The 'biased' Tony Lopez


Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) chairman and Biznews Asia magazine publisher Tony Lopez was given the label “biased” by Noynoy Aquino during the presidential forum organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) at the Marriott Hotel last Feb. 16, where Tony was forum moderator.

Naturally, the incident has become the subject of jokes in the media circle with Tony’s friends kidding him as the “biased” or the “unbiased” moderator. Last Friday during the MOPC “Presidentiables Series” with Lakas-Kampi standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro as guest speaker, Tony pointedly made a reference to the issue during his introduction, saying that “Yes I am biased. I am biased for good people, qualified people, for a good president. Ladies and gentlemen, Gilbert Teodoro, hopefully the next president of the Philippines.”

Naturally for the Teodoro supporters, the statement already felt like an anointment as they erupted in hearty applause. It was a fun and lively forum with media panelists Marichu Villanueva of The Philippine STAR, Rod Cornejo of GMA 7, former Agence France Presse bureau chief Karl Wilson and Reuters’ Manny Mogato. Also in the audience was fellow STAR columnist Chit Pedrosa, our friend Bel Cunanan of the Inquirer and representatives from various sectors particularly the business community, plus Ambassador A. Selverajah of Singapore and the new Indian Ambassador Yogendra Kumar.

A lot of the people present have already seen and heard Gilbert Teodoro before but it was easy to see that they attended the MOPC forum because they wanted to reconfirm what they have always thought – that he is the right man for the job. One lady who came all the way from Cebu even remarked that no matter what the surveys may say, she will still vote for him. No question Gilbert – or Gibo as his fans and supporters prefer to call him – is a very good extemporaneous speaker and one of the most qualified candidates.

People are also won over by Gilbert’s ability to explain a point with clarity and can adroitly avoid “trap” questions with common sense as well as logic. Once again, the Lakas-Kampi candidate managed to convince people that he is very competent, if not the most competent, presidentiable – in spite of “biased” Tony Lopez.

But as usual, Tony stole the show with his witty remarks and repartees, drawing appreciative laughter from the audience. He has been a journalist for four decades and has also become every adept at being a moderator on almost every topic especially politics and the economy, enlivening the discussion with his trademark dry humor which can really be discomfiting to anybody who is not quick at recovering his wit or finding his tongue for that matter.

As a matter of fact, Tony became one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men awardees in 1985 for balanced reporting, with no less than Noynoy’s mother, the late president Cory Aquino, giving him the award in 1986. Friends and colleagues know Tony as a straight shooter who does not mince his words even if it causes discomfort to some people. It’s well known that Tony is a good friend of Joseph Estrada and that he personally likes Manny Villar. But privately and in public, he had said that he finds Gilbert Teodoro the most intelligent and capable. It’s unfortunate for Noynoy to have given him the label “biased” – but it turned out to be fortunate for Tony because in media, that kind of controversy always adds to your standing to a certain extent.

In reality, the introduction for Noynoy at the PCCI forum was good, with Tony making a strong reference to the illustrious legacy of Noynoy’s parents – precisely the points emphasized in the LP candidate’s campaign ads. But from what we are told, Noynoy’s displeasure stems from the fact that Tony has been very critical of the way the Aquino administration handled the 12-hour brownouts which Lopez described to be purely out of incompetence.

Nonetheless, in Tony’s March 4 letter published in the Opinion Section of the Inquirer, he refuted allegations that he was a Marcos publicist. On the contrary, The Philippine STAR even gave him the “Hero of Edsa” gold medal for his coverage of the four-day EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986. But what came out as very surprising for many of those who read the letter was the revelation that during a dinner last March 1, Noynoy told Tony that he will give access to the latter when he is already in Malacañang – showing that the LP candidate is absolutely certain he will become the next president.

Some people may perceive it to be arrogance, but I’d like to think that Noynoy’s reaction is mainly due to his being sensitive to criticism against his family, specifically his mother. I am told this is the reason why he has turned down the invitation of the MOPC to be a guest for its “Presidentiables Series.” But politics has never been, and will never be, for the onion-skinned and the fainthearted. As summer sets in and the campaign season gets even hotter, candidates will be throwing all sorts of things against each other including the kitchen sink. Which is why people have found such wisdom in the old saying, “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen!”

But as they say, everybody is entitled to his opinion. And certainly, veteran journalist Tony Lopez is entitled to his – and I’m quite sure he will continue to be Mr. “Biased” Tony Lopez. 

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Email: babe_tcb@yahoo.com

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