Islander in the City by Pablo A. Tariman:

THE STATE OF THE NATION ACCORDING TO JESSICA SOHO

There are many good things going for the three-hour GMA 7’s Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews aired January 22.

It started at exactly 6:15 and wrapped up at 9:15 at which time you realize you have just watched one hell of a TV interview involving at least four presidential contenders.

The presidentiables in the Jessica Soho hit interviews over Channel 7

And the subjects look prepared from VP Leni Robredo, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Mayor Isko Moreno and Sen. Pacquiao.

From beginning to end, the questions were thoroughly fleshed out, honest and thought-provoking.

The exchange was thoroughly rewarding you have no time to look for one missing contender, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who backed out.

For three hours, you heard questions you would not dare ask your subjects in a regular interview.

But the research team of Soho covered a lot of grounds and dug through possibly embarrassing personal issues.

They unearthed the number of times Sen. Pacquiao was absent in the House and in the Senate, the numbers of fights he won and lost and even the number of broken promises of not returning to the boxing ring to focus as public servant.

In the personal record of Lacson, they unearthed the Kuratong Baleleng case and involvement in the Corbito-Dacer murder cases.

Pacquiao was asked about his tax cases and denunciation of the LGTB community; Moreno was reminded of the corruption charges hurled on him by Duterte after his presidential ties was cut off by serious exchanges and Robredo was asked about some feedback (mostly petty) on her lugaw feeding program.

Indeed, the research group shifted through past and present records and pronouncements involving the presidential candidates.

The result left their TV audience agreeing on one thing: that Soho and her research team did their homework thoroughly.

Not only did the team ask relevant questions.

They also elicited reactions by flashing photos of personalities like Duterte, some typhoon victims, hungry Filipinos and jobless families.

One reaction that stood out was when Lacson sighed “Sayang” when he saw the photo of Duterte being flashed on the TV screen.

The subject most discussed by the presidential contenders was the government’s poor response to the pandemic.

They agree the government has done some good things but on the whole, they deplored the slowness of response and why are military people taking over Philhealth and other sensitive government offices that were supposed to be run by men of science?

In the end, all the candidates agreed that corruption and bad governance are the roots of the nation’s problems.

Lacson added: “The government should be initiating moves to solve the nation’s problems. But in our case, the problem is the government. We are in the middle of crisis but the thing is these officials are making money out of the nation’s misery.”

If Soho was prepared, so were her subjects.

Robredo was prepared with her statistics, Lacson was cool and to the point, Moreno’s charm was oozing and Pacquiao was suddenly articulate.

Hearing their response, one could almost feel the TV audiences not minding if any of them won and their earlier choices losing.

That’s how good and decent and spontaneous the presidential contenders were Saturday night.

Moreover, they agreed and disagreed on some points.

They were unanimous on the suggestion that the government should resume peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines and not allow the re-imposition of death penalty. They were also one in endorsing the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.

They disagreed on same sex-marriage but with some tolerating same sex union.

But on the whole, they agreed corruption is sapping the country’s resources.

In the end, the superb interviews and the equally superb answers they elicited became an indictment of corruption and bad governance ailing this administration.

As for Soho, she deserves another citation for a good TV interview.

The state of the country’s talk shows has sunk so low after the disappearance of  good TV hosts who lost the ratings war and pushed to late night slots.

Soho, 57, has certainly earned her credentials and still getting better as broadcast journalist, documentarian and news director.

She is the first Filipino two win the British Fleet Journalism Award in 1998. Her report on a hostage incident in Cagayan Valley earned her the first Filipino to win Best Coverage of a Breaking Story at the New York Film Festival, among others.

Meanwhile, the GMA Network has objected to the statement of the camp of presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that broadcast journalist Jessica Soho was supposedly biased against the Marcoses.

The broadcast giant stressed that throughout her career, Soho has consistently been named the most trusted media personality in the Philippines by both local and foreign organizations. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Marcos has chosen to decline the invitation extended by the network to participate in ‘The Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews. True she asks tough questions mainly because the job of the presidency is equally tough.”

Meanwhile, Boy Abunda is all set to interview Marcos along with four other presidential candidates in the 2022 Presidential one-on-one on January 24 at the Boy Abunda Talk Channel on YouTube.

But truth to tell, that Soho presidential interview Saturday night is a tough act to follow.

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