8 October 2010
HON. CHERILIE M. SAMPAL
Dear Mayor Sampal,
I received a copy of your undated letter and let me first thank you and the people of Polangui for their patronage of Vox Bikol. Your mention in your letter that there are in Polangui "avid readers" of our community newspaper is welcome news for us.
Allow me to respond to and clarify the matters you had raised in your letter.
The issue, you alleged, stemmed from Mr. Kristian Cordero's essay entitled "Ang Mahal na Birhen ng Pagsalat" which "contain[ed] demeaning and insulting statements that [were] very degrading to the municipality of Polangui's reputation, let alone to our female constituents." The letter added that the said "derogative statements have no concrete evidence and are completely absurd," and that the essay "is plainly an act of irresponsible journalism!" Consequently, the letter demanded that Mr. Cordero and the Vox Bikol issue public apologies which would be published in our newspaper.
Please know that I regret that Mr. Cordero's essay had upset you and your constituents. Please be informed also that I had informed Mr. Cordero regarding your letter and relayed to him your sentiments.
However, in behalf of Vox Bikol and in the interest of truth and fairness, I would like to make the following clarifications:
1) Your office's letter charged that Mr. Cordero's essay "is plainly an act of irresponsible journalism." Such an accusation, however, rests on the assumption that the said article is a news article; in fact, IT IS NOT. It is precisely a cultural essay, and as such should not be construed as news reportage of facts. Its location within the "Viewpoints" page of the newspaper, moreover, indicates that it is not to be taken as news.
To charge that irresponsible journalism was committed is to assume that false statements or inaccurate reports have been made to appear as news or as true accounts. However, Mr. Cordero's essay clearly did not claim and was not presented as a news article; to avoid that confusion, it did not even appear in the news pages.
In other words, "Ang Mahal na Birhen ng Pagsalat" was not written as news about the town of Polangui or its women; this was not the stated intent of the author. Thus, to read the said cultural essay as a news article which reports facts is to risk misinterpreting it.
2) The letter complained that Mr. Cordero's article "contain[ed] demeaning and insulting statements that are very degrading to the municipality of Polangui's reputation, let alone to our female constituents" and that "these derogative statements have no concrete evidence and are completely absurd." Reading the whole two-part article (and not simply lifting or isolating a passage therein, which too often leads to misunderstanding the text), one will realize nonetheless, that Mr. Cordero was actually not asserting that the mentioned "derogatory statements" about Polangui were in fact true; but was narrating what he had heard about the town. Put simply, Mr. Cordero was narrating about what he heard was the reputation of Polangui and some of its women-folk, and not stating that these demeaning accounts he had heard were really true. He did not claim, nor did his essay, that those "demeaning" statements were factual accounts of Polangui and its women. His use of qualifiers such as "kilala," "biniro," "tanyag" in these passages evinced with subtlety that the said statements were not made and were not being made by himself.
As a final remark on this matter, let me again say that I regret that Mr. Cordero's article had caused much distress to your office (and even ours, I'm afraid, since anonymous texters from Polangui-as claimed by the text messages-had been sending threatening messages harassing our account executive). It is hoped that this letter provides clarification on the issues raised by your office.
Very truly yours,
FEDERICO JOSÉ LAGDAMEO