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Image Source: cnnphilippines.com

CHICAGO – Incoming Philippine President Rody Duterte was right when he said there are corrupt journalists. He classifies journalists into three categories: First, the legitimate ones whom he calls the “crusaders”; the semi-legitimate he calls “mouthpieces of vested interests,” and the illegitimate “hao ciaos” and/or “block timers” he calls “lowlife.”

Hao ciao journalists are those who attack a person or an institution and get paid (collect) and defend the same person/institution and get paid (collect). They are also called “AC/DC” or lagareng hapon, a saw that cuts both ways.

But although they’re “mouthpieces of vested interests” and “lowlife”, they don’t deserve to die. They just want to survive or feed their family.

But if Duterte and his Cabinet will be as austere as he says they would, I hope reporters covering his administration would be as frugal as they are, too!

But if the feisty Davao mayor really wants to find out the root cause of the media corruption, he should look at himself.

As a career politician (being a congressman and a mayor), President-elect Duterte must be aware that there are more politicians, who are charged in court and convicted of corruption, than lowlife journalists.

Due to the fact that there were many politicians being charged in court, the Ombudsman, also known as Tanodbayan, was created by the 1987 Constitution.

Has he thought about the reason why more politicians are being charged than the number of stars in the sky?

Government officials, like a mayor, are drawing minuscule salaries. After spending millions during the campaign, how do elected officials recoup their campaign expenses?

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When I was a crime reporter in Metro Manila for Manila Bulletin, I asked the late Paranaque Mayor Florencio Bernabe why he was collecting “tong” (protection money) from stall owners in Baclaran.

Mayor Bernabe, who later became my sponsor in my wedding, told me: “Joseph, kung may namamatay sa aking bayan, magpapadala ako ng bulaklak; kung merong bibinyagan, magbibigay ako ng pakimkim; at kung merong ikakasal, aasa sa akin ng regalo, saan naman ako kukuha ng mga ibibigay ko sa aking mga bumuboto? (Joseph, if somebody dies in my hometown, I will send flowers; if there is baptism or wedding, I will give them gifts. Where am I going to get those giveaways?),” Mayor Bernabe asked me. I could not answer, and I merely looked up to the heaven. I remember Mayor Bernabe gifted me with a Chinaware set on my wedding.

To unburden politicians of patronage requests, I suggest that Congress amend the Local Government Code to allocate social funds for mayors or governors. They can use the funds to donate to their poor but deserving constituents. Right now, the favorite fund sourced for governors and mayors are “jueteng” (a poor man’s numbers game) tong collections.

Congress should also upgrade the salaries of the mayors or governors or barangay captains so that their pay would keep pace with inflation and they would not be tempted to steal taxpayers’ money.

This should also be applied to owners of newspapers, television and radio stations and employers of social media. They should also upgrade the salaries of editors, managers, reporters, photographers, freelance writers and contributors, and should provide health insurance and workmen’s compensations. In case their employees have deep financial trouble, they would not run to moneyed political warlords.

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Reporters should also be given life insurance by their employers. If they are embedded with the police or military men waging Duterte’s war against drug lords and the reporters would get killed in the crossfire, their families would not be left penniless.

If the salaries of journalists and freelancers are upgraded and paid on time, they would not be tempted to become “mouthpieces of vested interests” nor become “lowlifes.”

On Duterte’s dare that he and his Cabinet need not be covered by media, that’s not a problem for as long as the press releases and audio and video releases that he dishes out in his website are truthful, transparent, and not doctored and recycled.

The media is supposed to have an adversarial, not friendly, relationship with government officials. The media must keep an arms’ length distance from the officials. Otherwise, the relationship would lead to an unholy alliance. This happened during the martial-law era.

I hope Duterte will not repeat history.