ALLTV’s Marcos interview shows early signs of media cronyism

JEERS TO the September 13 interview with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. of celebrity host and vlogger Toni Gonzaga-Soriano. It was an insult to the public, a PR piece disguised as a conversation with the highest official of the land. It was  bereft of any policy to address disasters or the challenges of national recovery under the shadow of the pandemic. It was aired amid the onslaught and damage caused by super typhoon ‘Karding.’

This opening piece of the newly launched ALLTV Channel revealed its intent of adding  further to the slew of media organizations already dedicated to government propaganda. Owned by real estate tycoon and former Senator Manuel Villar, the station will have scant credibility as a source of news as it amplifies the point of view of, and frames stories to favor not just Marcos Jr. but also those who supported his candidacy. These include former President Rodrigo Duterte, and his daughter, Sarah Duterte-Carpio, now Vice President and Education Secretary. Villar’s wife, Cynthia, and his son, Mark, both in the Senate, can expect the same kind of PR coverage.

Villar’s Nacionalista Party formally endorsed the UniTeam, and Mark was on the Marcos-Duterte senatorial slate.

Gonzaga-Soriano was one of the few who were able to interview Marcos Jr. as a candidate during the campaign, featuring him in her online vlog “Toni Talks” – a session which gave him time to reminisce about growing up with his father, conjuring other color elements to stir enough social media froth for Marcos Jr.’s supporters to delight in, but which left many more of those who knew better cold.

Conflict-of-interest issues weighed down her already shallow credentials for political discourse: Marcos Jr. was her principal sponsor when she married Paul Soriano in 2015. She openly supported his candidacy, singing and entertaining the crowds during Marcos Jr.’s rallies, lending her media persona to his campaign stage.

For her first interview with Marcos Jr. on TV, Gonzaga-Soriano gave him free rein with a rambling conversation about the Martial Law period that allowed the President to repeat such dubious claims as —

  • First, his father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was not a dictator;
  • That the Marcoses’ side on the real estate tax case has not yet been heard;
  • That the Martial Law period was a “golden age” for the country;
  • That their  wealth was not “ill-gotten”, and 
  • That the declaration of Martial Law in the country was justified.

These claims have  been fact-checked in the past and were fact-checked again by different journalists after the interview. Gonzaga-Soriano debut on ALLTV said nothing new about her. She is a media personality, but hardly a journalist, with little credibility even in presenting “soft” news. The same interview seals the deal for ALLTV as a crony news organization in the service of President Marcos Jr. and his administration.

Journalists need not have lived through Martial Law to know that such regimes are hard on their kind. These tag them as mischief makers, or worse. Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos Sr. destroyed the media institutions that had taken decades to emerge among the free-est in the world in terms of reporting on government. 

The destruction is continuing as certain media owners whose political and business agendas are aligned with the powers that be. And there are enough signs to make Filipinos wary as the son follows the footsteps of the father.