MANILA - Journalists should step up its oversight role vis-à-vis the Philippine government after being "timid, if not indulgent" since the new administration took over, a veteran journalist said on Wednesday.
Vergel Santos, chairman of the board of Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), believes that Philippine media in general has "abandoned its mandate as an adversarial or militant oversight force against the government."
"All the challenges have not been met and they have only been compounded by new ones now. There is even far more to overhaul this year," he told ANC's Headstart.
For John Nery, columnist and a former editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a review of journalists' performance needs to go back as far as the 2016 presidential elections.
"We should ask ourselves in the mainstream media: Did we cover the 2016 presidential campaign the way we should have covered it considering everything that has come to pass?" he said in the same interview, referring to the rise of misinformation.
Nery said the "timidity" of the media could be attributed to the "culture of intimidation" that has pervaded many different professionals, including those in the field of business and law.
Duterte intimidated the business community by targeting some of the country's "oligarchs," including then PhilWeb Chairman Roberto Ongpin. This later also permeated the journalism industry with his "constant attacks" on broadcast media giant ABS-CBN, daily broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer, and online news agency Rappler, said Nery.
"You have this phenomenon of self-censorship, the attitude of ‘let’s just try this out,’ and it’s an understandable reaction," he said.
"It’s understandable, but we need to remind ourselves of the better angels of our own nature. We need to be more hard-hitting, we need to be asking the questions we should be asking," Nery added.
Santos said proof of the timidity is that many questions remain unanswered today, such as the depth of China's influence on the Philippines, and the chain effect of higher fuel taxes on the general cost of living.
"These are basic questions and journalism does not appear to have adequately answered these questions or found the truth about these issues and therefore the public has not been given a fair warning," he said.
The year 2018 was considered to be the deadliest year for journalists worldwide, with 94 media workers dying in targeted killings or crossfire incidents.
In the Philippines, the country was considered to be one of the top 5 most dangerous countries for journalists.