Bunkhouses and organized bullies-A A +A
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
NATURAL disasters have an uncanny way of bringing the best out of kind-hearted people, and bringing the worst out of cruel-hearted ones. On the heels of the devastating onslaught of Typhoon Pablo, it has been heart-warming to see so many sectors in Mindanao and from other parts of the country pool their efforts and resources together to help the thousands of families adversely affected by one of the worst natural calamities to hit Mindanao in recent years.
While government, civil society organizations, private and business sectors, families, individuals, and schoolchildren scrambled to contribute material and non-material support to the calamity victims in Davao de Norte and Davao Oriental, many of them putting their own lives on the line by performing heroic acts of saving other people's lives, there are those who can only see nothing but sheer negativity and pessimism in it all.
Worse, instead of helping in the overall effort to help the ravaged communities, all they could do was to aggravate the situation by spreading lies and deceit to advance their own agenda. Taking advantage of the suffering of the hungry and homeless, they have unleashed an orchestrated campaign to discredit the government's efforts in reaching out to people in dire need of immediate assistance.
The viciousness of their intentions were displayed in January 15, 2013, when a motley band of communist front organizations, seized part of the national highway in Montevista Municipality, Davao del Norte and barricaded it for more than ten hours causing a monstrous traffic jam that caused untold sufferings to hundreds of people mostly commuters.
Oddly, apart from trumpeting their complaint about what they perceive as the inability of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to extend relief assistance to some barangays, they took the opportunity to amplify worn-out national issues that miserably failed to resonate with most disaster victims whose single-minded concern was where to get their next meal and where to find a safe abode for their families.
It did not matter that a sickly elderly woman and her grandchild had to sit inside a public bus for the whole duration of the barricade, hungry and weary, not knowing when they would finally be allowed to reach their destination or where they would eat their next meal. It did not matter that an extremely worried mother who had to rush to Davao City to attend to the needs of a very sick daughter had to suffer the agony of waiting for hours just to be able to see her loved one. It did not matter that farmers' agricultural products like vegetables, fruits and highly perishable foodstuffs to be delivered to various markets had to wilt under the sun for hours waiting for the mercy of the barricaders. It did not matter that a father out to send off his son to work overseas would miss his plane. It did not matter that, as some farmers decried, they were duped into joining the barricade after having been told that Cong. Manny Pacquaio and other politicians were coming to distribute relief goods. It did not matter that each of those hundreds of people stranded in the highway in that very long, tormenting standstill had suffered in various ways as a result of the so-called mass action by a movement who professes to protect the people.
One would wish that the orchestrated mass-bullying would end there. Unfortunately, it didn't. On that very same day, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), through its Mindanao News Bureau, came out with a banner story written by Mr. Nico Alconaba casting aspersion on the cost of bunkhouses built by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the victims of Typhoon Pablo.
The title of the news story itself already revealed that the paper has thrown its long-held value of "balanced reporting" out of the window. We long-time followers of the PDI are aghast at the very low level of journalism that it has allowed itself to stoop down to; a kind of journalism that is akin to cheap tabloid showbiz reporting. When Alconaba insisted in his news report that the DSWD bunkhouses in Davao Oriental are costly compared to those built by a non-government organization, and couldn't back it up with convincing facts as real journalists would do, he is insulting the intelligence of all of us PDI readers.
In his report, he often contradicted himself and had a tendency to hastily poison the public's mind based on half-truths just to score against the DSWD. He himself cited that the DSWD-built bunkhouses were bigger in terms of floor area, apart from having comfort rooms, kitchen, among others. He also wrote that such features could not be found in the bunkhouses built by the NGO being compared. By sheer common sense, is it not understandable then that the DSWD-built bunkhouses would cost more? And besides, as witnesses of some DSWD-supported projects in Mindanao, we know that the DSWD follows strict procurement processes, abides to certain tax laws, current market prices and other legal requirements that could add to the costs. These are things that a non-government aid organization may not necessarily have to contend with as they may have their own systems, processes and resources that could lower their costs.
