A personal appeal to PDI (or, When is an apology not an apology?)


Dear friends from the Philippine Daily Inquirer,

If I ruffle some feathers, forgive me in advance. Take this as a letter of protest from the daughter of a woman felled by stroke and the colleague of many journalists who’ve suffered the same.

My Nanay was a beautiful woman with the classic Asian face, a perfect oval with high cheekbones and a firm chin. She was not prone to dramatics. She did not need that; her eyes – and her words – guaranteed people listened to her, even when they did not want to. She was the nurturer in the family, the doctor content to walk behind her journalist-husband. Then stroke felled Nanay and forced her into a slow, year-long recovery. There was a period of hope before a series of smaller but successive strokes weakened her to the point of now return.

So I have seen, up close and personal, the anger and frustration of a recovering stroke patient, seen the rage that erupts now and then when memories of strength and brilliance and eloquence crash against the formidable bars of a new reality. I saw Dad dive into the reversal of roles, never resenting the tantrums from a woman he had long regarded as a saint. I saw him cry silently when Nanay slept, not because he was tired — though he was — but because he saw how she suffered – even with her vaunted humility.

And then I see your FRONT PAGE. A series of pictures that, forgive me, seem to exist for nothing else but to make a laughing stock of Demetrio Vicente.

I have tried to look at the photos from different angles, hoping to see some significance that would make your action more understandable. I see absolutely no extenuating circumstance.

Then you give us a one-paragraph “apology”, which isn’t that at all. You apologize for hurting people’s feelings. You do not apologize for bad judgment and taste better fit for the gutter.

You conveniently forget to cite what great and noble cause prompted you to chuck out the admonition of the PDI Stylebook. That sacred document clearly states that you must weigh every controversial photo and ensure that, “the positive reasons for publishing the photos outweigh the almost certain negative reaction they will elicit from a sizeable portion of the readership.”

If you totally forgot about this document, then please  say so.

Today’s “sin” is not, in the scheme of things, equal to plunder or murder by government officials. Not by a long shot. But journalists, whom people look up to for help in parsing oft-befuddling facts of life, do have an obligation not to unnecessarily compound the chaos they feel.

Stroke, friends, is among the top killers in this country. Your newspaper has reported on this – second only to heart attack. The survivors face horrendous challenges on the road to recovery. And some never do fully recover.

Even if just on account of all our parents, kin, lovers, colleagues – and you have had one heart-wrenching case that galvanized the goodwill of this nation – and with the thought that all of us may, one day, face the same hardships visited on Mr. Vicente, please summon the grace for a genuine apology.

You see, there is no shame in admission of an error. There is only honor there. Conversely, there can be no pride in false “I Am Sorry’s”. The last thing you want is comparison to a certain woman with a neck brace.

Peace.

118 thoughts on “A personal appeal to PDI (or, When is an apology not an apology?)

    • let’s spread this by numerously posting to facebook. Those people who are unmistakenly arrogant and without the slightest regard to other’s feelings should be exposed. DOWN WITH THE PDI. BOYCOTT THIS INSANE NEWSPAPER .

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  1. Thank you for this Ma’am. I have seen how stroke victims struggled to recover and I would always want to cheer for them so they can fight further. Inquirer’s photo, however, only pushes them to the gutter.

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  2. Your (pdi) wisdom, compassion and sensitivity really shows that it flew out of the window, for what? Good news? Come on…. We must all go back to grade 1 and internalize what our teachers taught us on good manners and right conduct…. This is very basic and yet pdi failed to show it in the discharge of their duty…. What a shame… Concerned Mom

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      • I trust. There is a new wave of thinking going on around where humanity is encourage to go back to the light. May I take this opportunity to invite everyone to go on board. The more people who become enlightened, this world will become a better place to live in. We are one…. Let us all be guided by the Law of One.

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    • i agree mam. i think all the officials and staff should be oriented on good manners and right conduct.

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    • that’s the trouble with you guys, you still have time reading the PDi, sana di nyo na nabasa yon basurang yan!

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      • I read PDI as well as most of the other papers and like it a lot, most of the time. Best read through the whole range of sides on any issue. Sometimes, an article from someone I normally don’t like will make me only to sit up and say, yeah, how come i didn’t think of that?

