What Anthony Taberna wants to ask P-Noy & why he gets teary-eyed on TV
WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - November 11, 2012 - 12:00am

There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil. — Walter Lippmann


Outspoken and workaholic broadcast journalist 37-year-old Anthony “Ka Tunying” Taberna of ABS-CBN doesn’t seem to rest. He hosts the top-rated daily morning show Umagang Kay Ganda (famous for the segment “Punto por Punto”) and XXX: Exklusibong, Explosibong, Exposé. He is on AM radio as DZMM lead anchor with Gerry Baja for the Dos Por Dos show every morning and late afternoons.

Though not ethnic Chinese, Taberna knows how to count in the Hokkien dialect on radio because he loves numbers. He is also the hard-hitting host of Iba-Balita and Mano Mano for Studio 23. Anthony Taberna recently gave the Philippine STAR this candid interview. Here are excerpts:

PHILIPPINE STAR: Former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno thinks you were used, wittingly or unwittingly, by Korina Sanchez — wife of then incoming DILG Secretary Mar Roxas — in doing your exclusive news report about the controversial attempt to enter the Quezon City condominium unit of the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo. Is this accurate?

ANTHONY TABERNA: That’s not true. Everything is factual. We only report news that is really the truth and newsworthy.

Among your many TV interview subjects, who was the most unique and why?

Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson. He guested on my show not to answer my questions, but to terrorize me. Umagang Kay Ganda. I did that interview when he was quarreling with his girlfriend. Nagkainitan ho kami (We had quite a heated exchange).

Do you ever get death threats? If yes, how do you protect yourself?

Yes, I have, but life goes on because I have no way to pay for bodyguards.

In your newscasts, what were the most popular news reports ever?

Before, when it was the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stories, our TV ratings would shoot up. Reports on the electoral sabotage case and her need to pay bail, in only half hour after we reported that news, there were already more than 1,000 comments on Facebook.

The other record in news popularity was our report on crocodile Lolong. We asked the TV viewers: Payag ba kayong ibiyahe si Lolong sa Maynila (Would you allow Lolong to travel to Manila)? The popularity of that report was close to that of Gloria, although both are different species. (Laughs)

Do you have any dream interview subject for TV?

President Noynoy Aquino. I interviewed him during the 2010 presidential campaign, but I wasn’t able to repeat that and interview him as president.

All right, if P-Noy agrees to your interview, what would be your top three questions?

First question: Nakikipagplastikan ba siya (is he being plastic or not sincere) with Vice President Jojo Binay, because Noynoy seems to be giving all powers to the political enemy of Binay, Mar Roxas?

Second question: What will make him finally stop counting the girls he wants to date, or what will make him settle down?

Third: Why can’t he fire controversial government officials who are his friends, like Bong Naguiat of Pagcor?

Who among our broadcasters do you admire and why?

I’m consistent in telling others that my role model is Julius Babao due to his work ethic and his being a good family man. Not all people in this profession are good family men.

Your original childhood ambitions?

I’m fond of numbers, so I wanted to study either engineering or accounting, and I had wanted to be a minister of the Gospel.

So are you a born-again Christian or a Protestant?

No, I’m with the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).

Who else in mass media or on TV are with the Iglesia?

There’s Gus Abelgas. Janice de Belen is a new convert. There’s also EJ Falcon, Gladys Reyes and her husband Christopher Roxas. 

The wise and brilliant Justice Serafin Cuevas is also part of Iglesia?

Yes, he is. Bilib ako kay Justice Cuevas (I’m so impressed with Justice Cuevas), his memory of law and history.

Have you met the late INC leader Ka Erdie Manalo? I’ve met him once before.

Yes. I’ve met him once, when I was still with my former radio station DZEZ. I was called to pay him a courtesy call in 1995, after I had won an award. He was very dignified. We had a photo taken together.

I’ll never forget, Ka Erdie told me, half in jest: “Ang layo mo naman, parang gusto mo nang umalis ah (You’re so far from me, it’s as if you want to leave already).” True enough, his words seemed prophetic, because two years later I left DZEZ.

What about the new INC leader, Ka Eduardo Manalo, have you met him?

Yes, I’ve met him already. He’s really got the leadership and distinguished aura of his late father. He is also very humble. When he opens his mouth to speak, you must listen.

How important is your religious faith to your profession as TV and radio journalist?

Religion or faith in God is important, especially for those of us who make news commentaries, because we tackle many social issues. If we don’t have the solid foundation of our faith, what then is our moral ascendancy to discuss ethics, morality and other national issues?

On ethics, what is your view of President Aquino publicly criticizing your anchor, former Vice President Noli de Castro, for allegedly being too negative on TV?

To me, the President has every right to criticize media on how we do our work, in the same way that I believe we in the media also have the right to criticize public officials.

But to me, the question about what the President did is whether it was the appropriate venue or occasion for him to lambast Noli, because he was the guest of honor and it was the 25th anniversary celebration of the TV Patrol news program.

On fairness in news reporting, criticisms and editorializing, wasn’t ABS-CBN faulted before for biases — once being so pro-GMA and later for being pro-Noynoy?

In fairness to ABS-CBN, there never was an instance that they had interfered with my editorials on issues of national importance, as long as they’re not libelous, because that’s how media should be.

What changes or reforms do you want to see in Philippine TV news?

No. 1, to minimize the tabloidization of our TV and radio news. Although people need to know all those crimes, I disagree with giving them too much importance on the major newscasts. Too many of these tabloid-like crime stories give ideas to future would-be criminals, and those also negatively affect the international image of the Philippines.

