Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Credibility of the 4th Estate


I don't think I've ever written a proper news item on this blog. Most everything I write here is an opinion that I have to express, which sometimes makes me worry that I'm not really doing my writing chops—or my blog—any justice.

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I find nothing wrong with standing on my own soapbox. But making your posts subjective has the tendency of turning you into a dubious source—something that often makes a world of difference, as far as journalists are concerned. See, I believe that in order to be a credible source, you need to focus on the facts, and less on your gut feel. Back in the day, when the facts were in limited supply due to one reason or another, journalists focused on the little information they had, and built on them.

It wasn’t the best kind of journalism, but at least it didn’t rely on the broad leaps of logic that most of the columnists today employ.

You’d think that that’s still how it works today, but the truth is, it isn’t. Let’s use my process to get this point across. Note that this may effectively expose me as nothing more than a bag of hot air, so bear with me.

For the purposes of this blog, I usually just need one stimulus to write an article. Most of my politics-inspired pieces were written as a reaction to a news item I read somewhere. I find that I react on something whenever 1.) the item interests me, and 2.) when I know something about the topic at hand. If I don’t have one or the other, I usually have nothing to say about it.

You might think that this is sloppy, but in my defense, I don’t see anything wrong with that. I mean, I already write and edit for a living; this blog is supposed to be a source of stress relief. I don’t want the additional stress of having to go through scores of other reference materials just to make my point in a space that for all I know, are only read by my girlfriend, my cat, and a handful of my friends.

That sorta ruins the point of an online journal, for me. If I wanted to write a proper, straight-up news magazine, then I would, and back everything I write up with proper references. But a blog is a blog is a blog.

The thing with this, though, is that I’m not the only one blogging in this day and age. And not everybody makes the distinction between rhetorical claptrap and news. I can sometimes read articles in the broadsheets that sound like something I’d find from somebody’s blog (the lifestyle sections in most newspapers are the worst). How many blind items can you post without people starting to doubt your credibility?

I don’t understand where the scholarly act of researching your claim went; I often instruct my writers to back up their articles with at least three credible sources—I have a list of blacklisted websites that they’re taught to avoid—and recently, I’ve taught them in the usage of the APA citation style, which makes following up their references an easier task. See, knowing that they actually went through the trouble of backing up their claims gives me the confidence that what I’ll be reading won’t be filled with sound bites from the black lagoon.

I don’t know how it is in the newspaper and magazine industry, but I can’t help but wonder whether the need for news has become such a big business that a lot of people cut corners just to get their items in before press time. I mean, the news is supposed to be the fourth estate. We’re the watchdogs of the first three estates. If we can’t be trusted to provide credible, unbiased news items, then what’s the point?

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Fat Man Supports Bill 5098


The other week, Representative Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela filed HB 5098, a bill that would require all car owners and buyers in Metro Manila to provide proof of owning garage space for their vehicles. This is some thing that we should have passed a long time ago, especially because this city’s not getting any bigger, but the population is.

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A lot of people think that this could just be another avenue for corruption. That might be true. Another set of people like the idea, but don’t think that Metro Manila has the proper manpower or political will to properly execute and police this law. That’s also true.

But the fact is, the only problem we really have when it comes to parking—or in everything we do, if you think about it—is that we Pinoys just don’t know how to be courteous. Let’s take the issue of parking, for instance; I will share with you my experience in how fellow Filipinos can be abusive of free parking.

See, our house has enough parking for two and a half sedans out front. One of these parking spots is right in front of our driveway, while the other is reserved for guests. Our street has recently seen an increase in new town residents, and some of these people have their own vehicles.

Now, half a year ago, one of the new residents opened up a bakery at the corner of my street and the town’s main street. This was good for some time; I rather enjoyed their bread. But then somebody from their bakery started parking their red Ford in front of our house, in the parking reserved for guests. We didn’t know where the car came from; it just started parking in that spot without warning.

So I went over to the baranggay and complained about it. It turns out that the guy had asked the baranggay chairman for permission to park in the spot—but had conveniently forgotten to knock on our door, and ask for ours.

