Cebu's English-language dailies shifted coverage from local to presidential elections

Cebu Print Media Coverage of the 2010 Elections
Second Monitoring Period
(February 28-March 13, 2010)

Weeks 3 and 4 (February 28-March 13) of the monitoring period showed an increase in the percentage of election-related reports in Cebu’s English-language dailies from 19 percent to 22 percent (335 election-related reports to 1,511 news hole). Both Sun.Star Cebu and The Freeman allocated 23 percent of their news holes to election-related reports while the Cebu Daily News had 19 percent. A shift in emphasis from the local to the Presidential elections was evident.


Only 4 percent of  election-related reports were on the front page;  the rest were in the inside pages (96 percent). From 19 bannered election-related reports in Weeks 1 and 2, this decreased to eight reports in Weeks 3 and 4, although the Cebu newspapers continued to provide primary treatment of election-related reports; 62 percent (198) of election-related reports in the inside pages were placed in the main news sections and 38 percent were distributed in the secondary sections like Nation, Business and Community. Note however the difference of Cebu Daily News from the average data (second chart below).


Table 1

Table 2

Focus/Election-Related Area

Overall, coverage of the local elections (116) was second to coverage of “Elections in general” (119). However, data for each newspaper in Weeks 3 and 4 of the monitoring period reveal a shifting focus in the election coverage of Cebu’s English-language dailies from local elections-dominated in the first monitoring period to a growing coverage of the presidential elections. Except for Sun.Star Cebu which remained largely local elections-focused, the presidential election was already on top of the coverage of the Cebu press, followed by “Elections in general.” Party-list coverage decreased further.


Table 3 Focus

Table 4 Focus


With 122 reports, Cebu’s English-language newspapers continued to report significantly on the conduct of the campaign, including the unofficial campaign activities of candidates for the local elections where the campaign period is yet to officially start on March 26. Comelec issuances, rules, promulgations, actions and processes under the theme, “Other Comelec-related issues”, was still the second most covered election-related theme with 84 reports.

While the theme “Development/Policy issue” came in third, a number of these reports lacked background and deeper treatment or tended to rely solely on motherhood statements from politicians. For example, a report entitled “Spend public funds on projects that help the poor: de Venecia,” quoted extensively senatorial candidate Jose “Joey” de Venecia III. However, nearly all the quotations sourced from a press conference were motherhood statements on poverty, corruption and rice importation. Such a report could be more relevant for voter’s education with the inclusion of background research on De Venecia’s track record and proposed programs.

More information and depth was achieved in the report “Nephews hit campaign trail to woo youth for ‘Tito Noy’”. The article blends human interest (Aquino nephews defend LP presidential candidate Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III against charges of autism and “weirdness”), survey standing (“statistical tie” between Noynoy and Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr., according to the latest Pulse Asia survey), a local ally’s political platform (gubernatorial candidate Hilario Davide III’s planned review of Capitol’s questionable contracts and focus on district hospitals, should he win), and the reaction of a political opponent to the candidate’s  statements.

The local press has shown sustained, if not increasing, coverage of the political battle through personality-oriented reports (74) and cockfight or mudslinging themes (65). “Complaints or reports of irregularities” also increased from 23  (Weeks 1 and 2) to 42 reports (Weeks 3 and 4). There were fewer reports on “Election-related violence/Peace and order” as the heated political conflict in northern Cebu, or the initial interest it generated, tapered off.

The top development or policy issues in Weeks 3 and 4 were corruption (18), health (13), the environment (13), and infrastructure (12). The corruption angle and the tip that voters should not vote for candidates corrupting the Church emerged, for example, when during the launching of the “Vote God” campaign of the Church, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal admitted to receiving candidates’ donations. The Comelec pointed out that this was illegal. Though the candidates might be assisting charity, they might also be corrupting church leaders or getting the implicit endorsement of Vidal.

At a school forum in Cebu, presidential candidate Richard Gordon also repeated his accusation that his rival Manny Villar offered him a Cabinet position and a reimbursement for his campaign expenses if he withdrew from the presidential race. The other report was a repetition of this point, with Gordon noting that Villar also made an offer if Gordon would conspire for the toppling of Juan Ponce Enrile in the Senate’s investigation of C-5 road extension project.

