MANILA, MARCH 30, 2007 (STAR) By Luchi Cruz-Valdes, Head, ABS-CBN Current Affairs & News Production - So much has been said about the "bad news syndrome" afflicting News and Current Affairs Programming. Public officials especially turn onion-skinned when they’re portrayed in a manner not in accord with their PR plan. So they instinctively turn on the messenger. That’s us journalists. It’s a good thing we’re not onion-skinned. Only scared. Except we make a point not to show it.

A line in my favorite Disney movie, The Lion King, goes something like this: "Being brave doesn’t mean not being afraid. It means doing what you have to do despite being afraid."

That’s what we hope Filipinos will be in this coming electoral exercise. Be brave. And recognizing that ordinary citizens — equipped with cell phones — now have the power in their hands to document evidence of fraud when it happens before their very eyes, we offer a venue by which they can show this evidence by broadcasting their SMS, MMS, and email reports through our election advocacy campaign, Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo.

In the three weeks since BMiPM was launched, hundreds of brave souls have come forward with their stories, chiefly, to hold their local public officials accountable for undelivered campaign promises. The list of promises made is simply jaw-dropping. You would think these local officials — from the "bokals" to the congressmen and mayors — were running for President!

Consider these: a 100-kilometer stretch of highway, a hospital, a state-of-the-art water and sewerage system, a public market rivaling a mall, higher wages for the local police force, a cleanup of a network of city esteros, a cleanup of a 10-hectare dumpsite, school buildings in every barrio of every district — a perfect Philippines!

Alas, these candidates of the last elections, who are now the elected public officials running for reelection this May, seem to have nothing but excuses to show for their non-deliverables. When we asked one official what he had to say about his unfulfilled promise to put up a hospital, he said, "E malay ko bang ganon pala kamahal magpatayo ng ospital? P42 million. E hindi tuloy inaprubahan ng konseho."

Another local official, asked about his campaign promise of a grand public market rising from the ashes of an old one, said, "Ha? E, papanong mapapako ang pangakong yun e wala naman akong pinapangakong ganon. Baka guni-guni lang nila na nangako ako nang ganon."

Yet another who promised to keep his city clean and environment-friendly, but is now being made to account for a Payatas-like dumpsite that seems to have sprung right in the middle of a residential area during his watch, is saying, "Aaminin kong hindi ko rin malaman kung papaanong nangyaring nagkaroon ng dumpsite diyan. Pero ngayong nariyan na yan, e, malaking pondo ang kakailanganin para malipat yan sa ibang lugar. E hindi natin alam kung saan manggagaling yan…"

Hmmm. Not reassuring answers, you will agree. But nobody is surprised. What surprised us more here in the ABS-CBN News is that despite the disappointing alibis, the voters who texted or emailed us their BMiPM complaints could not stop thanking us for telling their stories. It’s as if they were relieved of a burden they had been carrying all this time but had no place to unload it to. Catharsis, you might say. If nothing else, it’s one of the "good things" TV News does fairly consistently — just being able to uncover a truth even if there is yet no positive resolution for it.

But for us, these BMiPM contributors experienced more than just a catharsis. They experienced an epiphany; a realization that they possess the God-given right and the power to hold their elected officials accountable. And BMiPM afforded them that opportunity.

(The Boto Mo, IPatrol Mo column from ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs appears every Friday for the duration of the election coverage.)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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