POSTSCRIPT / July 29, 2012 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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P-Noy scores direct hit on Noli, TV Patrol

SOUR NOTE: The 25th anniversary party last Friday of award-winning TV Patrol news program of the ABS-CBN network turned sour when President Noynoy Aquino attacked its top anchor in his congratulatory speech.

The President whaled away at anchor Noli de Castro without naming him, but it was clear to the crowd of around 600 at the Manila Hotel that he was directly hitting him and indirectly criticizing the network that is widely regarded as his staunch supporter.

From news anchor, De Castro detoured to politics in 2001 to become senator, then vice president in 2004 during the presidency of now Pampanga congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – Aquino’s favorite scapegoat for most of what he thinks is wrong in the country.

The President arrived at the Fiesta Pavilion around 7:40 p.m. After chatting with ABS-CBN officials led by chair/CEO Gabby Lopez and president/COO Charo Santos Concio, he went up the stage to deliver a 20-minute sermon, came down, obliged with picture-taking, then left.

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INSERTING COMMENTS: The surprise attack was that short and swift.

But it did not dampen the merriment of the party highlighted by numbers where familiar Channel 2 personalities normally seen reporting news were suddenly singing and sort of dancing on stage to the music of an orchestra under the baton of Ryan Cayabyab.

De Castro must have been alerted. By coincidence, he was out of the pavilion, returning only after President Aquino had left.

After the obligatory congratulations prefacing his 1,900-word speech in Tagalog, President Aquino apologized (humingi ng paumanhin) for what he was about to do since, he said, that Friday was just one of 365 days of dialogue.

Last October, he recalled, a TV Patrol reporter was saying from NAIA-3 that airport arrivals there had increased 20 percent. That was fact, he said, but the anchor in the station had the impertinence to butt in, “That’s because you’re at NAIA-3. Were you at NAIA-1, it would be worse.”

The President asked: What is the relevance of NAIA-3 to NAIA-1? The anchor may have forgotten that NAIA-1 is more than 30 years old. Was he not a top government official who had six years to do something about the old airport? After having passed on an older problem to us he had the gall to criticize?

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SPECULATION: The President cited another time when the National Bueau of Investigation rescued a kidnaped foreigner child. Everybody was happy. The only one who did not seem satisfied was again the anchor who kept directing the reporter to check if the rescue was just set up and ransom paid.

Despite the insistence of the reporter that the rescue was the result of expert sleuthing and teamwork, he said the anchor kept pressing him to find fault.

He asked if this kind of baseless speculation helps, especially with the public watching it on TV. This is not “kwentong kanto,” he said, but supposedly a report of a respected network.

I hope when we say “Magandang gabi, bayan,” he said, we really hope the nation will have a good evening.

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NEGATIVISM: The program content of the network did not escape the President’s scrutiny.

If Juan dela Cruz keeps having bad news for dinner, he said, it will not be surprising if he starts to lose hope. He criticized the network’s “The Filipino Channel,” the cable TV service carrying news and features to subscribers abroad.

He said the negativism drives away tourists, who are scared by the menu of dominantly bad news. This is unfortunate, he said, because tourism creates jobs and income for the locals.

If you were one of the 10 million Filipinos laboring abroad, would you be encouraged to come home after the heavy dose of bad news fed via TV?, he asked. Has the airing of good news gone out of fashion?

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VALID POINTS: In fairness, the President was asking valid questions that impinge on public welfare and the conditioning of the public mind.

Some friends and relatives abroad think the country is going to pieces based on what they see on Filipino cable news. It takes effort to convince them that the TV spate of sex, crime and scandal – served with showbiz stuff – does not represent the true situation in the home country.

Many readers may take issue with President Aquino for being an improper guest, for going to the ABS-CBN party only to insult them to their faces.

Instead of delivering a sermon to a party crowd, President Aquino could have simply talked with Lopez and other ABS-CBN executives. But he may have surmised that a direct public attack could bring more and faster results.

And then also, media should be able to take what they dish out.

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ATTITUDE: It was not the first time the President insulted prominent people in public. In his inauguration on June 30, 2010, at the Luneta, he snobbed then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona who was civil enough to attend.

His tirade this time was not an indiscriminate carpet bombing on media. But who would be next after De Castro? Former President Arroyo, his first high-profile target, was followed by then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and later Corona.

My hunch is that De Castro can expect more flak if he does not drop his habit of inserting his views into the news, or if he is not pulled out as anchor.

I doubt, though, that the Lopezes would succumb to pressure after that public drubbing. Any major shuffle is better executed quietly, not after a public bludgeoning by a President whom the network has been supporting.

On the ABS-CBN late-night news Friday, news and current affairs head Ging Reyes said: “No bad feelings. We believe that there will really be many critics, because not everyone will be happy with what we report and come out with on TV Patrol.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 29, 2012)

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