for something that ABS-CBN hyped up to high heavens, and advertised like anything, there was nothing new or extraordinary about Kidnap, the story of how Ces Drilon and her cameramen Angelo Valderama and Jimmy Encarnacion were abducted in Sulu. in fact, it was so much worse than the standard Correspondents episode that the network churns out weekly, or even a Probe Team segment – which says a lot if you’re familiar with the usually shallow and biased (for big business and hacienderos/elite) slant that these two shows usually take.
Kidnap lacked focus, sold a false sense of truth (or the limited one that ABS-CBN wants to feed us), and really was a perfect example of journalism turned propaganda – and tribute.
the latter being the one thing that’s used to begin and end the documentary.
it starts off by establishing Ces as well-respected journalist, who worked her way to the top, and in the process found herself the head of a team that includes Angelo and Jimmy, both of whom she’s been with to Sulu before, and everywhere else including the Manila Peninsula siege. having established, at least the writers hope, that Ces is no pipitsugin journalist and is in fact at the forefront of the search for truth, they then start on the story of that fateful trip to interview Sahiron, the purported leader of the Abu Sayyaf.
the story is told through the interspersed voices of Angelo, Jimmy and Ces, with the latter insisting that she was warned by her superiors Chari Villa and Maria Ressa that what she wanted to do was too dangerous. Ces insists it was her sole decision to go through with a live meeting (as opposed to just sending go-between Prof. Dinampo with a list of questions she wanted to ask), and that she dragged her team down with her.
and then the show dragged all good sense down with it, too.
for one thing, it started to show reenactments of what Ces and her team went through, which really only meant showing us a group of actors walking through some forest, ending up in some makeshift camp, periodically being threatened with death, and being taken over by fear and tears and prayer. suffice it to say that showing us a random forest was pointless, missing as it did the rough terrain that the team seemed to have suffered through; in fact, showing us reenactments when there was real footage from Jimmy’s camera of life in the camp and of some of the traveling they did on foot, was a poor journalistic decision.
all the docu proved by interspersing the reenactments with real footage was the fact that they wanted to stretch the show, and waste all of our time, really.
and although the docu did have its high point in its use of both Jimmy’s real footage and the recordings of Ces’ cellphone conversations with brother Frank, as well as Ressa and Ces recalling the first conversations that they had about the kidnapping – all of which gave us a new sense of what was going on – this was all it had going for it.
because the truth stopped being the point at that very moment when the docu revealed that a 2-million ransom was paid by Ces’ family before Angelo was released, and at that very moment when Sen. Loren Legarda suddenly entered the picture – the one thing that seemed to have saved Jimmy from a beheading.
at this point, the docu’s chronological telling of the abduction becomes interspersed with a reenactment of Ces breaking down in the middle of the night, complete with a flashback of lighter moments with Jimmy and Angelo. and then Ces in the present, starts talking about taking responsibility, and insisting that she too, die with Jimmy, because she couldn’t let anyone die because of her, she wouldn’t be able to live with herself.
then suddenly, they were free, and all we see is footage that we’ve seen in the news before, with the same story that ABS-CBN has allowed us to know, nothing new, nothing special, just ABS-CBN’s brand of journalism with a penchant for covering up the truth, not revealing it – or at least revealing their interest in big bucks and sponsors and saving face, over and above anything else.
the docu ends with what sounds like a tribute to Ces, where Angelo and Jimmy say they don’t blame her for anything, and they would work with her again, no questions asked; and Ressa talks about why they only gave Ces a 3-month suspension because it’s Ces’ kind of journalism that ABS-CBN stands for and respects.
for more drama, the docu ends with interspersed images of the actors who played Ces-Jimmy-Angelo disappearing from the forest they used as setting, and the real Ces-Jimmy-Angelo disappearing from their seats at the end of their interviews.
in effect, the docu ends with silence. it ends without telling us what led to the team’s freedom from captivity; without giving us a sense of what Loren did or didn’t do; what ABS-CBN paid or didn’t pay; what role the military and PNP played; what technology they used, and at whose expense. it didn’t answer any of the questions we’ve had about the abduction – so much for the public’s right to know.
without knowing it, this uncalled for dramatic ending was symbolic of what it is that this whole show was about: the disappearance of the truths that surround that abduction, and a network’s news and public affairs arm protecting its own interests, conveniently forgetting that at any other time, given any other issue, they would insist on the public’s right to know.
what an absolute waste of time and i imagine, good money. but what does one expect with executive producer and writer Patricia Evangelista, who seems to have been given too much too soon. her brand of journalism – with no clear interviewer or narrative for Storyline, and often self-centered columns in the Inquirer, where she seems shallow and sophomoric more often than not – may work for certain subjects some of the time. but as Kidnap proves, it doesn’t work for everything, and certainly not all of the time.
and then again, maybe Evangelista just proves that she’s perfect for the kind of journalism that ABS-CBN wants to spread around: self-centered, shallow, usually ill-informed, and not at all about the public’s right to know. in fact, as with the case of Kidnap, it’s also quite insulting. what, they thought we would be happy enough with some raw footage and taped conversations? how little they thinkof their audience. how full of themselves they can be.