Education (eight), the economy/jobs (eight), governance (eight), and poverty (eight) were also reported about from the pronouncements of candidates. Reproductive health also became an issue in six election-related reports as church groups embarked on their “Vote God” campaign and amid the related issue on the distribution of condoms by health officials in the campaign against AIDS/HIV.


Table 5 Themes

Photos and Artwork

There were 108 photos, four caricatures, four infographics and one artwork about the elections in Weeks 3 and 4. Presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino had the most number of photos in the papers at 14. He was followed by Manny Villar (nine), Joseph Estrada (eight), and Richard Gordon (six). Other personalities with photos in election-related reports were President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (five), Ricardo Cardinal Vidal (five), Mar Roxas (four), and Tomas Osmeña (four). Cebu gubernatorial candidate Hilario Davide III had more photos (four) of him in the papers than reelectionist Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia (two) although the latter appears more frequently as a subject and source in election-related reports.

The newspapers published photos showing candidates giving aid to fire victims. One was a contributed photo showing Rep. Raul del Mar and his chief of staff Cutie del Mar giving cash assistance to fire victims. The caption (“In less than 24 hours after their houses were razed in a fire…”) and the “Del Mar” campaign shirt worn by Cutie del Mar, running for congressional seat in Cebu’s north district, frame the subject in a favorable light. The photo was placed beside an unrelated story, “SC to ATO: return lot to family”.

Another photo showed three Kusug (local) candidates giving a plastic bag of relief goods to a mother and infant, one of the Tisa fire victims. The photo is approximately ¼ of a page and positioned above the fold. The prominence of size and placement seem to ironically comment on a nearby story, whose headline reads, “Politics ‘threatens’ aid”. A third photo showing another Kusug candidate directing aid for fire victims was published with a related article. Captioned “Shelter,” the photo shows Barangay Captain Mary Ann de los Santos supervising the distribution of housing materials and other aid to barangay Lahug fire victims. The accompanying story, “’No politics’ in fire victims’ aid” quotes the Kusug candidate running for a congressional seat as saying that “the aid is not some campaign gimmick.” However, there was no mention of the individual or party making this accusation against her in the first place. De los Santos was the only source quoted in the story. Del Mar (BOPK) and De los Santos (Kusug) are vying for the same congressional seat. Taken together, the photographs balance any perceived bias. However, as mentioned earlier, news readers are not necessarily serial readers. There is also a discrepancy of days between the Del Mar photo (Mar. 7) and De los Santos’ article and photograph (Mar. 11) so readers may not see the connection.


The most reported news subject was still the Comelec (80). With increasing local press coverage of the presidential election,  survey frontrunners Aquino (47) and Villar (42) were more frequently reported than the other presidential candidates. Estrada also became more visible as a news subject with 35 reports compared to only 16 reports about him in the first monitoring period. Other presidential candidates in the news were Teodoro (32), Gordon (10), Eddie Villanueva (seven), Ma. Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal (four), John Carlos “JC” de los Reyes (three), and Nicanor Perlas (two).

The vice presidential candidates in the news were Mar Roxas (18), Jejomar Binay (seven), Loren Legarda (six), Bayani Fernando (four), and Edu Manzano (two). Senatorial candidates in the news were Juan Ponce Enrile (10), Gilbert Remulla (seven), who also happens to be the spokesperson of the Nacionalista Party, Vicente Sotto III (seven), Neric Acosta (six), Ralph Recto (six), and Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel (six). Others were Jinggoy Estrada (five), Franklin Drilon (four), Joey de Venecia (four), Ruffy Biazon (four), Alex Lacson (three), Gen. Danilo Lim (three), Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. (three), Susan Ople (three), Adel Tamano (two), Col. Ariel Querubin (two), Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. (two), former Cebu governor Lito Osmeña (two), Pia Cayetano (two), and Kit Tatad (two).

Local personalities on top of  election-related reports were still Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña (42) and Cebu governor Gwen Garcia (27), ahead of their respective rivals—Jonathan Guardo (15), Osmeña’s rival for the Cebu City South district congressional post, and Hilario Davide III (14), son of the former Chief Justice and Garcia’s challenger for the gubernatorial post.

