The simmering row between the two most popular media networks in the Philippines, ABS-CBN and GMA, on the supposed “contamination” of AGB Nielsen Media Research data shows no sign of cooling down. Each party continues to charge each other with manipulation of information, misrepresentation of sources, and using other propaganda methods. Each claims to be on the side of truth. Many a wit or legal mind has feasted on this greatly publicized bickering, and I don’t think there is any substantial comment I can offer to determine which group is right or wrong. However, I can’t help noting the polarizing effect of this wrangling on our already divided nation, especially among those who base their positions not on critical thinking but on emotional attachment.
This reminds me of the long-running “debate” (“attack and counter-attack” would be a more fitting term) between the Iglesia Ni Cristo founded by Felix Ysagun Manalo (trumpeted as the “5th angel” in Revelation 7.2) and the Members Church of God International headed by Eliseo Fernando Soriano. Soriano, mainly through his TV program “Ang Dating Daan” (The Old Paths), has been training his loudspeaker and pulpit-mounted cannons on almost all religious groups in the Philippines which he considers “false religions.” His favorite target, aside from the Roman Catholic Church, is the Iglesia. Expectedly, the Iglesia, which claims to be the “True Church,” would not take Soriano’s broadsides sitting down. Coming out with their own TV program, “Ang Tamang Daan” (The Right Path/Way), anchored by their own nationally known debaters – their “big guns” and "drones," they have been launching their own counter-strikes using every weapon from their ship's arsenal. Trying to prove their ship unsinkable, they have spent years countering Soriano’s attacks and exposing his supposed “contradictory” teachings.
I watched several episodes of each program and while at first I was entertained, I was later disgusted over the disputants’ hermeneutical gymnastics and unprofessional behavior. Many of their respective fans also seem to base their judgment not on a critical examination of facts but on their feelings and pride in their religious heritage. And I saw that their quarrel isn’t doing the country and Christianity any good – except perhaps the fact that they have unwittingly made their programs a show window of how not to debate and what Christianity is not.
In the same manner, GMA and ABS-CBN’s current “war” can also show us why we should be more discriminating in patronizing their programs, or why we should not allow media to control our worldview and behavior.