By Pachico A. Seares
Public & Standards Editor
Sun.Star Cebu and Sun.Star Superbalita [Cebu]
President Noynoy Aquino’s third state-of-the-nation address (Sona) last July 23, 2012 didn’t entirely spare the press from criticism.
He said “commentators the world over voice their admirations” of the country’s progress. He only wished, he said, “the optimism of foreign media would be shared by the local counterparts more often.”
PNoy clearly referred to the press by citing two foreign publications (“Bloomberg Business Week” and “Foreign Policy Magazine”) and their “local counterparts” though unnamed.
Unlike in the 2011 Sona when he didn’t single out media but lashed only at the “culture of negativism,” in which “at every opportunity” we find fault in our country and we find it so hard to say something nice.
“Let’s stop pulling our fellow man down,” he said, referring to the trite phrase “crab mentality.”
Attack at PPI
He didn’t specify the press in last year’s Sona but last April 23 this year, at the 16th National Press Forum of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), he flogged media for its “crab mentality” and obsession with negative content. It was his severest, in-your-face attack on media.
The latest dig on the press was a mild reminder, not even a rebuke, as he merely expressed a wish for local media to be as upbeat as the media abroad by praising the country’s progress “more often.”
Has PNoy revised his opinion of the press? Not really because:
(1) The Sona is not the place and time to thrash media as the president’s report covers a wide range of topics;
(2) There were already others to scold, such as past president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, “whose specter of a lost decade hounded” him from first day in office, and deceased president Ferdinand Marcos, not named but clearly referred to by PNoy as author of martial law of which, he said, he became a victim at the age of 12;
(3) PNoy’s assault on media at the PPI forum did more harm than good, as it showed unfamiliarity with the workings of the press and inability to accept criticism;
4) In this year’s Sona, PNoy was feeling good, riding high again on improved popularity rating.
Both serve the public
The sober comment on media in the 2012 Sona, in which the President didn’t wail as he did at the PPI forum, may signal a change of attitude as he sits longer on the hot seat at the Palace.
Or it may just be temporary sunshine. Things may sour again when he faces more problems and the press picks on his failures and lapses.
In an April 28, 2012 “Media’s Public” article titled “PNoy’s whining, media cry-babies,” I suggested restraints on each side: for the President not to gripe in general terms and stereotypes and instead specify where and how the media erred; and for media not to howl like a child every time the President complains and to listen, not just strike back at once.
The president and the press are obviously fair targets of criticism: the president as the highest government official serving the public, and the press as surrogate of the said public. They’ve the same bosses–as Cardinal Vidal would say, “di ba?”