Finally, purely technical engineering and financial issues cannot be left to the analysis of a hate-driven journalist alone, especially one who has no idea of the technical details of the issues at hand. It's a pity, but in his mad rush to vilify the image of the DSWD based on flimsy information, Mr. Alconaba has made a very cheap shot at a government agency that is gaining the respect and confidence of people in grassroots communities.
Not satisfied with his initial onslaught, Alconaba was at it again when he continued his attacks against the DSWD in the February 3, 2013 issue of the PDI. Still focusing on the bunkhouse issue, he makes a desperate attempt to intensify his pathetic brand of harassment. In his article he asks a purported beneficiary of one of the bunkhouses a leading question which prompted the person to comment that the cost of the bunkhouse may be too high. Using his trademark journalistic style of immediately ascribing malicious conclusions out of simple people's tentative and confused responses to his self-serving questions, he then stealthily weaves his story around the un-informed remark of the person interviewed in order to ruthlessly drive the point that there was corruption involved on the part of the DSWD.
But, again, the information cited in his second report reveals that there is no hard evidence to back up his malevolent insinuations which immediately fall flat at the end of his story, and which would definitely not hold water under any court of law. It was becoming clear that Alconaba was only bent on waging his own trial by publicity to discredit DSWD at all costs. The question then is why is Alconaba behaving like a rabid attack dog, irrationally carrying out a personal vendetta against the DSWD? What has become of the professionalism and objectivity of the media people in the Mindanao News Bureau of PDI? How could this erstwhile well-respected paper allow its reporters to go berserk and to mercilessly harass people outside the media institution in much the same way that the barricaders savoured the taste of absolute power that they wielded over the lives of hundreds of people whom they held captive in that Montevista circus?
The public deserves more quality and balanced reporting than what PDI's Mindanao News Bureau has been dishing out lately. Otherwise, the public would be incensed when they finally see the connection between people like those who caused the agonizing Montevista stand-off and the sensationalism that marks the work of pseudo-journalists like Nico Alconaba.
Finally, there is more to the picture that meets the eye. We members of the civil society condemn the wider pattern that is beginning to unravel before our very eyes. Communist organizations and their allies in the media are waging a dirty propaganda war to diminish the DSWD in the eyes of the public because DSWD, so far, is the only government agency that is making very significant strides in the field of poverty alleviation especially in Mindanao. It is becoming to be a big threat for the communist armed insurgency which constantly feeds on people's sufferings, discontentment, discord, disinformation, deceit and hatred. For, indeed, how would the communist revolution prosper if people stopped hating the government? What better way is there to stretch its spluttering existence by immobilizing a government agency that truly reaches out to the poorest sectors of people in Mindanao?
We hasten to add that the DSWD is not perfect. It has its own frailties like any other organization, but it is getting there. It has given a sense of hope for millions of poor families who now have opportunities to improve their lives in a participatory and empowering way. Given a few more years, the momentum of the agency's well-meaning poverty alleviation efforts would most likely lead to more positive impact on neglected and oppressed families in rural and urban areas. Unfortunately, while we see this as an inspiring glimmer of hope, there are those in our society who see this trend as a bane and a threat to their existence.
Unfortunately, the communist movement has been successful because it has already influenced some members of the media who have abused their wide propaganda reach both in print and in the internet. It is not farfetched to imagine that it may also have penetrated the DSWD and have created internal animosities and distrust within the organization to blunt the agency's sincere efforts at fighting poverty in poor communities.
For the final serving, it is eagerly awaiting the moment when people within the DSWD, who are made of lesser stuff, would succumb to the relentless pressure coming from an irrational journalist by offering sacrificial lambs and concessions in an act of fear-driven appeasement. When this happens, the triumph of wickedness shall then be complete. Game over. Hurray to Mr. Alconaba for beating the other papers on a sensational scoop. Bring on the next government agency to terrorize and to mercilessly bully into submission!
Meantime, may God help the rest of the people in this country. And may our countrymen see the wisdom of not punishing their minds and lives by reading only newspapers that genuinely speak the truth, portray the positive and inspiring side of life, and by shying away from newspapers that constantly foment deception, social conflict and all the negativities of life just to sell.
Kahugpungan Batok sa mga Madaug-Daugon nga Hut-ong ug Institusyon (KBMHI)