MANILA - A board member of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) on Friday urged the Philippine media to call out news sources propagating falsehoods and religiously fact-check claims as part of its duty in informing the public.
“The media should be assertive enough in the discharge of its own public duty, which is to satisfy or fulfill the people’s right to know,” Vergel Santos, a member of the CMFR's board of trustees, told ANC’s “Matters of Fact.”
The veteran journalist was reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent tirade against Vice President Leni Robredo in which the chief executive falsely claimed that she had spoken out against his absence in typhoon response. Robredo made no such statement.
Santos said much of Philippine media had become “timid” in reporting on the President due to the chilling effect following the recent shutdown of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest media network.
“Why? Because it is not easy to fall of the wrong side of this draconian regime. I can understand that but the problem is that we have a job to do,” Santos said.
“And the job is to get the truth, so that anyone who says or propagates something other than the truth, we should call out. We should set right.”
Duterte has also repeatedly criticized news website Rappler and its chief Maria Ressa and national broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer over reports critical of his policies.
Santos said the media should also halt broadcasting public addresses of government officials if they were found saying lies or were conducted in “a rude or indecent way.”
“The President should be allowed to say what he wishes, but even though he's the President, this is something that should be done within the basic bounds of proper manners,” he said.
As to the ongoing feud between the country’s 2 highest officials in the land, Santos urged the media to focus on the bigger picture rather than the public dispute.
“We tend to fixate on smaller things. The greater question is: why are they questioning the entitlement of the Vice President? Certainly, the Vice president is more entitled than Harry Roque or Sal[vador] Panelo or [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana to the use of government means, especially considering the Vice President intends this for a mission of public service and desperate charity,” he said.
He added, “The larger question is: why are Mr. Duterte and his men so sensitive to the Vice President that they are so easily triggered even by things she has not done or said?”