What is “social news network” Rappler up to? Out of nowhere it seems to have suddenly mounted what some observers have described as a “demolition campaign” against Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr who, interestingly enough, happens to be heading the Senate committee reviewing the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The BBL is a project long worked on in partnership with the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by the administration of Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III. The project was fatally set back after 44 officers of the Philippine Police’s Special Action Force (SAF) were savagely butchered by elements of the MILF in a firefight in Mindanao last month.
The timing seems bizarre as it is suspect. Marcos has yet (if ever) to announce plans to run for President in 2016. So unless the editors of Rappler know something Marcos doesn’t, there seems to be no strong enough motive to get started on the traditional orgy of mudslinging that characterises the national “debate” in the lead up to Philippine elections. That pretty much leaves the BBL angle in this drama.
It is worth noting that Marcos is the least of President BS Aquino’s problems. The senator has emerged as one of the more level-headed voices in the din of of outrage chatter surrounding this tragedy. Inquirer columnist Niel Cruz wrote in a 23rd February piece…
Unlike other senators who had knee-jerk reactions when this news broke out, Bongbong stood his ground, remained very consistent in his pronouncements and was very clear about his role as a senator—that he was sharing his voice for the sake of reason, not for political grandstanding.
In the Senate hearing, Bongbong asked some of the most relevant questions. He wanted to know what P-Noy did from the time he was informed of the clash early in the morning of Jan. 25 until about 4 p.m. when the fighting stopped. Bongbong also wanted to know who informed the President about what was happening, and if there was anybody who persuaded him not to do anything that would compromise the ceasefire agreement.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, presents a contrast to this cool demeanour. Cayetano was described as aggressive and relentless in his grilling of MILF spokesperson Mohagher Iqbal over its flaccid efforts to contribute towards fleshing out the truth over what happened in Mamasapano, site of the massacre of the 44 SAF troopers. Cayetano was equally merciless in the cross-examination of the heads of the peace panel, Teresita Quintos-Deles and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer who are both increasingly seen to be negotiating in favour of the MILF rather than on behalf of the Filipino people. Some observers are even convinced that both may be suffering from some form of Stockholm Syndrome owing to the years they have been schmoozing with various MILF chieftains.
Not surprisingly, Rappler’s hipster “journalists” are also critical of what they describe as the “shameless” and “disrespectful” stance Cayetano took in the Senate inquiry sessions organised to look into the massacre. Note, however, that in describing Cayetano’s approach, they used a clever style of lazy journalism that involves quoting chatter on Twitter and passing this off as a “news” report.
Rappler has a long history of sub-standard and borderline criminal journalism practices that bring shame to the profession. Back in 2012 at the height of national hysteria over the impeachment trial of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, Rappler was instrumental in the wide dissemination of illegally-collected “evidence” presented by the prosecution team. Most of this evidence was eventually deemed inaccurate and downright fraudulent. Most notable amongst the illicitly-obtained information used to influence public opinion were bank details — including accounts and balances — that were published with impunity by kiddie reporters Carmela Fonbuena and Magtanggol de la Cruz.
For her part, Rappler chief Maria Ressa, despite being a self-described “thought leader” when it comes to all things pertaining to journalistic integrity remains consistently unapologetic about her students’ appalling behaviour. Rappler has so far not suffered any consequences for these blatant indiscretions despite being called out by voices coming from all sides of the political landscape — administration- and Opposition-sided alike.
On a broader scale, journalism in the Philippines, despite being celebrated as one of the “freeest” in the world, is no paragon of ethical ascendancy. Back in 2010, irresponsible reporting and behaviour amongst Filipino media personnel covering the hostage drama sparked by rogue policeman Rolando Mendoza contributed to the descent to chaos of the negotiation effort and the eventual massacre of nine Hong Kong tourists.
Media’s role in that 2010 massacre was, indeed, fatal. Radio Mindanao Network anchor Jake Maderazo’s description of the job of a “reporter” as “an end in itself” illustrates the deadly attitude of Filipino journalists. Apparently this “job” comes first in any situation, even situations that endanger human lives. Pressed by Filipino-Chinese community representative Teresita Ang-See with the rhetorical statement “No profession should ever be more important than (saving) human lives and more important than showing what was happening inside (the bus)” to highlight the fatal role the Media played in the botched handling of the Mendoza hostage crisis, Maderazo only had this to say…
“That’s true, but it’s not our fault. We just did our job to report,” […]
How long will Filipinos continue to tolerate the way their own media, led by “social news network” Rappler, routinely insult their intelligence and cause the unwarranted hysteria that is at the root of their entire society’s ironic ignorance in an age of readily-accessible information available at their fingertips? With elections just around the corner, expect more. More shameless impunity coming from the very folk Filipinos have foolishly delegated their already meagre collective intelligence to.
[Photo courtesy Singapore Writers’ Festival.]
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