuck with the old orientation about traditional news media. The processes are already outmoded and outdated. Print media is on the downswing so designs and layouts are no longer effective to keep newspaper reading interesting. Not only is it outmoded but costly to produce. (The PUNCH is feeling the pinch, so I should know).

The listenership for news radio is also dwindling. TV is now taken as primary mode for entertainment because it brings the revenues.

That leaves us with the digital age and internet. What we have today dictates a more efficient and effective use of cyber space, where the populace takes to new model as convenient, cheap and accessible.

What I believe should be new focus of NSPC is to discuss and promote ethical standards and practice on the use of social media and to develop and promote writing skills.

Whatever media platforms and processes are available, only two things will remain constant in our lifetime –  the need for ethical and skillful writing by those who wish to communicate their ideas and thoughts.

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NEWSBREAKER. As I was about to start presswork last Friday, I got wind of the early news that former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque withdrew from the senatorial race for health reasons.

Other candidates aspiring to hit it big in politics should learn from his example – that nothing can be more important than one’s health. I doff my hat to him for knowing where his priority in life should be –  to be alive and healthy in the company of one’s family.

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