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Clooney, Midler and meddling Phil-Ams

Clooney and Midler were well within their First Amendment rights to speak ill about President Duterte, not because their views are true, but because the First Amendment allows Americans to speak nonsense.

Victor Avecilla



One of the most cherished fundamental rights in American Constitutional Law is free speech, which is guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The exercise of this right is seen as a potent weapon against abusive government and undeserving officials.

Unfortunately, American jurisprudence states that the constitutional freedom to speak includes the freedom to speak defamatory nonsense. This stark legal reality is best demonstrated by the reckless remarks uttered against President Rodrigo Duterte by two American celebrities and some Filipino immigrants residing in the United States.

The two American celebrities subject of this discussion are Hollywood actor George Clooney and actress Bette Midler. Both of them have expressed unkind words about President Duterte.

Last year, Clooney criticized President Duterte for what he claims are the rampant extrajudicial killings in the Philippines order by the President. Clooney, however, did not elaborate on his statement.

From all indications, Clooney arrived at his opinion about the human rights situation in the Philippines solely from accounts from anti-Duterte critics published and broadcast in the American news media.

Clooney even authorized his lawyer-wife to go to the Philippines and join the defense panel of Maria Ressa, the chief of the online news outlet Rappler, which has been critical of the Duterte administration. Ressa is facing cases involving her alleged violation of the constitutional restriction against foreign ownership and management of mass media in the Philippines.

His move is seen more like an empty, meaningless promise, considering that foreigners like Clooney’s wife are prohibited by the Constitution from practicing law in the Philippines.

Clooney must be oozing with money from his earnings as a Hollywood film star, so much so that he is willing to, or appears to be willing to, spend millions to finance his lawyer-wife’s threatened legal adventure in the Philippines.

It is also possible that Clooney is so consumed with his silver screen image as a crime fighter that he now actually thinks he is the policeman of the world, duty-bound to fight alleged human rights violations anywhere on the globe.

Somebody should up this conceited actor.

Bette Midler recently included President Duterte in her list of world dictators from the 20th and the present centuries. Like Clooney before her, Midler did not bother to explain how and why she arrived at her decision to brand the Philippine president a tyrant.

Clooney and Midler may be celebrities, but their statements are baseless, unverified commentaries. Their conclusions were based either on opinionated materials made by American media commentators who have never been in the Philippines to verify their views, or on what they learned from biased, anti-Duterte elements who have nothing positive to say about the Duterte administration.

More importantly, Clooney and Midler never bothered to check their facts before they arrived at their negative conclusions about President Duterte, and they only believe what they want to believe.

Clooney and Midler were well within their First Amendment rights to speak ill about President Duterte, not because their views are true, but because the First Amendment allows Americans to speak nonsense, as long as the speech does not enter the realm of action.

Since Clooney and Midler got everyone in the Philippines in the mood for personal comments, no matter how baseless, perhaps somebody should tell Clooney that some Filipinos find his acting style predictable and monotonous. As for Midler, she ought to be told to stop being a hypocrite and practice what she preaches, like refraining from engaging in unfounded criticism of others, as embodied in “From a Distance,” a popular song associated with her.

Finally, Filipino immigrants in the United States should engage in some introspect before they criticize the Philippine government. Having immigrated to America to seek better pastures there, they are deemed to have abandoned their native land. Since they are already Americans, they have no moral authority to criticize the way the President of the Philippines runs the Philippine government.

To all intents and purposes, Phil-Ams, as they are often called, are Americans by heart, not Filipinos.

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