I don’t know what happened in that Dasmariñas Village gate on the night of November 30, but the point is this: who does?
And it’s not so much that no one truly knows what happened, as it is this: everyone thinks they know what happened. Everyone thinks that what the Philippine Daily Inquirer sold as a truthful news report is already the narrative that’s valid. Because Nancy C. Carvajal’s “3 Dasma guards who stopped Binay convoy held, freed” came first, every version of the story that the Binays tell is a lie, is a spin, is a manipulation of that “original” story.
We forget that the PDI story is only a version of what happened, and that its claim to being the “original” and “real” story is really only that – a claim. They are taking ownership of the truth via a nameless source and a 15-minute CCTV clip that shows only moving bodies with no clear faces.
It boggles the mind that this is even the basis of a news story. One cannot help but wonder why we are not demanding more than this, why we aren’t asking for better journalism.
But it seems we do not know to ask for that anymore. At the very least we are not asking it of the broadsheet that first broke this story; neither are we asking it of every other media enterprise that claims the truth about some aspect of the story or another. In fact, any story that does not support or in some way agree with the first story is considered a pagbabaligtad. Certainly these questions I raise here will be seen as condoning the behavior of a member of one of the most hated (because?) powerful political dynasties in the country.
And yet it is far from that. In fact I don’t think asking questions about media (ir)responsibility condones the behavior of its chosen subject matter. Not asking media for better news reports, not asking media about its own biases, in fact is to condone media’s lack of transparency about why it does these stories. And ultimately what we encourage is this kind of reporting, one that is being delivered without the proper context, the timing of which also highly questionable.
Because this is an incident that happened November 30, and the story broke 19 days after the incident. Why did PDI come out with it at this point in time, when there are so many other more important stories that deserve to be in the headline? More importantly, why paint this picture of arrogance against Mayor Junjun Binay, 19 days after an incident that has since been resolved?
I tend to think that were Mayor Binay truly arrogant, he would’ve told this story first, right after it happened, and talked about how he and his convoy fell victim to the security rules of a village that falls under the jurisdiction of the Mayor’s Office. Were he truly arrogant, he would’ve slammed through that barrier that the Dasma guards refused to lift for him as a courtesy to his position as Mayor. (Fine, that sounds too action film for comfort, but you get what I mean).
The head of the security agency has said it in various interviews: there is courtesy that’s afforded the President, the Vice President, and the Mayor of the City when it comes to being allowed to enter and exit these villages. He said the security guards on duty that night truly didn’t know that it was Mayor Binay who had stepped out of that car. He said that that the men themselves told him that the Mayor was not angry when he got out of the car and asked if he could pass through (it is unclear at this point what words were said).
Ah, but none of these seem to matter to those who believe the PDI story to be the correct version of this narrative. The PDI itself has since come out with story after story about their own story, complete with “the video going viral” and “netizens are angry” stories – a practice that’s done by online media sites to generate more hits. PDI columnist Winnie Monsod – who lives in Dasmariñas Village – has sided with the security guards, saying that they did what was right, and in the end pushed for the narrative that Mayor Binay was just being arrogant. She said too that the security agency had no right to speak for her village’s homeowners’ association.
I say: then this is not a question of whether the Mayor was arrogant or not, as it is a question of whose rules are more important, whose rules should be followed, by these guards. Ah, but that is not a question that Monsod asks. Instead she throws everything including the kitchen sink and calls the owner of the security agency a Binay supporter – because that explains everything. She also believes the PDI report, hook line sinker, and judged the Mayor based on his bodyguards pulling out their guns. Never mind that those guns aren’t seen on that CCTV clip; neither is it clear who exactly had their weapons at the ready.
The biases are clear here, and it’s not even just PDI’s. Monsod is clearly anti-Binay – treating as truth, as she does, that questionable report about the Mayor’s bodyguards pulling out their guns, and then concluding that “this is an indication of how Binay is going to rule the country.”
In truth, the aftermath of this PDI report with highly questionable timing is an indication of how immature we are about assessing media practices in this country. We are so angry at politicians, we forget that they are not always the only culprits here. Media is biased. And there is nothing objective or honest about the manner in which this story was put in the headlines 19 days after it happened. There is nothing truthful about not getting the Binays’ side alongside that nameless source; nothing truthful in glossing over the fact that this has all since been resolved.
The worst part is how social media opinion seems to have gone on arrogance overdrive too, where the righteous always feel more brave when it speaks with a (presumed) multitude. I for one don’t think we can function in this world without being biased for or against something. But while what this has fueled is the unkind biases against the Binays in general, what it has forced me to look at are the biases of media enterprises and personalities who purport to be credible and objective.
What I insist on is the task of asking questions, because there is too much that we aren’t allowed to see, and too often when enough of us are screaming we also fail to hear who else is speaking.
The worst thing about biases after all is that these can render us blind, deaf, and dumb.