A couple of months ago, The LaSallian ran an editorial on former President Ferdinand Marcos, whose scheduled burial at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani (LNMB) was the talk of town at the time. The former dictator, remembered by many for the atrocities and human rights violations rampant during his rule and by some for his contributions to the country, was reported to be given a hero’s burial at the LNMB.
Our editorial on the matter emphasized, as clear as day, our stance on the matter: Duterte’s reasoning for the burial at LNMB was flawed, and the burial will be a mockery of and insult to justice in a country that supposedly champions democracy and freedom.
When we posted a link to the published editorial on our Facebook page, which on a good day has a reach of roughly 150,000, it was to be expected that not everyone would agree with our editorial. Of course, an editorial isn’t an editorial without its detractors—those with legitimate concerns and those who cry foul at every little detail they deem biased, or, as keyboard warriors would incorrectly point out, “bias.”
When I saw a particular comment which scrutinized our editorial, questioned our writing, and, ultimately, called us biased and anti-Marcos, I didn’t know what to think of it originally, but it did make me stop for a moment and think. And this is why I write this piece now.
Editorials are newspaper articles that are supposed to express the editorial board’s informed opinion on an issue, which I would like to think is exactly what we did when we published the article on the Marcos burial. It presented a view against the Marcos burial, but I feel our stance wasn’t unfairly written nor our views unfairly presented. The piece was complete with several links to the sources we used, including the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the Official Gazette of the Philippines.
It was simply expressing the board’s informed opinion (that the burial is an insult to our country which prides itself in advocating democracy) on an issue (the Marcos burial at the LNMB). To back that opinion, the editorial told, among other reasons, numbers of people detained, tortured, disappeared, and killed during the Marcos rule, which portrayed a grim picture of the dark days under Martial Law.
When I first started dabbling in campus journalism when I was younger, I was always reminded by my mentors that news and opinion pieces could and should stay separate entities. In the olden days, there used to be no separate opinion page, and opinion columns and editorial articles were printed together with news articles. Today, we are fortunate that most newspapers have a separate page for op-ed articles.
While at first I was quite displeased at the reaction the editorial elicited from the public, I realize now that it shouldn’t have been the case. I realize now that, of course, readers aren’t supposed to agree with anything and everything that we say within our pages. We merely exist to report, inform, and, perhaps most importantly, to provoke. And report, inform, and provoke, we did. Even if that means being called biased in the process, I’ll take it—because our job as writers is to stimulate critical thought.
If readers quite clearly disagree with what we write and what we publish, then I’ll take it as a success for our publication, because we write with the goal of reporting, informing, and provoking. Only when we engage our readers to be critical, to examine what we publish, and to effectively formulate stands of their own can we truly say that we are the bastion of issue-oriented critical thinking.