NGOs, civil society and civic groups also became more frequently featured as news subjects with 39 reports, including “election watch” efforts, voters education and organizing candidates’ forum. There were also reports about civic and Church-affiliated organizations voicing their stand on issues like reproductive health and corruption. The Church also became more prominent in election-related reports with 22 reports.


Table 6 Subjects

Table 7 Subjects


The Comelec continued to be the top news source for Weeks 3 and 4, with its local and national officials interviewed or quoted in 62 reports.  What was notable for this period was the prominence of the Church as a news source (15 reports) with the launching of the “Vote God” campaign and the church officials voicing  their stand on morality, corruption and reproductive health.

In the first monitoring period,  incumbent Gov. Gwen Garcia was quoted as a news source in election-related reports far more often than her rival Hilario Davide III, at a ratio of 3:1. For this study period, the ratio was 1:1— Garcia in eight election-related reports and Davide in seven.

In covering campaign rallies, reporters tended to estimate crowd size in a campaign based only on the opinion of a single and partial source. Cebu City Sports Center manager Ricky Ballesteros estimated 60,000 people in the report about the Liberal Party rally organized by local Bando Osmeña and LP allies, the source may not also be impartial, aside from being the only source of the crowd estimate. The slant favoring the LP and its local allies was balanced by the follow-up story where LP allies and critics gave their varying assessments of the LP proclamation party. It must be noted though that news readers may not be serial readers and may miss reading follow-up stories.


Table 8 Sources

Table 9 Sources


All three newspapers during this period were basically neutral  in 280 of 337 election-related reports or 83 percent of the stories. Of the slanted reports, there were 29  with a positive slant and 32 with a negative one. Manny Villar both had the most number of  stories with both positive (six) and negative slants (five). These were found in reports like Richard Gordon’s accusation that Villar tried to buy him out of the race, in poll surveys (“Villar, Aquino remain ‘tied’ in latest survey,” “Villar not moved by recent survey results”), and endorsements by various groups. In the report “Pro-life groups back candidacy of Villar,” the headline did not jibe with the report as there was actually no definite decision yet if the groups would support Villar because they were still in the process of considering other candidates.

Some national news reports filed by wire agencies like Sunnex, Philippine News Agency and Agence France Presse did not present all the sides in a controversy. The report “Bishop: Voters list padded by 5 M” cited Church sources alleging that the Comelec had discontinued the cleansing of the voters list. However, the Church official declined to name the former commissioner who blew the whistle on Comelec. The story did not carry the Comelec’s reaction to the allegations of flying voters. The New People’s Army (NPA) was reported to have killed a local candidate in Pasacao in the Bicol peninsula. The NPAs were also alleged by a Comelec official to be eyeing P2-5 billion for extortion from candidates. However, neither article reported the reaction of the NPA.

Most of the reports provided adequate background (88 percent.) Most included context to show the complex and shifting alliances among the candidates in the national and local elections. Cebu politicians and political parties select a variety of politicians and parties to endorse (e.g.,  One Cebu’s endorsement of Lakas-Kampi-CMD’s Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro but not his vice-presidential running mate Edu Manzano). The complexity of alliances cuts across political clans and parties. While Gov. Gwen Garcia and the One Cebu party endorse Teodoro, the governor’s relatives and fellow candidates, Alvin and Raymund Garcia lead Kusug party mates  in endorsing Nacionalista Party standard bearer Villar.

An example of context woven in the news coverage is “Recto addresses rally, but stays off BOPK’s list.” The reporter wrote an illuminating fact that may be only known among longtime observers of local politics: “Because the BOPK is not a political party recognized by Comelec, it coalesced with the LP so that its candidates are running under the banner of Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s party.”

Neutral reports

Table 10 Neutral

Neutral vs. Slanted Reports

Table 11 Neutral vs Slanted

Table 12 Positive

Table 13 Negative


In the second monitoring period, 19 percent of the reports  in Cebu’s Bisaya-language dailies were election-related (100 election-related reports in a 518-report news hole), lower than the 22 percent during the first monitoring period. Banat had more election-related reports numerically and proportionally than SuperBalita at 51 (22 percent) and 49 (17 percent), respectively. Some of the reports were stand-alone public relations-like photos of candidates appearing in the “Komunidad” (Community) page.


