CJ Corona

Chief Justice Corona Impeachment is Acid Test for Online Reportage

I am visiting a friend at the Senate today, and have decided to take the opportunity to blog about the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

It’s only been five minutes and already I’ve encountered a number of political creatures like Adel Tamano and former Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party representative Risa Hontiveros. I also caught a glimpse of Juana Change leading a rally of sorts outside the GSIS building.

The multitudes who have taken time off work to rally against Corona here, and those who support him at the Supreme Court demonstrates how people can take a political issue personally. My own appreciation of the issue is that it is putting every foundation of our democracy through the acid test not merely of public opinion, but of integrity and accountability.

Today’s impeachment trial is remarkable not only because it supposedly tries an Arroyo ally, but also because this is the first time that a Supreme Court chief justice is actually being put through an accountability process. Elected officials endure impeachments and elections, which is also a test of one’s trustworthiness.  Cabinet secretaries are always tested by senate investigations. However, for the longest time it seemed as if the Supreme Court is invincible to any process that would ensure its probity.

That, if proven guilty, even the highest judicial officer of the Philippines can still be made to answer for transgressions is the most encouraging sign.

But Corona is not the only one being tested today. The Senate will also be tested as to how it will decide based on the evidences presented. The House of Representatives will have to prove the merit of its impeachment complaint. And the Executive will have to show restraint and respect for the other branches of government, and let the impeachment run its natural course.

I see this also as an acid test for online reportage. The Corona trial have opened other discussions, and one that I am keenly looking at is the perception of University of Santo Tomas (UST) professors—and journalists from traditional media—that online reportage is reckless and inept in meeting the standards of journalism. One of my UST professors presented some valid questions on Facebook. “Is online journalism really the future of journalism?,” he asked. “What are its rules? What is it needed?”

His inquiry and ideas carry weight, but we also cannot deny that professionals in traditional media have likewise failed in upholding their lofty journalism standards. A number of people actually believe that Rappler is more credible and less vulnerable to sensationalism and politicking than TV Patrol.  But of course we cannot only give readers a choice between Korina Sanchez and Maritess Vitug, and say that’s the best we can provide. Online needs to step up.  We are not only in the hot seat because of that UST statement, but because we really are the future of news reportage.

The emergence of the Internet practically forces every journalist to go online or face the consequences of having your story read only 24 hours after people have read about it on Facebook. Simply put, you either go online or become irrelevant.

I feel also that online reportage is not yet as corrupted and subservient to political and capitalist interest as television, the broadsheets, and the radio. Majority of online writers have managed to maintain their impartiality, and this is something we must continue and even improve upon. Online communicators will also be called to be anointers of Truth in this momentous trial that carries inconceivable political and legal repercussions. It is an opportunity for us to prove that we can provide relevant and unprejudiced reportage on this trial because every word we write means the difference between a reader who is misinformed or one who has been provided sufficient knowledge and insights to make one’s own opinion on Corona and the impeachment. Twenty minutes before the trial, and it’s time for us to step up. Time for us to blog.