In a Facebook status which has garnered some attention, it was highlighted that Oscar Pineda, a journalist working for Sunstar Cebu, asked president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino during a press briefing about the apparently inadequate support for typhoon victims and the snail-paced rehabilitation efforts in northern Cebu.
Two Thumbs up for Oscar Pineda of Sunstar Cebu. A friend and colleague, Oscar put in squarely to President Aquino the question of the slow phase of the typhoon Yolanda rehab work in the Visayas. Napikon Si Noynoy Aquino. Nobody dared to ask that painful question. From CNN Anderson Cooper perhaps but not from Pinoy journalists. But he did not meet yet the journalists from Cebu. Iba ang mga journalists from the Bisaya Homeland. They are among the best. What Oscar did was an epic veterans move. During out-of-town prescons with the president, the Philippine Information Agency and the Office of the Press Secretary screened the questions by asking reporters to submit them ahead. I was told Oscar submitted a different set of question and when his time was up to ask, “Boom” the question about the slow rehab work. It blew the top of President Aquino who blurted out that unfair ang media to look always at the negative side. Kudos Oscar! you asked the question that lingered in the minds of the millions of Typhoon Yolanda victims. “Where is the government?” Coming from you it was indeed a Ninja Move!
According to Cebu Daily News, this question from Pineda caused BS Aquino to blow his top.
Pineda, who was the only Cebu-based journalist allowed to shoot a question during the press briefing, told of a growing restiveness among typhoon victims who felt neglected by the national government three months after Yolanda hit northern Cebu.
This did not sit well with Mr. Aquino, who responded: “To say that no (relief goods) came seemed absurd. We’re going to Bantayan (island) now. Perhaps, I wouldn’t be going to Bantayan if the people are mad at me, isn’t that so?”
He said the reporter could just get all the data of government’s relief efforts from Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, but later decided to talk lengthily on what his administration has done, thus far, to help the victims get back on their feet.
Questioning the veracity of the reporter’s assertion, he said, “Well, I hope you have details (on the particular) place, so that I can answer directly.”
“And, if you want to, you can come with us to Bantayan. We’ll see if they hate us,” he added.
Whether the typhoon victims hate your government or not totally misses the point, mister President. The reporter wasn’t asking about what your administration has done, but what it intends to do. The typhoon victims haven’t the slightest idea about that three months after the calamities struck, and apparently your government doesn’t either.
In that same report, BS Aquino appealed to media to “highlight” positive developments, and he added that the scale of the needed relief was “no joke”.
Recall that BS Aquino’s government was criticized hard for its lethargic and at times highly politicized response with the typhoon Yolanda relief aid. More than three months after the calamities struck, apparently many areas are still waiting for relief. BS Aquino was even reported to have snubbed a party of Yolanda survivors who came to Manila to protest the slow government aid.
BS Aquino is also notorious for being utterly hypersensitive to criticism and to bad news. He and his government are too image-conscious and want only good news being reported. They are also known for “sanitizing” and answering only questions which they have a canned answer to and which they can spin “positively”. When the reality does finally hit him, as the unemployment figures and a visit to an area in Davao hit by a previous typhoon have pointed out, he could only react in disbelief and in a baffled manner.
BS Aquino’s government does not act, it reacts, which could explain why it stumbles repeatedly over itself to propose band-aid solutions instead of proactive and preventive ones to the chronic problems in Filipino society. But then again, this reactive trait is one of Filipinos in general too, so no surprise.
Mr. Pineda’s episode comes at a time when the talk among the chattering classes is the recent display of sloppy reporting by ABS-CBN regarding a “flesh-eating disease” discovered in Pangasinan. Mainstream media in the Philippines is recently not only getting known more and more for bogus, misleading, and at times utterly fallacious reporting, it is also known for being very subservient and unquestioning of government and public affairs. Instead of living up to their role as watchdog, they instead embrace the role of lapdog, attack dog, and propaganda machine.
As some would say, faith in humanity restored, even if only for a very fleeting moment.
However, an even less obvious, but just as important, point will fly over Filipinos’ heads:
Why is it hard to find people here in the Philippines who do their job properly?
If that question doesn’t cause discomfort among Filipinos, then they deserve their wretched society, and their image-conscious, incompetent, and utterly clueless government officials.
[Photo courtesy: Froilan Gallardo]
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