Don’t commit—that’s my ‘secret’

By Alex P. Vidal

“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.” — Sammy Davis, Jr.

ONE of the best “techniques” and principles I have maintained over the years as a major leverage to my “staying power” in community journalism is I DON’T COMMIT, or I have never committed to any politician or men and women in uniform in the city, province, region, country where I have been—or as long as I am—practicing my profession.

“Don’t commit” means never ask favors—unless it’s a matter of life and death—and don’t show any shred of weakness or a penchant for sycophancy.

In big public events and gatherings, I have this inviolable habit and rule to always avoid any chance for photo ops, “selfie”, and group pictures with the bigwigs and the who’s who that would suggest we are close (or feeling close? “Uh, feeler” or felingero). Unless needed and necessary.

Group photos and “souvenir shots” are sometimes wracked with unscrupulous contractors, terrorists, plunderers, womanizers, ten percenters, illegal gambling and illegal drug operators, pimps, scam artists, false prophets, faith healers who accidentally became elected and appointed public officials and who happen to be invited or present in the event and, presto, became “associated” with anyone courtesy of those fabulous “selfies” and photo ops.


When these ruffians and louts are caught committing misconduct and grave indiscretions while in office, members of the press “associated” with them via the photo ops and “selfies” will find it difficult to deliver a lethal blow or critical news and commentary especially if a “special relationship” has evolved as a result of that grand and festive group picture.

I greet “dignitaries” and shake their hands, unsnarl a small chat if needed out of courtesy and respect for their positions and standing in society, but I walk away or distance myself from the coterie thereafter.

I don’t pretend, cultivate, or inculcate an illusion these big shots will muster enough patience—and pretensions—to waste a precious time and keep me in their company for a long tete-a-tete. Again, unless needed and necessary.

“Committed” or commitment to any person in authority means a media practitioner has become “indebted” because his relationship with the persons in authority as the subjects of his news has been compromised because of the nurtured personal affinity and familiarity.


If we “commit”, we become beholden, and our effectivity and credibility will be altogether stymied and disabled.

We try to avoid a very tense, uncomfortable and disastrous situation where an erring politician or public official, police and military officer for that matter, accost and rib us for writing or broadcasting critical comments and reports against them despite those stupendous favors they have given in the past.

“Why did you hit me (in your newspaper or TV, radio station)? I thought we’re friends?” “Did your family enjoy the lechon de leche you solicited for your eldest son’s birthday party?” “In your next trip to Macau and Bali you can drop by my office again (and your pocket money will be ready).” “I have forwarded the appointment papers of your sister-in-law in the human resource department.” Etcetera.

It is important that a media practitioner remains independent in the conduct of his profession socially and professionally; and, if possible, in all aspects of his career, especially if he is an active purveyor of truth and information in the community he serves.

Do not commit to anyone except yourself. By maintaining your independence, you remain in control — others will vie for your attention, and you can play one side against another, screams Law 20 Robert Greene’s 48 Law of Power.

According to this principle, we’ll get respect if we refuse to commit to a person or group, so let us not commit to anyone.


We will be powerful because we’re unattainable by either side. The more independent we appear to be, the more people will want us on their side. Desire is contagious — when people see that someone else is desired, they want to get in on the action too.

However, if we commit, we will instantly lose our luster and will no longer be desired and sought after.

When people are courting our support, they’ll use many tactics, including gifts and favors, to create a sense of obligation. Let’s accept the gifts if we want to but we should not feel or accept any obligation.

Let’s not offend anyone or appear to be averse to commitment. Let’s focus instead on keeping others excited and interested in us and hoping for an alliance. Let’s play the game for our own advantage, but we must not commit to anyone.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)