GMA 7’s 24 Oras in a Post-Colonial Lens

For a number of years, the Philippines have been colonized by different nations around the world producing a melting pot of cultures, traditions and races. Our identity as Filipinos has been greatly influenced by the Spanish, American, Japanese and even our neighboring countries because of our openness in accepting their cultures. Now in the era of globalization, we are still in the arena wherein our very own culture and tradition is adopted from the more powerful cultures in the world. And media, being a product of this union of cultures, is not spared from its influence.

Media reflects the society. Or it can be the other way – society reflects the media. These two have an interconnected relationship. Both society and media have sprung up from the culture and history of the people. Media products, as created by the same society, reflect and shape this growing culture and tradition from which the society lives in.

Having this privilege, the media has goals and purposes for existing. One of which is to deliver information, information that needs to be known by the concerned public. Because of its relatively wide range, especially broadcast media, the heterogeneous audience becomes aware of the different scenarios happening around the world. Through news and public affairs programs, daily news are produced, aired and consumed by the viewing public.

24 Oras is the flagship news program of GMA 7. It airs every night with a primetime telecast at 6 PM. With the GMA News tagline, “Walang kinikilingan, walang prinoprotektahan, walang kasinungalingan, serbisyong totoo lamang”, 24 Oras has received a number of awards and recognitions for delivering news in the most objective and unbiased manner as possible. But being a product of the society’s culture, 24 Oras is not spared from the influence of the oppressors, the colonizers of a number of years and the globalized culture that exists today.

News, even though it is supposed to be objective gathering and delivering of factual and relevant information is still subjected to the influence of the culture, the Filipino, post-colonial culture we have at this time of day. 24 Oras’ feature on the recent Jennifer Laude case is to be taken as an example.

Jennifer Laude is a transgender allegedly murdered by an American Navy in the town of Subic in Olongapo. American Navy ships were not allowed to leave the country to investigate on the case. These Americans were in the country for a Joint-Military Exercise in Palawan which is a part of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the America.

In the first place, why does VFA exist?

Visiting Forces Agreement exist to keep America in power. It needs the Philippines in housing their weapons and in training their army for the possibility of a war (which I think US will create to sell their weaponry industry) in the future. VFA exists also to expand their power over us. We become their subjects of power. In a way, giving them the privilege of ‘owning’ an area in our land, is a concrete justification that America invades us… but this time with our consent. This further strengthens the influence America has over us. We become their mimics.

All of these are not shown in the news. Issues concerning VFA were not highlighted because we accept Americans. We accept that America is in the Philippines to help us maybe in our future endeavors in the economic field and even in the security that we lack of. We need their help in keeping us safe from the ‘other’ invaders (which ironically they are not part of) like China in the Sabah case. We also accept that the America is supreme and all that America is good. They are here for our ‘own’ good – because America is our mother and we are its children.

We do not see, and in the case of broadcast news, deliver the ‘truth’ – that America uses us, our cheap natural resources and labor… that America controls even our government and our justice system (in Jennifer Laude’s case and even in the similar case of Daniel Smith and ‘Nicole’ in 2005), that all America wants is to have power over us. We do not see it in the news. 24 Oras doesn’t give us that. It just lays down the facts, the narrative of Laude’s death, her body position in the comfort room, the number of condoms used, etc. All that 24 Oras has given to its audience is the facts… the numbers but not the reasons, the whys of this unfortunate murder of our compatriot.

In the news, Jennifer’s case joined the headlines. For a number of days, it remained in the headlines – may it be on print, radio, TV and even on the internet. I’d like to believe that it is because Jennifer’s story matters. But other reasons might be because it sells. It is an ironic thing for an American (who is all good) is going to kill not a man, not a woman, but a “transgender”, which in its nature is also controversial for the majority who are conservative Filipinos.

Jennifer Laude’s case and how the media covered it is a reflection of how we glorify the America. It has been done before and we must all act to not let it happen again. The media being the watchdog and mediator between the state and its people has the responsibility of shaping their minds, of giving them the right lens for these kinds of scenarios. Media does not only reflect but it shapes people’s minds that will lead to tables turned around.

Works Cited:

GMA Kapuso Shows. “24 Oras – October 13, 2014 FULL”. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa0kiPSM6kg (2 November 2014)

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