Every Monday, the Senate of the Philippines clears the first lane of parking on its front for the 8 o’clock flag-raising.
Broadcast vans waiting to set up for the day’s sessions would have to wait till the employees finish the ceremony. Soon as they leave, it’s a race for prime parking slots.
But on this particular Monday, March 28, no session was afoot.
In fact, the Senate had already begun its session break. Apparently, this center stage of the news for a week now was not yet done for.
So, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, missing in action for over a year, was finally returning to his office and breaking his verbal silence with the press.
With their tripods, enterprising cameramen had reserved frontal spots opposite the conference table in the Senate’s Laurel room where we expected Lacson to speak.
Our tech team fixed up a control booth at the adjacent Pecson room, from where we would feed the press conference raw.
A van and a separate cam transmitted the live reports of our reporter Lynda Jumilla.
Judging by the setups and the reporters converging there, the media seemed out to get from Lacson one year’s worth of unsaid soundbites.
Outside, cameras waited for the first glimpse of Lacson in front of the elevator reserved for senators and their staff. A year of using old file video for every televised mention of the senator was about to end.
All we knew was the presser would start at 11. Timing was everything, especially for networks that had to book airtime for breaking news.
When the elevator door finally opened to Lacson and his entourage, the lensmen buzzed, trailing them to the room in a scramble for good shots.
He gave a prepared statement, then allowed for Q-and-A. The Senator did say later that he missed it all, even facing the media, unlike in the past year when he had to e-mail or go through channels just to send a message.
Lacson was not usually one to give exclusives, and preferred this arrangement, which gave him more exposure. True enough, he was on most local channels that hour before noon.
He defended his evading the law for 14 months, saying he was a “fugitive from injustice.” While he wanted justice for the families affected by the killings where he had been tagged, he said he was made to suffer for a crime he did not to commit.
“Rightly or wrongly I thought it was the more sensible thing to do, given the prevailing circumstances,” he ended.
While directing the presscon feed, I saw a tweet flash on my laptop: “There’s cleavage behind Lacson. And it’s distracting.”
Blame it on the angle. No one noticed it here, including the cameramen. We could not frame it out without resorting to an extreme close-up. The “distraction” was still visible until apparently someone called the attention of the person involved and she moved.
Of course, video of a resurfacing lawmaker had to be joined by context–where had he been, how did he manage to keep below the radar, why in the world would a lawmaker run from the law, and more so, what now?
Starting with the presscon and well until the next day, these were details reporters attempted to extract from the senator. He answered some, but for the juicier ones, he never bit. The same questions kept coming, most of them reworded or rehashed.
We got delicious details, but not what we expected–Lacson’s culinary run, and how he learned to bake, cook, and do household chores for his unnamed hosts.
Ryan Chua reported on the boost Lacson’s return is seen to give the Aquino administration’s moves to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Ryan added in bits of color, such as the senator’s reunion with his Senate staff and the media scuffle to follow Lacson up to his office.
The senator went down again after noon to engage the first of his scheduled one-on-ones. After two, it was our turn.
Few of us had eaten lunch, some eaten hurriedly. The interviewer and interviewee themselves had not had lunch. The senator said he was invited for lunch at 12 p.m., but it was already 2.
Lacson told Lynda Jumilla about his jumping from country to country to keep “2 steps ahead” of his pursuers.
“You’re like a prisoner, you’re just not inside a cell,” he said.
The hardest part, he said, was feeling helpless when he heard his family’s problems back home while he was facing his own. But he said he was already prepared to go on the run for the rest of his life.
At the restaurant he went to that evening, 3 setups were waiting for him, all for live interviews on the primetime newscasts.
As Lacson said, “Whether you like it or not, I’m here, and I’m ready to perform my job.” That, and letting the nation hear him again.