Most of the election-related reports (97 percent) were in the inside pages. Banat had three election-related reports in the front page. Of the 97 reports in the inside pages of the two papers, 24 (25 percent) are in page 2.

Table 14

Table 15 Placement


There was no significant change in the focus of the election-related reports of the Bisaya-language dailies during this period. Both  reported more on the local elections in Cebu with 53 reports, followed by “Elections in general” (28) and the presidential election (25). Party-list, senatorial and vice-presidential elections coverage remained meager.


Table 16

Table 17 Focus


Reporting about campaign sorties, strategies and other campaign activities of the candidates and their parties was still the top theme of the election coverage of the Bisaya-language dailies (32 reports). Candidates attacking their opponents also received significant attention as the second most covered theme with 20 reports. Standing out among these reports were the politicians in Talisay City, particularly vice-mayoralty candidates Aberdovey Belleza and Alan Bucao who were quarreling over their respective parties’ standing in the surveys and other issues.

“Other Comelec-related issues” moved three notches down from being the second leading theme in the first monitoring period. Corruption, poverty and governance were the top issues in reports with the theme “Development/Policy Issue.”


Table 18 Themes

Photos and Artwork

There were 39 election-related photos in the Bisaya-language dailies, most of them in Banat (31). Five photos featured Benigno III “Noynoy” Aquino, four, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, and three,  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. One of the photos on Aquino with Cebu gubernatorial candidate Hilario Davide III welcoming him at the airport was on, the front page of Banat. In the community page of Banat, photos of party-list Rep. Jun Alcover of the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD), an anti-communist organization, appeared three times showing him in various activities, thus  projecting ANAD in a positive light. Candidate for Cebu City councilor Margot Osmeña, wife of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, and candidate for Cebu City North district representative Rachel “Cutie” del Mar, daughter of the Rep. Raul del Mar, were also featured in similar p.r.-like fashion in the community page.

Other news subjects with photos were Jonathan Guardo (2), Manuel “Mar” Roxas III (2), Lakambini Reluya (1), Hilario Davide III (1), Alvin Garcia (1), and the Aquino nephews (1). Senatorial candidates with a photo each were Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, and Gilbert Remulla.


The most frequently reported news subject in the second monitoring period was the Liberal Party (21), including personalities and candidates speaking on the party’s behalf. This was followed by the party’s standard bearer Aquino (18), Comelec (15), Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr. (14), Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña (10), and Joseph Estrada (10). This was the period where the Liberal Party held a major rally with local party ally Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) in Cebu.

Notably, SuperBalita reported the political intramurals in neighboring Talisay City, featuring reelectionist Vice Mayor Alan Bucao and his challenger Aberdovey Belleza. In the background was Bucao’s ally, Mayor Socrates Fernandez, who has been under attack for allegedly trying to protect his controversial son Joavan. The latter has been accused of illegal drug use and of  harassing people.


Table 19 Subjects


The Comelec remained  the top news source on election-related reports in this period with 10 reports. It was followed by the Liberal Party (6), the PNP (5), Pulse Asia (5), Aberdovey Belleza (5) and the Church (5).


Table 20 Sources


Majority of the election-related reports were provided with adequate background (72 percent). Reports that lacked background included some of those on the contest among candidates, which simply carried partisan accusations sans context, motherhood statements from  politicians on issues, and reports about survey results.

The Bisaya-language dailies remained generally neutral at 84 percent  of the time for this period. Of the slanted reports,  eight were positively-slanted and 10 negatively-slanted. Three election-related reports from Banat were  biased for the anti-communist group ANAD party-list, the same observation in the first monitoring period. Conversely, leftist candidates for senator Liza Maza and Satur Ocampo got one negative report each.

Neutral reports

Table 21

Neutral vs. slanted reports

Table 22

Table 23

Table 24

Download the report here (in Word or PDF).

Comments are closed.