This is the Pugad Baboy strip that got Pol Medina fired from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
I use the term “fired” because it is the same term that Pol Medina himself uses to describe his situation in Facebook in this post. Whether he is truly fired or simply suspended, remains to be seen. But as this article indicates, Pugad Baboy will be off the PDI starting Friday.
(UPDATE!) Pol has confirmed that he is simply suspended, pending investigation.
Based on a letter posted by a commenter on Pol’s post on Facebook, PDI apparently received a threat of lawsuit from Sr. Mary Thomas Prado, OSB, President of St. Scholastica, which was the subject of the strip. It appears PDI folded under the pressure, and cancelled the strip.
There are many issues at play here and I will address every one of them.
The first issue is that of PDI editorial and their approval of this strip. Pol Medina Jr. is probably the most popular cartoonist in the Philippines, bar none. He began his stint on PDI with Pugad Baboy in 1988 with his scathing political satire that made people stop and think about current Philippine issues. PDI was probably the best place for this strip because back in the 1980′s PDI was known to be the bravest newspaper daily out there, going head to head against ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies.
It is my opinion that Pugad Baboy is an excellent comic strip, employing a unique kanto-style comedy that regular Filipinos would easily recognize and relate to. It was funny, it was intelligent, it was brave, and it was at times controversial. I know that I am not alone in the habit of checking out this strip first before even reading the news in this paper. I know that I am not alone in my habit of buying PDI simply because of Pugad Baboy countless times for many years.
As I’ve said, Pugad Baboy has been occasionally controversial, but that who Pol is. He recounts on his Facebook that he wanted to start doing comic strips as early as the 1970′s, but during Marcos’s time, satire could land you in jail. Pol opted to leave the Philippines and work as an OFW in the Middle East, and only went back to do his strips after Marcos was deposed. And Pol just let it rip. This was a new age of freedom, an age when artists could freely express political views. Or so we thought.
Pol has posted many rejected Pugad Baboy strips (rejected by PDI Editors) on his Facebook. It indicates that there is a certain amount of editorial control, and that there are still some strips that PDI feels perhaps the public cannot handle.
But this strip about Lesbianism in Catholic schools was approved by PDI Editorial and was published in the newspaper. Any politically, or religiously charged strip will always gather controversy, and this one was no exception. Pol and PDI have published controversial strips before. This was nothing new. But for some reason, when a protest was raised against this strip, PDI practically said, with their firing of Pol that, “Hey, it wasn’t US, it Was HIM.” And promptly threw Pol under the bus, washing their hands of any responsibility.
What changed? Why is this instance different from the rest? The fact that PDI approved the strip, this means they stand by with what it says, and that they stand by with their cartoonist. To fire Pol and not stand by him is a gutless move from a newspaper that purports to have “Balanced News, FEARLESS VIEWS.” It’s a sentiment that carried them over from the Marcos years, a sentiment they apparently no longer truly believe in. What happened? A change in editorial policy? What? Who knows?
Another issue: Pol hints that this strip was dated March, and that nobody protested then. But after he posted a few anti-Marcos strips, this other strip suddenly got revived and is now the subject of much controversy. Pol calls it “consPIGracy”.
All right, I am not aware of any internal politics within PDI, and probably Pol knows something we don’t. As an outsider, I find it strange that the late President Marcos, his family and supporters would have any power over PDI, specially considering PDI was the most anti-Marcos newspaper back in the day. Has things changed so much in the past few decades? Is there something going on behind the scenes we know nothing about? Time will tell! Right now I can’t even begin to speculate about this issue.
Another issue: Why is St. Scholastica admin protesting?
From the alleged letter St. Scholastica admin sent to PDI, it appears their beef is the allegation that they allow homosexual relationships to occur between their students. For a Catholic school, this is only a natural reaction, since homosexuality, homosexual acts, and gay marriage are frowned upon by the Catholic Church. Any allegation that they allow such things to happen is deeply offensive to their beliefs.
However, that does not change the fact that there are lesbians in an all girl school, and that relationships are bound to form, the same way relationships form with heterosexuals in coed schools. Whether these relationships are approved the admin or not, THEY ARE HAPPENING. And there’s nothing they can do to stop it. Pol simply pointed out the this fact, a fact that many people already know. Threatening PDI and Pol with a lawsuit will not stop lesbians and it will not stop lesbians from forming relationships. To me that reeks of denial, and denial will only make things worse for these students.
I am for gay rights, and I am for gay marriage. To me there’s absolutely nothing wrong with girls having relationships with girls their own age. But I know where these sisters are coming from. But at the same time, what kind of teeth would such a lawsuit have, when Pol was only exposing the truth? Does the truth hurt a little too much? Pol is not to blame here. He is simply pointing out a hypocrisy committed by others.
I sincerely hope that this does not result in an administrative crackdown on lesbian relationships in this school and at other schools. That would be devastating the students involved.
The fact that PDI caved in to ths pressure tells us a lot about PDI and what their position is on certain issues. And I personally find it disappointing.
What can you do?
Can we really accomplish anything with an online campaign? Who knows? But what I do know is we can’t accomplish anything by staying quiet. I also know that PDI pulled Pugad Baboy because somebody complained. And it would only be their right to complain. This is a democracy after all. But we also have a right to complain when our freedom of expression is trampled upon. We only have to complain LOUDER.