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Abad scores Inquirer for story blaming family for ‘pork’ crisis

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Abad scores Inquirer for story blaming family for ‘pork’ crisis

/ 10:27 PM October 31, 2013

In replying to Gil Cabacungan’s article, “Abad, family blamed for pork barrel crisis” (News, 10/18/13), a small part of me wonders if the piece—rife as it is with innuendo and near-comical falsehood—may actually warrant a response. After all, there is little in the way of journalistic merit in Cabacungan’s piece; and its primary and lone source, Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, is known to be a man of doubtful credibility and tainted political affiliations.

Still, I choose to respond, if only to question the Inquirer’s decision to publish an article that does not, in any fashion, hold up to the standards of ethical journalism. Cabacungan’s piece, in fact, brazenly violates key tenets in the Journalist’s Code of Ethics as espoused by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Philippine Press Institute, the latter of which the Inquirer is a member of.

Let’s take a look, for example, at the first of these principles in the Code of Ethics, which says, “I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.”

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Cabacungan, in writing his article, gave special attention to several points raised by Representative Atienza, points that were by themselves founded on malicious speculation. Conspicuously absent, however, is a statement from my end to counter these unfounded allegations, so that only Atienza’s words were given any weight in the article.

Given Cabacungan’s proclivity for writing reports of the same tenor as this latest piece, one wonders if “personal motives or interests” have successfully influenced him, or if he has turned his back on the principle that reports should not be written if they “adversely affect a private reputation unless the public interest justifies it.” In writing about various members of my family—even describing my daughter Julia as head of the Presidential Management Staff “which handles the President’s multibillion-peso ‘pork’”—it appears that Cabacungan has absolutely no regard for the Code of Ethics that he is bound to as a journalist, or for the values of fairness and objectivity that the journalistic profession demands of those who practice it.

The Inquirer, however, must be similarly held accountable for permitting the publication of an article that is so lopsided in its reportage such that it can influence public opinion on the basis of hearsay alone. The Inquirer is a well-respected broadsheet that enjoys the widest circulation in the country, and its readers look to that newspaper to present balanced, truthful accounts on issues that they have a genuine stake in. The publication of gossip masquerading as news reports should be beneath the Inquirer.

—FLORENCIO B. ABAD,

secretary, Department of Budget and Management

The news report was based on the privilege speech of Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza on one aspect of the raging public debate on pork barrel, specifically the impact of one family having access to the budget process. It was based on an official address made on the floor of Congress, and did not rely on mere gossip. It also identified Atienza as an ally of the Arroyo administration, to provide our readers with the proper context in which  to assess his claim.

That said, the report failed to air the side of Budget Secretary Butch Abad. The Inquirer apologizes for this lapse.—EDs.

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TAGS: Buhay party list, Ethical Journalism, Journalist’s Code of Ethics, Lito Atienza, pork barrel scam, pork crisis, Secretary Abad
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