TAKING IT LOCAL: TV5 launches Pagbabago 2013 election coverage with partners

TV5 News head Luchi Cruz-Valdes chats with Comelec Chairman Brillantes as TV5 chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan looks on, at the launch of Pagbabago 2013, the Kapatid Network's election coverage, with institutional partners. Also in photo are SMART Communications President-CEO Napoleon Nazareno (left) and Sun Cellular President-CEO Orlando Vea (right). BERNARD TESTA, INTERAKSYON.COM

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MANILA, Philippines - We’re taking it local. This was the promise of TV5 Head of News and Information Luchi Cruz-Valdes at the launch on Wednesday of Pagbabago 2013, through which the Kapatid network promises a comprehensive and participative coverage of the May 13 elections.

Pagbabago 2013 is a collaboration among media, civil society, and private groups to provide the quickest polling and result updates during the polls.

Through News5 programs on TV5, all-news channel AksyonTV, radio station Radyo Singko 92.3 News FM, and news portal InterAksyon.com, Filipinos here and abroad can access election information. Telecommunications firms PLDT, SMART Communications, Sun Cellular and ePLDT are also throwing their support behind the initiative.

“Oddly, mainly because of media, voters get fixated on the national interest, where much of the campaign hoopla takes place, where much of the discourse is centered. As a result, our citizens are by and large uninformed about their local governments and what they’re doing, if they’re doing anything at all,” said Valdes.

The advocacy of Pagbabago 2013 is for citizens to hold their local officials, especially, accountable.

“Every day, in our news and public affairs programs, people come in droves seeking help for anything, from medical or health emergencies, various injustices suffered at the hands of barangay leaders, non-collection of garbage by the city government, run-ins with cops over confiscated licenses, illegal arrests or interrogations, and just plain neglect and lack of concern or the non-delivery of basic services,” said Valdes.

What News5 has been trying to do, she said, was to link these people to local government agencies to respond to their needs and grievances.

“Nowhere is government more real and more present to the ordinary citizen than at the local level,” she said.

However, in a survey they did for news program Reaksyon, it was found that not one of around 30 people they asked knew who their congresspersons or barangay chairpersons were.

It was a disturbing discovery, said Valdes, and something she wants to be able to remedy through Pagbabago 2013, especially as Filipinos look to the media to provide relevant information.

Robredo inspired hope

When former Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo died in a plane crash last year, the sustained attention about his life and work provided  a “clarity of vision.” This vision: “that change is possible when the local leader desires and drives it,” said Valdes, remembering how the Magsaysay Laureate Robredo as mayor transformed his city, Naga.

“This is why we are turning much of our resources in this election coverage on the key role of local government and the crucial importance of choosing our local leaders well and holding them accountable.”

Dr. Penny Robredo-Bondoc, the late Secretary’s sister, was also at the event to speak about filling her brother’s size-11 slippers. Robredo was known for his tsinelas (flipflops) leadership, being one with the man on the street.

“Let us fill Jess’ shoes by voting for candidates who truly know the pulse of each Filipino,” said Bondoc. “Those whose actions speak louder than their words, who live simply, who love their family, who strongly believe in God, and more than anything else, candidates who want each Filipino to have empowerment, rather than dependence.”

Brillantes to media: Let's help each other

At the launch of Pagbabago 2013 at the Genting Club of Maxim’s Hotel at Resorts World Manila, Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. pleaded with media entities and practitioners, to “cooperate, coordinate, and complement each other in ensuring that the forthcoming elections will be at the very least a better election than the first automated elections of 2010.”

 “I have good news for you,” he quipped at the beginning of his speech, to the audience’s laughter. “We were sued by TV5.”

Brillantes was referring to the petition for certiorari and prohibition, filed last Feb. 8 before the Supreme Court by TV5, with a prayer for a temporary restraining order on two Comelec resolutions. A similar but separate petition was filed by rival TV network GMA7.

TV5 said in its petition that the resolutions in question are filled with constitutional infirmities.

Resolution Nos. 9615 and 9631 limit the exposure of candidates in political ads for the May 2013 polls to only a total 120 minutes in all TV networks, and to 180 minutes in all radio stations; and impose reportorial requirements on mass media for interviews of candidates, according to this (http://www.interaksyon.com/article/54891/sc-tells-comelec-to-comment-on-networks-petitions-vs-resolutions-on-airtime-interviews) InterAksyon article.

Even better news, said Brillantes, was that the Supreme Court did not issue a temporary restraining order.

“I (want) to impress on media, especially on the TV networks, that without you, we will not be effective. Even any other government agency for that matter,” he said. “In times like these, it is not our intention to debate with media. You are our partner, you are supposed to help us, and I beseech you, if you are able, that within the next few months until election day, we will have to help each other. Please don’t keep looking for negative things about us, when we strive to come out with positive news.”

He added that he was not used to being in the media spotlight, having been in government for only two years so far. He had been an election lawyer for 25 years prior to that.

“All that we can do is the best that we can, and we hope that media can do the best that it can,” he said.

MVP to Brillantes: ‘Trabaho lang po’

Reacting to Brillantes’ mention of the TV5 suit against Comelec, TV5 chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan in his remarks apologized to Brillantes for whatever inconvenience a lawsuit may bring, but said, “As they say in showbiz, ‘Trabaho lang po, walang personalan (We’re just doing our job, don’t take it personally).’”

Besides Brillantes, Comelec was represented by Commissioner Grace Padaca.

Pangilinan thanked Comelec, as well as other partners for Pagbabago 2013, including the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) , Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), University of the Philippines-National College of Public Administration and Governance, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, BusinessWorld, i-Academy, Radio Mindanao Network, and Chikka.

Namfrel was represented by respected international auditor Cora dela Paz-Bernardo; LENTE, by Atty. Luie de Guia; and PPCRV by former ambassador Henrietta de Villa.

Pangilinan said that he was motivated to invest in TV5 three years ago not just to “change the fortunes of (then) ABC,” but also, “to help in improving the future of this country.”

“And the most visible improvement we can contribute would be the election processes with the help of government and Comelec,” said Pangilinan.

Joining Pangilinan at the launch were TV5 executives led by president and CEO Atty. Ray Espinosa; as well as of the telecom companies in the MVP Group, notably SMART Communications President-CEO Napoleon Nazareno and Digitel Mobile Phils. (Sun Cellular) President-CEO Orlando Vea.