Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Media Commentary - Esposo's Sunday Column

William Esposo is a columnist of the Philippine Star, and his columns have often shown a strong bias towards the Aquino administration. But his Sunday column, entitled “The vultures that prey on the hostage tragedy”, sums up a number of my thoughts about some of those criticizing or commenting on the tragic event.

In his column, Esposo castigates a number of whom he calls “vultures”. He first scores opposition leader Rep. Edcel Lagman and former President Gloria Arroyo’s spokesperson Elenita Horn for criticizing the Aquino government and for lauding President Arroyo for being more decisive during her time. He correctly notes that neither Rep. Lagman nor Horn spoke up about the massive corruption during the Arroyo administration.

Horn can probably be excused for her silence, being Arroyo's Presidential Management Staff head, although one can question why she stayed on despite the corruption of her boss. Her current stint as spokesperson, though, shows where her loyalties lie, and denies her any credibility to speak out against the Aquino administration.

Lagman’s doglike loyalty to Arroyo is more questionable. A former anti-Marcos stalwart, Lagman has shown none of the moral activism that he displayed in fighting against the martial law regime. In fact, he has been one of the most traditional of politicians under President Arroyo, coming to aid time and time again whenever an impeachment complaint was filed against Arroyo. He stymied every effort to take Arroyo to task for her excesses, and, now, he has the temerity to criticize the Aquino administration? Rep. Lagman, that’s one gigantic plank in your eye.

On a side note, while I realize it’s a fact, President Aquino’s advisors or spokesmen shouldn’t make much of the fact that President Arroyo did not do enough to equip and train the police, which is part of what led to last week’s tragedy. It’s a fact, which Rep. Lagman will probably gloss over, that President Arroyo had nine years to improve the quality of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Instead, it appears that, not only was PNP equipment and training lacking, members of the police may actually have aided in some of the more brutal aspects of the Arroyo administration, such as the extrajudicial killings and even the now-infamous Maguindanao Massacre. Be that as it may, if the President’s men are the ones who speak up about the deficiencies of the Arroyo administration at this time, it will only be seen as passing the buck.

Esposo also questions ABS-CBN’s Maria Ressa for continuously denying that her network had any culpability in what happened last week. In a news item last week, Ressa noted that if ABS-CBN cameramen and newscasters had stopped their live coverage, viewers would’ve been angry with them, which betrays the fact that the network was more interested in its ratings rather than public safety. It has been widely believed that the live coverage of the arrest of hostage taker Rolando Mendoza’s brother was the spark that lit the fuse, and set off the tragic turn of events. Ressa’s inability to acknowledge this shows an appalling lack of conscience on her part.

What I don’t fully agree with Esposo is his assertion that President Aquino was right in not taking Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang’s phone call at the height of the hostage taking. Esposo argues that, in international diplomacy, Tsang is not the equal of President Aquino, and that the one who should have called was China’s premier Hu Jintao.

While such may be true, I think it would have been mere politeness for Aquino to have taken the call, although I am not too knowledgeable of international protocol to be certain of that. Would the action have been construed that our country’s leader is only the equivalent of what is essentially a provincial governor of China? Still, it would have been a gracious act, and it might have smoothed relations a little better.

The investigation into last week’s tragedy continues, and, hopefully, we’ll be able to move on, and take action on those aspects of law enforcement that need strengthening. At the same time, maybe the political vultures will stop circling the fledgling Aquino administration.

3 comments:

Dino said...

On first glance, I thought the opposition (Lagman, Horn, and others) had a point in insisting that Aquino failed his first test, and that the former administration of Arroyo did a lot better in handling hostage crises like that, and other similar crises.

Aquino did fail his first test. First of all, we didn't know what he was doing on the day of the hostage crisis. He didn't have to be present at the scene. He just has to show that he and his administration are doing their jobs and are on top of the situation.

It was also important to receive calls, such as Donald Tsang's. As our president, Noynoy is our representative to the international community. Since Hong Kong is the affected country, they and Donald Tsang will naturally look at what Aquino was doing, first and foremost.

Dino said...

But then again, while Arroyo may have done a good job convincing/forcing Jun Ducat to surrender, as well as handling the Manila Penninsula Siege (note how they were able to force some sort of media blackout, although they did arrest some media personalities after), I suddenly remember the following:

*Back in '02, kidnapped hostage Martin Burnham during a rescue encounter by the military with the Abu Sayyaf.

*And then back sometime in '03 (I think), there was this man who hostaged a child at a certain bus terminal in Pasay. The police failed in that rescue attempt as both the hostage taker and the child died.

So there you have it. Lagman or Horn's assertion that the former administration did a good job commanding in these types of crises ain't entirely true after all.

As for Noynoy, while he may have failed his first test and he didn't make his presence felt in it early enough, it's logical to say that the responsibility doesn't fall on him alone. Part of it goes to the DILG, the police, the media, and yes, the former administration, and even us Filipinos (the crowd didn't help the ambulances come close enough sooner).

Frederick Tomas said...

Good citation on the Burnham and the Pasay hostage taking, Dino. Obviously, Lagman and Horn aren't going to point that out, the same way they've glossed over the incompentencies of the Arroyo administration.

Yes, Noynoy has to show that he and his government can learn from tragedies such as these, to prevent future tragic events.