MANILA. Senator Risa Hontiveros. (File photo)
MANILA. Senator Risa Hontiveros. (File photo)

Hontiveros: Suspension of anchormen ‘not enough’

SEN. Risa Hontiveros believes the suspension of a Cebu-based radioman involved in the “inappropriate and insensitive” interview of a four-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually abused is not enough.

Hontiveros said during a press conference on Thursday, March 21, 2024, that it fell short of addressing the issue adequately and urged management to take accountability for allowing the interview to happen.

“It’s not enough to just suspend those directly involved because what about the accountability of the management... I know anchors don’t work alone; there should be someone assisting and supervising,” she said in a mix of Tagalog and English.

In a live interview on March 13, Juril Patiño, a lawyer, and Dennes Tabar, anchors of Brigada News FM Cebu, asked the four-year-old child to recall in detail the alleged sexual abuse she had suffered. The radio interview was aired live on the station’s Facebook page. The Facebook live video has since been deleted.

The interview was facilitated inside the alleged victim’s house by Jonalyn Jumabis, one of the station’s field reporters.

The incident, which sparked outrage and condemnation from various sectors, highlighted the need for media practitioners to exercise utmost sensitivity and professionalism when reporting on cases involving children.

Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, said her is to provide long-term justice to the affected child, and make sure the incident will never happen again.

“Part of what’s lacking is that not only the anchors should be sanctioned, or take corrective action, or strengthen policies and measures, but also the management itself, the owners themselves, the station itself,” she said.

Responsibility

Upon learning that one of the anchors is a lawyer and the other is a former barangay captain, the senator said they should have exercised greater caution in handling such cases.

“Kami mas may malalim na obligasyon kung humahawak o humawak na kami ng responsibilidad. All the more dapat go extra extra mile to make amends and moving forward huwag ng umulit ng ganyang offense, alang-alang sa mga bata,” she said.

(We have a deeper obligation when we are holding or held responsible. All the more reason to go the extra mile to make amends and, moving forward, not to repeat such offenses, especially for the sake of the children.)

She said she has yet to watch the recorded live video of the broadcast, but has read several reports from the Cebu-based print media outfits of the interview.

For now, Hontiveros said, she will be supporting the investigation of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7. She also lauded the stance of the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Cebu and for looking into the matter.

She did not say she would request for a Senate inquiry on the incident yet, but the lawmaker said she hoped the ongoing investigation would come up with recommendations to the Senate or Congress to bolster the implementation of child protection laws.

Earlier, the Cebu City Anti-Indecency Board (Caib) imposed a five-figure fine on Brigada News FM Cebu and its broadcasters.

Caib also demanded a public apology from the radio station and broadcasters.

“The public apology will be aired in their program and posted on their social media page,” said Caib chairman Lucelle Mercado, according to a Cebu City Public Information Office (PIO) report on March 20.

The broadcasters admitted their wrongdoing and accepted responsibility during a hearing with the Caib members, according to the PIO report.

Caib said it may recommend the station’s closure to the mayor if a similar violation occurs in the future. But Mercado assured due process with regard to all complaints lodged before them.

In-house probe

Caib, which serves as Cebu City’s “morality police,” was created under City Ordinance 2346.

Meanwhile, Brigada News FM radio station earlier said it is currently conducting its own probe into the incident.

Brigada News FM’s area manager Raul del Prado, in a letter, committed to address the complaints seriously. He said administrative sanctions have been imposed on Patiño and Tabar.

Aside from Caib, the Police Regional Office 7 also ordered an investigation into Brigada’s interview with the minor rape victim.

Moreover, organizations like the Cebu Citizens-Press Council, the Cebu Federation of Beat Journalists, DSWD 7, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City chapter, Stet and Children’s Legal Bureau also condemned the conduct of the interview and called for an investigation.

On March 16, DSWD 7 reiterated the importance of ethical media reporting, especially regarding minors, emphasizing the prioritization of child victims’ well-being and dignity.

As chair of the Regional Council for the Welfare of Children, the agency emphasized prioritizing the child’s best interests in media coverage and stressed respecting their dignity and facilitating appropriate media access in these scenarios.

KBP Cebu in a separate statement released last March 15 condemned how the interview was conducted by the two radio hosts, labeling it as “unacceptable, deplorable, and very disturbing.”

Acknowledging that Brigada News FM Cebu is a member of the KBP, the organization expressed its intention to conduct an impartial investigation to address the issue. (KJF)

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