A FEW THOUGHTS regarding the RH bill debates conducted by the largest TV networks in the country:
- ABS-CBN’s Harapan did a good job by airing the debate live. The apparently pro-RH GMA News TV doesn’t seem to have the credibility to give the public an irreproachably accurate depiction of what happened during the debate’s taping (May 17). Who knows which part of the taping they’d edit out? GMA’s Grand Debate will be aired on May 22.
- Harapan is also commendable for creating a webpage exclusively about its RH bill episode. The page has Twitter widgets showing opposing views on the issue, copies of RH-related bills in both houses of Congress, a recording of the May 8 episode, and a news feed regarding the issue. It’s disappointing, however, that they do not seem to have included the results of their May 8 viewers’ poll into the one that’s on the Harapan page now (or at least, an explicit acknowledgment of the results of the May 8 poll). The tally is now showing results that are opposite to those which were on the May 8 episode (60 percent of the total number of votes were pro-life).
- Karen Davila and Julius Babao’s efforts in moderating the debate was frustrating. They could hardly direct the debate to the pertinent issues alone. Worse, the program ended with the viewer not having clear ideas on what were resolved and what remained to be known further.
- Karen Davila, known to be pro-RH, struggled to stage an unbiased moderation of the event. She succeeded somehow, though one would get goosebumps when she questions pro-life panelists with tones that suggest sarcasm.
- Julius Babao, despite his wife Christine’s very anti-Catholic views, attained an apparently impartial conduct of the debate. He hardly seemed very involved in the discussion; or maybe Davila was speaking too much.
While I appreciate the efforts of the two competing networks in “enlightening” the public through the debates about the issues that surround the RH bill, I’m worried about their falling into merely fomenting more discord among Filipinos: when they classify people as either pro- or anti-RH bill; when the debate is presented merely as something like a boxing match; when a moral issue is reduced to something solved by a game of numbers; when they conduct debates for debate’s sake (because conflict is a factor of newsworthiness, and ultimately profit), and not the truth.