MANILA—An official of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) urged public officials to observe "maximum tolerance" and good manners and right conduct in all their dealings, including how they approach journalists.
CSC commissioner Aileen Lizada issued the reminder after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. drew flak for cussing at media.
On Twitter, Locsin first cussed at the Philippine Daily Inquirer's (PDI) Jhesset Enano after he took exception with her coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s participation at the 35th ASEAN Summit.
Locsin then directed his tirade at Marc Cayabyab when the Philippine Star reporter pointed out that Republic Act 6713 mandates public officials to observe courtesy. Locsin subsequently deleted his profane tweets but declined to apologize to Enano or the PDI unless Enano apologizes first and the PDI stops slanting coverage against Duterte.
Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Lizada also pointed out that public officials can always call the attention of the media politely over grievances arising from coverage.
“Gentle reminder to all those who are in public service kumbaga sa pulis, tayo ay (like the police, we exercise) maximum tolerance. We cannot please everyone but as long as we remain consistent in what we do then we set the records straight,” she said.
Lizada said public officials could always call out wrong reports in a very polite manner.
“Public office is a public trust. They trust we are doing the right thing so just a gentle reminder to everyone,” she said.
Lizada offered tips for public officials and employees should they have to hold media accountable for their coverage.
“The proper way is to call the attention of the person. You may call or you may ask your public assistance or kung mayron kayong (if you have) information office to clarify this and set the record the straight kung ano yung tamang nangyari (on what really transpired),” she added.
Lizada said that, sometimes, reporters are unable to get the full story.
“Kung sa tingin nu’ng subject matter of the report ay mukhang hindi tama then you give him or that reporter the truth kung ano ’yung nangyari. (If the subject of the report thinks that the story is not balanced, then you give the reporter the truth of what really happened.) You call the attention or you either call or you send an email kung ano yung narrative na sa tingin niyo ay tamang nangyari (of what you think is the right narrative to the event),” she said.
Luis Teodoro, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, agreed.
“They have a right of reply ‘di ba ok so over Twitter then you say what you said is not true if it’s not true. And actually this is what happened there is no point in cursing. It’s a matter of just saying your views or Mr. Locsin, Secretary Locsin could have complained to the Inquirer because Ms. Enano is a reporter of the Inquirer or in the case of Mr. Cayabyab, he could have also complained to the Star why is mister so-and-so lecturing me. There is no need to curse anybody,” said Teodoro, a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.
UP Political Science assistant professor Jean Franco said: “Pinakamaganda also to talk to the reporter off the record kasi at the end of the day dapat maintindihan natin na ’yung role na ginagampanan ng media at merong pamamaraan formal at informal para ayusin ’yung di pagkakaintindihan ng walang murahan”
(It’s best to talk off the record because at the end of the day there’s a need to understand the role that media plays and there’s a way — formal and informal — to fix misunderstandings without cursing.)
Franco said that Locsin, as a former media worker, should have known better in dealing with media.
“In dealing with the media mas mataas ang expectation, for instance, sa ating kasalukuyan secretary ng foreign affairs kasi dati rin siyang press secretary nu’ng panahon ni Pangulong Cory Aquino so alam niya dapat makipag-relate sa media at alam niya ang kahalagahan ng media. Nakaka-disappoint at sa tingin ko talagang foul ’yung kaniyang ginawa sa isang journalist,” said Franco.
(We have a high expectation on the Secretary of Foreign Affairs who was the press secretary during the time of President Cory Aquino. He should know how to relate to media and the importance of media. It’s disappointing and foul what he did to a journalist.)
Lizada said all public officials and employees that Republic Act 6713 actually mandates them all to observe professional and courteous behavior as there are penalties for violations.
“Under Section 11, the penalties any public official or employee regardless of whether or not he holds office or employment in a casual temporary or permanent regular capacity, committing any violation of this act shall be punished with a fine not exceeding the equivalent of 6 months salary or suspension not exceeding one year or removal depending on the gravity of the offense. Meron tayong penalties for those who are unable to comply with RA 6713,” she warned.
For Lizada, this also means public officials should refrain from cussing.
“There is accountability because if you look at the declaration of policies under Section 2, nakalagay po niyan it is the policy of the state to promote a high standard of ethics in public service, public officials and employees shall at all times be accountable to the people and shall discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity among others so while there are certain norms and conduct there are 8 norms of conduct, one of which ay yung professionalism,” she said.
Teodoro stressed that cursing or the use of cuss words is not only counterproductive but downright unacceptable.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable from anybody who wants to rationally discuss public issues because cursing anybody doesn’t solve anything, doesn’t address the problems and in the first place, I don’t think he was reacting to a question. I don’t think he was answering anything,” he said.
Teodoro said Locsin failed to point out his specific grievances in his statements.
“The journalist took a photo and said the president was not there and Mr. Locsin was the one who was in his place. Where is the slander in that? It’s just a matter of stating the facts, which is the responsibility of journalists. The primary responsibility of journalists is to report the truth,” Teodoro said.
Both Teodoro and Franco said they think that the use of profanities is also not good for the administration in general.
On the flipside, Franco pointed out there is also a need to better educate people and public officials about the roles and functions of the media.
Franco said he hopes that both sides can reach out and better communicate with each other so they can both fulfill their roles in society better.