There’s a war on, and it’s not just between the government and the various armed groups that have been fighting it for decades. The war is also within the political system—between the administration and what should be its loyal opposition.

It’s a war of increasing viciousness untempered by any rules, and heavily dependent on the collaboration of the mass media, where the major battles are being fought.

Their commercial orientation and a muck-raking tradition that sells newspaper copies and boosts ratings have made the mass media vulnerable to exaggerating unproven claims and making mud-slinging and character assassination the stuff of which “news” is made. But much of the media’s enthusiasm for sensationalism is also drawn from a culture that in most cases demands neither rigorous proof nor reasoned analysis, and in which rumor often passes for fact, and the worst about public figures believed.

The first flows from a weak intellectual tradition, and the uncertain standards of public discourse. The second comes from experience, which over time has taught many Filipinos two lessons: first, as the clich

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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