FACTS should never be compromised over ratings.

Much have been said about ABS-CBN’s blunder over the so-called “mysterious flesh-eating disease” which was allegedly spreading from Pangasinan as reported by late-night show Bandila, which shocked, scared, and later on irked the Philippines.

In a February 24 episode of Bandila, reporter Jasmin Romero, in complete scrubs costume, caused alarm over an alleged mysterious flesh-eating disease in Pangasinan. The report connected the incident to a viral YouTube video of a so-called prophet, Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj, who predicted in April 2013 that a typhoon would hit Samar and Leyte and that an incurable flesh-eating disease would spread from Pangasinan to the whole world.

Social media users became jittery and altogether pleaded for prayers. The #PrayforPangasinan became the top trending local topic on Twitter.

But lo and behold! In less than two days, the Department of Health advised people to stay calm, because there was no such mysterious disease, but only a rare skin condition.

So much for Bandila’s ground-breaking revelation.

A few days later, the same netizens who were gathering prayers out of panic mobbed together to bash the TV network. Bandila was criticized for its report which allegedly damaged Pangasinan’s tourism. Its local government even demanded public apology from the news program.

From #PrayforPangasinan it became #PrayforBandila to ridicule the blundering news program.

I can only hope that the case was merely a case of inexcusable negligence on the part of the producers and the reporter of the story. Though humiliating for ABS-CBN boss Ging Reyes, it’s lesser evil compared to the deliberate attempt to deceive viewers for ratings.

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To recall, this was not the first case of journalism malpractice. A good example was the case of top ABS-CBN reporter Alex Santos.

He was sacked or resigned (whichever came first) for allegedly embarrassing Noli de Castro in the latter’s morning radio show, according to a story by Spinbusters, a humor blog known to be critical to erring journalists.

In early 2013, Santos had a scoop about a child who was kidnapped. He covered it and was set for that evening’s TV Patrol episode. But even before the show’s airing, the child had been recovered—a fact Santos was well aware of. But instead of updating his story, Santos went ahead with the original story, most likely planning to have a Part Two of his report for the episode the following day.

The story seemed to have a strong impact on Kabayan De Casto, evident with his lengthy comment on the kidnapping issue and even took it to his radio program the following morning. He interviewed a local official and found out, then and there, the truth that the boy was long found.

Embarrassed, he ordered an investigation and found out that the update on the story was already covered by Santos and that he instructed his cameraman not to surrender the video containing the additional footage. And that was the last we heard of Santos.

Journalists should never sensationalize stories and mislead their audiences.

It is understandable that journalists should be fast in gathering information to compete with their rivals. But more than the ratings, they have an even more important role in the society—and that is to deliver the truth.

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