Fellow broadcasters, ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga po--¦ I think I lost my voice after I heard the president's speech so you will just have to pardon me. I will try to find my voice.
The nation has been in turmoil the past few months and the question that often gets asked of broadcasters is whether we are contributing towards resolving conflicts or, as they would say in Filipino, nakakadagdag lang tayo sa gulo. Partisans on either side of the conflict at hand often take us to task for being partial to the other side. That probably means we are being fair. But still, when you really think about it, we are doing both--¦ helping illuminate the issues at hand and adding to the confusion at the same time.
This is why more than ever, the top management of broadcast companies must always be conscious of the impact of our broadcasts on society at large. This is particularly true for us here in the Philippines because our developing economy means a large majority of our people are still largely dependent on radio and television for their information. Our influence for good or bad is even now still growing. What we report, what we say, what we do on the air lanes is still taken seriously by a large number of our people who do not have the means to crosscheck with other platforms.
In the context of our country's unsettled political and economic situation, we can easily be accused, as we often are, of aggravating the situation at hand. I have taken such accusations and observations seriously. Mostly, I have come to the conclusion that the Philippine broadcast media is being unjustly vilified by those whose interest lies in the continued suppression of the truth. While I would be the first who would admit that we ought to exert more effort towards greater professionalization of our practitioners, it is also not fair to accuse some of our more critical broadcasters of any sinister motives.
I am particularly saddened by the case of Julius Babao. As far as we can determine in our internal investigation, there is no truth to the accusation that he bailed out a suspected terrorist. There is no truth to the accusation that he guaranteed the bail bond. It is unfortunate that a raw intelligence report, one that intelligence officials concede won't stand up in court was used to besmirch the reputation of a working broadcaster. Further, had the proposed Anti --“ Terrorism Bill been passed in its present form, Babao doing a coverage of terrorist related event may run the risk of being dragged to jail, for allegedly aiding and abetting a suspected terrorist. Babao may perhaps be guilty of overzealousness in going after a big story but aiding and abetting a terrorist suspect is taking it too far especially considering that such "fact" is completely unsupported by evidence. As media practitioners, this is a serious issue.
It is ironic that at an age when international media are concerned with the effect of high technology in mass communication, we have not gone beyond the concept of mass media as a proxy for an old-fashioned town hall meeting. It is easy under this setting, for broadcasters to be accused of personal motives behind their reports. It is almost impossible to report an event or a social condition such as mass poverty without being accused of ulterior motives or ideological bias. This is why I have taken the approach of hiring the most professional, the most reputable of broadcast journalists to run our news operations. Surely, the career record of Maria Ressa as a CNN bureau chief should provide enough assurance that ABS-CBN would be able to cover the news without bias, without fear or favor. But we know we will not be able to satisfy everyone, least of all those whose interests are negatively affected by our search for truth. It is convenient for them to forget the role we broadcasters play under our democracy. Because our work calls for us to contribute into a marketplace of many different ideas, this role makes it inevitable from time to time to disagree with each other.
Allow me therefore to try and articulate what exactly to my mind is the role we should play as broadcasters in our developing society. First and foremost, our main duty, our main loyalty should be to the Filipino people. They are our audience, who needs, whose wants and whose welfare should be our topmost concerns. They look up to us to help them even the playing field when they deal not just with government bureaucrats but with other powerful sectors of society. Our role is, as one journalist once said, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That's the role assigned to us too by our constitution when it guaranteed our freedom of speech and of the press.
It is our role to try and explain the many complex issues in society today. A large part of the conflicts we see around us are because there was a failure to explain the complexities involved. Everyone, it seems, is more interested in putting a spin to the point that all credibility is lost--¦ no one trusts anyone in society anymore. Issues like the EVAT and rising oil prices are inflammatory by themselves in the light of the extreme poverty of our people. It is our role to help enlighten our people on these issues so that they in turn can exercise their citizenship rights more intelligently. We should be careful and not allow those with ideological or political inclination to use us for their selfish ends.
It is our obligation to make sure our countrymen here and abroad are connected through the latest that digital technology can offer. For indeed, the Filipino nation no longer ends on the shores of our seven thousand plus islands. The Filipino nation now encompasses almost every corner of this world. As with those at home, our brothers and sisters abroad look up to us as their bridge to government and to the powerful.
As for the KBP, the question is often raised on whether or not it has outlived its usefulness. The KBP was organized to foster self regulation for the industry, a concept that worked well in the past. But the value of self regulation is lost when it is easy to just resign from KBP and be beyond the reach of its self regulatory code. To its credit, the KBP has shown its seriousness and resolve to address this problem. Its decision to withdraw from the Adboard is a key strategic step that served notice that the broadcast industry remains a force to be reckoned with. The recent developments surely augurs well for KBP and assures that it will continue to play a vital role not only within the industry but in the society at large.
In closing, I just want to reiterate what I see is an urgent need for broadcasters to clearly assert our rights and obligations to keep our people informed so they can function fully as citizens of a free republic. As the top managers in our industry, we must make sure that our employees are cognizant of these rights and obligations and to never allow the use of our facilities to advance parochial agendas inimical to the public good. With the support from all of you here in the KBP, we confidently assure you that we will not waver in our commitment to continue to be an effective instrument of change for the good of our country and our people.
I would also like to make an appeal to public officials to refrain from unduly tarnishing the reputation of our broadcasters with unfounded accusations. Like them, our most important asset is continued public trust. But unlike them, the public votes every day, every hour, every minute on who among the many broadcasters available they will trust enough to listen to.
Thank you and good day.