Saturday, August 08, 2015

Wise guys

TO hear mass, the husband and I go to Tagaytay. It’s a short drive but for the weekend traffic. There’s always an unbroken line of vehicles heading off for Tagaytay or Batangas and another unbroken line heading down from these places.

All those travellers need feeding. Travellers also require directions. Someone has yet to create an app that pinpoints how many more meters to go before reaching the roadside stall selling the best “suman lihiya” in Tagaytay.

Last Saturday, I saw a new sign tacked outside a waiting shed favored by many young men. The sign read: “Question-Answer: P20”.

I told the husband about the sign. Without taking his eyes off the road, he asked: “What does that mean?”

“Do you have P20? We can turn back and ask them to answer your question.”

Even before we were warned about the “intense cyclones” hitting us this year, we are already bracing for a different tropical cyclone. The presidential election in 2016 is also heralded by “torrential rains and strong winds” deserving of a public warning.

Anyone following the news these past weeks must be familiar with the “excessive rainfall” of political questions inundating the news: Who is going to run against Binay? Who will be anointed by P-Noy? If Poe will run, will it be for president or vice president? What will Poe and Escudero announce after President Aquino makes his last State of the Nation Address on July 27? Will Duterte surprise everyone?

Pundits compare Philippine politics to showbiz. Until the politicos file their candidacy by October, the 2016 presidential contest could also be a game show. Instead of text votes gauging the popularity of would-be presidentiables (TXT ROX/TXT POE/TXT LAC), we have Political Surveys.

Surveys showing voter preferences serve a function similar to the wise guys of the waiting shed in Tagaytay. Surveys simplify a process of making a decision, which many people spare less thought for than when they are on an intrepid quest to find the suman worth atoning for until next Lent.

Much loved by media and kingmakers, political surveys cost more than P20 a question. If we use these surveys to guide our vote in 2016, we will surely pay for our intellectual backwardness and civic indolence by settling for whatever catastrophe we put in Malacañang for the next six years.

So, despite deep misgivings, I tolerate the Philippine media’s current infatuation with questions and prefer this over their enduring love affair with surveys. Reading about who is No. 1 and No. 2 or was No. 1 and now is No. 2 is too much like watching a telenovela. With their more attractive stars and easy-to-follow plots-without-even-trying, a telenovela is much better than a survey.

The questions reported by Philippine media violate a journalistic principle that a report should be factual and accurate, not speculative and manipulative. Only a media-literate audience can discern the real purpose behind some of the political “questions” stirring up a media frenzy.

Yet, some questions are also worth our time because they don’t so much lead us to evaluate a politician as ourselves. Corruption, summary killing, culture of impunity, and citizenship—at their core is one question, posed not just to the wisest and wiliest but even to the youngest and pure of heart: do you love your country?

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s June 14, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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