What is newsworthy?

A few months ago, a tito of mine asked me about what we have been working on in the Senate.

I told him about the Negosyo Centers being put up around the country and we discussed the challenges and implications of the Philippine Competition Act – 30 years in the making and now, finally, ratified and waiting for the President’s signature.

My uncle was surprised to hear of the reforms we were busy working on.  He asked, “Why haven’t I heard of about any of these on the news?”

I teased that he should be more tech-savvy and make a Facebook account so he could like my page and get updates on his virtual newsfeed.

Indeed, the Internet is a great equalizer that allows us to pick and choose what to see, read, and share. We can find any sort of information online, from conspiracy theories to the cutest cat videos. The only question is: what are you interested in?

But, truth be told, while it has been a struggle getting our policies and advocacies out in mainstream media, an even bigger challenge is getting the public interested in the policy discussion.

Since the corruption scandal erupted last year, our headlines seem to be hijacked by Napoles and the PDAF scandals, Makati City Parking Building II investigations, the Mamasapano tragedy and the BBL, and, more recently, survey results and the 2016 elections.

Even on the Internet,where we curate our own personal newspaper, people seem disinterested in anything but the scandals,complaints, fights, and government slip-ups.

While these issues are worthy of attention, we need to fuel our desire to move the discussion further into the much-needed reforms and systemic changes.

Take the news on the potential candidates for the 2016 elections as an example.

No one is asking questions about their vision, goals, and dreams for the country and how they hope to achieve them.

The country is growing leaps and bounds economically while making significant strides in curbing corruption within the government. How will they distribute this wealth throughout the sectors and continue the battle against corruption?

There have been landmark bills passed into law under the current administration, from the K-to-12 basic education program and the RH Act to the opening up of our ports to foreign ships and the Philippine Competition Act. How do they ensure these are implemented well?

Where do they stand in the Mindanao peace process and the Anti-Discrimination Act filed in Congress? How do they hope to unite the country, instill tolerance among our people, and bolster human rights in the Philippines?

We have yet to ask these questions.  But will the answers even be considered newsworthy?

Media outlets, including online and social media, will give the readers what they clamor for. It is our likes, shares, comments, re-tweets, and hash tags that will determine the headlines. Our collective chatter will define what is newsworthy.

The Filipino people have peacefully rallied for their rights against an intimidating dictator and have cried for a change in system, reinstating democracy.We have pushed for justice against the most powerful in our country including sitting Philippine presidents and even a Supreme Court chief justice. We have even called for a change in entrenched systems, successfully abolishing the PDAF.

Is it then too far to hope for our countrymen to seek for concrete, detailed platforms, and sophisticated policies among our leaders?

We have the power to influence the narrative of the 2016 elections.

We can ask our presidentiables questions about their stance on controversial issues. We can demand a concrete platform detailing the policies and programs they wish to put in place to create a better future for the country. We can even hold them to their word and police their administration once they are elected into office.

With our voices and with our votes, we can endeavor to shape the future of our country.We can steer our country in the direction of unyielding public service, inclusive progress, and prosperity for all.That would, truly, be newsworthy.


First Published on Manila Bulletin

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