SOUTHERN COMFORT: Preempting the president

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 27 Nov) – Finding myself in a company where I have strangely little company but nevertheless felt comfortable, I was waiting for another media dressing down from the President of the Philippines who was guest and keynote speaker to the 9th Media Nation Summit in Tagaytay over the weekend.

But it was a toned down President who spoke before a gathering of journalists, almost all of them coming from major media networks although some were sorely missed.

It was either he took his lessons very well when he was bashed for earlier taking a dig at journalists for highlighting the bad news rather than what his administration has accomplished so far or his media people may have briefed him in advance that the crowd gathered that day will not take yet another presidential bashing.

Yes, President Benigno Aquino III still complained about the bad press he is getting and spoke of corruption in the media. After all, corruption in the media was the overriding reason why the journalists were in the same room with him and were preparing to tackle the issue head on as the summit later moved to its plenary sessions.

Inquirer’s Sandy Prieto-Romualdez and GMA’s Jessica Soho however set the tone at the outset, before the President spoke.

As Prieto-Romualdez correctly pointed out, media has suffered long enough from the pitfalls of the profession, including corruption to be given a presidential dressing down. She added that despite the ever changing media landscape and the emergence of new platforms, the role of the media remains the same – to cover diversity in opinions which is the heart of democracy.

The President would later hold a closed door meeting with publishers and editors of the major networks where they exchanged candid notes and reportedly agreed to hold more frequent no holds barred tete-a-tete.

As it was November 23 when the President addressed the 9th edition of the Media Summit, many were disappointed that he failed to make direct reference that would have sped up the snail pace of the Ampatuan Massacre trial, which happened three years ago exactly on the day.

Yes, he mentioned about apprehending perpetrators and masterminds in media killings, freedom of information and decriminalizing libel.

Many, including those who were not present at the summit, would rather that he walked the walk, shot down proposals bundling the right to reply with freedom of information now still in the discussion, but barely, in the committees of both houses in Congress and skipped reminding the press that decriminalizing libel should not become a license for journalists to commit one.

It did not help that the President was still visibly ill and that presidential protocol prevented many other summit participants from asking him pointed questions.

But it was more than enough that the President was reminded, inside a room dominated by journalists, that the press has its own duties to perform.


(Edwin G. Espejo writes for