As of this writing, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has pretty much slammed the door on the face of the Philippines’ clique of for-profit Corporate Media “journalists” and now relies on state-owned (not-for-profit) People’s Television (PTV4) Network and Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM) for the issuance of public updates. Every “journalist” and her dog is screaming bloody “censorship”. But, really, was “freedom of the press” curtailed?
As soon-to-be former President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III would say: “But you did not die, right?”
Indeed, press freedom in the Philippines is alive and well. The mediocre “news reporting” continues and the din of hysterical chatter on social media persists. People are still free to speculate, opine, and theorise on public platforms. After all, it will take a control regime in the scale that Red China had implemented to control all this now that the Internet has all but democratised mass communication.
Philippine Corporate Media had it coming for a long time. For thirty years it enjoyed god-like status in the Philippines following the 1986 “revolution” that, supposedly, was a referendum on the “dictatorship” of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos. What specifically stung Filipinos by the Marcos regime was a “lack of press freedom”. This, we are told, is what hobbled the Philippines’ march to progress — because there was no free “Fourth Estate” to keep government honest and keep the public informed on pertinent issues.
Did thirty years of “press freedom” undo all that?
That is the confronting question today’s crop of Filipino “journalists” and their corporate employers need to answer. Speficially:
Has Philippine Corporate Media;
(1) done a good job keeping the Philippine Government honest; and,
(2) done a good job keeping the public informed on pertinent issues?
We’ll leave the madla to decide whether to hang medals on their “heroic” “journalists” or tar and feather them after evaluating how much value they had added to society over the last 30 years of “freedom” to “express”.
Perhaps the best people to consult on how “heroic” Philippine Corporate Media soldiers are are the families of the nine Hong Kong tourists who were slaughtered by rogue police officer Rolando Mendoza during a botched hostage situation in 2010. Unethical reporting practices employed by scoop-hungry reporters who swarmed to the crime scene contributed to the fatal degeneration of the situation. A report published by Stratfor described the debacle caused by an irresponsible media presence…
One of the essential principles in this effort is to isolate the hostage-taker so that he or she cannot receive outside communication, motivation, encouragement or other forms of support. Hostage negotiators seek to control the flow of all information into or out of the crime scene. That did not occur in this case. Mendoza was able to talk to outsiders on his cell phone and even gave media interviews. He was also able to use the television in the bus to watch live media coverage of the incident, including video of the deployment of police officers. This gave him a considerable advantage and far more information than what he could have observed with his eyes from inside the curtained bus.
Indeed, Filipino reporters are known to even barge into emergency rooms and shove cameras, floodlights, and microphones into patients’ and medical personnel’s faces in their routinely desperate quests for stories.
Hypocrisy seems to be the standout word underlying the conduct of Philippine Corporate Media in many instances — they apply an approach to “journalism” that is a far cry from the sober and dignified regard for the practice in bygone days.
Perhaps it is because the “journalism” community in the Philippines is really just a small clique of mutual-high-fiving boys and girls who, because of unhealthy familiarity with one another, are generally disinclined to police their own ranks and call-out bad behaviour amongst one another. Indeed, to this day, Rappler reporters Carmela Fonbuena and Magtanggol de la Cruz have yet to be taken to account for their offenses against the Philippines’ bank secrecy laws when they published private banking details of the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial in 2012.
Bad behaviour and unethical practices abound in Philippine media! Another example of behaviour inconsistent with principles and “decency” is the social media initiative #RP69FanFic reportedly launched by “film critic” and ABS-CBN lifestyle contributor Philbert Dy (and promoted by corporate media sites) which rallied Netizens to post lewd stories and memes about Sandro Marcos (son of vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos) and Baste Duterte (son of President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte). The hashtag (warning: link leads to a Twitter profile that serves content not fit for minors) became a “trending topic” on Twitter and was fanned by a who’s-who of hipster media personalities and Jesuit-educated chi-chi folk many of whom, today, lead chatter surrounding the “indecent” soundbytes issued by Duterte in what was once routine (now defunct) meetings with the press.
It is therefore not surprising that Philippine society is an utterly confused society. The late Singaporean elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew had a few things to say about the dubious contribution of the Philippine media to this young and developing nation. Lee observed that…
[…] a wieldy partisan press helped Filipino politicians to flood the market place of ideas with junk […]
and that it…
[…] confused and befuddled the Filipino people so they could not see what their vital interests were in a developing country. And because basic issues like economic growth and equitable distribution was seldom discussed and were not tackled, the democratic system malfunctioned.
Trust Mr. Lee to handily sum up the Philippines in no more than two sentences.
This is the Philippines outsiders see — the very outsiders that Philippine society’s inward-looking cliques of “activists” and “thought leaders” could have learned a lot of things from if they had not been too busy dismissing valuable insight coming from a community of observers who have lots to offer by way of confronting outsiders’ perspectives.
More importantly, this is the Philippines that is a product supposedly of a “free” press that styled itself as a community that aimed to serve Filipinos, keep them informed about important and relevant issues, and challenge the Establishment to stay at the top of its game. Instead of all that, Filipinos got mere entertainment. For thirty years.