Media 101: Lesson One for Gov’t Execs

Government officials should STOP making statements to the press if they don’t have the facts to back them up. Especially if (a) their statement is sensational and is thus very likely to be further sensationalized by the press and (b) their statement will make them look stupid.

Dr. Delfin Tamamao, Cordillera Regional Director of the Department of Education, is our exhibit number one. In trying to explain the region’s reduced student population he reportedly said: “Sexual and psychological abuse, even within the family, has contributed to this [drop in enrolment].”

Huh? Really? Any proof? None! Dr. Tamamao said that his office still has to come up with a research to back up his observation. Note to the good doctor: Don’t put the cart before the horse. It is best to conduct the research first before you come up with your observation.

Expectedly, Sunstar published a news report headlined: “Drop in enrolment due to sexual, psycho ‘abuse’”. In a separate news item in Manila Bulletin, Dexter See wrote: “[C]ases of sexual and psychological abuse or maltreatment were also reported to have contributed largely to the decrease in the number of students in secondary schools in the Cordillera.” (Emphasis mine.)

Largely? As in what percent of young people in the Cordilleras not going to school are not doing so because of sexual and psychological abuse?

The effect of the director’s statement is that he depicted the Cordilleras as a region of child abusers. That was my impression anyway when I read the SunStar and the Manila Bulletin stories. This is not to deny that child abuse exists in the Cordilleras. I’m sure it does and we should not hide it under the rug.

But does child abuse happen to such an extent that it becomes one of the reasons that an education official should highlight to explain the drop in student enrolment? I highly doubt it. If ever Dr. Tamamao conducts his research I doubt if more than five percent of his respondents would say that they are not in school primarily because they are being abused.

To be fair, Dr. Tamamao offered other explanations for the drop in enrolment such as poverty and migration. Unfortunately for him, the media focused on the child abuse angle. Unfortunately for him, I’m now questioning his statements in this blog. But why should we not? He painted the Cordilleras in a bad light. And he did so without any factual basis for his sensational statement.

So what lesson do we draw from this? Government executives should be factual. And personal impressions are not facts.

2 thoughts on “Media 101: Lesson One for Gov’t Execs”

  1. I recall reading this article. It’s unfortunate that there still exist cases of abuse in the Cordillera but to attribute the decline in children going to school is not true. We (DSWD-CAR) do monitor cases of violence against children and women but we have not noticed any indication that the cause was due to violence. Not unless we missed it…

  2. Hi digital,
    Thanks for confirming my argument that the decline in school enrolment should not be attributed to child abuse. I agree with you that it is unfortunate that abuse of children is happening in the Cordilleras and in other parts of the country. Its really sad.
    By the way, I hope DSWD-CAR continues to blog about its programs in the Social Focus blog. It is very informative and it does a very good job of telling us about what the government is doing the area of social welfare.

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