Journalists Worry About Duterte Era
Philippine journalists express mixed feelings in anticipation of covering their unconventional and tough-talking incoming President Rodrigo Duterte (pictured above), whose statements against some journalists have become a concern even in the international arena.
The journalists TMP spoke to, especially those who will cover the president-elect in Malacanang Palace, revealed they are steeling themselves for a more demanding season in their career under the new national executive.
“It will be challenging since a new administration will take over, which means a new communication style. It can be a bit stressful if one is not used to much profanity and attacks from fanatical supporters,” says Malacanang reporter Jojo Montemayor of Malaya, one of the country’s premier broadsheets.
If Duterte’s vocabulary will be a departure from the presidential norm, so is the work schedule he wants to implement. The incoming President intends to start work at 1 pm until 12 midnight every day once he is sworn into office. So journalists will have to modify their day, as well.
Madel Namit, government palace reporter for the industry giant Manila Bulletin, says covering President Duterte will be “very intriguing, especially on the odd working hours and how he will address the press once he assumes office.”
Far East Broadcasting Company’s Malacanang reporter Haydee Bernardo Sampang has this to say: “It’s gonna be very challenging if he will push through with his very odd work schedule. I’m afraid of the possible guessing game between him and the media. I think I will need much time to adjust with the way he communicates. Not sure if he’s serious or he’s joking with his statements.”
But journalists who are away from the political fray in Malacanang territory and not affected by Duterte's “new working hours” are more concerned the way the president-elect behaves and how he treats people and particularly media practitioners.
Sonny Fernandez, story editor of TV giant ABS-CBN’s global news, told TMP: “First, knowing that Duterte admittedly killed suspected criminals outside the law, outside due process, makes me worry already for a president to do that. Second, when he practically endorsed the killing of corrupt media men, he reinforced his resolve to kill outside the law.
"To me this is more worrisome, for it is not only chilling but dangerous," Fernandez adds. "Imagine a police state that de facto makes extra judicial killings a national policy. But as a journalist, while it may be riskier than the Aquino administration, I am obliged by my duty and strong belief in human rights, dignity, and preservation to even cover him and his administration’s operations with much vigilance and a critical eye.”
Columnist and veteran journalist Bert de Guzman of Balita, one of the country’s longest-running tabloids, says of the incoming President: “His attitude defies logic. He’s uncouth, bizarre. I have no idea how to cover (him). Because all the people I have covered did not speak foul words.”