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Walking on landmines: Toni Gonzaga’s Bongbong Marcos interview

By Joel Pablo Salud Published Sep 15, 2021 5:41 pm Updated Sep 15, 2021 5:46 pm

Conducting an interview is like walking through a minefield. 

There’s simply no way to survive the explosive fusion of half-truths and outright lies if the interviewer has no idea where the triggers are. Early research is key. One grows up early in the journalism profession—painfully, I might add—knowing this crucial lesson.

There is also the matter of devoting one’s platform either as a lens to expose the truth or a smokescreen to further deceit. In the battle for hearts and minds, safe spaces in-between simply do not exist. Even for the sake of sheer unadulterated entertainment.

We are in the middle of an unspeakable sociopolitical maelstrom. The little people can do to further the spread of truth, using their platforms, may just be what we need to change our unfortunate trajectory as a nation. 

The trick is not only to ask the tough questions, when opportunity presents itself, but the right ones as well. A scintilla less and we’re looking at our own road to perdition, a downward spiral from which any chance of survival would be nil.

Toni Gonzaga’s recent interview with Bongbong Marcos on Toni Talks is a good example of what to expect when the subject for the interview is as volatile and explosive as the son of the former dictator.

To treat controversial personalities with kid gloves is to be totally ignorant of the responsibility an interviewer carries on his or her shoulders, and the interviewee’s capacity to answer tough questions.

Truth to tell, I found the close to 30-minute conversation quite condescending, if not stale on the whole. Ms. Gonzaga seemed to assume, wittingly or unwittingly, that the son of former Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos cannot by any chance answer tough questions on the matter of his father’s dictatorship, martial law, the family’s unexplained wealth, and the desaparecidos. 

The man is 64 years old, a senior citizen, and largely a veteran in the political scene. There is no indication at all that his mental faculties are not intact. He grew up in Malacañang during his father’s term, and had served as senator for six years. At 23, he was elected vice governor of his province. His stint as a public official runs a lengthy 17 years. 

To treat controversial personalities with kid gloves is to be totally ignorant of the responsibility an interviewer carries on his or her shoulders, and the interviewee’s capacity to answer tough questions. 

Even worse was the sly assumption that Bongbong Marcos will always live under the shadow of his father. If I were the younger Marcos, I would consider it quite an insult, as it would always be an insult to anyone not to be treated as his or her own person at this point in their lives.

Several minutes were dedicated to reminiscing the life of the former President up to his last hours in office. These stories have been told and retold through the decades following the dictator’s ouster. What else is new?

What about Bongbong Marcos? What is he up to of late? How serious is he in running for higher office in 2022? He already lost to Leni Robredo in the race to the vice presidency, thus, how could running in 2022 be any different? 

If elected into office, which I doubt, would Mr. Marcos be brave enough to apologize on behalf of his father? What about the victims of atrocities during martial law? Would lending them further assistance figure in his political platform? 

Would BBM, as he is called, persist in following the footsteps of his father, the latter being the instigator of martial law? Furthermore, why does BBM insist on denying the charges against his family on his Twitter account? 

How much would he be spending to win the race? Does his campaign machinery possess the wherewithal? What would be the source of the campaign funds? 

I have more questions than Mr. Marcos could probably provide sure answers to.

If you’re making your enemies angry, you’re doing a good job, Mr. Marcos said to Ms. Gonzaga. It’s a truism that is not generally accepted in all situations. The atrocities are well-documented, including legal charges affirming ill-gotten wealth. 

The criticism and charges against them are not a product of demented minds, so-called “enemies,” out to politicize and sensationalize the brutal martial law years. 

To be fair, Toni Gonzaga is not a journalist. She’s an entertainer at best, no matter how she goes out of her way to reinvent herself.

On Nov. 2018, former First Lady Imelda Marcos was charged by the Sandiganbayan Anti-Graft court with seven counts of graft for the creation of foundations in Switzerland while she sat as First Lady and governor of Manila. The foundations served as recipients of illegally funneled wealth from 1978 to 1984. That carried the overall sentence of 42 years in prison. 

I would love to hear Bongbong Marcos’ thoughts on the issue of his mother remaining out of prison. Did the Sandiganbayan lie to the public? 

To be fair, Toni Gonzaga is not a journalist. She’s an entertainer at best, no matter how she goes out of her way to reinvent herself. 

And as an entertainer, she’s more liable to entertain than ask questions the way journalists should. Toni Talks, while on the whole amusing, is no better than a vlog post where anyone—controversial or otherwise—can spill their antics while bereft of any sense of responsibility to the public. 

Because in the end, one must ask: what was the purpose of her interview with Bongbong Marcos? Would a controversial figure like BBM need a Toni Gonzaga to further his goals? If at all it’s worth mentioning, Mr. Marcos’ Twitter account boasts of close to 900,000 followers. Ms. Gonzaga’s is a few thousands shy of 150,000. 

If Ms. Gonzaga’s objective was to give the man his chance to explain himself against questions surrounding his family and candidacy, then she should’ve asked the right ones. Twirling them down to slam book questions only sent alarm bells ringing.

By refusing to ask questions that mattered, Ms. Gonzaga has stepped on a landmine. Blasts of such magnitude can either maim or teach her a lesson or two on the art of the interview. 

The choice is hers to make.