Spied this puff piece by Joel Pablo Salud published on a certain LiCAS News Philippines. In this article pompously-titled “My State of the Nation Address”, Salud shrieks about how “the bloodstained curtains slowly begin to close on the current regime” and, as such, that he be “allowed” the words he would go on to write. Not surprisingly, the eminent “editor, journalist and the author of several books of fiction and political nonfiction” turns his sympathetic eye to, where else, the “plight” of his “journalist” comrades…
Since that fateful day in July 2016 where Duterte sparked an ongoing inquisition against Filipino journalists, when he said, “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” the battle since then has gone from shadow boxing to full contact.
Faced with the daily risk of intimidation, illegal arrests and detention, the possibility of infection due to the pandemic, retrenchment and poverty, charges of libel or terrorism, and the looming threat of being the target of assassinations, our journalists couldn’t care less about all these things for as long as the job requires them to be where they ought to be: right in the middle of where it is happening.
Thus began the systematic persecution which left a little over 20 journalists dead in just five years, while hundreds of others suffered harassment, intimidation, threats, and illegal arrests, including journalists on campus.
Brings tears to your eyes, doesn’t it?
When journalists who are also “activists” cry that the sky is falling, how many times will the public believe them given the state of journalism in the country today? The basic tenets of journalism are simple enough. News should be based on facts. Objectivity is required here. The gist of the story should be contained in the first three paragraphs. Opinions are expressed in the op-ed page. News anchors should “read” the news. Interviews should be conducted in a manner which brings out facts not conjecture or speculation. Columnists should base exposés on facts not rumors and innuendos. What’s been happening since 1986 is simply what journalists working under the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos fought to have but now practice with impunity; “press freedom”.
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Like it or not, the Philippine media actually enjoys the most freedom in the region. Where else can you see journalists successfully being elected into public office? Philippine journalists claim that the cases of ABS-CBN and Rappler are the best examples of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte clamping down on “press freedom”. The fact is, they choose to give the public only one side of the story. Not much mention is made of the fact that an incumbent President called out two anchors of the broadcast giant when he was the guest of honor at its anniversary celebration. The reality is the franchise of the network giant could have been renewed. But that renewal was shot down by the same Congress that impeached an incumbent Chief Justice without the benefit of due process back in 2012. Indeed, this impeachment was backed by the very same media groups that now cry bloody murder over that non-renewal.
When journalists call for the closure of the network due to its franchise expiring to be an election issue, you realize that something is not right. In the case of Rappler, there are two companies registered by the stockholders. The first is the holding company. The second is the actual corporate entity operating as the media outfit. The structure is such that the holding company can receive funds which can be funnelled into the operating company. These funds can be classified as advances from stockholders in order to maintain the operating company as a going concern. Why is it then that journalists have not written about this story and presented these important facts to the public? Rappler has received foreign funding by way of grants. It is not a university nor is it a non-governmental organization that is entitled to such funds.
The organization for which Salud writes his puff piece has the accompanying graphic stating its vision and mission. “Light of Catholics in Asia” is what LiCAS apparently stands for. “Our coverage from Asia brings to the world stories of human rights violations, denial of justice and religious persecution in some of the world’s fastest growing economies, all within the political backdrop of eroding religious and press freedom.” This elaboration is proof that LiCAS News only shines the “light” on one side of the stories it publishes.
Philippine media was already a force to be reckoned with before martial law. Marcos shutdown media outlets and only allowed a few to reopen after he put down the threat to his government. The evolution of media post-Marcos is also tied to politics and business because of the relationship between the two. The truth is money and power are also the primary considerations of those who are in the industry. The facade was maintained in the past because of the realpolitik. Not anymore. The line has been crossed. Perhaps it is because the unwritten rules have all been thrown out the window. In the same manner the quality of journalists and journalism deteriorated with the quality of the characters of those being covered. Social media has taken up the slack. Citizens have used the platform to make their opinions known. It is ironic that the very people whom journalists were supposed to serve have taken it upon themselves, to do the task of holding the politicians and the journalists themselves accountable for the consequences of their actions. But make no mistake. The “journalist-activists” have gone down to the level of gaslighting in their bid to change the public sentiment.
Democracy’s reality is such that it is only a modified version of fiefdoms. We have seen the unravelling of America which was its showcase for the longest time. Europe was the center of global civilization where empires were made until the massive unrest of the masses breaking away from the chains of poverty led them to the land of the free. We are the only Asian country that mimics the American Identity because of our colonial past. In essence, the state of journalism is a field in which one battle is being fought. What is significant is the people are beginning to take the power back in their hands to do so. This is why some them are being conveniently labeled as “trolls” because they pose the biggest threat to the power structure and dynamic of the media industry that employs these “journalists”. Indeed, you can smell the fear in Salud’s shrill writing as he, yet again as his comrades keep assert, goes all crybaby about this “troll” invasion supposedly led by Duterte…
His army of paid trolls would be unleashed on a populace who had had enough of his lies. Social media would again be the site of a fierce battle for hearts and minds. It’s a campaign whose aftermath may dictate the outcome of the 2022 elections, if an election would take place.
All this fielding of candidates, this fracas with supposed “political allies-turned-rivals,” may just be another ruse to keep us off guard, to miss the last strategy in the Marcosian playbook: the declaration of martial law.
For your information, Chicken Little and your Henny Penny pals in Manila’s tita set, that movement you people allude to was labelled the “mosquito press” during the time of Marcos. Now, it is simply “citizen journalism”. The people have taken it upon themselves to take care of their own because “journalists” no longer fulfils that role — neither competently nor ethically.
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