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  3. And i remember at one point last night Mr. Vicente apologized to one senator-judge of his slurred speech because of his stroke. Kawawa naman ‘yung tao. We may believe his testimony but he deserves respect!

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  4. Thank you for expressing this very eloquently.

    Aside from poking fun at and abusing a person who is elderly and with a disability or disease with this photo on the Front page, I also believe that PDI has done this to HARASS A WITNESS. To make witnesses afraid to testify. Did they put any such unflattering photos of a witness of the Prosecution? A four-photo montage? “Character witness” was not meant to be literal but figurative.

    PDI editors wrote a first apology which was lame and a lie (“We had no other photos of the witness.”). Print media is known to choose flattering and unflattering photos intended to make a person they like look good or they don’t like as bad. Has PDI printed any unflattering photos of the President looking like a special child (there are many!)? No because they respect him. A broadsheet also published on their front page photo of Rep. Tiangco without his shoes on. Is this there because it is worthy of front page news? No malice here? Oh come on, PDI, almost every headline you have chosen is tainted with malice.

    But what can we expect from a newspaper whose actions led to the conviction of an innocent boy to jail? Over 20 years ago, Hubert Webb claimed that Jessica Alfaro the star witness of his case would not be able to identify him because she does not know him. The next day, PDI printed his photo on the front page. PDI, you have no conscience. How do you sleep at night?

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    • I don’t know about the Webb case. I will give PDI the benefit of the doubt, not really thinking this was about harassing a witness. And I abhor — and routinely delete — all photos and allusions to behavioral problems with the Prez (or anyone else unless it really is part of a story and even then, should be handled right to ensure others who are in a similar situation do not suffer the fallout).

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      • Thank you for giving my comment your time.

        I don’t agree with referring to anyone as abnormal either and it is inexcusable. I mentioned it as an example only. I learned that PDI had another version of the paper on that day without those unflattering photos of Mr Vicente. Did they revise it to add it to the later issue? Why?

        I saw a feature in the PDI showing Mr Vicente as a much respected expert in bonsai, a passion he can no longer practice that because of his stroke. His illness has taken away his abilities and PDI has tried to take away his dignity. Very shameful and heartless.

        My question to PDI is who was responsible for that and what action has been done? Words are cheap.

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  5. Well said Ms. Inday. I, too, am a daughter of an old man suffering from post stroke difficulties in all aspects, physically, emotionally, financially. And i found this front page of PDI very humiliating of people like my father. PDI should post their apology in their FRONT PAGE also in bold letters!

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  6. i am (also) sorry to say that this (PDI’s photos) did not come as surprising anymore to me. i used to be an avid reader of the PDI. but in recent years, it has seemingly turned into a tabloid disguised as a broadsheet.
    apologies to the tabloids.
    bravo, ms. inday!

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  7. If Sir Gani is alive, I think he will not allow this to be published. But I hope PDI will objectively appreciate your comments and suggestions. Thank you very much mam for your sensitivity as a journalist, a Filipino and a human being. More power! I really love reading your writings. Keep it up mam

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  8. I do not believe the witness. But my heart cries for him because of the treatment he got in the pictures. He does not deserve it. One may curse him for being with Corona, one can make fun of him because of his tales; but he deserves respect as anyone else when it comes to his being a stroke victim. I do not only agree with you, Inday! I also commend you as media person for standing for this man against the mistake of a media institution. I hope that those behind this insult will learn THE lesson: media power has a corresponding responsibility. Integrity has nothing to do with intelligence; it has all to do with knowing the idea of respect for human dignity at its simplest form and state.

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  10. Thank you for pointing out such grave misconduct, a total disrespect for human frailties. I am struck by how you pointed this out to PDI. Thank you for speaking out. You did all of us a great favor.

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  11. If there ever was even an iota of doubt regarding the Inquirer being P;noy’s mouthpiece, March 12’s page 1 photos of Mr. Vicente erased it.

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  12. Hi Inday – I share your feelings towards people who suffered from stroke and my heart goes to them. I pray for your Nanay’s strength.

