news, Philippines, politics, public affairs, television

SerenoSerye Over: Sereno’s Ouster as Chief Justice Now Final

Consider it final, official and irrevocable.

Over a month after Supreme Court justices voted in favor of ousting erstwhile Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno via quo warranto, the court decided to formally vacate the position of Chief Justice after rejecting Sereno’s motion for reconsideration to reverse the ruling. President Rodrigo Duterte will now have 90 days to pick a new Chief Justice.

The saga surrounding Sereno had been well-documented for the past several months. It began in August when Atty. Larry Gadon filed articles of impeachment to Congress that questioned Sereno’s missing assets, liabilities and net worth.

A lengthy series of hearings followed at the Batasan Pambansa that ran from September 2017 to February 2018. Throughout the course of the hearings, Supreme court justices and staff testified in front of the House Committee of Justice and they added further detail to Sereno’s misdeeds in the years prior to becoming Chief Justice.

In March, the Justice Committee overwhelmingly approved the articles of impeachment filed against Sereno. But just as the impeachment process began to roll along, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition that seeks to invalidate Sereno’s appointment.

Last May, the Supreme Court voted 8-6 in favor of the quo warranto, removing Sereno from the Chief Justice post. Later that month, Sereno filed a motion for reconsideration that sought to reverse the court’s original ruling, which was then quashed by another 8-6 vote Tuesday afternoon.

With the court’s ruling now final, Atty. Gadon’s impeachment complaint is now deemed ‘moot’ and ‘academic’ by the House of Representatives, and is expected to be terminated. It also means that the possible third Senate impeachment trial of the current millennium will no longer materialize.

Had the quo warranto not been filed and approved, viewers would have had a field day watching the proceedings at the Senate. But as it stands now, there will not be a repeat of what happened in the impeachment trials of former President Joseph Estrada and former Chief Justice Renato Corona, in which high drama and tension filled the Senate.

Now that Maria Lourdes Sereno is no longer the Chief Justice, the so-called “SerenoSerye” is officially over. It was a long and exhaustive procedure to say the least, but for the many people involved in the drama, it was worth telling.

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FTT’s Thoughts on Journalists Running for the Senate

The 2019 mid-term elections is still over a year away.

This early, prognosticators are starting to look at potential candidates who are poised to take over half of the Senate seats come July of next year. And not surprisingly, there are a few names from the broadcast industry that were mentioned as potential candidates for one of the twelve Senate seats available.

Take for instance Jiggy Manicad. The long-time GMA News reporter and anchor is being considered as a possible candidate for a Senate seat according to Senate President Koko Pimentel.

Consequently, Jiggy announced his departure from GMA News within days of the report, saying that he wants to jump into the ‘next level’ of public service. But he was not the only news personality to be mentioned as a possible Senate candidate.

In a recent Pulse Asia survey, PTV-4 news anchor Erwin Tulfo was listed in the top 12 of potential top candidates for a seat in the Senate. So far, Erwin has yet to comment on the matter.

Journalists running for public office is nothing new in the Philippines. Perhaps one can look at the two most successful journalists-turned-politicians of the recent past.

Noli de Castro, the ‘Kabayan’ of primetime television news, ran as Senator and won in 2001. Three years later, he became then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s running-mate for Vice President and became victorious, serving for another six years before resuming his career as a news anchor.

Another ABS-CBN News alumnus, Loren Legarda, also ran for a Senate seat in 1998 and won. She has since earned another two terms at the Senate in 2007 and 2013.

But not all journalists were destined for political office. Jay Sonza, for instance, twice tried to run for Senator but failed to earn a seat each time.

That said, any journalist who enters the world of politics, particularly in a highly-scrutinized position such as the Senate, must be well-rehearsed to handle the demands of the campaign and their role if elected. If they do not have what it takes, chances are they will not get the majority votes from the masses.

The election period is still over a year away, so there is a lot of time for the likes of Jiggy Manicad and Erwin Tulfo to consider the risks and rewards of the political arena. Good luck, not just with them, but also to any journalist who want to join the bandwagon.

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Final Thoughts on The House Hearings of the Sereno Impeachment Case

Facing the music: The fate of the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will be decided at the House of Representatives later this week. (Photo credit: GMA News Online)

It was a sigh of relief, for now.

Last week, the House Justice Committee officially wrapped up its hearings on the impeachment case against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The hearings, which began in September 2017, focused on the complaints filed by Atty. Larry Gadon against Sereno, particularly the latter’s statement of assets and liabilities that were deemed questionable.

Throughout the proceedings, fellow Supreme Court justices, staff and other witnesses testified in front of House Justice Committee chairman, Rep. Reynaldo Umali, and the other members of the committee. In total, 14 hearings took place that lasted around 12 hours each.

At first, the country’s top news outlets like ANC, GMA News TV, CNN Philippines and even Rappler were present to broadcast the proceedings in various platforms. However, it became clear that other important events and the overall length of each hearing took its toll on each network’s coverage, and by the final day the hearings were all but forgotten.

It also didn’t help that the hearings got in the way of important news programs. ANC, for example, has cut its coverage short at times in favor of live newscasts.

