YOU don’t burn journalists for their reportorial lapses, especially in spot reportage or, in today’s idiom, livestreaming. A vet editor once said they look for “bravery” in cub reporter applicants, and by that he meant grit and wit to collect, treat a material like a pro within the quick space between fact-gathering and actual writing. You ask for balance and enterprise; you may at least wait for the long form. Any discerning news consumer knows raw reportage is supposedly treated with a degree of tentativeness.
But social media, the electronic twin of the fast-food culture, is simply devoid of restraint. Local media got the bashing from some sectors, including from one student editor who barreled off about local journalists maligning a university from which campus a supposed “rescue” operation by social welfare agents and a police unit was conducted on a delegation of lumad minors. The accompanying teachers and elders were arrested.
In another space, at the Supreme Court recently, the case of two Aeta men who are charged under the new anti-terrorism law, had spiraled into a complex yarn of contrasting claims—between authorities and petitioners against the anti-terror law, now being debated. At the center of all these are Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, presented by Solicitor General Jose Calida during the second round of oral arguments. Yes, at the center of all these are the common folk forced to become shape shifters in this unfortunate word war.
We are afraid the lumad children and their elders who are now holed up will be at the center of clashing narratives. We understand the indulgent confirmation biases of sectors, and they might reduce the fate of the lumads within that binary.
This is exactly why this story is better told, necessarily so, by journalists properly trained in aspects of objectivity and context, with supposed high aspirations of impartiality. It could not be properly told through the blinders that any interest groups carry.
Citizens, do not attack the “daily media,” to use the student editor’s sweeping classification. Far from perfect, but it thrives in skepticism, under the solemn principle of “truth pending other truths.” In the case of the Feb. 15 incident, authorities claimed the action was taken after a report by some parents that their children have been missing since 2018. The university version, which coincides with that of many other support groups, said these children were sheltered following the early 2020 lockdown. They have been under the care of schools in Cebu as part of the bakwit school program for displaced lumad children from Mindanao.
Cebu City’s Department of Social Welfare Services said its exit interviews only revealed that the supposedly “rescued” children in the university’s retreat house were only taught writing and reading. Nothing of the authorities’ claim that the children went “child warrior training” was ever mentioned.
We understand that this incident is part of a wider pattern of indigenous communities being at the center of a propaganda war. It needs the colder eye of journalists to tell the story as it is, absent the tilt and weight of contending parties. It is, therefore, important to inspire media and give it space for that crucial enterprise of digging into the story. To get to the bottom of it, no stone left unturned, to further abuse these clichés.