This Week in Media (August 1 to 5, 2022)

EDSA icon FVR dies; Marcos nixes rejoining ICC

A FORMER president and key personality in the EDSA People Power Movement has passed, and while the current administration saw fit to declare a 10-day period of mourning for Fidel V. Ramos, it has not honored his legacy as a champion of peace and democracy. 

Tributes quickly poured in after FVR died on July 31 of COVID-19 complications. Media have been duly reporting the statements of incumbent and former government officials, recollections of FVR’s friends and colleagues, and those of media people who covered him during his presidency who said he recognized their role in a democracy. 

Newsrooms did recall among others his policy of economic liberalization, and his efforts to pursue peace with both Muslim separatists and communist rebels. But the Inquirer reported that in introducing resolutions honoring his legacy, both the Senate and the House did not mention  his role in the EDSA 1986 People Power mutiny, which the article described as “arguably the defining chapter of his life and career.” The news account said the two legislative chambers focused on Ramos’ efforts to revitalize the economy instead. The Inquirer said international media reporting on his passing mostly identified him for his role in the ouster of Ferdinand E. Marcos.

The Marcoses themselves have been calling on the Filipino people to “move on” from that period in history, but are nevertheless clinging to it by insisting on their own version of it. This week, the film “Maid in Malacañang” opened in theaters, and has already offended Carmelite nuns who were depicted in the movie as playing mahjong with former president Corazon Aquino who was in Cebu at the time of the EDSA revolt. Media recorded strong condemnations from the religious order. 

No rejoining ICC

Unfortunately, the atrocities during the Martial Law regime are not the only ones President Marcos wants forgotten. Speaking to Pasig residents and media covering his visit to the city last August 1, he announced that the Philippines will not rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC). He echoed the reasoning of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla that the ICC probe is not necessary as the Philippine government is doing its own investigation into the war on drugs during Duterte’s administration. Reports that followed noted reactions from opposition figures who thought the decision regrettable, as well as statements from the legal counsels of the families of drug war victims who believe the ICC should continue with its probe.

Media reported that Marcos had met with his cabinet and legal experts to discuss the country’s position on the ICC, a gathering made known to the public only through the social media posts of Harry Roque, former Duterte mouthpiece and now Marcos legal counsel. An Inquirer editorial said the decision was unfortunate but not unexpected. It correctly pointed to the effect of the Philippines’ position both here and abroad: “It sends the wrong message to the international community so early into Mr. Marcos’ term when policy signals are keenly watched by investors and allies in the democratic sphere. Domestically, it will stoke seething sentiments about the curtailment of human rights, and the justice still denied victims of the brutal drug war.”  

Continuing health and economic crises

Human rights and justice may be low priorities for the Marcos administration, but it cannot deny the ongoing crises in public health and the economy. The Health department told the media the Centaurus subvariant of Omicron has been detected in the country. While it is described as more infective, its severity has not yet been determined.

The country’s first recorded case of monkeypox was also confirmed by the DOH last July 29. News accounts are reporting modes of transmission as announced by health officials, but TV Patrol correctly noted that the DOH is not just confronted with the illness but with misinformation as well. This week, Maria Rosario Vergeire, officer-in-charge of DOH, recognized that 95 percent of cases globally were transmitted through sexual contact. However, she explained in news briefings that monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection since it is spread primarily through close physical contact — which may include sexual activity.  

Vergeire was responding to erroneous information circulating on social media that monkeypox is a “gay disease.” She emphasized that anyone regardless of sex or gender can get it. Media must do their own part in correcting such falsehoods, but are often remiss in doing so.

Meanwhile, news broke on July 29 that the inflation rate for the month of July had risen to 6.4 percent from 6.1 percent in June. Reports noted that this is the highest rate since October 2018.

Marcos had commented that the 6.1 percent rate in June was “not that high,” which was quickly corrected by Finance secretary Benjamin Diokno. This time, Marcos has not said anything. Media should be ready to point out any reaction, or the lack of it, by Marcos, who in functioning both as President and Agriculture secretary should be on top of addressing the rising prices of food and services.