Salve’s life, according to the Inquirer

I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts or to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognise the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.

The Journalist’s Code of Ethics, No. 1

THE Inquirer steps up its campaign for the passage of the RH bill — this time, in a  front-page “news” article.

Kristine Felisse Mangunay’s article “Salve’s life:  A strong case for the RH bill” (5/26/11) is an account of the woes of a 37-year-old woman living with her 64-year-old partner: her eight children. Generously sprinkled with vivid descriptions of Salve’s destitution, the article appears as a heart-rending argument against those who oppose the passage of the RH bill. “RH services would have prevented Salve’s poverty,” the article seems to cry.

Okay. I shall not comment on the grand complexity that is the RH bill debate. For the sake of this blog entry, I shall only think aloud about how the Inquirer frames the entire RH bill row in Ms Mangunay’s article.

  • Salve’s poverty seems to be simplistically viewed in light of a supposed absolute need for contraceptives. Why isn’t there any explicit mention about the need for good jobs and proper education for Salve and her partner? All the article says about those two factors of poverty alleviation is the fact that (1) the couple didn’t finish elementary school, (2) Salve is a plastics factory worker, and (3) her partner is a cotton candy vendor. The Inquirer seems to be more concerned about fertility per se rather than unemployment, lack of education, and corruption in government (government could have given relocated families such as Salve’s more decent shelters).
  • Couldn’t the Inquirer — for the sake of inquiring, “balanced news”, and the natural duty of the press to know the other side of any issue —  also feature strong arguments against the RH bill? The angling in Salve’s story is already cliche. And we’ve never seen the Inquirer write in depth about women who’ve had complications due to their use of IUDs, some contraceptive pills, and other commercial contraceptives. And we’ve hardly seen the Inquirer look at a family’s poverty as a consequence of, for example, administrative mismanagement on the part of government.
  • Couldn’t the Inquirer be more accurate and impartial when talking about pro-life advocates? Ms Mangunay, who belongs to Iglesia ni Cristo, says that “President Benigno Aquino III himself has expressed support for the RH bill. But the Catholic Church and a number of lawmakers remain firmly opposed to the measure and have vowed to block its passage” [emphasis mine]. In fact, many individuals and groups from other religions are also opposed to the RH bill — precisely because they claim that many objections to the bill are not solely a “Catholic thing”, but are actually in the realm of universal ethics.

I commend, however, Ms Mangunay’s sincerity in exposing the daily problems of Salve and her family. Pity towards Salve’s family is certainly at the heart of the writer’s article. But it shouldn’t be enough. The feeling of pity should level up to charity, which becomes complete only when accompanied by the complete truth. Certainly there were aspects of reality which Ms Mangunay neglected when writing her apparently well-written work.

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10 thoughts on “Salve’s life, according to the Inquirer

  1. Well said Daryl! Thank you for this article. If only journalists are as objective as you are, then we will not have ethical problems with our media. God Bless

    • Thanks, Momoro. I’m not a journalist in the strict sense of the term, though. 🙂 I’m just another media consumer like you.

      Let’s help our journalists become better by keeping watch on them.

      I hope to receive your first contribution to PFM soon. 🙂

  2. Or why not focus on the husband? The writer didn’t bother asking him a single question. He’s the problem, so why target Salve’s body for contraception or sterilization that will do her harm? Worse, why pose this question before the Church as if the latter is responsible for their plight? Let no one forget that no other institution or individual has done more for the poor than the Church and its priests.

    • “Or why not focus on the husband? The writer didn’t bother asking him a single question. ”

      That’s an insight I also didn’t see previously. Probably because popular opinion (thanks to media, primarily) has inculcated in us a woman-as-victim view when it comes to the so-called RH issues. Pro-RH advocates often forget that the father — frequently the breadwinner of the family — is also a victim of injustice due to lack of education and job opportunities.

      Thanks for dropping by, Chet. Please like our FB page and share it with your friends. 🙂

  3. On the other hand, how many of the families out there with only three or less children yet still encounter sickness, hunger, and miserable life? Our family has been hiring this worker from time to time for the past at least 20 years. He has three children- two are married and are already living separately from them while one is still with them. His wife is sick again of tuberculosis. She had already contracted the disease several years ago but is infected with it again. Today, they have several months back-obligation on the shanty house similar to that of Salve, they are renting. Based on the situation of Salve and also of the worker with only three children, does the number of children has a significant relation to such miserable life as that of Salve and that of the other worker just mentioned?

    • I agree, media’s rash generalizations of reality can be unjust.

      Thanks for visiting, josepmikel. 🙂

  4. thank you for sharing.

    one of the problems w/ RH is they make it sound as if women’s unintended pregnancies are the result of a lack of a bill. they even reason that teenage pregnancies are the result of a lack of the bill. now everyone who had unintended pregnancies (even unmarried people) can just blame the bill and not accept responsibility for their own actions.

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