And just this morning, my father forgot to bring the car into the garage. He was parked in the guest parking spot, and had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room. The next day, an Innova had parked in front of the gate. Again, the owner did this without warning.

Both times, I managed to track down the owner and politely ask them to move their vehicles. But the thing is, I shouldn’t have to do that. They should have enough courtesy to ring the bell, introduce themselves to the owner of the house, and ask for the permission to park in front of the house. It doesn’t matter whether you’re staying there for an hour, or overnight. The point is, you need to make sure that the owner knows who you are, and where to find you. That’s just common courtesy.

And it’s sad that we need a bill to ensure that common courtesy is observed. But if that’s what it takes to make the dumber denizens of the metro recognize that being neighborly isn’t a license to abuse hospitality, then I’m all for it. At the very least, it will keep me from finally reaching that point wherein I smash their windows and let the air out their tires in frustration.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Last Naruto: The End of an Era


This week, we witnessed the end of nearly two decade’s worth of love and hard work. Last Monday, Masashi Kishimoto released the last chapter of a manga that has managed to win its way into the hearts of multitudes, the likes of which had not been seen ever since Akira Toriyama started working on Dragon Ball. I speak, of course, of Naruto. For those of you who have yet to read the last chapters, or those of you following the anime instead of the manga, avert your eyes! Close your browsers! Don’t read this post up until you’ve finished watching the show. Because I will tell you now: spoilers follow.

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Kishimoto-sensei ended the series in a manner that would have made J.K. Rowling proud; Madara’s Eye of the Moon plan, although successfully pulled off, is defeated by Sasuke. Hagoromo Otsutsuki’s mother, Kaguya Otsutsuki, is defeated by no less than the original Team 7. And finally, there is a land-disfiguring final battle between Naruto and Sasuke, which even I had to admit felt so satisfying.

I mean, there was a moment there where I was afraid that the two weren’t going to have their final showdown. Thankfully, Kishimoto-sensei delivered.

And then there’s a single chapter devoted to the epilogue—something that Kishimoto did Rowling one better. He spends nearly twenty-one pages outlining the futures of everybody he could think of. I admit, some of the pairings were odd; Ino and Sai were a given, since Ino couldn’t get to Sasuke, and Sai was an acceptable replacement. But Chouji and that dark girl from Kumogakure? Sure. I feel sorry for the kid. Good thing she seems to have a chipper attitude about her genetic inheritances.

I can’t say that I loved how Sakura and Sasuke ended up with a kid who seems to have combined both of their elitist attitudes. But if she learns her mother’s strength of a hundred seal, and awakens her sharingan, then she’s going to be a living battery with the ability to spam eye techniques left and right.

Speaking of eye techniques, the one thing about the whole story I’ve been curious about is the heritage of Homura Otsutsuki. There’s been plenty said about the descendants of Hagoromo, otherwise known as the Sage of the Six Paths; the Uchiha and the Senju (and by association, the Uzumaki) clans are the living legacies of his will. But what about Homura? After seeing how Kaguya had a whole host of bloodline limits, including Kimimaro’s shikotsumyaku, it’s easy to assume that while Hagoromo received the sharingan and rinnegan (as well as the undying levels of chakra), Homura received the bone technique and the byakugan.

So think of this: if Naruto is the descendant of Hagoromo, and Hinata is the descendant of Homura, doesn’t that mean Boruto and Himawari Uzamaki (their children) have all the genetic traits necessary to become Kaguya? I don’t know how solid this theory is, but given how the story of the upcoming The Last: Naruto the Movie is shaping up, I don’t think I’m that far off.

In any case: here’s to the last fifteen years, Naruto. I’m going to miss your ugly mug, ‘ttebayo!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Pot Calling the Kettle Black


The campaign against Jejomar Binay is in full swing. Alan Peter Cayetano and his cohorts are keeping themselves busy in trying to destroy as much of the VP's reputation as they can before the campaign season even comes close to starting.

This early in the game, there's already evidence of campaigning (from the Binay camp) and black propaganda (from everybody else).

