PHILSOUTH LINE: ‘Our SONA’ and the foreign media’s ‘local counterparts’

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/23 July) — I listened, among the millions of Filipinos and non-Filipinos who thought it was worth their time to listen, to President Benigno Simeon ‘Noy’ Aquino deliver the State of the Nation Address (SONA)  on Monady afternoon.

For a start, he said at the end, it was not his SONA.  It was the Filipino people’s SONA.  “Ours.”

I listened as a citizen noting how the President co-shared the address with his constituents, subtly imposing ownership as stakeholders of this nation. Silently, I remembered though how much attention was given to the death of Dolphy at a time when the Philippines was trying to bat for a strong voice in Cambodia, at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, on the territorial dispute over the Scarborough Shoal.  I also recalled those moments when a discontent if not aghast nation voiced out across the globe through all media when Manny Pacquiao acquiesced his defeat in a recent boxing bout. We almost even stopped the clock when Jessica Sanchez, an American citizen of  Filipino-Mexican descent, was vying for the ‘American Idol’ title—not to mention the online campaign for non-Americans to vote for her.

I cite these three instances because we Filipinos also have to admit that many among us go for the mundane, the mediocre, and the shallow things.  I, too, have moments of mediocrity—shelving work for non-productive activities that would not gain me anything.  And at the end of the President’s SONA, I just thought, well, if it’s any comfort, even the President’s address had a flair of mediocrity in one or two of his points.

“Forgive and forget” is a movie title.  I should be considering by now that his speechwriters are just addressing the high appreciation of Filipino audience for theatrics and entertainment, hence, the usage of the phrase in a number of paragraphs. Without having to go serious, I just believe its usage should be followed by offers for reconciliation—because posing the query that “shall we forgive and forget…” draws the line among forgiveness, reconciliation, and positive action in moving forward.   Certainly, government is not expected to do “forgive and forget” programs.  But be it the Maguindanao multiple killings, or the death of one cop, the Aquino government while seeking justice for those aggrieved in the past, should also be wary in putting in if not reusing old linen who remain to be pseudo-shrinks yet serving with greedy hands.  Praising one man, labeling him a ghost-buster for one, is paving the way for the usual ass-licking exercise.

We in media—local or whatever—are, as a truthful cliche goes, ‘watchdogs of government’ and government thus cannot expect accolade when we still don’t see a total transformation, and we still don’t see a direct address on the issues of impunity, of our very own security, our very own lives, our very own freedom of expression. Even if we offer a rain of praises in our reports, there is no total guarantee that truth has not been compromised along the way.

The foreign media only sees Manila.  We in the Philippine media see the nation.  We in Mindanao media saw worse—because we experienced the worst.

“I only wish that the optimism of foreign media would be shared by their local counterparts more often,” the President stated.  I, as among the “local counterparts” would also wish the same. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Frencie Carreon of  Zamboanga City is editor of PhilSouth Angle and a candidate for PhD in Peace Journalism at The University of Sydney).