“You’ve gotta understand–when you interview someone, it’s not an interrogation. It’s not the Nuremberg Trials.”
By Alex P. Vidal
IF we have TV and broadcast journalists in the Philippines who ask questions like Fox News’ Chris Wallace, brash-talking and fire-spewing Filipino politicians like President Digong Duterte like Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla would also be reduced to a sputtering, sweating mess like what happened to U.S. President Donald Trump recently.
Wallace’s combative interview with Mr. Trump on “Fox News Sunday” earned him almost universal praise for his willingness to real-time fact-check and push back against some of the mercurial American president’s wrong and ridiculous claims.
As of this writing, that sensational interview, viewed by almost six million televiewers, continued to be the talk of the town.
We could only gnash our teeth as we watched the tense interview imagining how Mr. Duterte, et al would wiggle out vis-a-vis a Chris Wallace-type interviewer in the Philippines.
Who would that Pinoy Chris Wallace be?
Would there be one—or would any Pinoy journalist dare to be one, in the first place?
Because of their usual sycophancy and probably fear of Mr. Duterte, most TV and broadcast hosts in Metro Manila would normally ask leading and safe questions rather than risk pissing off the lion during press conferences and studio interviews.
Even if they would sound friendly and their subservience was broadly pronounced, most Pinoy TV and broadcast journalists still could not escape from Mr. Duterte’s expletive-laced diatribe and insult.
Against a Chris Wallace-type “inquisitor”, Mr. Duterte might meet his match—and probably Waterloo.
Wallace, who was also critical of the Obama administration, came armed with statistics to challenge Mr. Trump arguments about the mortality rate and testing for COVID-19.
A flustered Mr. Trump responded: “I’ll be right eventually” after being asked by Wallace to respond to clips of him making too-rosy predications about the spread of the coronavirus.
“No one works harder on an interview,” Associated Press quoted University of Maryland’s Bettag, the longtime producer of ABC’s “Nightline” when Wallace would occasionally sub for Ted Koppel as host.
“He goes over and over on questions. He consults with as many people as he can. Most of all, he studies what his subject is likely to answer. He did a great interview because he worked his butt off getting ready.”
At one point, Trump denied it
When Wallace asked, “Why on Earth would your administration be involved in a campaign to discredit Dr. (Anthony) Fauci?” Mr. Trump denied it.
The intrepid American TV host then showed Mr. Trump a copy of an anti-Fauci cartoon shared on social media by a White House aide.
Wallace also kept many of his questions direct, less easy to slip away from: “Is the Confederate flag offensive?”
“Would you consider a national mandate that people need to wear masks?”
“Why wouldn’t you … send more money so the schools would be safer?”
Wallace’s Filipino counterparts definitely have learned a lot from that swashbuckling one-on-one interview with the U.S. president.
IF the Western Visayas Regional Task Force (RTF) on COVID-19 and Regional Inter-Agency Task Force did not make an appeal, both Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas and Bacolod City Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia would still not have lifted the border restrictions they had earlier imposed one after another.
When Treñas issued a travel ban earlier for people crossing Iloilo City and Bacolod City, Leonardia followed suit “primarily in reciprocity”.
The lifting of travel bans from both city mayors occurred after RTF spokesperson, Atty. Roy Villa, had called for a meeting with various government agencies to address the issue where they agreed to make an appeal to both city mayors.
While travel restrictions were seen as one of the most effective means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from one city and province to another, economists were saying the local economy would be in the losing end as it would prevent and delay the transfer of basic goods and commercial commodities, in this case, in the islands of Panay, Negros, and Guimaras.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)