No. Why Should it?

2:40 am. Another long post.

One of the more annoying episodes of my growing up years happened at the height of the conjugal dictatorship. (No, it’s not about Voltes V. That’s another story.)

It was a week or two prior to Easter Sunday, and li’l religious me was watching a segment of Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth. The younger generation would probably be more familiar with that ghastly Jesus manga so here’s a brief description of Zefirelli’s work. Produced back in 1977 by British-Italian collaboration, the movie is considered a cinematic Diatessaron or harmonized gospels narrative, and told the story of Jesus Christ from his birth to his death. The movie was quite long, with a running time of over 380 minutes, and in the year I watched it, RPN-9 cut the movie up into four parts, with each part played on a Sunday, with the final and fourth part to be broadcast on Easter Sunday. Note that this was back in the day of no cable television, and when Holy Week came around, stations signed off on Good Friday and Black Saturday. We didn’t have any newspapers on those specific days either. (I initially thought they called it Black Saturday because the TV was, well, blacked out.) The movie is considered a cinematic masterpiece and, despite my loyalty to the second commandment, I still consider it my favorite Jesus movie.

So why do I attach it to an annoying episode in my growing up years? It happened on the night the third part of the movie was supposed to be shown. I distinctly remember the narrator, who I think was Robert Powell, the same actor who portrayed the blue-eyed Jesus, saying, “And now, Jesus of Nazareth, Part 3…” I enjoyed the first two installments and had already settled down to enjoy the third. There was the introductory score, the list of actors and actresses, and the beginnings of the story for the week. Things took a wrong turn when the movie was suddenly cut off and the scene replaced with what looked to me like the local concert at the park. The image of Jesus on the screen was replaced by (horrors!) Imelda Marcos herself, for all appearances ready to croon to her crowd of admirers. With her on stage was the late Rico J. Puno and I was right when it turned out they were going to have a concert right then and there.

Needless to say, I was mad. To think that someone would preempt a religious program, during the eve of Holy Week no less, in favor of questionable singing skills! I’m talking of Imelda, not Rico. I was mad, I was frustrated, I was powerless. The words of my late grandmother, who was an avowed Marcos fangirl, didn’t help: “Huwag kang magagalit! Huhulihin ka ng mga sundalo!” (“Don’t get mad! The soldiers will arrest you!”) So I did the only thing I could think of. I switched the darn TV off.

In time I got my own DVD set of the movie and the station eventually played the whole movie so it wasn’t a total loss but the initial thrill of watching a masterpiece was gone.

That annoying episode came to mind with the latest development in the United States about how some media outlets cut off or interrupted President Donald Trump’s live speeches for “fact checking” his lies.  One headline on the local front, courtesy of Philstar’s Interaksiyon asks, “Can Philippine media interrupt live speeches to fact-check?”

My answer: No, why should it?

Now,  I am certainly not suggesting that what happened with President Trump is on the same level as what the FFL did. My mind just paralleled the two. Imelda’s act was preempting an already scheduled and, in my humble opinion, a much better program. Can the government do that? In certain cases, yes. Should the government do that? Not all the time. In the case of the US media outlets, they interrupted a speech by their own president. Whether he was lying was beside the point. Besides, who says he was lying? The same media outlets.

Back to Imelda: At the height of their power, the Marcoses controlled the media. Newspapers, TV, and radio broadcasts were censored to favor the administration. The government’s TV station wasn’t the only government TV station, if you know what I mean. Trump doesn’t have that luxury, although I wouldn’t be surprised if some in the media would want him taking over so that they can then legitimately blame him for it.

I certainly have no love lost for President Trump. Do I believe he was a better candidate than Hilly? Perhaps. Is he better than Mr. “Trunalimunumaprzure”? Again, perhaps. Or maybe they’re all evil anyway and it’s battle for who’s the lesser evil. I am not worried about their personalities. What I am afraid of is giving too much power to an entity and unintentionally creating a monster in efforts to combat a less dangerous monster. It’s quite easy to say that the media will do it for the purpose of “fact checking.” But what about if the media just plain doesn’t like you?

Isn’t it the job of the media is to report the news, not make it? Isn’t it their job to report the news as much humanly possible in toto, and not nit and pick in order to form a “narrative.” (I understand that there are cases wherein the media must give a report despite not having all the facts. It’s quite different when the media reports without wanting to know all the facts, or disregarding the facts altogether.) Isn’t that what happened with the pope and his so-called “endorsement” of same-sex marriage? After the release of that particular news, people were reacting to what the headlines claimed the pope said, rather than react to what the pope actually said. If it were the intent of Big Brother Media to confuse people, it definitely succeeded.

Since I’m not American and Donald Trump is not my president, allow me to provide an illustration closer to home. The few times I’ve tuned in to our own President Duterte, I get very frustrated with his ramblings and mutterings. He certainly does not act like a statesman but more like a drunken grandfather who finally has lost any sense of which way is up. (Is that what Americans feel about President Trump?) Would I favor the media to just interrupt him mid speech and present instead their own version of what’s going on? No, definitely not. Would I prefer that they go over his “speech” afterwards with a fine tooth comb and provide useful information either for or to the contrary? Yes, of course. They would then be doing their job. Would I want him censored? No. I can switch off my TV or watch something else—like the Twilight Zone—and that would be me exercising my right to not listen to someone exercising his right to free speech. But that would be just me and not some entity making the decision for me. Get the drift?

