Understand, Madam President
We appreciate President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s effort to fight terrorism in the country. Unfortunately she seems to be firing her guns all over and is hitting innocent victims, journalists included.
Mrs. Arroyo complained about criticisms she got after she disclosed an “intelligence report” about journalist Julius Babao’s alleged role in bailing out a terrorist.
Madam President, your intelligence report was wrong. When the media reported Babao’s denial, they were not criticizing you, they were telling you the information you got from your people was wrong. The media were reporting a story.
Again, we appreciate your effort to fight terrorism, but we would like to point out that journalists were not “overly sensitive” when we pointed out that you should check your facts before linking people to crimes they didn’t commit.
Yes, some journalists “arrogated the license to fire away at anybody.” We are doing our best to check this and discipline our ranks, but you have no right, Madam President, to dictate on us what stories to report.
We would also like to point out, Madam President, that the five million-peso fund that your administration put up for slain journalists has not been released until now. The quick reaction team has not been formed and most of the cases of killings of journalists have not been solved.
The Philippine media has not become part of the “national malaise” hindering development in our country because of “negative reports” about your administration. Actually most reports that appear in newspapers and television and radio broadcasts are “positive stories.”
Madam President, the Philippine media is doing its best to be true to our job to report what is going on in this country. If ever these reports hurt you or your administration, take a second look before firing your guns. Something must be wrong with what your administration has been doing.
Jose Torres Jr.
Chairman, Commission for the Protection of Journalists
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
***here's the damning speech of Gloria***
PGMA's Speech during the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP)
31st Top Level Management Conference
Main Hall, Camp John Hay Convention Center Baguio City, Benguet
(10 November 2005)
Daghan salamat, Cerge. Thank you for your very kind introduction.
Lito Yabut, Jun Nicdao and other officials of KBP, Mayor Yaranon,Governor Melchor and other officials of the Philippine government -- oh! Including Mayor Galutin. Thank you for coming here all the way from Mankayan, four hours drive away or now it's already less than four hours, right? Because of our nice highway -- guests, officers and delegates of the KBP, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
Originally, when you invited me, I had asked Cerge to represent me here today and read my message, and I was going to do a video message. But I remembered what he said, I'd been coming every year to join you, I guess this is not the time to break that tradition. First of all to say, thank you because you're giving us radio time and television time for our avian flu campaign. Thank you for that support for our serving the people.
And second, because as Cerge says, no other leader has been as close to the KBP as I have been since my days as senator. I would also say that after all said and done the KBP as an organization has been supportive of my administration and I thank you for that.
And I'd also like to take this opportunity to express gratification that we have put up together the full resources of government and your organization to stop and solve the violent and cowardly acts on crusading journalists. I'd like to report the 36 cases involving the slaying of journalists have either been disposed of or are under trial, while 26 are under investigation or follow up operations.
I'd like to think that the five million-peso fund set up for slain journalists contributed to the abatement of attacks on media people. If you recall, my share included reward money for information leading to the arrest of the suspects in the killings, while that of Speaker Joe de Venecia was for the mobilization of quick reaction teams composed of media representatives that could immediately investigate and document pertinent cases.
So, we've worked together on things that have produced results and we'll continue to produce results. On the other hand, I was recently criticized for disclosing an intelligence report that a broadcast journalist was instrumental in bailing out a terrorist. Terrorism is evil. And I consider my fight against terror as a duty of my presidency.
Our national security is something that you and I must take seriously. I'm disappointed with the precious overly sensitive of its prerogatives when at the same time, many of our journalists arrogated the license to fire away at anybody without even circumstantial evidence.
We must take heed of the media becoming part of the national malaise and a hindrance to development rather than an important solution to our problems. A press that loses credibility as the watchdog of government and the society becomes a drag to democracy rather than a force of freedom. Yes, we must admit that some segments of the media are pushing the negative angle of stories too far and too often.
As I observed in a speech made before the business community earlier this week, there have been a great deal of positive developments that have not been extensively covered by the media. The portrait of a nation on the verge of economic take off is unassailable yet sadly known to most Filipinos. The backdrop of the peso and the market as the best performers in southeast Asia give us now the best opportunity to bring the good news to the people so we can reap their confidence beside that of the world, and so that we can do the patriotic task to convince the public on the need for full implementation of economic reforms next year.
On our part, we shall continue fielding non-tax revenue generating measures alongside palpable cuts in unnecessary government spending. Already, our national government has saved some 37 billion pesos from our budget deficit ceiling, mostly because our skillful treasury operations are better bond prices and our stronger peso have reduced our debt by that amount. And that's where we have been cutting down on our expenditures.
One of the congressmen yesterday told me, "that's good news that we are cutting our deficit not because we're cutting infrastructure spending, not because we're cutting social services spending." In fact, we're using up the full budget for public works. We're using up the full budget for the PNP. We're using up the full budget for the DND. We're using up the full budget for our social services. Where are we saving? It is on debt service.
I invite the officers of the KBP to meet with our economic managers so that you can hear first hand the good news about our country.
Indeed, there is much that the KBP can do; there is much that broadcast media can do because technology is empowering you more and more. In fact today, a historical event is happening here in Baguio city. I'm told by Cerge that for the first time in the Philippines digital FMHD radio is on the air, broadcasting clear... broadcasting clear and clean radio programming on 105.1 megahertz to broadcast world and their technology partners, broadcast electronics and urban as well as our NTC and KBP. Thank you for making radio history this day.
Some things can be historic in one day, other things can affect history but over some period of renewal. And today, I call on you -- let us cast aside the 'bad boy' image that the press has acquired. Let us restore its glory as the responsible son of a democratic nation. I appeal to you not to be used wittingly or unwittingly as pawns in political games or destabilization schemes. Sabi nga ni Cerge, yung isang panawagan ng KBP, ano? Tama na ang pulitika ba? Yes. But the first one to stop being used in politics or in destabilization must be the media itself.
The coverage of kangaroo courts, lynch mobs and witch hunts assails the peace of mind and the hopes of our people. The public wants winners. I know you know that, because you're always looking at ratings. The public wants winners. The economy is the only winner here today amidst these losers who carry no public mandate.
Your conference indeed comes at a time when only a strong republic can enforce discipline and the rule of law and at the same time sustain the vibrancy of responsible press freedom.
Well, Cerge says, I've always been close to you. And I say and I acknowledge, as an organization, you've always been close to me. It's time that we do something constructive about this closeness. It's time we put our hearts and heads together in a collective exercise to shape the destiny of this republic for the good of the greater number.
And so in conclusion, I leave you with the appeal -- I count on you to promote responsible Philippine journalism.
Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.