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I know enough about the Binays, thanks to a very good source, to know that most of the charges being piled on them isn't hogwash. But you know who are? The senators pursuing these cases.

I don't know enough about Koko Pimentel to accurately judge his point in all this; he's virtually an unknown. And Antonio Trillanes can be summed up as a power-hungry, backstabbing tool. I don't know why people even take him seriously.

But I do know enough about Alan Peter Cayetano and his family to say that pursuing this case against Binay is hypocrisy.

See, Alan Peter is the husband of Lani Cayetano, incumbent mayor of Taguig city. She's infamous for several things herself, most famous of these being part of the Makati-Navotas-Taguig quarrel for ownership of Fort Bonifacio. She believes that the Fort should stay with Taguig; to be fair, I agree with her. But this gives the Cayetano family a reason to hit against the Binays. The overpricing of buildings in Makati is just a convenient happy coincidence.

But while we're on the topic of happy coincidences, wasn't Lani accused of something similar a while back? For those of you who aren’t aware, she and her husband were accused of overpricing the purchase of eighteen multicabs for the use of the city of Taguig. The alleged purchase order amounted to around Php 9 million. The complaint against Mayor Lani and Senator Alan Peter purported that each multicab was priced at Php 498,000, saying that the actual market price of the multicab was Php 300,000 lower than this.

Then there’s the whole issue brought up by Taguig mayorial candidate Dante Tinga during the 2010 elections. According to their camp, Lani had rigged the polls to her favor, in order to win her re-election bid. The interesting bit happened when the COMELEC tried to retrieve the ballot boxes from the Taguig city hall in order to conduct a recount: Mayor Lani effectively held the ballot boxes hostage, and the commission had to bring the issue up to the Supreme Court in order to retrieve the electoral results. Here’s what happened afterwards. You be the judge as to whether the COMELEC did the right thing or not.

This may be a drop in the bucket of corruption allegations plaguing VP Jejomar and his family. But the fact is, these are still actionable complaints against not just one, but two members of the government. And there’s still the whole issue of the Hacienda Luisita problem haunting the president. So the question is, why is the senate just focusing on one person? Is Jojo Binay that much of a threat?

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Sinking of the Good Ship MVP


What is Manny Pangilinan doing?

Two (three?) years ago, the marketing campaign for many of the MVP-owned media centers was impressive. I couldn’t help but get excited for the many shows TV5 had on its broadcasting roster, thanks to the wide banners the station had placed in the Cubao terminal of the LRT 2. I still remember the ad for the Vic Sotto-led Who Wants to be a Millionaire? because you seldom saw Bosing wearing a suit.

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And when I checked out the channel, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that most of the station’s shows were pretty good! I found the Tulfo brothers enjoyable, and the late night shows—the likes of My Darling Aswang—were hilarious.

But where is TV5 now? I don’t even know what they have going for them anymore. And with the advent of CNN Philippines come next year, that’s just going to be another competition for airtime. That won’t be good for TV5 and its ratings.

Thankfully, the station’s radio arm—Radyo5, for those of you who aren’t aware—is still going fairly strong, so long as you don’t listen to their beat reporters and broadcasters, who could use a little bit of training in reading teleprompters efficiently. But I can’t help but think that if MVP continues to cut funding to the station, even the radio arm’s quality might start to slip.

And then there’s PLDT and Smart / Sun. I use Smart’s mobile broadband service, and it’s been fairly decent for the most part. But when MVP launched the free Internet service for all subscribers, I’m lucky if I’m even able to connect to the Internet efficiently for five hours straight. As it is, I usually get a good signal for like fifteen minutes, then the network disconnects, and reconnects to paltry 2G speeds. Forget about sharing the Internet with other users.

And don’t even get me started with Maynilad Water. I have a whole series devoted to that, and I don’t think I’m even done with it.

I don’t know how Philex mining is going, but if what the stories I hear from friends in the industry is true, then it looks like MVP is slowly cutting the funding for many of his business ventures of the past decade.

Which only makes me wonder where this leaves us subscribers.