(First published December 3, 2014)
I’ve never been closed to Regional Prosecutor Rommel Baligod of the Department of Justice. It was my first time to talk to him, up close, this morning as the technical working group for the Short Film Competition on December 9 has chosen him to chair the board of judges. Baligod is the Chair of the Regional Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (RIACAT), part and parcel of the regional development council.
I was at his office to brief him and the other members of the board on how to judge the various film awards which will be handed to the winners come December 12 in time for the International Celebration of the Anti-Human Trafficking week. He listened attentively.
After almost 20 minutes of explaining, he cut me in the middle of a sentence to tell us that, based on what I was explaining, he couldn’t possibly be a film judge. He seldom sees movies except those legal documentaries and it would be so unfair to the participants to be judged by an individual who don’t understand or not adept at what he is judging. “That would be unfair. Please don’t include me,” he said.
I looked at him in the eye and blurted out, “Sir, I salute your humility. Thank you very much.”
Why am I writing this? Because so many people, officials included, seldom display such kind of a virtue. Look, we thought it would please him to chair the board as the gesture on our part is voluntary.
He could have said ‘yes’ to our request but instead, he turned it down? Meaning, he knew his limitations that he cannot give justice to his own judgement because he cannot give what he doesn’t have.
How’s that for humility? Philippine scenario and under the politics of patronage, we tend to get prominent people to simply judge even if they don’t have the expertise! How can he judge the Best Film if he can’t even understand technical excellence, literary content or creative sense of a shot? How can he judge the Best Screenplay if words like character development and internalization were alien to him?
In my almost 30 years in this kind of job, I saw people who wanted to be a judge to any available competition there is, at times, inviting themselves even just to sit. Prestige? Fame? Ego-tripping? For example, how can you judge a singing contest if you can’t even carry a tune and no background in music? Or a judge on a simple poster-making yet you can’t understand art and even mistake hues for colors?
Let’s take the cue from our regional prosecutor. Learning to say no when you really mean’no’ is one virtue which can endear you to the community. “How can he/she judge an extemporaneous speaking contest if he/she can’t even speak correct English or distinguish a good voice from a sore one” has been a classic example of comments hurled at mediocre judges.
This anecdote should now be a wake-up call to those individuals who usually insist on getting invited to sit as judge because of his stature in society, linkage to the powers that be or those who are willing to donate their bottom dollar just for a show. Save yourself from shameless shame. Learn to say no.
That would serve you better and will serve us best.