KAPAMILYA, kapuso, kapatid, mga kababayan ko,
I hope this letter finds you well, amid the threat of the coronavirus pandemic that has been threatening the lives of people around the world. This global health crisis has truly disrupted our lives and livelihoods, financial stability, families, culture and traditions, and our chance to visit our loved ones back in the Philippines.
Our relationship goes back to more than three decades, one generation to be exact.
Before watching me every day anchoring the news on “Balitang America” and co-hosting with Atty. Michael Gurfinkel on “Citizen Pinoy” on The Filipino Channel (TFC), many of you have been giving me the honor to be in your homes when you watch TV or listen to radio via ABS-CBN.
Many of you grew up watching me on Tatak Pilipino, Hoy! Gising!, TV Patrol, Compañero y Compañera, Headlines, Pulso, etc. You were my avid listeners of my DZMM radio commentary programs like “Relos Reports” and the legal public service program “Companero y Compañera” with the late Sen. Rene Cayetano.
Our relationship evolved when social media gave us the platform to exchange perspectives on Facebook and via my opinion column “The Fil-am Perspective” since 2009.
As the anchor of “Balitang America” — the first daily newscast for Filipinos in America — for 12 years, our news team delivered you the news following the principles of objectivity, fairness and precision in giving you the information that we need to know to make informed decisions as citizens of our adoptive country.
We had a good relationship, you trusted me and our team for more than a decade. A lot of you even became my good friends. We enjoyed and learned from each other with mutual respect as we talked about the issues that matter to us and our community.
During the eight years of the Obama presidency, my column was more on presenting to you the conservative and liberal perspectives of issues being talked about nationally, and many of you even ask me what my personal stance was on certain issues, but I declined to oblige because I did not want to be deemed as favoring one party over the other, cognizant of the credibility I have earned for decades of anchoring the news. I respect policy differences between parties, and I did not have an issue with the character of President Barack Obama, who has proven to be a decent, honest, and hardworking public servant.
But leading up to the 2016 elections, something happened. The discourse on social media became viler and more toxic, with many people hiding behind anonymity, spewing attacks against people who did not share their opinions.
Things turned out for the worse with the election of President Donald Trump. For the first time in my professional life, I have witnessed how the president of the United States — the bastion of democracy in the world — has been demonizing the news media for doing their sacred obligation to hold government officials accountable.
For the first time in my career as a journalist, we have seen the truth being bent by no less than the president himself, in a very tactical malicious way with the intent of spreading misinformation and sowing division among the people.
We in the news media were caught flat-footed in responding to this development. On one side, we remind ourselves to be objective, fair and just. But what do we do when day in and day out, we hear lies and deception from Trump himself, his administration, and the Republican Party? Do you give a megaphone to anybody who lies? Do we amplify the distortion of the truth?
Then I am reminded of our scared responsibility as journalists — and that is: to TELL THE TRUTH. The citizens we hope to serve can only make informed decisions based on the truth, and we will be doing them a disservice if we do not hold our government officials accountable.
Hence, I have made the decision to call out President Trump, his administration and those in the GOP when they spread falsehoods and peddle conspiracy theories. I have determined fairness, objectivity, precision, and justice — they are all anchored on the TRUTH, and it is my responsibility to report that to the public.
I have received a lot of vile criticisms as a result. Many attacked my character and labeled me “Fake News,” consistent with how Trump wanted it to happen so his followers and fans would not believe the truth that we are revealing. Unfortunately, not all journalists are committed to the truth, therefore, about 40% of the American people live in an alternate universe, created by Trump. Therefore, they have been indoctrinated by the Trump propaganda machine, FOX News and One America Media, among others.
We are facing the most consequential election of our time. Trump has betrayed the country when he failed to live up to his sacred oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people because of his own personal and political agenda.
I am not the anchor of “Balitang America” anymore since late July of 2019. I am an opinion writer for the Asian Journal, which allows me to share my views independent from the news they share. I am a human being, a woman, wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister and friend, and I have been privileged to have earned the respect of the people who know me and my commitment to the truth. I will remain relentless in sharing that with you conscientiously because we are all in this together.
I am not here to grow my fan base nor to fish for followers on social media. I am here to heed God’s calling for me to help people by sharing with them what is really going on so they can discern their actions and responses to the demands and crossroads of our time that will chart our collective history. I want to look at my children and grandchildren in the eyes; I want to look at myself in the mirror when I grow old; and face my Creator when He asks me what I have done with the gifts He has given me to fight for the truth in service to mankind.
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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at [email protected], or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.