Press Release
January 29, 2008

Villar: Fight poverty, not the press

Senate President Manny Villar today urged government to repair its relations with the media and "focus its energies in fighting poverty, not the press."

"Malacañang doesn't need this kind of distraction. If you are fighting on several fronts - insurgency, economic, illiteracy, joblessness - then you don't need to open up another area of conflict," Villar said.

"The administration should just focus on doing a good job and telling it well, but it can't do the latter if it alienates the very same institution which conveys its programs to the public," he said.

"In governance, the idea is to rally the press to your side, not against you. In this unbelievable situation, the government ended up arresting more reporters who covered a mutiny than rebel soldiers who staged it," he said.

"My reading of the situation is that the press is not asking for special treatment. What they're only asking for is what is due them, under the Constitution, which is basically to be left alone to do their job," he said.

"The protection they seek is not the one granted by the government but one that is guaranteed by the Constitution," Villar said.

Villar also reminded the administration "to accept the fact that the traditional relationship between the government and media has always been and will always be adversarial."

"No government should expect that harassment will turn media from watchdogs into lapdogs," the Nacionalista Party president said.

Villar said if the administration believes that it is getting an unfair treatment from some reporters, there are mechanisms outside libel, assassination and arrest that can be used in tempering or rectifying media excesses and oversight.

"The bottom line is that you don't go out of your way to pick up a quarrel with those who buy ink by the barrel or those who hold the microphone," he said.

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