Seares: Caindec lament is on use of SALN, not Nalzaro’s language or personal attack

Pachico A. Seares

LAND Transportation Office (LTO) 7 Regional Director Victor Caindec is not complaining about being the target of personal attack using vulgar language, which is the usual complaint of public officials against broadcast commentators.

His last publicized threat, made in a Jan. 13 CDN story, was “he would see his detractors in court” if they would continue to use his SALN (statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth) “to malign his name.”

Undisclosed SALN

Which was odd, because his SALN had not been released and thus could not have been used by anyone suspected the LTO chief of unexplained wealth.

There was no basis to compare his existing assets with his declared assets and neither information was available. The request of broadcaster-newspaper columnist Bobby Nalzaro is for the Ombudsman to make a lifestyle check on Caindec following the whistle-blowing by the LTO official’s father regarding alleged multiple cars and other ways of luxurious spending barely two years after he assumed public office.

No personal attack?

Maybe Caindec does not consider Nalzaro’s criticism a personal attack. Maybe he has not heard or read vulgar language in Bobby’s commentaries about him.

The National Broadcast Code of KBP or Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas adequately covers the matter of personal attacks, vulgar language and on-air decorum. GMA 7 is not a KBP member. But GMA, to which Nalzaro belongs, and SunStar, where he writes columns in English and Cebuano-Bisaya, have their counterpart rules on standards, more or less similar to KBP’s, by which their journalists are guided.

Media outlets and organizations, broadcast or print, ban personal attacks. KBP’s code, as our running example, prohibits “personal attacks on honesty” “on matters that have no bearing on public interest.” Maybe Caindec agrees with many people that his assets, if questioned, are related to his job, which is known to be prone to corruption.

Vulgar language

On vulgar language, the media codes uniformly prohibit its use, particularly when it has no relevance to the issue. When vulgarity smears reputation, Caindec has the option not just to complain about violation of journalism standards.

Also provided in media codes, be it of KBP or individual news outfits, is the assurance of right of reply. The KBP code requires “fair opportunity to reply” in the same program and “under similar conditions.” How those conditions, when the attack was made, can be duplicated in the reply is tough for broadcasters to imagine but the attempt at fairness by media is made clear in their rules. It is up to the complainant to get his redress.

The intention apparently in setting standards is to impress on the complainant and the public that there is a mechanism against any error or abuse by media and that court action, often lengthy and destructive, should be the last resort.

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They can’t go on air drunk

Broadcasters, under the KBP National Broadcast Code, have a lot of don’ts, including a specific ban on anyone going on air under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

There is no specific prohibition though on shallow or convoluted thinking, conclusions made on false premises or distorted facts, or outright lying. But there are obviously remedies for that: Reprimand or dismissal by the broadcaster’s director or manager or rejection by his audience switching stations.

And perhaps you didn’t know the KBP broadcast code also prohibits:

[1] Making side comment or insight by the news reader as he delivers the news, like, “the mayor this morning said he will not resign... you remember this mayor, he left his wife last month for a younger woman...”

[2] Peddling superstition, such as when a newscaster predicts the “possible end” of the world during his report on two disasters: wildfires in Australia and the Taal volcano activity.