    In the case of PDI, an apology was released online (which i think is the fastest way to relay their message to the public). I saw with humility what PDI did specially in this age where lengthy reasons are given in order to justify one’s act. It was for me, simple and sweet. The content may not live to our expectations or standards, but the main message is still an apology.

    While I respect your doubts over PDI’s apology, I find it civilize, if not courageous – while hoping that it is a lesson learned for PDI (and for us).

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  13. Very touching and poignant rejoinder. I am at a loss for words at how Inquirer allowed this to come out. Sir Gani, bless him, must be writhing in heaven.

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    • We all have bad days, really. I know sometimes how difficult it is to step back and pause and think twice in our work. Yes, someone should have thought more… but I am more concerned with how they can move forward. Because there are a lot of things to appreciate in the Inquirer.

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  14. This is not the first time PDI has used a photo for yellow journalism, and in relation to the impeachment. They once juxtaposed a photo of CJ Corona and his wife with that of former Pres. Marcos and Imelda. I’m not sure what’s happening in the PDI newsroom, but I really think they should reevaluate the work that they do.

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      • Hello Ms. Inday, I was not referring to the image.🙂 I was referring to PDI losing its glory as one of the most trusted broadsheets (usually 749 x 597mm or 750 x 600 mm in dimension) and becoming a “tabloid” (usually 430 x 280mm in dimension).

        Great post Ms. Inday! I liked the way you logically and critically viewed the issue. Kudo!🙂

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  15. “You do not apologize for bad judgment and taste better fit for the gutter.” That seems to be the problem with so much of what the media does these days. Its a vicious cycle, the media creates an atmosphere of bad taste and displaying bad judgement and never really apologizes

    Thanks for sharing! http://www.thinkablogit.com

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  16. Dear Inday;
    Humanga ako sa pananaw mo, nangyayari sa atin ang mga bagay na wala tayong kapangyarihan para lang kung dadating sa iba, magkakaraon tayo ng pang unawa at pagmamahal sa nakakaramdam noon. Pasalamat ka Inday, mayroon kang biyaya na ganoon.,
    Nakakalungkot ang mga taong sa pananaw ay walang kamatayan, nabubuhay sila sa gana ng panglabas na anyo tulad ng anak o familya ng mayari ng diyaryo na halos ay kung ano ano ang inilalagay sa katawan mapansin lang sila. Hindi nila alam ito ay panlabas lang at tayo ay hinuhusgahan ng Diyos ayon sa ating Kalooban.
    Mayroon silang pananaw na siguro hindi Diyos ang nagdidikta kundi ang masamang kapangyarihan.
    Hayaan mo Inday, dadating sa kanila ang higit na o higit pa sa ganitong sakit para lang maunawaan nila si Mang Vicente o iba pang namimighati sa mga ganitong pagkakataon.
    Ang dapat huwag natin silang tapatan, mayroon silang kaparusahan na sila lang ang makakatanggap o what they fully deserve.
    Salamat sa mga nauna dahil sila ang makakaunawa, hantayin natin ang para sa kanila, darating iyon at pagdating ang atin lang sasabihin “Mabuti na lang hindi sa atin nangyari yon”
    Hindi pera ang kapangyarihan kundi ang katotohanan, hindi itataning ng Diyos kung magkano ang worth natin, palagay ko isa sa itatanong niya, ilan ang minaliit mo, dahil don ka tatakalin..
    Maraming salamat at ipagpasalamat mo, marunong kang yumunawa.
    aling eli

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  17. To my fellow senior citizens, people and businesses in the medical profession and all who have found this treatment by the Inquirer of Mr. Vicente reprehensible, it is time to

    BOYCOTT!

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  18. Dear Inday,

    This is peripheral.

    My father, along with 2 sisters, inherited 2 big parcels of land from their father. By yr 2010, all three were gone. They did not bother to have the titles transferred to their names inspite of the fact that there were 8 brothers and sisters in the family.

    Imagine the surprise of our lawyer when we showed him the documents of those properties we, grandchildren of the owner, were selling last year. The American-regime title document is the size of a newspaper page!

    In short, the sale pushed thru without incident – considering the fact that 20 other cousins can lay claim on them (not one did) and our grandfather had been dead for 65 years. already.

