By Lindley Agustin
US-based Filipino journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas is nearly a whistleblower, except for the fact that he himself is culprit. In his essay published in the New York Times last June 22, he revealed what was unlikely to a Pulitzer Prize recipient and writer for the country’s major newspapers — that he belongs to the millions of American residents who are undocumented immigrants.
He spilled a can of worms, of hopes, and of loopholes. It is not only a debate whether what he did was right in terms of journalistic ethics, but debates on accountability, the dynamics of American politics and the state of Philippine society.
The issue on ethics is done. Though the code made by the Society of Professional Journalists speak that “journalists should admit mistakes and correct them promptly”, he was one responsible journalist. Having a profession which involves public trust, it is inevitable this issue would be raised. But this conversation leads to nowhere. Journalism has an entirely different set of ethics far apart from other forms of ethics. Leave it.
Leave it but focus on what it brought to America. Like how Philippine senators felt it awkward upon knowing we are the only ones in the world without divorce, a U.S. senate committee has started hearings on the “DREAM Act” on June 28. Finally. The act grants amnesty and citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, if they finish higher education or serve in the military. After Vargas surfaced, a Mexican who crossed the boarder illegally also did -– a valedictorian from Arizona State University.
Many Filipinos have already fought for authentic Green cards but weren’t heard. What awakened them was when people who American considered as “gifts” admitted to be aliens. Too late.
Call Vargas a propagandist, he only did right.
It also leads into reading another list: on the number of undocumented immigrants and how many of them are actually Filipinos. It taints the culture. In the first place, there would never be a huge number of Filipino immigrants if pasture as green as that in other nations is found in the home country. The tendency for Filipinos who are unemployed is to resort to migrating to U.S., particularly, with a tourist visa, work and remain as aliens. When they return home, they can never come back. Which is more comfortable?
Ethics tells journalists to give voice to the voiceless. In his statements, he did not become less of a journalist. It is a sacrifice as much as it is an opportunity for people looking for a better life.