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.

Media’s ignorance, prejudice re NFP

MORE AND MORE people are seeing the ignorance of mainstream media when it comes to rational arguments against the RH bill.

In a letter to the Inquirer (“Modern NFP not rhythm method” 7/4/11), former swimmer and TV host Christine Jacob-Sandejas clarified that

[t]he media, along with many healthcare professionals, are uninformed about modern methods of NFP [natural family planning] like the Sympto-Thermal Method, the Ovulation Method, or the Billings Method; so they group the various modern natural methods under the title “rhythm.”

Here’s another one trusting that “media will do their part” in truly facilitating real informed choice.

Read Ms. Jacob-Sandejas’s informative article in full >>

[UPDATED: 7/4/11 4:33 pm]

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]