This Week in Media (November 15 to 19, 2021)

Power at all Costs

AS IF local drama series on TV were not enough, the  withdrawals and substitutions involving members of the Duterte family and their allies took over news coverage during the weekend, carrying over the expectations about who would run and who would back out November 15, Monday, the last day of voluntary substitutions and withdrawals.

The focus on the personalities and the apparent rift between president and daughter sidelined some critical questions: Since when did President Duterte and Senator Chrisopher “Bong” Go join the previously unheard of Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan and run under this party? Why did PDP-Laban allow them to jump ship? Is it legal to allow newly-inducted members to dominate a political party? They might be running under different parties, but how different is a Sara Duterte-Carpio candidacy from that of her father’s and Go’s?

Reports resorted to political analysts who called what happened a “circus,” “mayhem”, even a “Game of Thrones.” But news coverage has largely refrained from emphasizing the intense desire of the Duterte family to stay in power at any cost. Indeed, Duterte said in a public engagement on November 18 that he filed a COC for senator because he did not like the way the current Senate held investigations into the anomalous deals of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals with his government.

Meanwhile, the Comelec’s Second Division granted the appeal of presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. for an extension to answer the petitions voiding his candidacy. Marcos’ lawyer preempting the actual confirmation from the Comelec raises suspicion and doubt about the Comelec’s capacity to administer the elections fairly.

CMFR cheered the few reports that pointed out the unconstitutionality of the proposed term-sharing of the presidency between Marcos and Duterte-Carpio, who eventually ended up filing her candidacy for vice president. Journalists should know by now that a combination of these two political families does not bode well for the country.

COVID-19 policy mess

The government’s policies on its pandemic response continue to give the impression that they are not well thought out. As usual, the science and decision-making behind these rules are not clarified in reports.

Mandatory face shield use has been lifted for areas under Alert Levels 1-3. Some environmental groups were quoted in TV reports as saying that the materials would further add to plastic waste, and that recycling the face shields is the only option since the government has offered no systematic plan to collect them.

Following the reported contraction of COVID-19 by a two year-old who was brought to a mall by his parents, age restrictions in such establishments and the requirement of face mask use for young children are now being discussed by Metro Manila mayors. President Duterte himself has suggested that LGUs impose ordinances banning children 12 and below from malls. However, nobody emphasized that the lowering of the existing Alert Level itself, as decided by the IATF, allowed more people to go out, putting them at greater risk of contamination. DOH noted a nationwide decrease in cases, but also pointed to a slight increase in NCR following the downgrading of the alert level.

Data processing and recording remains wanting. On  social media, Edson Guido, head of ABS-CBN’s Data Analytics, flagged the late addition of COVID-19 deaths to current tallies this week, some of them dating back to September. As reported in print and TV, DICT and DILG advised LGUs to hire at least 50,000 data encoders to consolidate vaccination records, especially now that more local destinations are requiring a DOH-issued vaccine certificate. 

On a more positive note, healthcare workers started receiving their booster shots last November 17. The National Vaccine Operations Center issued guidelines for waiting periods between the initial series and boosters, but the DOH announced that the general population has yet to wait for its turn. 

Education in crisis

Media documented the return of elementary pupils and teachers to schools as part of the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes. Manila-based media relied on stringers from the far-flung areas included in the pilot program, but their  coverage was limited to the surface details of the event. Reports did not include the kind of 

preparation that went into COVID-proofing the schools, especially since cases of teachers testing positive had been reported. Similarly, journalists did not critically report on the presence of police with long firearms inside the classroom, photos of which had gone viral on social media. 

Pharmally’s links 

The grand corruption involving Pharmally is far from over. Last November 14, Mohit and Twinkle Dargani, executives of the company, were arrested by Senate security as they attempted to flee the Philippines through Davao airport. Three days later, Senator Richard Gordon said in an interview with ANC that a lawyer visited the siblings while in Senate custody. Gordon said the lawyer, named Daryl Ritchie Valles, initially denied having connections with the Palace, but eventually admitted that he used to be employed by the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, which he left in March this year.

Media should follow up on this attempted escape of suspects and related issues.  People should know about any evidence that possibly links the Pharmally scandal to the Palace.