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Aquino slams ‘negativism’ in media, draws fire in turn

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday again accused the media of “too much negativism” in their coverage of recent tragedies, including super typhoon Yolanda and the fighting in Zamboanga City, drawing fire from journalists that he accused of dividing the nation.

“So often, when we read the newspaper, listen to the radio or watch TV, we still get a sense of too much negativism. It’s like if we don’t create controversy, our media are boring,” a visibly exasperated President told members of the press at the Christmas party of the Bulong Pulungan forum at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City.

Bulong Pulungan Award. President Benigno Aquino III receives the Outstanding Exemplar Award from Bulong Pulungan Media Forum co-founder and moderator Deedee Sitangco during the 27th Annual Bulong Pulungan Christmas Party at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila on Tuesday. Malacañang Photo Bureau
“The problem with this is we forget the people who are actually doing something to relieve the suffering or anguish of our people,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said he had tried everything to rally support from his critics.

“Actually, I’ve appealed, I’ve complained. I’ve given time, for instance, especially to media. And I am sure, between you and I, we can point to so many columnists who have never said anything nice about me,” he said.

“So I’ve prayed for them also. And I mean that not in jest, I really have prayed for enlightenment for a lot of these people. The message simply is that what you put down affects the lives of people. Are you confident that what you put down helped them?” the President said.

Mr. Aquino, whose approval rating dropped 15 points in a recent public opinion survey, said he remained unaffected by the decline.

“At the end of the day, the only criteria I have is: Did I do right? And sometimes the right decision may be unpopular. Sometimes, conversely, the wrong decision is immensely popular,” he said.

“Our people, I believe, are fair judges… I expect that the numbers will rebound, [but] in case they do go down, that is not the important thing,” he added. “Will our people see me as doing that which is right? That is what is important to me.”

He said he looked forward to closing the book on the country’s problems and getting a fresh start with the New Year.

“I really hope that our pepole can maintain the optimism,” he said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines immediately slammed President Aquino for criticizing media coverage of recent calamities.

“It is actually Noynoy Aquino who can be described as being afflicted with ‘presidential negativism’ -- and it is towards the media,” NUJP chairperson Rowena Paraan said.

“I don’t recall any negativism on the part of media in the Zamboanga hostage crisis. If anything, media glossed over the human rights violations committed by soldiers. In the Bohol and Cebu earthquake, media coverage was generally supportive of the Executive.”

“Typhoon Yolanda was, of course, a different issue. But then, how can media praise him and [Interior and Local Government Secretary] Mar [Manuel] Roxas [II] if there were cadavers strewn all over

Leyte even a week after the storm surges, while urgent relief assistance was not reaching survivors, and were even getting waylaid (or repacked with the mayor’s name),” Paraan said.

Lawmakers led by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. played down the President’s remarks, describing them as his opinion.

“Everyone has his own perception,” Belmonte said.

Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna added: “I believe that the President’s statement that the news reports are negative is his opinion. He is entitled to that.”

Tugna added, however, that “freedom of expression has to be reported factually, good news or bad news.”

“It should be objective. The media are just doing their role of reporting what happened. Facts. That is the essence of a healthy democracy,” Tugna said.

Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan and Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting said that journalists were just doing their job to report the reality based on the data available to them.

In fact, Ilagan said, “media have actually been kind” to the Aquino administration.

“The ineptness of the leadership, the politicking of national officials, the absence of a strong and immediate handling of the crisis, are not even fully highlighted in the media reports. Negativism appears in reports because this administration has failed to provide the positive,” Ilagan said.

She advised the Aquino government to stop being “hypersensitive and obsessed with public perception and looking good” and “face reality, eat humble pie and buckle down to work.”

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said that the media should not be faulted for reporting reality.

“Malacanang should rouse itself from its fantasy world. Media are just stating facts on failure of government and actual destruction. Negativism is all in Mr. Aquino’s mind,” Ridon said.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a member of the minority bloc, said while the President’s opinion shoul be be respected, Mr. Aquino should not be bothered by negative media reports since his trust ratings are still high, despite a recent decline in his approval rating.

“This is a free country whether the reporting is positive or negative it doesn’t matter. Just do your job,” Albano said.

During the media forum, President Aquino was acknowledged as the “Man of Steel” for “showing strength in times of adversity.” With Maricel V. Cruz
 and Joyce Pangco Pañares

 

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