Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cheap shots

This is my column today at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

Having a full-time job, a teaching job and a number of social advocacies has made responding to comments in my Web log and to various e-mails increasingly difficult for me. Even updating my Web log has become almost impossible. As the cliché goes, there are only 24 hours in a day, and even despite multi-tasking, there is only so much one can do without breaking sanity levels.

So I must apologize publicly to all those who leave comments on my Web log and to all those who send e-mails to express their reaction to or share their agreement or disagreement with my writing. I do read your comments and reactions. I just don’t always have the time to respond to them. Since I do not publish my e-mail address, I am particularly impressed with the ingenuity and resourcefulness of some readers who somehow found a way to find out how to reach me via e-mail.

In this piece, I am going to acknowledge and respond to three e-mails that struck me.

A certain A. Pantoja e-mailed to tell me that he has been “looking for a way to express opinion about some ads of our candidates,” especially those that he “believes are not correct.”
Pantoja is complaining about the television ad of senatorial candidate John Osmeña, the one where he is shown advocating the trashing of the expanded valued added tax. Pantoja asks, “Isn’t EVAT already a law? Why is he shown ripping a piece of paper with the word E-Vat and saying ‘Ibasura ang E-Vat?” Isn’t it like telling the people not to obey the law? Why did the Philippine Association of National Advertisers approve this political advertisement when it seems to me its only purpose is to score ganda points?”

I agree with Pantoja’s alarm over this sensationalist approach to attract attention. Osmeña’s television ad is deceitful and devious because it’s all sound and fury signifying nothing. The EVat was approved by Congress and it is already implemented. People have already gotten used to it. It is a non-issue. Reviving the issue at this time is simply a cunning move to earn some brownie points with the voters.

Attempting to repeal the EVat law, or even simply amending it, is an exercise in futility. Osmeña knows it cannot be done. First, the government really needs the money. Second, it will require major political will to get the measure across. And lest we forget, political will is not exactly one of the strongest suits of our legislators.

And yes, I am aghast that a candidate, a former senator at that, is openly advocating trashing or disobeying a law that the same institution he is aspiring to become a member of passed.
Another reader, S. Briones, sent a long e-mail expressing disgust over the way certain media institutions played up that embarrassing faux pas involving President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during last week’s celebration of National Women’s Month. As backgrounder, the President apparently mistook the audience for another group of women and when she started asking questions, she naturally got the wrong responses.

My reader says that she caught the television coverage of the event of both ABS-CBN and GMA-7. She thinks that the GMA-7 coverage of the faux pas was more balanced. “They also showed the embarrassing exchange between the President and the audience, but they also highlighted the fact that the President was able to manage the situation well. The ABS-CBN report simply highlighted the faux pas.”

Briones likewise illustrated the differences in the way the various dailies played up the incident. In my reader’s opinion, certain papers focused on the audience’s reaction labeling it as “heckling” when it was clearly not the case. To summarize, Briones thinks that media is too focused on embarrassing the President and watching out for blunders rather than reporting fairly.

I think there is no doubt that the President came out of that incident a better person—at least as far as her image is concerned. She didn’t lose her cool (I think everyone expected a major tantrum), and she was able to turn the situation around.

However, media’s preoccupation with bad news, sleaze, and scandals has been a cause for alarm for quite some time now. Unfortunately, media is also a business enterprise and is affected by market variables such as ratings and readership. I also think that media has a social responsibility to educate its audience but a large share of the responsibility must be borne by the citizenry. In short, sleaze, scandals and embarrassing incidents sell. They are played up as human interest stories mainly because of this. It is difficult to argue with success.

Anyone out there who thinks that a certain television station or newspaper is not living up to its social responsibility has a ready option available to him or her. All he or she needs to do is to stop patronizing that paper, or stop tuning in to that station or show. It is as simple as that. I have stopped watching “Imbestigador” and “XXX” mainly because I think these shows are intrusive. They wantonly violate civil liberties and are clearly fascist. These shows treat suspected criminals as if they don’t have rights anymore.

Yet another reader, who wants to be known as M. Rajani put me to task for my column “It’s not the economy, stupid.” Rajani asks, and in what I surmise to be a lame attempt at patronizing me, “are you an economist, Mr. Austero?” And then the reader ranted about columnists who are in his words “teacup economists” (he or she did not bother to explain what that means) who are also paid hacks.

No, I am not an economist. I never made pretensions about being one. But I do work and have always been connected with the financial services sector, so I do ingest economic figures for merienda every day. But so what if I am not an economist, what has that got to do with that column? I just don’t get this “who are you” line of argument that many people use. We should argue and debate based on ideas, not based on who we are.

I don’t usually get e-mails similar to M. Rajani’s diatribe so it always makes for a good diversion. And being accused as a paid hack has got to be the funniest, craziest, most asinine idea ever.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Bong!
Am one of those who would like to get a hold of your email add so I could write longer about important issues lang naman (!) w/o cluttering your blog-comments section. One issue is the coming elections and I was gonna ask if there's a way you and your blog readers could exchange insights, share views and info about a candidate (good or bad) to sort of help us decide better this coming elections. Kasi, us in the scientific community and the academe would like people to know more about the Agham Partylist. Am sure many of your readers would share the view that we really truly dire-ly need to replace those takaw-away, noisy, shallow, left-leaning-makamasa-daw-but-have-not-done anything-for-the-masa by much better, saner representatives. Also I'd like to know more about those independent senatorial candidates who are mentioned very briefly in the papers (2 w/ PhDs, a lawyer, a doctor). Maybe those who know them can share infos about platforms and qualifications etc. Once informed I am more inclined to vote for them Any suggestions?
MommyJo
Please, u can look at www.Agham-Partylist.org.ph

vic said...

I always find it funny if not outright silly if someone asks me of “who are you” if I express opinion on something, and I do on lots of things.

First of all even Economists will argue on two different views of a single issue and will never agree on single point. Same things with all the so-called experts in just about most fields.

I am not a Physician and my Baby Sister and her husband are both, but they never ask me “who are you” when I express my ideas about medicine and sometimes, unless we are talking about “skilled”, all other fields of knowledge are not exclusive of those who have papers to show for them.

Economy, Politics and even Law and Management are not exact science. Anyone, with a normally functioning organ between the two ears can easily come up with outstanding theories and thesis and anything. Now, who’s that guy that asking “who are you?

Dyordz Paterno said...

you may not be the most qualified person to talk about certain things (who gives a shit?), but you write truthfully. when i read your blog i have the sense that every word really comes from you and you have thought each word over. sometimes i even get the impression that you have had fun wrting them. i have tried taking in earnest the writings of people who can be said to have authority on what they say, but i can't get past the first paragraph really. to be fair with them, let me add that i read too few of what they have to say.