And the winner takes it all
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - December 9, 2019 - 12:00am

Congratulations to all the Southeast Asian Games athletes who won and lost.  As the SEA Games theme song goes, We Win as One!   After every game and after every national anthem is played, as the winning athletes receive their medals, the song sang by Lea Salonga, We Win as One is played.  It sends a message of unity amidst defeat, and reminds the winners of the lesson on humility and pride.

Before the opening of the SEA Games the press went gaga over the setbacks and blunders.  So much so that they went overboard.  Why highlight the bad news?  What purpose does it have?  The sad part is that many in the media did not even bother to check the facts.  The tendency was to expose fake news.  Even the foreign press exaggerated.  Quite nasty I should say. 

“The power of the media is the power of persuasion and the power of persuasion will work only if you tell the truth.” These are the words of my late father Max Soliven.  In emphasizing responsibility, in exercising press freedom, he tipped his audience of a tested way to preserve one’s credibility: sticking to the basics of news reporting by answering the five W’s- what, when, where, who and why- and one H- how.

My father and his contemporaries in media learned the value of press freedom the hard way. He was incarcerated with the late senator Ninoy Aquino, who exposed in his television program the plan of former president Ferdinand Marcos to declare martial law. Secretary Cerge Remonde of Government for Media who was with my father at that time also said, “what is taught in the newsroom today is not necessarily the unembellished truth”. He was referring to some media outfits that craft stories in a manner that would attract advertisers. “We are driven by what is hot...we have gone away from the basics,” he said, adding that, “freedom that is oftentimes abused is freedom diminished.”

Remonde said he has seen the both sides -the government and the media. “It is easier to criticize than to build,” he said of the media. “Because of our propensity to generate more heat than light, we publish or broadcast stories even with those unverified or have been born of hearsay or quoting unnamed sources” he added.

If you can still remember, when we hosted the 2005 SEA Games there was a complaint from the Thai delegation about judging irregularities. The scandal even prompted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to consider bringing up the issue to the ASEAN summit in Malaysia and/or to hold a summit on fair play during the SEA Games. The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, issued a statement apparently aimed at defusing the controversy. They said that Thaksin did not directly accuse the Philippines of favoring its athletes to win and blamed the media for taking the Prime Minister’s remarks “out of context.”

Last week the Inquirer had to apologize for publishing an erroneous picture of the Biñan Football Field. The “kikiam” issue was also clarified.  It was actually chicken sausage. The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex toilet condition was tweeted on social media and created a stir.  The Cambodian football team who arrived earlier than expected at the Century Park Hotel were found sleeping in the conference room floor.  A netizen posted a picture of it and everyone misunderstood and blamed the hotel and the SEA Games committee. But after listening to the hotel’s spokesperson who clarified the matter, the truth set them free. So many tweets and memes unverified causing heartaches, shame and panic.  Were all these necessary? 

The media has so much influence on the public’s perception of how things are done or should be done.  It is crucial that we give the public the right information. The truth!  As my father would often quip, “media should not be carried away by its own power,” as what every journalist’s purpose is to inform the people. This seems to have been forgotten. Of course the media will forever remain as the watchdog of the government.  So, we must never be afraid to search for the truth, as God favors the brave.

To date, the Philippines has already garnered more than 70 gold medals, actually 89 as reported over the weekend. This surpasses the medals we hauled in the 2017 edition of the SEA Games where we ended 6th place with just 24 golds, 33 silver and 64 bronze medals. The top three events where we garnered the highest number of golds are Arnis (14), Dancesport (10), and Wushu (7). Obstacle Course gave us 6, Taekwondo 4 and the others such as cycling, skateboarding, gymnastics, triathlon, Judo, Athletics and the others gave us 1-3 gold medals each. Leading the Philippines’ gold medalists are Carlos Edriel Yulo (Gymnastics), Hidilyn Diaz (Weightlifting) and John Chicano (Triathlon, Men’s Individual).

As the SEA Games continue this week, those grandstanding government officials especially in congress and in the senate failed.  Despite their bickering, criticisms, gripes and allegations of corruption, the event itself and the determination of the athletes to win for the country prevailed.  It really isn’t about Alan Peter Cayetano nor is it about the Philippine Sports Commission or the SEA Games Organizing Committee.  Our public officials should know when to shut up.  They must know when our country calls for unity and support.  When we should work together, the bayanihan way to win as one.  In the eyes of the world, it is what we did that matters most. 

Kudos to our countrymen, who in one way or the other supported and saved the day.  Hats off to Surfer Roger Casugay who was on his way to winning the gold but stopped to save his Indonesian opponent from the waves of the sea.  What an athlete.  What a spirit! Again the song We Win as One written by Floy Quintos comes to mind: Yes, we compete but the greatest feat is when we win as one.  We win as one unconquered, we win as one. Unbowed we share a single promise. We win as one. Yes, we compete but the greatest feat is when we win, we win as one.

One grand salute to all the athletes who taught us many lessons to reflect on – discipline, perseverance, focus, hard work, humility and pride.  Yes, win or lose we are proud of you! Thank you for being role models to the youth of the world.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN GAMES
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