As someone else has already put it, we should be against “proactive censorship…fact checking people mid speech to the point of turning off the broadcast because the media arbiters decide that the people aren’t capable of interpreting the message of their elected national leader.”

“Nasaan ang Pangulo?”

This is a long post. As some of you may know, I only sleep four hours at night. It doesn’t matter what time I go to bed. Four hours later–whoop!–I’m awake. (OK, you didn’t know that. Now you do. Please spare me your medical advice.)

What do I do when I wake up? Sometimes I read a book, other times I try to make sense out of life. So here I am, making sense out of life at 1:53 in the morning of Tuesday, November 3, in the aftermath of Typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni). One of the biggest news so far is on the “missing president.”

As always, the issue has brought the political divide of the nation to the forefront. Allow me to provide a simple breakdown of the responses:

Those adoring his administration responded as expected. The more bone-headed among them challenged the critics by asking questions like, “Eh kung andiyan ba si Digong, mawawala ba ang bagyo?” “Nasaan naman si “useless” OVP Leni?” (I will add a sic to that last statement since I know Leni to be the VP, not the OVP. She’s not her office, get it?) “Eh nung panahon ni Pnoy, puro press release, libu-libo naman ang namatay; kay Digong konti lang ang namatay. Diba?” I find it funny that those who asked, “Eh kung andiyan ba si Digong, mawawala ba ang bagyo?” perhaps unwittingly confirmed that he was neither there nor needed.(My personal opinion: Those who take this route of interaction should be lumped together with the more fanatical anti-president members of society. They should all be locked up in a room where they can throw verbal feces at each other to their hearts’ content; the rest of us love our IQs.)

The more level-headed responded by saying that he was monitoring the situation from Davao. (The president goes back to his hometown for the weekends.) I wish I could say more but there really isn’t anything more to say. Presidential Spokesman Roque’s statement, “Linggo naman yun,” is so “out there” it doesn’t even deserve more than a one-time mention. (What was he talking of exactly? Was it the president’s absence or the timing of the briefing?) He was monitoring the situation from Davao? I’ll take your word for it.

Those critical of the administration used the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo to express their disappointment at the president’s absence, particularly from the “1st high level briefing on the super typhoon.” There were the usual insults, calls for his resignation, and sadly, even death wishes from the mentally obnoxious.

The more level-headed simply called for command responsibility and accountability–the president is the leader of the nation and his presence was needed. At the very least his presence should inspire the nation that whatever else the storm may bring, he and his men were on top of the situation and could be relied on to do their job. Also, we live in the twenty-first century. Given that he was in Davao, couldn’t he have at least joined through online means? His face on a monitor is better than his face nowhere to be seen. I would have cheered if the president appeared on nation-wide TV before the arrival of the typhoon and said something like, “My fellow Filipinos, rest assured we are here; we are on top of the situation.” No rambling, just straight to the point assurance.

My takeaways:

I guess it’s a sign of maturity that we don’t react unnecessarily and allow our emotions to get the better of us. Similar to the case of the Pope’s so-called support for gay marriage, we have to make sure we react to the contents of the story and not react to the media’s reaction. (Is that re-reaction?) It also pays not listening to or reading only one source of info.

The government (I abhor too many acronyms; I’ll just use “government”) appears to have been more prepared now than the time Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines. While the numbers may still go up, the latest updates pegged the death toll at sixteen, with two million affected in twelve regions (mb.com.ph). I understand many LGUs were also up to task and were a big factor in weathering the storm, no pun intended.

My feeling on the matter: I honestly don’t think the Incumbent’s presence or absence mattered much in that area. To his detractors, whether he likes it or not, his so-called absence just showed that his government, with the right people in place, can run without him. Or we can take the high road and credit him for putting the right people in place. I’ll take the high road, thank you very much.

Now that the storm is gone, all eyes will be on the rehabilitation of the affected areas. Will we have a repeat of the Haiyan fiasco, where billions donated by concerned countries were allegedly wasted? I focus on this because the rehab is something we can control, unlike the typhoon. This is where we can and should be vigilant as it is easy for cash and kind to be diverted. Cash more than kind, since who wants another dozen cans of sardines, right? (That’s what I got from our barangay during the COVID heyday, by the way. Not that I’m complaining.)

Let me add to the prayer list from a previous post: Let us pray that the Lord will direct the rehab–that he will move in the hearts and hands of those in authority and those delegated with the rehab efforts–so that the help needed will reach those in need of help. Let us pray for the greatest of them to the least of them that they will not succumb to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life and instead love and concern for neighbor will prevail.

Pray that President Duterte and his administration will have an increased sense of accountability. Public servants can never have too much accountability. While I acknowledge that actions do speak louder than words, words do still matter.

We can only imagine what those most affected by the typhoon must be going through. Knowing that they only have so much to go around, pray that they will be able to rebuild their lives. I will repeat, let us help where and when we can.

And let this sink in, folks: Nasaan ang Pangulo? He was right where God in his sovereign wisdom put him.

Blessings, all!