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POV Philippines by Jon Joaquin#SorryNotSorry

by Jon Joaquin

So veteran journalist Ed Lingao has apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte, the public, and his colleagues for an error that made its way to a live breaking news report on September 5, 2016 on his network, TV5. According to Lingao himself, he “read on-air a breaking news item that President Duterte called President Obama ‘bastos.’”

“Unfortunately, that breaking news item was written in error and is not accurate. The President did not call Obama ‘bastos;’ what he said in his ambush interview in Laos was that it would be ‘improper and highly bastos’ to bring up the issue of EJKs during the bilateral meet,” he said.

Lingao’s apology was actually surprising given that hardly any media person/company does it these days.

“I am not authorized to issue any statement, or give any apology on behalf of TV5 where I am an anchor/presenter, so this is a completely personal post on my part. I try to fight for the things I believe in, but I am also ready to apologize for mistakes which I am a part of. As the presenter who read the erroneous breaking story, I apologize to the President, to the public, and to my colleagues for that error,” Lingao said.

Any decent person would of course accept such an apology, and I would like to think Duterte himself was magnanimous about it (he hasn’t actually said he has done so, though). But what throws me off about Lingao’s apology is that he also tried to blame someone else for it. Twice:

“As I understand it, TV5 officials are now looking into how this error was made.” (First paragraph)


“That error is now being looked into.” (Second paragraph)

In other words, Lingao was saying he only read the news out loud but he wasn’t responsible for making the error. Someone else did it, and they are going to find out who. In today’s hashtag lingo, #SorryNotSorry

It’s easy for Lingao to apologize, but he must also take responsibility for the gaffe even though he was just the newsreader at the time. Why was it so easy for him to believe the worst of Duterte? I mean, when Lingao got the copy, why didn’t it occur to him to ask the reporter first if it were true? Why was it so believable that Duterte would call the President of the United States “bastos?” He can’t claim time constraint because as a journalist, he surely knows the very first line (Accuracy) in the Journalists’ Code of Ethics:

“I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.”

Sure Duterte has a foul mouth, and he did once curse the Pope (for which he apologized). But that doesn’t mean we can and should believe all subsequent reports about his colourful language and who the person is at the receiving end. The default attitude seems to be, “Oh, Duterte called Obama ‘bastos’? He must have really said it so I’ll go ahead and report it on live TV.”

And it’s not just Lingao; editors of newspapers also have this attitude. When reporters present their copies, they don’t seem to see the need to go to the video footage or audio recording which, in this day and age of digital social media, are up on the Internet within minutes after the President delivers a speech. “Oh, Duterte called Obama a son of a bitch? He must have really said it so I’ll go ahead and print it.”

This is why the traditional media are slowly — or maybe quickly — losing their stronghold on the people. While many journalists claim that bloggers and other online writers are not reliable sources of news, they are actually showing themselves to be the ones who cannot be trusted.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the original author, and do not necessarily represent those of the Pilipino Express publishers.

Jon Joaquin is the Chief Editor of E-mail Jon at

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