Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - A diplomat from a country not exactly known for promoting press freedom on Tuesday gave Filipino reporters a lecture on how to report the news.
The diplomat, Senior Col. Chen Fangming, defense attach? of the Chinese Embassy, went to the extent of asking the reporters whether they studied journalism.
Chen gave his lesson on reporting right inside the Philippine Navy headquarters when he was interviewed on the occasion of the Navy's 114th anniversary rites. Chen was among the foreign military guests invited to the affair.
The Chinese diplomat was asked about the Philippine-Chinese standoff in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, where China has deployed since last month two surveillance vessels and its most modern maritime ship, the FLEC 310.
The Philippine Coast Guard has only one vessel in the area, along with a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship.
'We are neighbors'
Chen denied a news report that five Chinese warships had been sent close to the Philippines. "No, because we believe Philippines, our neighbor, (is our) brother,¿ he said.
He said he did not know about Chinese maritime ships barring Filipino fishermen from the lagoon.
"That is again (a) fabricated story by some mass media, so that is what we can say, right?,¿ he said.
When told that a television crew recently went to the shoal with some fishermen but that they were driven away by Chinese ships, Chen said: "We have a spokesman from our embassy.¿
Getting the truth
Asked how the territorial dispute could be resolved diplomatically, he replied: "You said diplomatic. That is a key here and your minister of foreign affairs is talking to our ambassador here.¿
"We can find solution ... find solution to solve this, right?¿ he said, when asked if the standoff could be resolved peacefully.
Then he went on to lecture reporters about getting the truth.
"I hope you ... (report) the truth, facts ... but sometimes some of your mass media...¿ he said, without finishing his sentence.
'Based on truth, OK?'
Chen said journalists should be "for truth,¿ and added: "Don't make (up) story. You're not a writer. You're not a literary writer, right? You are doing journalism, so that's very important here.¿
Chen went on: "Have you studied journalism? Is that your profession?¿
The reporters said they were journalists.
Chen countered: "I was told when you interview, some officers are sometimes misquoted. That's not the way, right?¿
"As mass media, [you have] freedom of speech, but [what is] important is the truth. Based on truth, on facts, okay?,¿ he said. "And also, secondly, (there) is social responsibility, that's very important.¿
Del Pilar praised
The shoal lies some 230 kilometers from Zambales and within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone under international maritime laws. China's nearest coastline is 875 km from Panatag.
In his speech, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin lauded the captain and crew of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar for intercepting "intruders¿ in the shoal last month and for safeguarding the nation's sovereignty.
"The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy ... Nevertheless, it becomes incumbent upon us to be able to defend the sovereignty of our state and the integrity of our national territory against those who wish to dishonor it,¿ he stressed.
He said President Aquino was "elated¿ to know that the Gregorio Del Pilar had been at the forefront of patrol operations.