During his speech at the July 28th celebration of The Philippine STAR’s 25th anniversary at the Shangri-La Makati Hotel, President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) utilized the occasion to reiterate his call for media to elevate its current level of discourse.
PNoy said: “But today should remind us not just of the freedom our press enjoys — not just of our victories — but also of the challenges we face in the present. I know and am grateful for your ability to protect the public’s right to voice an opinion and to guard our freedoms. I know and commend you for your ability to report with integrity the events that occur in this country.”
“Beyond this, as I am sure you are all aware, the media can also contribute to the healing of our national psyche, which has for so long been trodden upon — perhaps even coagulating into a false sense of collective insecurity. May I ask, when was the last time we stood up for flag and country against others? When was the last time we drew a line in the sand and said, “I am a Filipino; we are Filipinos, and we deserve respect,” he added.
Highlighting the conditions that may have created the current mindset of negativity, PNoy said: “This is perhaps a consequence of another cultural phenomenon: a culture of negativity. While we may have rid ourselves of an oppressive government 25 years ago, some of us still remain shackled by a mindset some would consider defeatist — where hopes are too often nipped at the bud by the shears of cynicism, and where fear and distrust sometimes overwhelm the earnestness of efforts, and thus becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.
“Because of this negativity, and perhaps because of what I call the “culture of wang-wang,” decent Filipino workers have to think twice before filing their tax papers, as they are afraid that their money will merely pad the bank accounts of the corrupt. So it is not merely a negative attitude we are combating — it is the way many of our people see the world through a lens of negativity. They had developed a sense of despondency. This is what we are here to change,” he added.
PNoy reinforced his point: “Let us all ask ourselves: What are we doing to uplift our fellow man? Now that we are free to speak and to say things how we see them, what efforts are we making to exercise this freedom judiciously? What responsibilities have we chosen to shoulder with this right we have regained?”
PNoy suggested new modes for media on how to conduct its job. He said: “I believe that media can continue strengthening its partnership with the people and with government to elevate the level of public discourse. Partnership does not mean that we want media to be lap dogs of government; at the same time, media shouldn’t allow themselves to be used as attack dogs either. Media’s ultimate role is to be a watchdog — and I believe this is the balance we want to strike.”
PNoy even made your Chair Wrecker as some sort of “Exhibit A” to plead his case. He said: “Today in the Philippine STAR, there are columnists like Billy Esposo, who is present tonight, who, more often than not have always been supportive of our efforts. But seemingly, there are more who cannot seem to find anything positive in what we do. By physical weight, you might say that there is a balance, given Billy’s girth.”
He further stressed: “Just as Juan dela Cruz needs public servants who do their jobs with honesty and competence, the Filipino people also deserve a media that discerns important issues from trivial stories and personality-driven news. Just as we call on those who lead us to be guided by the best ideals and principles, so must we take it upon ourselves to abide by those same principles. After all, just as elected officials need their political capital, so does the media need its own capital — which is credibility.”
PNoy said: “Our country’s greatest asset is our people. Our goal is to transform our citizenry ravaged by misgovernance — seemingly despondent, if not apathetic — into one that not only dreams of, but is empowered to attain better things, both for themselves and their country.”
The President’s appeal for a higher level of discourse in media should be appreciated within the context of the transformation we all seek for our country. No country ever rose without first addressing the negative elements in its national psyche.
The most successful national and international brands had created the most favorable mindsets in their target consumers — pouring billions in advertising, sales promotions and public relations monies just to create that atmosphere that will allow their brand to sell. Philippine media must see our country as no different from a national or international brand and help create that favorable atmosphere for Brand Philippines to sell and take off.
This is not about giving the PNoy administration a free pass when it deserves to be called to task. Rather, media should align itself with higher goals. This is not about being lap dogs but all about the patriotism of the Filipino media practitioner.
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