Assessment on the Philippine Media’s Coverage of the 2016 Elections

MAY 5, 2016

On May 9, Monday, the Filipino people will once again elect new leaders, including the 16th president of the republic, to lead the country towards socio-economic and political progress and change.

It must be remembered that the National Elections are not only isolated in history, but serve as significant decision points, providing an opportunity for people to choose what they want – to continue what has been started by the previous administrations or clamor for change.

James Jimenez, director of the National Commission on Elections, echoed that people should not take elections for granted for elections are important series in the people’s democratic lives.

“People need to appreciate that elections are not just routines happening. You can either continue what you started or start on an entirely different direction,” Jimenez said in a forum at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) last November 25, 2015.

The media, an influential institution and a vital communication tool in society, has an imperative role in the authenticity of the elections. Acting as a watchdog or a surveillance camera, its role is to help people take a side and choose the right leaders. It is true that politicians make a lot of promises during campaign periods and the media has the capability and enough resources to expose the emptiness of the politicians’ words.

Many Filipinos may be considered as apathetic and ignorant. Some vote based on survey results and popular opinion, without really knowing the candidates and what they have to offer. The Philippine media changed this and helped eradicate apathy among Filipino voters.

The PiliPinas debates, held in three installments for the presidential candidates and one for the vice presidential candidates, organized by different media establishments, can be considered as successful in mitigating “soft votes” or undecided votes.

Through the debates broadcasted on radio, aired on national television and made accessible online, people were able to know the candidates better: personality wise and capability wise. The media provided a platform for the masses to ask questions to the candidates, thus, exposing the vision of the candidates for the people. Aside from what the people already know about the candidates, they discovered new perspectives that will help them decide on who to vote for.

Although the media provided countless stories relevant to the election, I felt like some stories lacked depth. The media tend to focus on juicy and side stories rather than those that would matter. Why talk about the personality of the candidates when you can write a story about the feasibility of their platforms and what they can offer to the country.

Dr. Clarence Batan, the director of the UST Research Center for Culture, Education and Social Issues likewise said that the media should be raising awareness among the people on issues that really matter. People must vote based on the capacity of the candidates to address salient issues and not on personality.

On media bias, all media institutions have stands –whether they are pro-administration or not. But the media was able to stay objective. Although it may be true sometimes that there biased angles on some stories are evident, some are taken out of context or some may be exaggerated, I can say that the media gave the people what they need to see and know. There really are no good or bad stories; there are only plain news stories interpreted differently by different people with different biases. The media is not manipulating people, but helping them understand better.

My overall assessment on the Philippine Media’s coverage of the election season, on a scale-based ranking, is 8 out of 10.

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