The anti-Corona media coverage on the Corona impeachment trial

If there’s one thing I totally agree with in deposed Chief Justice Renato Corona’s testimony, it’s his — and the rest of the civilized world’s — observation that Philippine mainstream media ganged up on him, as if by order of the Godfather (or a head of state with close ties to media moguls).

Being neither former President Arroyo’s or President Aquino’s fan, I didn’t decide to favor or oppose the then chief magistrate in his impeachment trial. I was for truth. Let the process go through its course, then let’s see and judge, I thought.

Unfortunately, news superstars Inquirer, ABS-CBN News, and even newcomer Rappler seemed to dismiss attempts to render fair reportage, destroying chances for audiences to know what really happened.

I cannot speak much for how the others fared (as I only “studied” them occasionally), but I sure noticed how the Inquirer gave us a brazenly anti-Corona, pro-Noynoy stand.

Just do a cursory (but careful) check of the paper’s frontpages in the past few months, and you’ll see evidence screaming at you. Corona was guilty until proven innocent.

Once, the paper even swam in the murky regions of “bad taste” through that Vicente photos blunder — in what seemed to be a case of character assassination.

And look at how they projected this country’s head of state as “hard at work” (with a dramatic photo, no less) at the height of the “Noynoying” hype.

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I am moderately happy with the conviction, of course; anyone you call “Justice” (and a “Chief” at that) should be a paragon of his namesake, down to the detail of reporting wealth scrupulously.

But I am sad for him, because others who are surely worse are basking in the general triumph of democracy, as if they were immaculate and bright all along, as if catching a fellow wrongdoer would exonerate them of their own wrongs. But sadder still, because media has ruined one man’s family — unfairly — with what seem like strings attached to the presidential Palace.

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Looking back at Harapan; anticipating the Grand Debate on RH bill

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.

Flagging Bandila (1/3)

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.

– The Journalist’s Code of Ethics, No. 1

ABS-CBN News was possibly doing a sufficiently fair coverage of the inter-faith rally against the RH bill last Friday. George Cariño was doing his report next to the stage, and Korina Sanchez was in her “tent” in front of the grandstand, serving as one of TV Patrol‘s news readers.

At least they reported on the rally, I thought, unlike before.

And then Bandila aired.

No, I wasn’t able to catch the report live. I was at the rally, standing for more than five hours, and just dropped dead to bed when I reached home. It was only this afternoon that I got to watch Jenny Reyes’s “Rosales, Velarde take swipes at RH bill supporters” on abs-cbnnews.com.

Innards tumbled. The clip forced me to conclude that Bandila’s producers would do anything to sow discord and discredit the pro-life block, even at the expense of high quality reportage.

The gists of the report were:

  1. Not everyone in the rally understood the RH bill.
  2. Cardinal Rosales was unfairly maligning Carlos Celdran.
  3. Bro. Mike Velarde verbally hit at those who already left the rally when he began speaking right after the Mass.

As for (1), it is true — as true as the fact that not everyone in pro-choice rallies know what they are rallying for. Like some pro-life supporters, they too have not even read the bill.

Indeed, both camps have their share of ignorance among their members. That ignorance is even more shameful to the camp that claims to be for “informed choice.”

But how come we’ve never heard news about pro-choice supporters who are largely ignorant of the bill’s contents? And isn’t it unfair that Bandila did not even look for ordinary pro-life advocates who, on the other hand, truly know what they stood for — even if merely for an appearance of journalistic civility?

Again, this seems like ABS-CBN’s (or just Bandila’s?) non-dissemination of relevant information, effectively depriving us of the larger truth and of justice.

[To be continued]