by Alan Robles
Government yesterday announced it was taking "immediate action" to regulate satire in the Philippines.
Speaking to reporters, Marcos Madalang, Spokesman Class IV at the Department of Some Office or Another, said that "we have come to the conclusion that satire is hazardous."
He denied the government was engaged in censorship, or was stifling free speech.
"We're not regulating satire because it is pointed, mocking or vicious. We're regulating it because it seems most Filipinos can't seem to distinguish it from reality.
"For example, this column you are now reading, the one where I am currently the imaginary silly character? Last week, the columnist invented a story saying a study proved the best solution to Manila's traffic was to move to Australia."
Madalang noted how "when the satirical piece came out on Facebook, most Filipinos reacted as if it were true."
He exclaimed, "I mean, come on! Think about it; would a REAL study advocate moving to Australia?
"No! A real study would recommend Norway."
The official drew a grim scenario: "just think about what would happen if a satirist says squatters will receive free mansions at Forbes Park complete with swimming pools -- what if the public believes it? Or what if a humorist writes that squatters will be given PHP 18,000 no questions asked?"
Madalang said that government's plan, tentatively called the Satire Interisland Regulation Act (SIRA) will require all satire to be prominently identified as such.
"It should be recognizable as satire from at least 30 meters. We're thinking of early warning devices, blinking lights, big signs saying JOKE ONLY. Maybe even sirens."
He said that "within the text of the satire itself, every four paragraphs there should be a warning phrase: HEY THIS IS SATIRE."
Madalang revealed there will be a nationwide program to identify and tag satire, "so government can keep track of this dangerous material."
Furthermore, "if government agents spot unregulated and untagged satire they can summon a SWAT team which will drape said satire with a heavy Satire Disposal Blanket."
According to Madalang, "we're doing this for your own good. We see unchecked satire as a threat worse than exploding condos, or Nancy Binay winning a senate seat."
Quoting from another episode of this column, Madalang pointed out that "Filipinos apparently lack the Satire Gene (SG), according to Dr. Soon To Ve Hung of the Asian Research Institutes for Understanding Humor and Silly Walks (ARIUHSW)."
He said government plans to look into this: "We would like to know if the failure to recognize satire is a genetic predisposition of Filipinos, similar to their inability to follow traffic rules, or to remember the crimes of their political leaders."
Meanwhile, Senator Bong Revilla denounced the government's "crackdown" and said he would demand an investigation from Senate's Committee on Satire.
Told there was no such committee, Revilla said "ay."