MEDIAMEN IN POLITICS: ‘Hitting two birds with one stone’
Philippine politics has gradually transformed into an open arena for even more competitive individuals who aim for better governance.
It has become more open to women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) politicians and even media personalities who aspire for public office.
As the so-called watchdogs of society, some media workers particularly in Cebu City want to take up the challenge of guarding public interest up close and personal.
They have left their jobs in the media industry, albeit temporarily, to cast their hats into the ring of electoral politics.
For print journalist Herty Lopez, public service through writing and governance is like hitting two birds with one stone.
“I think if people will hear the profession of being a media practitioner, the trust remains and that is why it is a plus factor,” Lopez told Cebu Daily News.
The 24-year-old Lopez, a Superbalita reporter for almost four years, is now a candidate for councilor in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City, for the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on May 14.
Growing up, Lopez said he never thought that he would seriously consider taking on big responsibilities.
But from the time he started to serve as a chapel and president of Sitio Upper Manol, Barangay Tisa, he realized that he was capable of doing more for his fellow Tisa-anons.
“When people in my neighborhood appointed me to be our sitio and chapel president, there I noticed that I can lead people. I was 19 back then and I had the position for three years,” he said.
“ I really never wanted to run because I don’t want to fail people should their expectations I can’t meet. But I realized that when it was offered to me, people saw in me that I can serve in a larger crowd. So I am now taking the risk of running at the same time challenging myself if this will make me a better person,” he added.
Working for both media and government would be a huge challenge but Lopez is driven by his “thirst” to do better, he said.
“I think most of the practitioners that are now serving the public office saw that they can help further by being a public servant and I think human as we are, we love to help. We give people the information that they need. In that way we are helping, ” Lopez said.
Like Lopez, Chris Ligan, a reporter of the Cebu Catholic Television Network (CCTN) and a CDN correspondent, is also seeking a barangay post.
Ligan wants to take over the barangay chairmanship of Bangbang, Cordova town.
“People in our barangay really want change, new faces and true public servants whom they could approach and trust; and that’s what I want to bring in our barangay,” Ligan said.
Ligan believes that transparency and responsiveness are key tools to lead a developing area such as Barangay Bangbang.
“As a member of the media myself, I am blessed to be able to give the news to the people. I think being a media practitioner and a public servant is a perfect combination,” he said.
Other mediamen seeking barangay positions on Monday are GMA-7 broadcasters Allan Majait as barangay captain of Apas and Ademar Ochotorena, as barangay councilor of a village in Zamboanga del Norte.
Gabriel Bonjoc of dySS radio is also running for barangay councilor in Talisay City while Leslie Vestil of Manila Bulletin Visayas Bureau is seeking a council position in Barangay Taloot, Argao.
The barangay was established through Republic Act 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of the Philippines to speed up the implementation of policies and the delivery of government services down to the grassroots level.
As the basic political unit in the community, the barangay bridges the gap between the government and its people.
Should Lopez win as councilor of Tisa, he plans to strengthen the community involvement of Tisa-anons.
He said he envisions a community where people get to interact, benefit and contribute to the improvement of the services offered by the village.
Lopez will introduce his KKK+1K plan — the “Kabatan-onan, Kabayotan, ug Kababayen-an plus another K for Kalalakihan” program which will focus on the youth, the LGBT, women and men of all ages.
According to Lopez, the program will gather consensus and generate the sentiments of the different sectors on pressing issues.
To develop the youth’s critical thinking skills and awareness on current issues in the village, Lopez will also introduce the first ever publication in Barangay Tisa which he planned to distribute for free.
For his part, Ligan plans to improve public facilities in Barangay Bangbang by constructing public toilets and creating an information desk to assist residents who want to avail of the medical and burial assistance from the Cebu provincial government.
Ligan also wants to set up a barangay manpower development and placement center that will assist in training residents for future employment.
“The barangay needs better leaders who will bring these services closer to them and that is why I’m running to help them in any way I can and assist them so that they get the services they deserve,” he said.
To avoid a possible conflict of interest, some media companies may require the practitioner to resign from his job if he intends to pursue a career in politics.
But in the case of Lopez and Ligan, they were only asked to file a leave of absence all throughout the campaign period from May 4 to 12.
Win or lose, both could still go back to their respective media outlets with a few adjustments.
“I have talked to my editor-in-chief (EIC) and she told me that I can no longer cover some beats like City Hall or those that involves politics or may create conflict of interests,” Lopez said.
For Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak, a former DYAB radio reporter for 13 years, conflict of interest should not be an issue.
“Journalists are much more knowledgeable on the basic problems in the community and on how to find ways to solve these problems. Media is centered, not politically biased. It’s also not so much the political affiliation but rather, they’re after the welfare of the masses,” said Tumulak.
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