But for whatever shortcomings television and radio has, social media can take care of it. Viewers who were faithfully following the Sereno impeachment hearings from day one can thank the Facebook pages of each of the media outlets (particularly ABS-CBN News and Rappler) for providing uninterrupted and no-holds-barred action of the event.

Such is the complicated nature of the Sereno impeachment hearings. Those 12 hours spent at the Batasan Pambansa were at times draining for media personnel, who were tasked to digest whatever words the witnesses, Rep. Umali and his fellow congressmen said.

Still, the hearings were only the beginning. While Chief Justice Sereno goes on indefinite leave, the House Justice Committee commences its vote on the matter, and if they approve it, the Senate will now take care of business by virtue of an impeachment trial.

But in a late-breaking story, Solicitor General Jose Calida sought the Supreme Court for the nullification of Sereno’s appointment, citing the same complaint Atty. Gadon filed against her. This could get complicated because in the event that Sereno is removed from her post, the potential impeachment trial might be thrown into chaos.

Regardless, media outlets should brace for the inevitable. The next few months could be crucial, so good luck with that.

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TV Coverage of Napoles Testimony

Janet Lim-Napoles appeared before the Senate today to testify regarding the Pork Barrel scandal. The much-anticipated testimony was covered by most free TV outlets. However, in an apparent deference, ABS-CBN’s free TV channel 2 and Studio 23 opted not to cover the event in full. Instead they only gave updates and partial live feeds on the ongoing testimony. Also, both AksyonTV and TV5 opted to end their coverage by 12:00 p.m. in order to air the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.

Give every network credit for pooling their resources in order to bring ongoing updates and live coverage on the Napoles testimony. However, I have to criticize both ABS-CBN and TV5 for a variety of reasons. ABS-CBN, for its part, decided to air the entirety of the Napoles testimony exclusively on its cable networks DZMM TeleRadyo and ABS-CBN News Channel. And while they did air a snippet of the live coverage on Channel 2, it is simply not enough. They may have a high number of cable subscribers on its affiliate SkyCable, but they did not oblige to the most important commodity in television viewership: the masses.

TV5, for its part, ended their coverage to give way to the NCAA Final Four. Unfortunately, they covered the entire tournament on both TV5 and AksyonTV when in fact, they only need to air it on TV5 and defer the Napoles coverage to AksyonTV. For some reason AksyonTV wanted to simulcast the NCAA tournament as a ‘test broadcast’ in an effort to improve its signal and reach, something they have also done in the recently concluded PBA Governors’ Cup Finals. But on this day, AksyonTV failed to be the 24-hour news channel that viewers hoped, and their non-airing of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago‘s press conference following the testimony was an insult to the network.

As for GMA News TV, they were able to commit in full to the testimony, even if they have incurred several no-shows in the past. They realized the importance of this issue, and I have to commend them for a job well done. Despite their reputation as a non-24 hour news channel, and their emphasis on tabloid-like reporting, they were able to give way to something national in scope, at least for today.

With the entire nation watching, Janet Lim-Napoles is now thrust in the spotlight, in what has been the most controversial scandal that rocked the government since the plunder case of President Joseph Estrada. And television networks are taking notice.

ERRATUM: TV5 continued to air the Napoles testimony and deferred to AksyonTV for the live NCAA Final Four coverage. Still, it would have been better if TV5 pushed through with the NCAA coverage and gave the Napoles coverage to AksyonTV instead.

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Benhur Luy Testimony on TV; ABS-CBN Free TV Snubs

Yesterday afternoon Pork Barrel whistleblower Benhur Luy appeared on the Senate to testify on the ongoing Pork Barrel Scam. Luy appeared reserved and calm while facing the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee consisting of senators Ralph Recto, JV Ejercito, Teofisto Guingona III, Allan Peter Cayetano, Bam Aquino, and Franklin Drilon. The proceedings were captured live on every television network; however, not all aired it on free TV.

While GMA News TV and AksyonTV, free television counterparts of GMA and TV5, aired the live coverage of the Luy testimony, ABS-CBN did not air the entirety of the proceedings at all on free TV. Though the ABS-CBN News Channel and DZMM Teleradyo aired the proceedings in full, they were only available through a number of cable subscribers, and Studio 23, the ABS-CBN’s UHF channel, opted to air a re-run of ‘Oki Doki Doc‘, a classic Dolphy film, and UAAP basketball replays rather than picking up ANC’s live coverage. It became clear that ABS-CBN would only air the Luy testimony through a select number of politically-conscious netizens who would voice out their opinions through social media, and not through an entire audience unaware of the ongoing situation.

Of course, GMA News TV and AksyonTV wanted to air the proceedings to the entire nation, just to witness how strong Luy’s testimony is. They didn’t care if the audience was unaware of the situation, but rather they carried the entire coverage both sincerely and actively in order to be seen by millions of viewers. And this was not the case on ABS-CBN, who never wanted to sacrifice some of their television programs just for this marathon session.

The Kapamilya network should know it too well. They may have some of the highest-rated programs today, but by snubbing live free TV coverage of the Benhur Luy testimony, they have alienated a portion of their loyal viewers. The next time they carry a live political session, they should make sure that it will be seen not only on cable, but through free TV, regardless of which program airs at the moment, unless it conflicts with live ABS-CBN Sports coverage on Studio 23. And that’s exactly what I wanted to see with the Kapamilya network in the near future.

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