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  19. My father also suffered a stroke, I can relate to what you went through, and while my dad thankfully recovered from the effects of his stroke, I still remember what he went through as he was battling to get better. As to PDI, I stopped reading that rag several years ago, because of their penchant for editorializing their news articles, and their constant publishing of unflattering pictures of then Pres. GMA. While I was,and still am not, a fan of GMA, I found the penchant of PDI of publishing unflattering pictures distasteful and offensive. It seems that it really is PDI’s policy to take and publish unflattering, offensive pictures of people whom they don’t like and their “allies.” Their so-called apology thus is empty and meaningless.

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  20. The editor in chief should be impeached. It always go back to the leader. Let’s campaign for the impeachment of this paper’s editor in chief…. insensitive and unprofessional.

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  21. Thank you Ms. Varona. Thank you for verbalizing what most of us must have felt after seeing that, that that horrible, cheap tabloid masquarading as a broadsheet (no offense to tabloids).

    I hope that lessons are indeed learned. If not, I can think of other options:

    Option 1. We can boycott that tabloid whose name should not even be mentioned.
    Option 2. We can hope that the chain-smoking, highly-negative movers and shakers behind that paper (from its editor to the president of this country) will one day (i hope soon), experience the life of Mr. Vicente. And I am not referring to growing bonsais.

    Yup. I am cruel that way too. But don’t worry “there is no intention to offend”. There are just “no available words” to use.

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  22. This is obviously a lapse in editorial judgment on the part of PDI and their apology smack of editorial hubris as if it’s illustrious founders’ ideals of free and equitable press is squandered. I join the Filipino people in appealing to PDI to cease in undertaking below the belt editorial even through their photos. This is an affront to those whose taste were apparently affected by this unfortunate coverage.

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  23. What is your opinion regarding the photos circulating the net showing 2 editions of the same march 14 issue by with different photos of mr Vicente? Does it still Mean the PDI made an honest mistake?

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    • I never said they made “an honest” mistake. I know (but this knowledge came after I’d upped this post) that the front page photos were on the second edition. So, obviously, that was a “thought-out” decision. Which probably worsens matters.

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  24. Mam Inday,

    Mabuhay ka! Hanga ako sa prinsipyo mo, isa rin pong biktima ng stroke ang aking ama, 21 years na po siyang nasa wheelchair, Isang malutong na tanong lang po! Yan po ba ang responsible journalism na tinatawag ng PDI?

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  25. I hear you sis but I’m not leaving PDI just yet. I feel bad that they posted pictures like these but I don’t think the entire system has gone bad but I think there are some people who should take responsibility and apologize publicly for putting up those pictures.

    And although I support PDI as a reader but I do not support this action and I will re-post your blog to help you in your call for action.🙂

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  26. Yes, what PDI did was very disgusting and very unbecoming for the so-called “leading newspaper” in the country.

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  27. I sympathize the old man as my father also suffered 2 strokes but survived it and still walks around but slow. PDI is hitting below the belt already and too insensitive even to humiliate people on their headlines. Time will come they would also suffer the same as last time I checked, the word ‘Karma’ is still in the dictionary! I guess the cause of all these is my boss- the one vindictive balding leader who accidentally sits in Malacanang without any true leadership qualification to lead a problematic country!

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    • Obviously, you’re not the good Presidential Spokesman. Unlike you, I will not drag in the boss into the picture. This is just pure bad judgment. Because I know a lot of pro-PNOY and anti-Corona peeps who would never do the same

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  28. This is a serious offense by PDI and I’m sure they did it on purpose just to humiliate the old man. There are several people who usually checks every item before they publish it on paper. They know they would be lambasted but they already have their apologies in place to cover the misdeed but the damage had been done already. Karma is the right word for the people behind the headline. This is the effect of too much Jaundice created by a bastard (u know where that single tenant lives!) who accepts only a conviction for CJ. Sabi ng matatanda- MAY ARAW DIN KAYO!

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    • I agree, its indeed a very serious violation to ones person! If i were that old man, I would file a multi-million damages to PDI for humiliating me on paper. I’m sure these are all handiwork of a stage 4 liver cancer patient with obvious jaundice on their appearance who started everything!

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