The brats | Inquirer Opinion

The brats

/ 12:30 AM November 18, 2016

It was a mistake for Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar to dismiss the anguished response of anti-Marcos activists—to the Supreme Court decision allowing the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani—as the irresponsible tantrum-throwing of “temperamental brats.” After getting publicly rebuked by Senate President Koko Pimentel and others who were similarly outraged, he acknowledged his mistake and apologized. To understand why the mistake was outrageous, we must move beyond the “frustration” Andanar said he felt over the anti-Marcos protests and focus on the facts he got profoundly wrong. But to understand why the mistake was made in these pages in the first place, allow us to explain why Andanar writes a column for the Inquirer.

The answer is that it is part of an Inquirer tradition to host diverse, even adverse, points of view in the Opinion section. For many years, this section hosted Adrian Cristobal, who was part of Marcos’ influential martial-law-era think tank. For some time, it ran a column by Jerry Barican, who used to serve as spokesperson for Joseph Estrada, the president who called for an advertising boycott of the newspaper. In 2005, at a time when Gloria Arroyo was deep in a legitimacy crisis, and the very relationship between the Palace and the press seemed to be poisoned, it started a column called View from the Pasig, written (on rotation basis) by Cabinet secretaries Bobi Tiglao and Ric Saludo.

President Duterte’s relationship with the media has been turbulent since his election. He has publicly reprimanded journalists for asking questions he feels are impertinent; he has said hurtful words that imply journalists who are killed (in a country still considered one of the most dangerous in the world for journalism) deserved it; he has taken umbrage at reports that show him in a bad light, even though these are based on his own words. To be sure, he has continued to engage with the reporters covering him; he has conducted interviews and news conferences. It is clear, however, that Mr. Duterte thinks the country’s media industry does not give him a fair shake.

It is also clear that the President’s controversial use of language invites interpretation. Indeed, his spokesperson has told reporters to use their creative imagination when reporting on the President’s (very many) public utterances.


It is for these two reasons that we invited Andanar to write a temporary column: to demonstrate yet again that this newspaper is in fact open to hearing the administration’s point of view, and to have a policymaker interpret the President’s position for our readers. Does this mean we are helping spread propaganda for the administration? We do not think so. That question is based on the undemocratic assumption that everything that issues from the administration is self-serving self-promotion.

But it’s a column, one might argue. Isn’t a commentator entitled to his own opinion? Yes, but not to his own facts. We hold our opinion columnists, even the man in charge of the President’s massive communication apparatus, to that standard: Commentary must rest on a bedrock of facts. The phrase “temperamental brats” was unfair and hurtful, to both the protesters in the Philippines who continue to criticize the Supreme Court ruling and the protesters in the United States who continue to express disgust over Donald Trump’s victory. This is the democratic space we fought hard for, and it is to Andanar’s credit that his apology sought to reassure the public that he did not mean to deny the protesters their share of that space.

But it’s Andanar’s “facts” which were problematic to begin with. In his either-or viewpoint, he lumps all those who protest Marcos’ burial in one group—as though Mr. Duterte’s own allies, including those from the Left, including the likes of former interior secretary Rafael Alunan, have not also called on the President to not waste his political capital, all for the benefit of a brood of unrepentant brats.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

TAGS: Ferdinand Marcos, Libingan ng mga Bayani, martial law, martial law victims, Martin Andanar

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.