|Photo by NUJP's Ilang-Ilang Quijano.|
(Statement on Pres. Aquino’s speech at the 16th National Convention of the Philippine Press Institute)
"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” – Thomas Jefferson
And again he whines.
In his speech at the Philippine Press Institute’s 16th National Press Forum, President Benigno Aquino III again grabbed the opportunity to berate the one sector he seems to think is to blame for all the woes our country is facing – his very hosts, the Philippine Press.
We do give credit to Mr. Aquino for the courage of telling us to our faces what he thinks of us.
We do, however, take exception to his portraiture of the Philippine media as the anecdotal crabs bent on pulling him and, to his mind, the country down.
Never mind the pettiness of the actual examples he raises, never mind even that the unfortunate focus on his from regular to zero to sort of regular love life should be properly blamed on his penchant for suddenly blurting out details of what otherwise he insists are private matters.
He accuses the media of trumpeting travel advisories and terror warnings that he says drive away tourists and the millions of dollars they otherwise would pour into our economy.
Dare we ask, Mr. President, who called a hasty press conference at the Palace, complete with an array of government top brass, to announce what turned out to be a non-existent terror threat on the eve of the Black Nazarene procession in January?
Or perhaps Mr. Aquino would like to tell off those pesky foreign embassies that regularly send out the advisories he so hates as well as those in his security services with a penchant for leaks?
But what is truly worrisome about Mr. Aquino’s wholesale depiction of the Philippine media is that it is of a mindset akin to that which shut down a vibrant press in September 1972 and replaced it with mouthpieces dedicated to extolling “the true, the good, the beautiful” life under a brutal dictatorship.
Sure, we sometimes get it wrong. We never said we were infallible.
But Mr. Aquino’s whining about getting a bad press merely shows up how totally bereft he is of a sense of history.
And since he appears to be more enamored with how the foreign press regards us, notwithstanding that, however well-intentioned they may be, they are outside observers looking in and only on one area, he would do well to heed the admonition of Thomas Jefferson.
Mr. Aquino would have us trumpet his administration’s accomplishments, like improved agricultural production and an upbeat economy. How, though, to highlight these over the fact that all too many of our countrymen continue to wallow in poverty and hunger? Should this not rightly lead us to ask why, despite these seemingly glowing achievements, they remain in such dire straits?
Yes, Mr. Aquino, the press you loathe does report on the successes of the police. But how, pray, can this take precedence over the fact that far too many of our countrymen – and that includes journalists – continue to fall prey to crime and, worse, the violations of their human rights at the hands of those supposedly sworn to protect them?
And yes, Mr. Aquino, we do report on the nobility of our public servants who, in their dedication, go beyond the call of duty.
But should you really expect people to fall all over themselves to praise you for doing your sworn duty? Does this mean then that doing what you promised to is such a rarity that we need to highlight it each time it happens?
Or perhaps you would have us do as you do and look the other way when Ronald Llamas next purchases pirated DVDs, or Jesse Robredo and Edwin Lacierda knowingly defy a lawful court order to give men wanted for murder a headstart to evade justice, or as our colleagues and activists and environmentalists and lawyers and judges and religious and farmers and fishermen and indigenous people continue to be murdered and disappeared and tortured and threatened and harassed?
No, Mr. Aquino, we care about our country and people as much as, perhaps even more than, you do.
This is why we will not be a party to a whitewash, to your Potemkin. This is why we will continue to inform the people as best we can of the true state of our common lives, to question why we continue to suffer despite your promises of justice and good governance, and to hound you for failing to fulfill what you swore our people you would.
Rowena Carranza Paraan