No. 2, if possible, there should be longer newscasts. Look at TV Patrol, they used to be one and a half hours every night, but it became only one hour starting Oct. 8.

No. 3, in general in the media, broadcast networks shouldn’t be owned by major corporations with their big vested interests like businesses in public utilities. Whenever I’m invited to deliver speeches about Philippine media, I’d say: in the Philippines there’s no such thing as true freedom of the press.

Weren’t many of those companies formerly controlled by your own bosses, the Lopezes? That was why critics claimed that Meralco, etc., couldn’t be criticized by ABS-CBN before?

It is our ABS-CBN news programs that are “totoong walang kinikilingan at walang pinoprotektahan (truly not siding with anyone and not protecting anyone). In the case of my programs, never was there an instance when I was asked to withhold criticisms of the then Lopez-controlled Meralco, NLEX, Maynilad, etc.

If people used to complain to me about bad services of these public utilities, I hit these public utilities on radio and TV. Gabby Lopez never once asked me to stop criticizing.

What’s your view on English-language primetime newscasts, which we used to have and which I have written about a few times, urging TV bosses to restore at least some?

I’m an advocate of restoring some English-langu New_Picture 1 age newscasts on primetime TV. We certainly miss the English newscasts of Harry Gasser, Tina Monzon Palma, Loren Legarda and the late Angelo Castro on World Tonight.

What did you like about their English newscasts?

I liked the beautiful baritone voice of those TV newscasters in the past, especially Angelo Castro, Jess Decolongan, Orly Punzalan and Bon Vibar.

The TV newscasters before were really prim and proper. Now, what will you teach the mass-com students about broadcasting? Before, we learned in school to pause while reading the news, to use your voice correctly and not to shout.

Nowadays, some newscasters speak too fast with no commas and lots of shouting, even if the news requires journalists to just be cool and not always act as if everything’s on fire!

You’re always reporting and commenting on the news on TV and radio every day. What do you think are the three biggest issues or problems facing the Philippines?

First is corruption, second is crime, and third is jobs.

Can you please elaborate?

On corruption, I commend President Aquino for his administration’s anti-corruption stance. This is good, the anti-corruption direction coming from the top, but I’m just not sure if all his officials are really following him. For example, he has close friends whom he couldn’t take out, like PAGCOR chairman Bong Naguiat. Also, corruption is grabe (horrible) in the local levels, in local governments.

On the issue of crime, it’s simple: just go to the city hall to check. The bad peace and order situation, or the high incidence of crimes, it’s a big problem. To solve this challenge, it’s important for us to work well with the police.

Sayang (it’s a waste that) Senator Ping Lacson wasn’t appointed to the DILG, because if the police fear doing shenanigans, then peace and order in our country can really improve.

What about jobs?

It’s sad, every day there are 3,000 Filipinos going abroad to look for jobs. Who wants to leave their family, be away so long, not protecting their daughters or see kids grow up?

The three biggest problems are interrelated — if you can curb corruption and crimes, then more local and foreign investors will do more businesses for creation of more jobs.

But what about government pronouncements that we have a good Philippine economy?

Naku, sa papel lang siguro iyang “good economy” na sinasabi nila (Oh, that “good economy” they’re claiming is probably true only on paper)! The true barometer of a good Philippine economy is in the palengke (wet market).

Do you have time to go to the palengke? Which is your favorite?

Yes, I just went to the palengke last Saturday and the folks there call me “kabarkada” (buddy). My favorite wet market is in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. It’s quite nice, lots of fresh foods to buy there; it’s a smaller version of the Balintawak wet market.

Your hometown? Your parents and their professions?

Our hometown is San Antonio in Nueva Ecija province. The fiesta of our town is every Jan. 16 and my birthday is also Jan. 16, 1975; that’s why my real name is Antonio, Jr. and my father Antonio Sr. was born on Jan. 17.

My father studied up to second year high school, and my mother Benita Talens Taberna studied up to grade six in elementary. My father used to be a pilot…

Of which airline?

(Laughs) He was pilot of provincial buses from San Antonio to Divisoria in Manila.

How often do you go back to your hometown? Some who become famous, they forget their hometowns already.

I was born there in San Antonio and left only in 1991, or when I was 16 years old. I go home often and I also vote there during elections. San Antonio in Nueva Ecija is 96 kilometers from Quezon City.

Did your parents live to see you become a success, and what did you give them as gifts?

My father died on Aug. 18, 2002, when I was just starting to do well. I was able to gift my father an XLT passenger jeepney assembled in Pampanga in 1999. He never imagined that his son could someday afford to buy a vehicle.

What are your hobbies?

(Laughs) Ano po ‘yon (Sir, what is that)?

Funniest times on TV?

In our show Ibabalita, there was one instance I laughed at my own editorial punchline, and I couldn’t control myself laughing up to the next segment. It was just hard for me to suppress my laughter then.

Have you cried or wept on TV?

On our show Dos Por Dos, I get teary-eyed and almost cry, also because of laughter.

What is your ultimate dream?

To get more sleep. (Laughs) Pasensiya na, mababaw lang kasi kaligayahan ko (Apologies, it doesn’t take much to make me happy). Actually, due to my work, I average only four hours of sleep daily.

Finally, what are your success secrets?

First is the importance of humility, it’s a virtue which I learned from my parents. Second is faith in God, because I am totally dependent on our Boss above. Third success secret is definitely my good wife Rossel Velasco Taberna.

* * *

Thanks for your feedback! E-mail willsoonflourish@gmail.com or follow WilsonLeeFlores at Twitter.com, at Facebook and http://willsoonflourish.blogspot.com/.

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