This Week in Media (November 1 to 5, 2021)
Media’s vigilance needed as COVID cases show decline
WILL THE Philippines have a “better Christmas?”
The downgrading of the capital’s Alert Level from 3 to 2 effective November 4, the lifting of curfews and the increased capacity of public transport to 70 percent allow greater mobility as the Filipino public embraces the holiday season. Media also reported that 1,591 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on November 3, the lowest daily tally in eight months. However, the projections on active cases that the DOH Epidemiological Bureau relayed to the media indicate that the steady decline could be reversed, should citizens fail to adhere to minimum public health protocols.
But apart from citizen failure to observe those protocols, journalists should continue to report on other issues that can reverse the declining trend. There has been no follow-up on how actively the DOH seeks and examines testing results; or how it has improved testing rates and contact tracing – aspects that experts insist will make any assessment of a decline in the number of cases more accurate.
The Department of Tourism has started offering free swab tests for domestic tourists whose destinations require them. But media reports on this service failed to check why this is not available to those who cannot pay for the test and those who may not be traveling. If this is just meant encourage tourism, then the program is not focused on the more urgent public health needs of those who are not traveling. Such free swab test programs should be expanded; it will go a long way in checking exposure to COVID-19.
More concerns about vaccination
TV Patrol picked up on significant vaccination data, which identify NCR as the only region that has covered more than 70 percent of its target population. The region with the second highest coverage is the Cordillera Administrative Region at 39 percent, clearly a figure far from 70. BARMM is last of all 17 regions with only 9.8 percent of its population covered eight months since the vaccination program started.
Media reported a fire that destroyed nearly 150,000 doses of COVID vaccines and shots for basic immunization stored in the Provincial Health Office of Zamboanga del Sur. In 24 Oras’ report, Dr. Anatalio Cagampang, provincial health officer, said the doses were not immediately delivered to rural health units due to the lack of cold-chain facilities.
In April this year, a fire also destroyed COVID vaccines in Misamis Oriental’s provincial health office. Journalists did not refer to this context, but the Inquirer reported that the DOH and DILG have ordered all municipal, city and provincial governments to ensure that safety officers are stationed 24/7 in vaccine storage areas.
Media followed the activities and announcements of presidential candidates, reporting as well the petition filed by Martial Law survivors and human rights groups against Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. to cancel his certificate of candidacy. The petition itself carries important information about the background of Marcos, Jr. which his campaign seems to have whitewashed on platforms like TikTok.
Media should keep on its radar the signing of the contract this week between the Comelec and F2 Logistics, which is linked to Dennis Uy, a major contributor to President Duterte’s 2016 campaign, and a businessman widely seen as having been favored with numerous government contracts despite his very recent entry into the arena. Reports quoted election watchdog groups such as Namfrel and Kontra Daya raising concerns about the conflict of interest and potential vulnerability of the system to manipulation and tampering. But the Comelec insisted that the contract cannot be canceled unless F2 Logistics commits “violations.” Media should check the Comelec’s own capacity, and those of election watch groups, including journalists’, to check such violations.
With the announcement of the final list of candidates slated for December, news coverage should begin looking beyond personalities and focus instead on processes and regulations concerning automated elections. The fact remains that automation is invisible for the most part. How are all the stakeholders, including the Comelec itself, preparing to safeguard the electoral process?
Another issue that media should understand more is surveys, which are being used by candidates to influence public opinion, creating a “bandwagon effect.” CMFR reminds journalists to familiarize themselves with the pointers given by statistician Jose Ramon Albert who delivered this year’s Jaime V. Ongpin Memorial Lecture. He made more accessible and understandable the issues that surround the role of surveys during an election.
The Pharmally probes in the Senate are not yet over, as media reported that the company is also being examined for possible tax evasion charges. In the November 4 hearing, Rose Nono Lin, a stockholder of Pharmally Biologicals, denied having a lavish lifestyle. She said she only found (“natagpuan”) the Lexus in her garage, as it was her husband, Lin Weixiong, who liked buying luxury cars. She also claimed all expensive vehicles registered in her name were acquired before the pandemic.
The Right to Know, Right Now Coalition (R2KRN) released a new report on the Commission on Audit’s adverse findings on the spending of Bayanihan funds allocated to the Office of Civil Defense, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Department of Interior and Local Government. Media have yet to pick this up, as well as the previous R2KRN report on the misuse of Bayanihan funds down to the barangay level.
The 90 percent control over the Malampaya project by Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corporation is also being questioned in the Senate, as Udenna has not proved its financial capability to handle the project. CMFR cheered TV5’s explainer on the importance of the gas field to the stability of the country’s power supply, and why Uy’s interest in it should be a public concern.
Media coverage should continue tracking developments on the following issues:
- Baguio City grants the request of students for an academic break. This, following reported suicide cases in Saint Louis University allegedly due to mental burnout and exhaustion over class requirements.
- Children in conflict with the law have been sidelined due to the pandemic. CMFR cheered PCIJ’s effort to revisit the situation of these minors and to report on the challenges they face.
- In a statement, Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, commissioner for human rights, referred to CHR’s investigation of 579 drug-related incidents in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon, which showed discrepancies between eyewitness testimonies and police reports.
- A Philippine delegation headed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III is currently in Scotland for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told CNN Philippines that no member of the Climate Change Commission or representative of civil society was included in the delegation. Neither were environmental groups consulted to determine the situation on the ground.