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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Distorted Thinking of Voters

(Photo grabbed from TV Patrol Sabado March 3 2007)

“TV has distorted the thinking of a lot of Filipinos,” says former Senate President Jovito Salonga. To my face, he told me the medium that I use in my profession has gone awfully wrong.

Admittedly, television has contributed to the rise of actors and television personalities in Philippine politics. Without any prior experience in an elective position, actors Richard Gomez and Cesar Montano are trying their luck this May 14 polls. And yes, ex-comedian and former senator Tito Sotto is still very much around.

But what if Goma and Cesar won? Salonga says “If they go to the senate, can they enter into a debate with the likes of Joker Arroyo? Can they speak intelligently when they answer questions hurled at them by Kiko Pangilinan? Or will they just look at a script before they answer?

The 86-year old former senator is perhaps the most senior statesman alive. He has survived three administrations – Macapagal, Marcos and Aquino. He can’t help but compare his time to the present political conditions.

He practically says television nowadays is doing nothing to educate the voting public. He says the opposition and the administration bets have nothing to offer. “Ang nakikita mo lang e sa TV, wala namang sinasabing me katuturan na ikabubuti ng bayan.”

The veteran lawmaker also notes lesser known party “Ang Kapatiran” seems to have a clear platform of government. But they are hardly on the news.

As Salonga has observed, TV is to be blamed.

Or, is it the Commission on Elections?

In our newsroom, we were told to be extra careful on being used by candidates for election propaganda. Current Affairs Head Luchi Cruz-Valdes has repeatedly told us to determine first if a story is pure propaganda or legitimate news.

But the problem, there are no hard and fast rules set the by the Comelec. In fact, in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Fair Election Act, the word “propaganda” was not included in its definition of terms. So how can we tell if a story is propaganda material, if the poll body has not even clearly stated what propaganda means. If we air and elaborate on platforms of candidates, it may be construed as propaganda.

We were told at ABS-CBN that “candidates or their representatives should not be allowed to discuss their qualifications, accomplishments and PROGRAMS OF GOVERNMENT except if the same is a political advertisement, subject to the rules relating to the same.”

So we end up reporting “just the issues”. Like the ASO jingle. Or Kiko Pangilinan being dropped by the opposition in its campaign. Or Joker Arroyo and Ralph Recto going whitewater rafting. But what about their platforms?

I believe this why Jovito Salonga thinks TV has distorted the thinking of the Filipino voter. There is hardly any real news about the candidates – their qualifications, their platforms of government, basically what they have to offer if elected. Because in a way, we fear that the Comelec may retaliate if we air something which they think is propaganda material.

I think there is really nothing wrong with airing platforms of candidates, as long as we do not overdo it. There is a clear difference between an endorsement and a plain and simple news story. I think, and I hope every serious journalist knows this.

Now whatever happened to the constitutionally guaranteed right to free press? The media is supposed to be a self-regulating institution. Ever wondered wny there are no board exams for journalists? Because the constitution says “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

Yes it can be argued that there are no specific laws clamping down on our right to free press. Basically, we can report what we think is a legit story as long as we have carefully determined and thought twice or thrice about the possibility of being used for propaganda.

In a way, it is also a good thing that we have become more analytical in our stories. At least what the viewers will be watching is a well-thought of and carefully written piece of news about the elections.

But fact is, Big Brother Benjamin Abalos is watching us. There is still this unfounded fear of being unfairly accused of airing propaganda material, resulting to some news stories without the real substance.

In the end, Jovito Salonga is right, TV has distorted the thinking of Filipinos. But worse, the distortion can go further if the system continues.

(Disclaimer: again, this is purely my opinion and not an official ABS-CBN blog.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

if that's the case, why can't ABS-CBN News come up with two specials?

1) A series of specials in a documentary airing the platforms of candidates until April 2007?

2) Since both Team Unity and GO are itching for a debate, why can't ABS-CBN News ask for special implementing rules with COMELEC requiring both coalitions to go on a debate simulcast at ABS-CBN? Instead of going to Luneta or hotels, let Ces Drilon host a debate with some adjudicators from the different sectors of society.

