The naughty PNoy

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By Jesus “Jess” Dureza

Advocacy MindaNOW

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I LISTENED to President Benigno Aquino during the recent Philippine Press Institute (PPI) annual assembly in Manila. He was gamely complaining about negative reporting to the face of the leaders of the press. He did it right in the lion’s den. Before he spoke, we were betting on what he would say. I predicted that he would come swinging at the expense of media. I won the bet.

He talked of the “crab mentality” of Pinoys as he related the story of a foreign visitor who was worried that a basketful of crabs was left unattended and the crabs could climb out and get away. The confident owner, however, shouted back: “don’t worry, they are Filipino crabs.” Meaning, they’ll tend to pull everyone down so no one can leave the basket.

He said local media reports dealt more on the negative hence pulling down the country instead of helping it go up. He said the foreign press was more positive than the locals. He complained of how local media tended to lionize travel advisories of foreign embassies at our own expense.


The president also told of how one newspaper falsely reported that he was “dating” or malling somewhere thus missing a bilateral meeting with a visiting head of state. Do check your facts, he admonished.

Truth to tell, those sentiments resonated when I was also working in the palace. The only difference was that previous presidents as much as possible avoided “swinging” at media. PNoy, on the other hand, did it “with gusto.”

Sure enough, the following day, the Philippine Inquirer screamed: “PNOY SCOLDS MEDIA.”

Inquirer’s boss Sandy Prieto was at the front seat when PNoy spoke. (Sandy and I, by the way, recalled our days trekking together in the interiors of Central Mindanao during the height of El Niño doing “Tabang Mindanaw” intervention for the poor and the hungry during FVR’s time in 1997 and 1998. Incoming Archbishop of Davao Romulo Valles was still Kidapawan bishop then.)

At the sidelines, I had a chat with Malaya columnist Ellen Tordesillas who described PNoy’s tirades as “whining” rather than scolding. Then later I read a statement from a media group strongly lashing at the president for the temerity of scolding media.

I think many of us are losing our sense of humor. C’mon guys, it’s fun this way. I even suspected that PNoy was intentionally being naughty, with tongue in cheek when he dished it out -- gamely! He must be thinking: “Let’s see how these guys will take this one.”

I suspect PNoy, by nature, is naughty and “game.” And so “bratty.” If we misread him, the joke may be on us!

I am beginning to wonder now. How does the president deal with matters of the heart (Grace Lee, et. al.) and, the more serious matters of the state (like dealing with the Scarborough Shoal, etc.)? In the former, the worse (should it be “best”?) is it may lead him to the altar. But in the latter case, it may lead us to war with China. And what if we win? Just a thought….

WATERSHED AGREEMENT. The GPH and MILF panels came up with a list of “decision points” for further negotiations. I call it a “watershed agreement.” Now that the roadmap is set, everyone must travel that path together. But, it’s still a long way off from a final peace accord. The other stakeholders must converge. This is crucial. Peace negotiations are not and should not only be between both sides on the table. It’s a communal effort by all stakeholders.

QUESTIONS. Of course, there will be questions that will need answers. Does “replacing the ARMM” go beyond autonomy? Does this mean the MILF already is giving up on their “sub state” proposal? Or has the government quietly agreed to amend the constitution to set up a ministerial government for the bangsamoro? To me, these are questions prematurely asked. We need to wait for further negotiations towards the final peace agreement.

Both panels should refrain from answering them now. Unfortunately, one day after the signing, I am seeing representatives of both panels giving their own interpretations publicly, obviously to mollify their own curious constituencies. The danger is that by doing so, negotiations will now be done through the media with some posturing. That’s counterproductive.

MY ADVICE. At this stage, my humble advice to everyone is: “hold your peace!” The more difficult part is yet to come. Remember: “the devil is in the details.”

A cautionary word about preliminary “agreements” or decision points: for negotiations to move forward, agreements must be creatively crafted as to capture divergent positions. It gives both sides leeway to accommodate each other’s positions, however conflicting they may be. I call this “language engineering.” Negotiations are always dynamic and incremental. It can even evolve into new paradigms. So let’s give space to the negotiators. And the negotiators, in turn, should let the agreement first sink in and not interpret them for the moment in accordance with their own positions to avoid squandering its gains.

Let’s all trust that both sides want peace. My take is that the process has reached an irreversible stage. Only the fools will want to go to war. Remember, no one in the table must claim victory nor suffer defeat. It must not be at the expense of the other. Theirs is a daunting balancing task. They have to navigate adroitly the constitutionally rough and perilous waters of that failed MOA-AD as they, in the same breath, endeavor to retain and keep their respective impatient and expectant constituencies under leash. No mean job!

We blew it last time. But the failed MOA-AD served as a reality check to both panels and the public as well. We can’t afford another misstep.

MEDIA AWARDS. Mindanao newspapers won community press awards during the annual awards night of the PPI. Congrats to Edge Davao under veteran journalist Tony Ajero; Sun.Star Davao with its editor-in-chief Stella Estremera (winning three categories) and Mindanao Cross in Cotabato City under Fr. Jon Domimgo OMI.

TIDBITS. I motored three hours from Manila to be in Lucena City, Quezon province the other day. It was the 6th founding anniversary of Team Ministries International of my friend, Bishop Carding Sio, a businessman pastor.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales was PPI guest speaker during the awards night. She asked how the Dutertes were doing of late in Davao. Mayor Sara, by the way, is married to her nephew, Atty. Carpio.

We welcome Brig. Gen. Ariel Bernardo as new 10th ID commanding general. He served with distinction as AFP’s head of the ceasefire between the government and the MILF.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 03, 2012.


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