His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the 25th anniversary of BusinessWorld
[Delivered at the Marriott Hotel, Pasay City, on July 27, 2012]
Secretary Albert del Rosario; Secretary Mar Roxas; Secretary Ramon Carandang; Secretary Butch Abad; Secretary Kim Henares (I think you are a favorite of this crowd); of course, Mr. Vergel Santos; ex-Prime Minister Cesar Virata; Mr. Anthony Cuaycong; Mr. Manny Pangilinan; Mr. Washington Sycip; other members of the business community present; other officials and staff of the BusinessWorld Publishing Corporation; fellow workers in government; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen:
Twenty-five years ago today, this newspaper began anew. During Martial Law, it was known as BusinessDay; and under the leadership of Mr. Raul Locsin, this paper took great effort to deliver fair, balanced reporting in an environment where the news was heavily monitored and censored as a dictator sought control of society. When Martial Law finally ended, and democracy was restored, BusinessWorld became part of what was supposed to be the renaissance of free media—free to pursue the integrity, accuracy, and balance that Raul Locsin had long espoused as a journalist.
That was the vision back in 1986; sadly, the general state of our national media makes us aware that its full realization has yet to be achieved. Nevertheless, there are those who we can always count on to fight the good fight. BusinessWorld, for example, now being steered by the steady hand of Vergel Santos, still adheres to its founder’s memory and vision.
The late Raul Locsin had said, and I quote: “If this paper became in danger of falling in the wrong hands, I’d prefer it run to the ground.” With Vergel’s guidance, BusinessWorld is still here; and it doesn’t seem to be headed towards the ground anytime soon. I imagine your founder would have been very proud of what this paper has grown into.
Both Raul Locsin and Vergel Santos belong to a generation of newsmen who gained the full trust of readers. They knew how important it was to stand by the truth—that a newsman’s credibility is his currency. And the readers, in turn, were assured that when they read the news, it was driven by facts, and not merely by an unhealthy appetite for a wider readership, which is something we unfortunately see in some media outlets today. I am glad that this fact-based style of reportage is still the guiding light of newspapers like BusinessWorld.
Today, more than ever, we need more people to make a commitment to a higher standard in journalism. After all, our entire country is on a mission to change the behavior in our institutions—and media is not exempt from that.
Too often, these days, when we switch our televisions to the news, or when we browse through the pages of our papers, we are greeted with negativity. We tend to hear more about the latest car-napping victim, as opposed to the car-napping cases dropping by more than half, in fact, from 2,200 instances in 2010 to 966 in 2011. We tend to hear about crimes when they are committed, but not when they are resolved. And even when there are reports of resolved crimes, like when notorious car thief Raymond Dominguez was sentenced to prison, it only takes up a tiny portion of the bottom of the front page, if at all.
And it is not like there’s a shortage of good news to report these days. The reporters at BusinessWorld would know this more than anyone. As I mentioned in my SONA earlier this week, our GDP growth in the first quarter of 2012 surprised many analysts by surpassing expectations—clocking in at 6.4 percent. Apart from what I mentioned in the SONA, there is the 62.2 percent increase in infrastructure spending in the first quarter of 2012—directly creating jobs for our construction workers. There is the newfound vitality in our factories: production of apparel increased by 52.2 percent, while furniture production increased by 86.6 percent in the same period.
Truly, if we go by the facts, we are seeing that the Philippines—as one observer has said—is no longer a joke. I am not saying that media should be there to praise the government all the time. But the news shouldn’t be about competing with other outfits on who can sell the most negative headlines; it shouldn’t just be about attracting more and more readers in the short term. Think about it: In the long term, how many people would be willing to pay just to have their day daily ruined? How long can an audience withstand negativism day in and day out?
The news should be about informing the readers—about giving them accurate, timely, and contextualized facts, both the good and the bad, so that they can decide for themselves what to feel.
By all means: do criticize us, disagree with us, but make sure you do so on the basis of properly contextualized facts. And when these facts show that progress has been made, then you must also tell it like it is. This is media’s responsibility to their viewers, listeners, and readers. If our country is progressing, it can only be because our countrymen—both in and out of government—have worked hard at it. And after all, don’t they deserve to know of the successes that they have achieved in lifting this country?
The media, the government, and the people must work together to create an environment of positive, progressive discourse between them. We must veer away from negativity and sensationalism. These must not run the course of our national discussions. Negativity leads to despair, which leads to apathy, which then perpetuates the vicious cycle. Our people are denied the chance, and the capacity to dream. Hopelessness then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But this mindset can be and is being changed. This is possible in the way government is run; in the way we are improving our economy, creating jobs, and empowering our people. It is possible in our own homes, where parents reinforce positive attitudes. It is not rocket science—and it is definitely possible in the media, too. Stick to facts, provide the context, and get your reporting straight. Build an impermeable barrier between opinion, reportage, and advertising. Raul Locsin famously said about BusinessWorld, and I quote again: “Editorial space is never for sale, advertising space is.” And with that, he ran a successful business model that has survived, and thrived, for the past 25 years. This is a lesson many of us can learn from. More importantly, this is a lesson that can turn around our country, sooner rather than later.
There are truths that can encourage our countrymen to participate in the large-scale turnaround of this country. There are truths that can empower our people to become active agents for change—and inspire them to give rise to their own bits of good news, no matter how small, because these individual stories make up the vibrant tapestry of a nation finally reclaiming its national dignity.
Adhering to the truth does not always mean seeing what is lacking or what is wrong. In fact, there are times, and they are becoming more frequent, when the truth can elevate our opinions of ourselves, of others, and of our nation; it can restore and strengthen confidence. This ignites a virtuous cycle, where good leads to more good; positive energy begets more positive energy; and dreams get that much more closer to becoming tangible realities.
We have already achieved so much. Imagine how much more we can achieve when everyone begins to believe: Nothing is impossible to a united Filipino nation.
Thank you, good evening.