As for the point of my idol statesman Salonga, he is absolutely correct. Philippine Television changed how Filipinos think. The kind of discernment that Filipinos have right now are mainly influenced by Philippine TV, which is more of entertainment rather than education. While TV's purpose is really to entertain, television stations have started to forget to add social values and education with their programming. Moreover, Television stations forget to remind people that they are just entertaining, and what they are showing should not be Juan Dela Cruz' way of life.

2:49 AM

Blogger Che said...

You're right, Aids: How does one distinguish "propaganda" from "real issues?" I don't think a candidate's jingle or personal activities such as whitewater rafting could hardly pass as "issues." What's even more frustrating about these candidates is that we don't know what the hell they plan to do in case they get elected! All we see are the likes of Manny Villar and Zubiri dancing like idiots. Or Mike Defensor's hideous, hideous TVC (who on earth produced his TVC? Defensor should get his money back!) that doesn't tell the voters anything except that he should be called, "Tol." This campaign period has done nothing but establish the fact that hardly anyone truly respects the election process anymore. Are they really seeing this whole thing as nothing but a big joke? Nakakatampo at nakakainsulto talaga that the people behind the campaign do not seem to treat the whole election deal with the respect that it deserves. A friend told me that Pichay has done nice things for his district as COngressman--but I find it hard to believe. Why? Because to me, his TVC, especially his "Pichay: Itanim sa Senado" tagline is nothing but a silly joke. Honestly, I really am just counting on the specials that would hopefully be produced by newsmen like yourself so I could weigh my options intelligently. I'd like to believe I am a responsible voter and a responsible Filipino. I always make it a point to vote, no matter how futile it seems at times. This election is particularly difficult. It's already March and I have no more than 3 people whose names I'd really like to write on my ballot come May. Hay, Lord, help this country...

7:11 PM

Anonymous adrian said...

I-inom na lang natin uli che sa sarah's hehe. Seriously che and earl, i think abs is coming up with specials, aside from the debates on anc.

2:17 PM

Blogger nonoy said...

this is a bit off-topic in connection with your post but do you think if former Senator Jovito Salonga won his presidential bid during the time he ran, would he make a good chief executive? my dad liked him. err, as a public servant, that is. Just like Ting Paterno.

6:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i honestly admire abs-cbn's move on capitalizing "text messaging" for the halalan 2007. however, look at the website of Eleksyon 2007. it's a lot more better in terms of visuals and context. why can't abs-cbn provide free video streaming at least for news?

oh, i know the answer, it's because of ABS-CBN Now.

2:44 AM

Blogger ramblings said...

lately, i have been relieved that pacquiao is not running for congress. it would only spell disaster to his career and to his constituents. this is not hearsay, its a fact. for christ's sake, whats he gonna do should he win? i mean the thought of it makes me shiver. not to mention that even jinkee, his wife, doesnt approve of it as well. but of course, being his wife, she said she will support him anyway.

going back, my moment of relief turned to despair because recent reports indicated that pacquiao is indeed running against the incumbent, Rep. Darlene Antonino - Custodio who is on her last term. clearly, if we pit them against each other on the political ring, the latter should win, because she has experience. but apparently, theres a fluke. popularity weighs more here than academic background and capability to govern.tsk. it would be better though if pacquiao runs for an executive post like mayor or governor rather than being a congressman. c'mon, what does he know about law formulation? can he debate and slug it out with other congressmen? if only his powerful punches are enough. another thing, richard gomez and cesar montano is added to the picture. what sort of joke is this? celebrities? what can they do? do they have the qualifications to become senators and congressmen? bong revilla is there and so is lito lapid but did they make any important laws? zilch. all they did is rename streets and make bills that help other actors and the industry. hmm...what a shame..

this is very bad for our country. she is already suffering badly from poor governance and corruption then we add clowns and nuisance people to run the government.this is plain idiocy. oddly enough, we ask why our country is going to the dogs, yet we only have ourselves to blame.
therefore, celebrtities from all fields should be discouraged, perhaps banned from holding public office because governance is not an awards night kind of thing.

2:29 PM

Anonymous jun.anteola said...

this is an eye-opener for me, as i have been very critical about Philippine television's inability to properly educate the electorate about points that matter. considering that tv is the single most accessible medium of getting these important issues across the masses, sayang talaga!

i wonder if the press has already pointed these ambiguities to the Comelec? i agree with the first commenter that there should be shows, not just on ABS-CBN, which give equal chances for all involved to explain their platforms.

9:47 PM


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