Last week the most reported issue over national television news program and broadsheets other than the usual bloody anti-illegal drugs campaign was the one on government operating on a re-enacted budget.
In fact, to highlight the issue, there were news stories on certain big ticket government projects that the expenses for the continuance of their implementation were advanced by the contractors. One of these projects is the rehabilitation and maintenance of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT). The reason given was that the government agencies implementing the same still do not have funds for the purpose because the national budget has not been signed by the President.
To us, the disturbing thing about the news is that the message clearly insinuates inaction on the part of the President. And during the whole of last week the report on the non-signing of the budget was repeated over and over again, sadly by the supposedly leading television stations the scripts of which were written by multi-awarded news writers and read and/or commented on by some of the country’s top broadcast personalities.
Until last Friday, television network giant GMA 7 with its news anchor, our former boss at Radio Mindanao Network, Mike Enriquez, still read a prepared script saying to the effect that the more than P3 trillion national appropriations had not been signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Enriquez was eventually enlightened when he interviewed live during his program over GMA News TV simulcast with GMA radio dzBB, Sen. Panfilo Lacson. The senator has alleged that the budget which was already approved by the joint Senate-House Bicameral Committee, has been tampered at the House allegedly at the instance of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The Speaker, according to Lacson, “itemized” some projects and allocated P25 million worth to each of the congressmen who supported her power grab at the Lower House.
The senator told Enriquez that the 2019 national budget is still to be printed after which the members of the House shall sign and then transmit it back to the Senate for the senators’ signature. But Lacson further informed Enriquez that because of the discovery of the tampering, the senators, on instruction of Senate President Vicente Sotto III, will reconcile the figures in the printed copy of the budget from the House with that of the copy of the appropriations that was approved by the Senate-House bicameral panel. If discrepancies will be found validating the alteration, the senators will not sign and instead return the budget document to the House with their comments.
It is only after the budget is restored to what was approved by the bicameral body and the senators affix their signatures on the document will it be finally transmitted to Malacanang for signing by the President.
The multi-awarded television and radio news anchor appeared humbled and acknowledged on air that it was only during that Friday morning interview that he learned of the procedure and the actual status of the 2019 national budget.
With this apparent lapse in checking and verifying the facts of certain reports and allowing its broadcast or publication, or commenting on the same, many people have mistakenly formed highly adverse opinion on the concerned issue at the expense of those erroneously blamed as responsible.
We wonder if copy or script editors of networks who fail to verify facts will be reprimanded for their apparent lapse that lead to erroneous reporting or commentary.
Meanwhile, the administration’s critics are feasting on the inaction misattributed to the President when their harangues should have been strongly directed at the House of Representatives whose leaders allegedly tampered with the bicameral-approved draft of the national budget.
If we did not hear it personally we would definitely refuse to believe that Hugpong ng Pagbabago head Mayor Inday Sara ever said that “Honesty should not be made an issue in this election.” But we have seen it on television and heard what she said.
Of course we have the suspicion that the lady mayor and Presidential daughter may have been caught off-guard when asked to comment on a “dishonesty” issue apparently triggered by allegations of the absence of proof of senatorial candidate Imee Marcos’ educational credential. Hence, what came out of her mouth were words that seemingly did not exactly match with what she intended to say and meant.
But we agree with her later explanation that the message behind her statement was that those candidates alleging dishonesty to their fellow candidates do not have the moral grounds to stand on for their insinuations. After all, she voiced out her thought that the candidates demanding for honesty are themselves dishonest.
This however, should not and never be made the rule; not even the exception. In other words, it is our take that it would have been to the best interest of the candidates supported by Hugpong had Mayor Inday not said it at all.