By Chit Estella
June 6, 2007
WHEN FR. Ed Panlilio decided to take a leave from the priesthood to run in Pampanga’s gubernatorial elections, Filipinos knew something was afoot. It was vaguely reminiscent of the time when a certain housewife decided to leave a sheltered, low-key, and predictable life to seek the nation’s highest office because she knew it was time for change in the country. Both knew that unlikely candidates as they were, destiny was assigning a key role to them. Leadership was being thrust upon them.
Then and now—in the time of Cory Aquino and of Panlilio—journalists knew in their hearts that change had to happen. Journalists not only knew which candidate was on the right side, they also wanted to be on that side. The problem: how to keep their feelings away from their duty to report the news.
This was the situation faced by Tonette Orejas, correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, who covered the elections in Pampanga. In this issue of PJR Reports, Orejas writes not only of what she saw in the elections but of her own inner struggles at that time.
It turns out that Panlilio’s victory was not the only unexpected outcome of the elections. So was the triumph of a certain political detainee, ex-soldier Antonio Trillanes IV, and of nearly all opposition candidates in the senatorial contest. Apparently, the administration’s much-vaunted “machinery” failed.
And what was the role of media in all this? Television, the acknowledged medium of choice of most voters, stepped up to the plate. Did it deliver?
As in the elections, the traditional thinking is that the advantage lies with those with the largest resources. In the electoral coverage by the networks, that would be ABS-CBN and GMA-7. As resources rise, so do viewer expectations.
But what about those who are not similarly equipped? ABC-5 came up with an interesting option. Instead of concentrating on the big day alone, it went on a selective coverage of certain areas way ahead of the elections. It focused on lingering problems and how the choice of leaders could solve these.
Most unusually, and almost facetiously, ABC-5 added another ingredient to its coverage: psychics who were supposed to give their prognosis on the fates of the candidates. How well did they do? Ed Lingao, head of the station’s news operations team, says of Madame Auring and company: “Like the politicians, they preferred to be marvelously vague.”
Nothing was vague, however, about the determination displayed by all the candidates during the campaign. The name Pichay and his campaign quickly come to mind when one talks about political advertisements. Yet, the outcome of the elections effectively put political ads in their proper place. The article on political advertisements explains this.
And then there were the truly savvy politicians who were quick to realize the power of a new medium: the Internet. Through blogs and websites, they reached out to the youth and the overseas Pinoys and went on to win the elections. There were matters of concern that almost got lost in the thick of the political exercise. The Commission on Elections stepped in to stop the quick count being conducted by media. Despite an agreement and similar activities in the past, it suddenly became illegal to publicize such counts. A PJR Reports story draws attention to this issue.
And while nobody was looking, somebody issued an executive order hushing up government employees who have a mind to share with the public some things that might be in its interest to know. Has anybody heard of Executive Order 608? PJR Reports talks about this and its implications for the press.
And, oh, is the class action suit filed by journalists and media groups against presidential spouse Mike Arroyo over and done with? Not by a long shot. Read this month’s issue to be updated.