ABS-CBN’s Bandila did a good job in its June 22 exclusive report on the Maguindanao elections. Its news team saw two election returns (ERs) obtained from a source identified as a certain Roel, allegedly a provincial coordinator of Partido ng Masa in Maguindanao.
The ERs indicated that some of the senatorial candidates who reportedly got zero in the Maguindanao ERs actually got some votes from the town of South Upi. To verify the ERs, ABS-CBN went to South Upi and investigated how Roel got the ERs from four teachers who are members of the Board of Election Inspectors.
Bandila talked to a local Commission on Elections (Comelec) officer to verify the names of the four teachers who, according to the officer, were not on his list of teachers. The team then tried to trace the serial numbers of the ERs using the Comelec database. Unfortunately, by then, the Comelec said the papers were already being processed in the records section.
It took a non-journalist to tell reporters that the latter might be overstepping the bounds of decency in reporting. On June 28, 24 Oras reported the abduction and killing of a three-year-old girl whose body was found in a creek in Pasig City. Days later, the police discovered that it was the father who had killed the child.
For three consecutive newscasts, reports on the arrest of those involved in the killing, including the victim’s father, were the top stories in 24 Oras.
The father was charged with murder on July 6. 24 Oras captured the telenovela-like scene where the victim’s mother repeatedly hit the suspect, her estranged partner, with a plastic bottle as the suspect begged for forgiveness. The scene was aired several times in succeeding reports and in Saksi as well. Rival program TV Patrol World also aired the dramatic scene.
To get juicy sound bites from the grieving mother, one reporter asked: “Wala bang kapatawaran ang ginawa niya (Do you think what he did was unforgivable)?” For the most part, 24 Oras got what it wanted. But an unidentified relative of the suspect made sure reporters covering the victim’s funeral last July 9 would have something to think about. Scolding the reporters, she said: “Tama na ang naitulong n’yo! Malaki na ang gulo! ’Yan ang gusto n’yong mangyari! (You’ve done enough! The conflict had become worse. That’s what you wanted!)”
Hitting the small fry hard
24 Oras ignored the rights of a person accused of committing a crime in its story on a drug raid in Pasig City last June 28. One of those arrested in the so-called shabu tiangge (bazaar) was a traffic enforcer in Pasig, who was caught in the act of using illegal drugs by the police. The reporter asked the suspect if he was using illegal drugs.
Another arrested suspect who was previously served a warrant of arrest for possession of illegal drugs was bombarded with questions by the same reporter. The suspect was asked if he had used drugs in the past and if he was a drug pusher. The suspect denied that he was a pusher, so the reporter did a quick follow-up: “Guma-gamit (ka) lang (You’re just a user)?” The suspect said yes.
The interviews took place without lawyers to assist the suspects.
A messy affair
TV Patrol World milked for all its worth the love triangle angle in the story involving former Tawi-Tawi Vice Gov. Abubakar Mohammad, wife Sitti, and his lover Ferdausia Insail.
The news program reported on June 27 that Mohammad was arrested after beating up his wife and breaking her finger when she caught him in a hotel with another woman, broadcaster Insail.
Noting that the Shariah (Islamic canonical law) allows Muslim men to marry up to four times, but only if he can sustain them and the first wife agrees, the report then aired the fight that erupted among Abubakar, his family, and Insail.
After the scene, the reporter saccha-rinely described the public display of affection between Mohammad and Insail: “Nang humupa ang gulo, ‘di napigilan nina Vice Gov at Insail na ipakita sa mundo ang kanilang wagas na pag-ibig (When trouble subsided, Mohammad and Insail couldn’t resist displaying their endless love to the world).”
Inserted in the report was a statement from Sitti who said she wanted her husband removed as customs chief and Insail banned by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng mga Pilipinas.
The fight scene was aired again in the next day’s newscast in a follow-up story about Sitti’s plan to file charges of physical injury and bigamy against Mohammad.
The meaning of power
TOP STORY did a good job in its June 21 report about the outcome of the speakership contest at the House of Representatives and what was in store for the winner.
While Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. said there was nothing special about being speaker, Top Story showed otherwise. The report interviewed Ramon Casiple of the Institute of Popular Democracy, who pointed out that the House leader has access to huge resources, particularly financial. In addition, the speaker, who is third in line to the presidency, controls the legislative agenda, and effectively controls the national budget.
Noting the previous congressional budget of P12.51 billion, the report said the speaker also calls the shots in the travel expenses of all representatives, a fact which sometimes leads to conflicts among congressmen who don’t get to travel as much as their peers who are favored by the House leadership.
Top Story also pointed out that the speaker determines the chairmanship of the 57 regular and 15 special committees in the House of Representatives. Committee chairmanships, in turn, translate to additional funds, more perks like foreign travel, and—as a consequence of Congress’s power over the national budget—an overreaching influence over the various offices of the Executive department.
Casiple said the speaker could also use his power to assign committee heads as a means of gathering support for his congressional agenda as well as strengthening his own position as leader of the House.
Pushing a plan
BANDILA LEFT viewers guessing last June 22 when it reported a plan of Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Rene Sarmiento to investigate poll body officials who had worked closely with Virgilio Garcillano like Lintang Bedol. Sarmiento said the investigation should put an end to the whole “Hello, Garci” controversy.
But instead of asking the commissioners themselves, Bandila ended up asking viewers if they thought Sarmiento’s colleagues in the Comelec would agree to reopen the Garcillano case.
Keeping an eye on the Marcoses
TV Patrol World and Bandila aired a comprehensive update on the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses. The birthday bash of former first lady Imelda Marcos at the Canlubang Mansion, one of the sequestered properties of the Marcoses, raised questions about the ability of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to recover the Marcoses’ allegedly stolen wealth.
For almost a week, TV Patrol and Bandila reviewed some of the revoked sequestration orders of the PCGG; the steps taken by the commission; the reactions of the Martial Law victims to the alleged lifting of the sequestration orders and the non-payment of their claims; and the current values of the sequestered assets.
The program also reported the renovations the Marcoses are having done on some of the properties, even though these are still supposedly under sequestration.