POSTSCRIPT / July 3, 2005 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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GMA and the nation can use a Holy Retreat

MEDIA LAPSES: As a member of media, I am alarmed by our own “lapses in judgment” as we report the fast-moving events carrying us like a raging river to an uncertain fate beyond the bend heaving in the distance.

The great mass of our people cannot always be where the action is. They cannot be in the corridors of power, the legislative hearings, the backroom caucuses, the street marches, and other sites where a few operators decide the fate of the nation.

The people rely on media to tell them what is going on and explain things honestly. If they are to be caught in an upheaval, the people are entitled to at least know why and what for, so they could work out their own preservation.

Judging from our performance, however, I dare say that many of us in media have become part of the problem. We have allowed bias — aside from incompetence — to creep into our reportage. Wittingly or unwittingly, we help create and worsen the crises gripping the nation.

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RADIO STATIC: If you want proof of media distortion, just listen to various radio stations as their anchors guide the radioed-in reportage, inject loaded commentaries and elicit feedback to suit their partisan inclinations.

Those who know the facts are appalled by the repetition of outright misinformation till it is drummed into the listeners’ minds as gospel truth. (A sample is the false report that President Arroyo admitted in her “I’m sorry” statement that she had cheated in the 2004 elections.)

Alas, the mirror that media hold to society to enable it to see and maybe understand itself is at times cracked, colored and corrupted.

In between rushing to and from the beats, the press — print and broadcast — may want to pause, take stock and rededicate itself to true journalism.

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HOLY RETREAT: Taking stock is probably the same prescription, the same soul-searching, we can suggest this Sunday to President Arroyo, the rest of our leaders, all sectors, and to the entire nation.

We are moving nearer the cliff to perdition. Let us all go on a Holy Retreat. In good faith, let everybody drop the weapons, stop the political combat and the resort to extra-legal means of effecting change.

With our religious pastors guiding us, let us surrender to the Lord, beg His forgiveness and ask for another chance to mend our ways.

After all, we are just stewards of this beautiful land entrusted to our care. None of us own it — no, not the political dynasties and warlords, the power brokers, the moneyed merchants, not the alien carpetbaggers.

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PASTORAL LETTER: To help us reflect, let us heed the pastoral letter to be read today in all churches in the archdiocese of Manila.

Written by Manila archbishop Gaudencio B. Rosales in solidarity with the bishops of the Metropolitan Province of Manila, the (I think) sober and balanced letter says in part:

“Once again, we Filipinos find ourselves going through very hard times. Many are poor, hungry, searching for a better life for themselves and their families. If only we would just focus our minds and hearts, and work together to find solutions to the poverty that has not ceased to plague us, we might find ourselves moving forward as a nation.

“Instead, our national attention and energies are taken up by division and altercations. Serious charges have been made against our leaders and officials. Despite expressions of regret, many remain angry, confused, hurt.

“In this situation, as your shepherd and pastor, I wish to call to mind fundamental principles that should govern our search for solutions to our present crisis.

“First, let us remember that the offended cannot simply be consoled by expressions of regret. Forgiveness does not eliminate the need for justice, nor should it block the search for truth. Genuine forgiveness demands more than an apology, and those who seek forgiveness should be ready to be called to accountability.

“Second, the pursuit of truth regarding the grave charges against leaders and officials should be conducted within the provisions of our Constitution and should respect the laws of the land. Any proposition that disregards our constitutional and legal systems weakens our institutions and paves the way for a graver instability that can cause more profound suffering to our people.

“Third, any proposed solution to our present situation that relies on or leads to violence is unacceptable. Violence harms the innocent and inflicts wounds so deep that will take generations to heal.

“Fourth, we ask our leaders to give our people hope, by giving immediate attention to authentic reform. Political systems that are prone to corruption must be swiftly and decisively reformed, and institutions built that can effectively respond to the aspirations of our people for a better life.

“Finally, in these confusing times when people are easily swayed by emotions and led astray by quick-fix solutions, may cooler heads prevail. Let true lovers of the Filipino people come together to discern carefully before God, what is truly for the immediate and long-run good of our country. Let us not fall easy prey to those self-seeking politicians from all the different political parties, who have held the country’s future hostage to their own ambitions, and have brought us to where we sadly find ourselves today.

“Let us not also give in to despair, seeing only what is wrong in our country, when there is, in truth, so much that is good done daily by Filipinos from all walks of life to build up the nation. Our recurring problems of political instability may cause us to lose hope, but if we humbly accept that we are all sinners in need of conversion, it will be easier for us to unite.

“I ask then that, in these times of uncertainty, we join in fervent prayer and prayerful reflection, that the Lord show us the way forward, as He has done in the past, and that He may give us yet another chance to be one. Let us place our trust in His continued love and care for our people, especially those who are poor. May our Blessed Mother find joy in the Filipino people, for she loves to see us listen to her Son.”

The Catholic Church’s Metropolitan Province of Manila includes the dioceses of Antipolo, Cubao, Imus, Caloocan, Malolos, Novaliches, Parañaque, Pasig and San Pablo, Laguna.

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CORY ADVICE: The call of former President Cory Aquino for us to stay within the bounds of the Constitution in effecting political change is another sobering suggestion to this nation bleeding from the political conflict.

Herself a beneficiary of People Power, an extra-constitutional mass action that drove away a dictator in 1986, Ms Aquino should know whereof she speaks.

After talking to actress Susan Roces after the widow of the late presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. delivered a scathing speech against the President, Ms Aquino told the press: “I congratulated her (Ms Roces) on the passion of her speech, and the sincerity of her convictions. But I made it clear that I will always stand by the Constitution.”

She said the Constitution has all means for safely bringing about even the most difficult political changes. Stepping outside the charter, she said, would only expose the people to greater danger than the “injustice” they intend to correct.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Social Action-Justice and Peace also called for peaceful and constitutional means of resolving political issues.

“Let us not allow ourselves to be used as instruments of destabilization. Violence breeds more violence. Peace is our only way forward,” Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, CBCP-ESCAJP chair, said in a statement.

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ANOTHER VIEW: But leaving the middle path, some other bishops have taken a more demanding position, going to the extent of asking President Arroyo to step down.

Bishop Emeritus Julio Xavier Labayen of Infanta, Quezon, a leader of Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya (KME), said the Arroyo administration had turned away from the people and lost the moral and legal authority to govern.

“It has cheated its way to power and violated the most basic of people’s rights,” he said. “It must step down to avert the imminent bloody confrontation growing out of people’s sufferings caused and exacerbated by years of destructive policies and government exactions.”

The bishop did not explain how he counted the votes, checked the election returns and arrived at the judgment that Ms Arroyo cheated her way to poll victory.

Anyway, he went on to say that after Ms Arroyo steps down, a transitional or caretaker government must be put in place with elections to be held after a year. The KME, like many other groups, wants to have a hand in screening those joining the transition panel.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 3, 2005)

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