Day 5

Day five is full of surprises. In the morning, I did my routine, calling the police stations in the Southern Police District to find out if any incident of news value can be used for a story. By this time, I’ve figured that police stations were reluctant to disclose information especially if you‘re not a known media personality. They’d claim that nothing had happened even if they’re contradicted by digests from the National Capital Region Police Office. I also learned that it’s better to call them asking for information on specific cases than to ask them for leads. The police officers are more open when you have ready questions and inquiries than when you ask them to give you information which you can develop.

In addition, I also found out that that asking for the Spot Report is a bit difficult because the police can easily claim that they don’t have it with them. Even the blotter containing the basic information miraculously disappears when I inquire about it. I often wonder why my reporter-partner refuses to personally go to the precincts to get the needed information.

For the day, we were scheduled to cover a meeting of the Makati officials tackling the city’s response to the “swine flu” epidemic. It was set in the 21st floor of the new Makati City Hall, a floor shy from Mayor Jejomar Binay’s office. Present in the meeting were city health officials, doctors from the Ospital ng Makati, scientists and epidemiologists all working to safeguard the city from the dreaded “swine flu” epidemic.

The health officials discussed the city’s response in case the virus spreads. They have reactivated their action plan long prepared during the SARS epidemic. The action plan was modified a bit to fit the current situation.  According to Osmak, Makati is prepared to face the virus and that the city has enough vaccines and medicine even for the worst scenario. It added that the Department of Health is still the foremost institution when it comes to curbing the dreaded disease. DOH instructed all health institutions to send all suspected cases to them, with the aim of centralizing the response to the disease.

Personally, I think the action has positive and negative sides. For one, centralizing the response can make monitoring more focused. It can give DOH more control over the infection and the victims. On the other hand, a centralized response can be slower in taking action especially in the far-flung areas in the country.

After the meeting, my reporter asked a number of questions regarding the specifics of the action plan. He inquired on the flow chart if a suspected case was uncovered—which institutions need to be alerted, which will handle the transport and the like.

We went back to the press room in the old Makati City Hall. The reporters discussed a number of points they jotted down during the meeting. They corroborated the spelling of names and medicines for accuracy. Sir Marlon wrote the story, and he asked me to rewrite Mayor Binay’s press release.

The press release was about the hidden agenda in the early retirement of AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano. According to Binay’s statement, the move will benefit the administration in that it will secure the appointment of a “pro-Arroyo” general during the May 2010 elections. Binay was referring to Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit who is now called “the president’s man Friday. I liked my output. It was one of the best news I have written so far.

After writing the story, I had nothing else to do—or so I thought. Around 5:30 p.m., a wing van caused multiple collisions in Pasay city, making breaking news that is high on the currency value, thus very news worthy. The reporters in the newsroom struggled to gather the limited information disclosed by the police on the accident. My fellow interns from the Philippine Star were sent by their reporter-partner to Osmak to get the names of those injured.

I, on the other hand, was instructed by my reporter to ask additional details on the road accident. The police were unable to supply me with fresh details, but I found a very important detail—the wing van was carrying gun powder. According to the police, it was the kind used in fireworks. The detail was added in the story.

After writing the story, everyone in the room was preparing to go home. Sir Marlon, however, said he received information about a “swine flu” victim who was admitted in Osmak. This was an exciting development late I the evening. The reporters frantically confirmed the information. Some called Osmak, the Star reporter asked his interns who were still in Osmak to confirm the report with doctors in their location. After a few minutes, however, they found out that the only person admitted was a woman with symptoms of “Meningo Coccimia,” not “Swine Flu.”

We breathed a sigh of relief because no one wanted to cover the hospital if ever the news was true. It was just too risky. After this last twist, the day finally came to an end. We went home around 6:30, an hour behind our usual dismissal time. 

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