A look at the Filipino definition of ‘integrity’

For a media practitioner in the Philippines, integrity is everything. This sentence needs to be qualified, however.

Ted Failon is now seeing the end of his career, that is how I see the recent case involving the primetime news broadcaster and how the different media organization covered the events. Any media personality, no matter how big the name is, who is pulled in this kind of mess is bound to go nowhere but in deeper abyss.


While the authorities are looking at the two angles of the story: that the wife of Failon, Trinidad Etong committed suicide; and that Failon has a hand in the death of the woman, is not anymore important. Wherever the evidence may lead, Failon is bound to be kicked out of ABS-CBN.

Although other media practitioners have been involved with wrongdoings such as corruption, extortion, bias and unethical practice of profession, they continue to be heard, read, or watched because they have not really lost their integrity in the qualified sense. In the Philippines, a person lost his integrity to practice his profession as journalist if it is proved in the court of law that the crime alleged was actually committed and that the story was broadcast that leads to a negative public opinion.

The first criterion is not very important if it is not broadcast. Unless the second criterion is met, the integrity of the erring journalist remains intact. However, even without being proved guilty, a journalist can be unfairly tried without actually facing judgment in the court. The tone of coverage and a different angling are all it takes to end a career.

Simply put, a journalist who is notorious for accepting bribes can still become the leading primetime news anchor and even go on to become the country’s president if none of his acts is made public. This does not say, however, that public knowledge of his crime does not exist. It does, but unless there is no formal news coverage of his crime he remains blameless and moral. Media in the Philippines has already replaced the role of the judiciary.

This kind of rule will be disadvantageous in cases involving high profile journalists pleading not guilty of the crime. He is already pre-judged, and more often than not, guilty is the verdict. For Ted Failon, he has already lost his integrity that took him decades to build.

Nonetheless, pseudo-journalists such as those handling showbiz news are not covered by this rule. In fact the more controversial and steamy their lives are the more their supposed integrity increases to report showbiz news.

Concepts such as integrity, truth, and justice are understood in an amorphous sense in the Filipino society. They don’t have form, they are not stiff, they can be molded according to the ones holding power, they may look solid and well-founded but are they constantly in a flux. Whether Tef Failon killed his wife or it was she who ended her life is already immaterial here. Failon has already been judged, no matter how hard his mother station does the damage control. The public has made its judgment, and so the ABS-CBN management will have to concede and will do the necessary step.

Failon has lost whatever ‘integrity’ he has.


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