Media under Marcos: watchdog or watchdog?
As the junior version of the late Ferdinand Marcos who justified his repressive media policy of martial law as part of “constitutional authoritarianism,” will his son, President Bongbong Marcos, handle the Philippine press any differently?
In the absence of a track record, Bongbong Marcos’ media policy will only be known when his administration engages seriously with the masses through traditional print and broadcast media and new information platforms in cyberspace.
Will Bongbong try to emulate his father’s experiment of turning the press – whose instinct is to act as a watchdog against government abuses – into a lapdog held on a leash by media owners protecting their interests by cooperating with Malacañang?
When Martial Regime was declared in September 1972, ostensibly to save the nation from a plot by communist left and right wing oligarchs, the padlocked media was only reopened if controlled by cronies pledged to serve the “new society” of the time.
There was not much choice then since the workers’ press, the one that collected and processed information, could not publish its reports on its own to reach its target audience. Only wealthy media moguls could do that.
It was during the first era of Marcos. Bongbong’s time is different in many ways and he may have other theories and approaches in mind. Let’s listen to them.
The appearance in the communication landscape of platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, etc. that allow media to cross geographic boundaries has loosened the grip of billionaire publishers dominating the news market.
Today, almost anyone who acquires access to the Internet, even on a budget, can create and publish virtually any package of information – even lies, verbal abuse and misinformation.
The loosening of control over print and broadcast media – such as newspapers, pamphlets, audio-video clips and full-fledged websites – which can be made public on meager budgets has made public information freer , democratic and risky.
The collapse of the restrictive walls, alas, also released waste into the wide open atmosphere. What are the administration’s policies and plans to minimize this info-pollution that exploded to alarming proportions during the last election campaign?
What does Bongbong Marcos think about the role of mass media in nation building? Will he follow his father’s concept that the media should be a development partner of the government and less of a critic?
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One test item that may prompt Marcos to take a stand is the Securities and Exchange Commission’s order shutting down Rappler.com for accepting foreign-sourced funds that diluted the required 100% Filipino ownership and control over the company.
In an order dated June 28, the SEC upheld its January 11, 2018 decision to shut down Rappler for violating constitutional and statutory restrictions on foreign stock in mass media when it issued Philippine certificates of deposit that the SEC said it granted Omidyar Network, a foreign entity, control over the media organization.
While debating media issues, Malacañang may also want to establish clear and rational ground rules for coverage of the president.
The press officer is said to have declared before taking office that she wanted to bring in bloggers. Does she have in mind those who had been effective during the campaign? It was not well explained.
FM ‘tuta’ controlled by a german dog
The question of whether the press should be a watchdog or a lapdog – or maybe a mongrel – was highlighted when we covered the first Marcos’ US state visit in 1982 in a public demonstration. of mutual need and affection between him and US President Ronald Reagan. .
My assessment, as I wrote in my November 14, 2010 postscript, was that when Marcos visited he was still the certified American boy and that Ninoy Aquino (then in exile in Boston) was just used to keep the dictator off balance. and compliant.
The lifting of martial law on January 17 of the previous year was one of the conditions for Reagan to receive Marcos in the White House. (One wonders what Bongbong would be asked to do, and what he would ask in return, to visit the United States with full honor.)
From the Holiday Inn (now the Beacon Hotel) near the Philippine Embassy, we, the media team, were bussed to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland where Marcos was to arrive with style on Air Force One.
I can’t forget that Andrews cover. Before entering the living room to wait for Marcos, the Filipino journalists were led one by one towards a German Shepherd sniffing us and our equipment (camera, recorder, etc.) which we dutifully placed in front of him.
It was hilarious: we, Marcos tuta (“lapdog”, a label given to those covering the tour) were being cleaned by a dog! Probably on the theory that only a dog can recognize another dog? Haha!
Later in Washington, Marcos himself made a habit of addressing the National Press Club – so America could sniff him out!
No wonder, when we Manila press got off our bus earlier to cover the NPC event, we heard what sounded like yelping dogs.
There, on the sidewalk, a picket of Raul Manglapus’ commandos barked “Marcos tuta” at us, delivering a telling message without saying a word. It didn’t bother me. But it was cute.
Marcos’ handlers had scripted this in his speech to the NPC; he would cite several converts, including Nilo Tayag as a young radical who is said to have embraced the New Society. Marcos was supposed to point to a pre-designated spot in the audience and Nilo was supposed to show up as Exhibit A.
The problem was where Marcos was pointing, there was no shadow of Nilo. The usual Pinoy sages asked him if he had been out shopping.
Anyway…I later escaped from the media group’s kennel to interview Ninoy Aquino at their modest Boston home, a solo flight I wrote about in my Postscripts from November 7-14, 2010.
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NB: The author is on Twitter under the name of @FDPascual. E-mail: [email protected]. All Postscripts are also archived at ManilaMail.com