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On Noynoy's fake reports, Villar cannot be president if he cannot discern between truth and falsehood

>> Thursday, April 29, 2010

Are you nuts?
By Juan Mercado
Philippine Daily Inquirer

SUDDENLY, THE NACIONALISTA PARTY seems like the outpatient department of an insane asylum ablaze. Chaos erupted after its second bogus “psychiatric report” about presidential candidate Benigno Aquino blew in their faces.

The decent but clueless NP spokesman Adel Tamano sputtered as he called for a “return to principled campaign debates.” His appeal came as a Manny Villar volunteer usurped Adel’s functions to launch “Improvised Explosive Device 2.”

IED 1 exploded three weeks back when the NP shoved into news desks a forged Ateneo psychology department report on Aquino. None of the major dailies fell for it. ABS-CBN checked it out. Both Ateneo and Fr. Carmelo Caluag said it was sham. “It was the first public denial of a salacious document masquerading as fact,” ABS-CBN’s Maria Ressa wrote.

Villar backer Guido Delgado uncorked IED 2 at a press conference
. “It’s not for me to verify it,” Delgado said without blinking. “Check it out yourselves… I did not also believe the report.”

Really? Then, why did he hurriedly call for a press conference? A faceless messenger toted it in a brown bag to a conveniently waiting Delgado.

“People might think that the document, should it turn out to be a fake, came from the Villar camp,” Delgado muttered. He obliged by unzipping an unchecked document—which Malacañang promptly welcomed. All candidates should undergo psychiatric tests, a Palace spokesman intoned.

That smear embeds the “Villaroyo” tag further.

When is one certifiably nuts?

One is bonkers when he can no longer discern between truth and falsehood. Or when one confuses what is right with what is wrong. Like a drunk, a mad man is awe-inspiring since he has lost all inhibitions, F. Scott Fiztgerald once marveled.

Does that description fit Delgado & Co.? That’s not the Adel Tamano we know. Should he quit his NP spokesman’s role, no one would blame Tamano. Speaking for a nuthouse isn’t for the faint of heart.

To quench the raging insmania (a cross between the words “insane” and “mania”), the Inquirer and other media cross-checked. “The essence of journalism is the discipline of verification.”

“An unverified ‘psychiatric evaluation’ allegedly signed by me in 1979 about the mental condition of Sen. Benigno C. Aquino III is currently circulating in the news,” the eminent Jesuit psychologist Fr. Jaime Bulatao wrote. “I categorically deny having written and signed that report.”

Ateneo called the report a “fabricated document.”

“We strongly condemn these repeated attempts to use the Ateneo psychology department for black propaganda,” it said in a statement

Will IED 3, maybe IED4, be lobbed in the homestretch of the May 10 polls? Don’t rule that out. Philippine elections often drive otherwise sober people nuts.

The crass attempts by politicians to manipulate media make urgent a review of the basic principles that underpin our craft. Here are excerpts from the “Statement of Shared Purpose” drafted under Pew Foundation after 20 forums:

“Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.

“Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built—context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The truth, over time, emerges from this forum.

“Journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens.

“News organizations answer to many constituencies like shareholders. Journalists must maintain allegiance to citizens and the larger public interest.

“Journalism’s essence is a discipline of verification.

Seeking out multiple witnesses or asking various sides for comment signal such standards. This discipline separates journalism from propaganda, entertainment, etc. Journalism must develop a system for testing the reliability of journalistic interpretation. Journalists must maintain an independence from those they cover.

“Independence is the cornerstone of reliability. Independence of spirit and mind, rather than neutrality, is the principle journalists must keep in focus. The source of their credibility is still their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform.

“Journalism must serve as an independent monitor of power.

“An independent press is a rampart against despotism. Our courts have affirmed it. Citizens rely on it. Journalists must protect this watchdog freedom by not demeaning it in frivolous use or commercial gain.

“Journalism must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.

“Public discussion serves society best when it is informed by facts rather than prejudice. It should fairly represent varied viewpoints and interests and place them in context. We must not neglect the common ground where problem solving occurs.

“Journalism must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.

“Journalism is storytelling with a purpose. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant. A journalism overwhelmed by trivia and false significance ultimately engenders a trivial society.

“Journalists must exercise their personal conscience.

“Every journalist must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility—a moral compass. News organizations do well to nurture this independence by encouraging individuals to speak their minds. It is this diversity of minds and voices, not just numbers, that matters.”

We don’t always measure up to these standards. “But the trying,” Flora Lewis of the New York Times once said, “is the holy grail of our craft.”

(E-mail:” juanlmercado@gmail.com)

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