Don’t fight media, Pangilinan tells Duterte
Opposition senators warned President Duterte on Friday against his stinging attacks against two of the Philippines’ largest media outfits, saying an unfettered press was necessary in a functioning democracy.
“Our individual freedoms and our democracy are better served by a free and critical press,” Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said, as he criticized Mr. Duterte’s outburst against the Philippine Daily Inquirer and TV network ABS-CBN.
Pangilinan said Mr. Duterte might not be used to hard-hitting news and a critical press when he was the longtime mayor of Davao City prior to landing the country’s top job.
“It is part of our democracy for Presidents to be at the receiving end of a critical press,” he said.
“Many Presidents before have had their share of squaring off with the press. All these Presidents have since left Malacañang but the press is still very much around,” he added.
In an expletive-laden speech on Thursday, President Duterte, 72, accused the two media giants of being biased against him.
Mr. Duterte complained about a supposedly “slanted” report by the Inquirer about how his war on drugs seemingly targeted the poor.
He then lashed out at ABS-CBN, which, like the Inquirer, earlier reported allegations made by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV during the campaign period about his undeclared bank account that supposedly contained P200 million.
But an official transcript of Mr. Duterte’s speech in Bukidnon last week quoted him as saying that the poor were mostly the ones getting killed.
He said: “They’re all poor because it’s the poor who are ignorant and so they are the ones who will get hit.”
Sen. Leila de Lima, in a dispatch from detention inside Camp Crame, warned that the President’s “unabashed contempt to media and other critics is intensifying and his resort to toxic or vitriol language is at a seeming apex.”
She agreed with the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editorial which said that Mr. Duterte had lost the argument.
Fix own backyard, first
“Why blame the media when there is much of Duterte’s behavior and that of his circle of sycophants that warrants scrutiny and even censure?” De Lima pointed out.
“Go fix first yourself and your own backyard, Mr. President, before picking a fight with everybody else,” she said.
Mr. Duterte called the owners of the Inquirer and ABS-CBN “fools” and threatened to curse them and use the state-owned TV network to ridicule them “to get even.”
“There are press (people) who are sons of bitches and who know nothing but lies,” he said in a speech at the oath-taking of government officials at Manila’s Presidential palace.
“Inquirer, you’ve never been fair. I know that it’s supposed to be antagonistic but fair? You’re rude,” President Duterte said. “ABS-CBN is also rude, really rude.”
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella on Friday attempted to explain Mr. Duterte’s rant, saying Mr. Duterte was not generally complaining of the press’ adversarial role but the two agencies’ unfair reports.
“However, it is unfortunate that these two media outfits tend to project the President as a caricature of a berserk strongman over a failed state,” Abella said in a statement.
The President objects to his war on drugs being framed as a war against the poor, he stressed.
“It seems to imply that he is actually focusing on a particular class which is hardly the point. But the way that particular media framed it insinuates a particular bias which leans toward malice,” Abella said.
Objectivity and fairness
“The President’s statement is a call for media to be more fair and unbiased; after all, nations succeed when all sectors maintain objectivity and fairness as they collaborate in nation-building,” he said.
He said the President was not about to file formal complaints about the negative reports.
“There are more serious matters to be taken on,” Abella said.
Accusations of illness
In his tirade on Thursday, Mr. Duterte also protested what he said were the media’s speculations that he was sick.
He later mentioned his use of an oxygen converter because of his Buerger’s disease, a condition where blood vessels constrict due to the accumulation of nicotine.
His use of the machine was made known when Malacañang and his son-in-law released pictures of him being greeted by his grandchildren in his Davao City bedroom on his birthday.
The machine could be seen beside his bed in the pictures. —WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND AP