Monthly Archives: March 2014

Column: Aquino: ‘Incompetent’ and ‘insensitive’

The fourth edition, as it were, of an annual roundup of anti-Aquino criticism. Published on November 26, 2013.

At least once a year in the last three years, I’ve tried to document the patterns of criticism directed against President Aquino. I got started because of what I thought was unfair criticism; I continued partly because of the vigorous, sometimes orientation-altering feedback, and partly because tracing the patterns can be instructive and useful to understanding politics, Philippine-style.

The documentation is hardly comprehensive; my so-called field notes are only preliminary; indeed, as I wrote at the get-go about the patterns I discerned, “there are others, some of them perhaps better objects of study than the ones I’ve chosen.”
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Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Column: ‘Is it true, is Ted Failon dead?’

“Catastrophizing” disaster coverage. Published on November 19, 2013.

Read, and wince. “During this time, they said, girls and boys were raped in the dark and had their throats cut and bodies were stuffed in the kitchens while looters and madmen exchanged fire with weapons they had looted.” It won’t be easy to identify which esteemed media organization ran this sensational passage.

This post-apocalyptic vision was a description of the horrifying conditions at the Convention Center in New Orleans, days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the famous city in August 2005. But as it turns out, it was a description that was not (and perhaps could not have been) independently verified. The source (the “they” who did the saying) were unnamed refugees; other sensational details in the story with the remarkable headline “City of rape, rumour and recrimination,” could also not be verified, or were later proven false.

The British spelling in the headline is a clue, but it isn’t much of one. Because that story, with that headline, and that passage, was published by the “normally staid” Financial Times.
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Column: The bully in Miriam Santiago

This column, written in the immediate aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda or Haiyan, generated intense feedback in the comments thread on Inquirer.net — many of the abusive kind. I guess that’s what happens when a politician is treated, or treats herself, as a celebrity, as a “darling of the media;” the fans come out with their daggers drawn. An interesting experience. Published on November 12, 2013.

I write out of a sense of duty—knowing not only that “politics” is the last thing people want to read about these days but also that other subjects (discussed fortunately in other columns or in the news pages) are, truly, matters of life or death. But Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s “star turn” at the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing last week was so wrong, on so many counts, that letting it slide under a storm surge of post-“Yolanda” media attention would be an injustice. Bear with me.

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Column: Going negative on P-Noy

From intuitive processes to systematic errors. Published on November 5, 2013.

Inquirer colleague and top business journalist Dax Lucas raised an interesting point on Facebook a few days ago. Linking to an image of the Inquirer’s Oct. 31 front page, which carried the headline “P-Noy: I am not a thief,” he wrote: “A key tenet in psychology and communications: the mind edits out words like ‘not’. So avoid stating in the negative.”

I thought it was interesting advice, because the President did not in fact say those exact words. I phrased my comment as a question: “Curious: Does this tenet work in languages other than English, such as the Filipino Noynoy used?”

Dax acknowledged my response, and graciously said he needed to study the matter, but others following the conversation immediately volunteered that, yes, the communications axiom worked in non-English languages too.
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Column: The pork barrel and the Left

A new lease on political relevance. Published on October 28, 2013.

There are various shades of red in the political spectrum, but for the sake of argument I will adopt the convention in use in many newsrooms and identify the Philippine Left as those associated with the National Democratic Front (NDF). These political forces include some of the most successful party-list groups in our history, such as Bayan Muna.

Their success is apposite, because it explains two telling political developments in the last decade. At the same time, their indisputable mastery of the parliamentary arena, or at least of the processes of entry into that arena, obscured the specter of irrelevance that haunted the Left during the first three years of the Aquino administration. The pork barrel scandal, however, has altered the political landscape dramatically.

The argument, in other words, is that the pork barrel scandal has given the Left a new lease—if not exactly a new purpose—on life.
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21 columns to go

The backlog has grown stout again, and now I have 21 columns to upload. I would like to make Newsstand current, in the hope (likely vain) that with the backlog cleared I can really start blogging again. Wishful thinking, but who knows?

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Ninoy Aquino: Witnessing in word

Today’s column includes a reference to Ninoy Aquino’s unread arrival statement of Aug. 21, 1983. Here is the copy I first posted in 2006.

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