Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Renewal of Vows

Press Statement
May 31, 2006

Today, colleagues all over the country wear black and gather to silently light candles to remember and honor our dead.

But ours is not the silence of mourning or surrender, but of defiance, and the flames we light our steadfast determination to fend off the darkness descending on our land.

Since 2001, when the power of the people made Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo president, we have already seen 42 journalists murdered, a bloodletting that has far surpassed the combined toll under all her three immediate predecessors.

And lest we forget, this administration, which owes its existence to the supreme will of the people, is the first that has deigned to muzzle the independent Philippine press since the dictator.

Indeed, it is the supreme irony that the democracy we are supposed to have won back in 1986 has claimed more journalists – 79 thus far – than the 34 lost throughout the whole 14-year Marcos dictatorship.

And given this administration’s generally callous disregard both to the killings – not just of our colleagues but of hundreds of dissenters as well – and to the calls for justice and respect for people’s rights and liberties, we are afraid we have not seen the end of this murderous rampage.

But we will not be cowed into mute submission, neither by this government’s indifference nor the dark schemes of those who wish to silence us.

Today, with all our colleagues who join us nationwide, we renew our vow to be the voice of the voiceless, the succor of the dispossessed and the bane of the oppressors.

Our pens, microphones and cameras we consecrate to the cause of restoring the light of freedom and democracy to our benighted land.

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

So much to do/read, so little time

I hardly have time read these days.

I work (meetings, edit, plan, conceptualize, schedule, paperwork, lobby, etc) in the office for 12 hours daily.

I meet with organizations (KCI, NUJP, etc) for plans, activities, paperwork.

Then the various interviews on the phone, in radio and television studios, coffee shops, etc.

There are consultations with friends, consultations for possible projects, etc.

I don't even have much time to write anymore. What's a writer when one's not writing?

There's so much to do. I love doing it. But there's so little time.

Books/reading materials on my table waiting for my attention.

- The latest issue of Newsweek magazine with a Special Report on AIDS
- User's Guide of Nokia N70
- A Survival Guide for Journalists by the International Federation of Journalists
- Abandon by Pico Iyer (I'm half through it after a very dear friend gave it as a gift a few months ago)
- Philippine Human Development Report of 2005 (I've read parts of it, especially those on Mindanao)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

To arm or not to arm

Thank you to friends and colleagues who never tired of reminding me to be always safe.

Thank you to all those who offered security escorts.

Thank you too for the offer of guns.

I continue to believe that the best defense against threats to media and the spate of media killings is the ethical practice of journalism.

I also believe that the government should address these killings and erase the culture of impunity in the murder of journalists.

Every citizen, including journalists, can buy a gun, apply for a license and even ask for a permit to carry. There should be no special considerations if one is a journalist or a politician.

But that is beside the point.

The point is arming journalists is not the solution to the murders of journalists. Government officials who advise that journalists should arm to protect themselves don’t know what they are saying.

There is no point debating whether journalists can arm or not. It is always an individual’s choice. In Basilan, for instance, there are more guns than the population of the island. Still hundreds are killed. Some of the journalists who were killed were armed.

What can one armed journalist do when confronted with five assassins? What can one unarmed journalist do when faced with the same situation?

I admire the bravery and courage of colleagues who arm themselves.

I also admire the bravery and courage of colleagues who continue their work with strength and conviction even without the "protection" of a gun.

Again, thanks to all the armed and unarmed journalists who shared safety tips.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Noun: Good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries

On Writing

Already 40 and still struggling to realize a dream, writing. Sentences without subjects. Just fragments. It's tragic.

There are so many things to write about. There are so many issues. Experiences. Love encountered, lost and regained. Politics that go in circle. Endless thoughts and musings. Stories.

Show, don't tell. Still nothing comes out. Nothing original. Only a retelling of what has been already told.

Writing is a process. We learned that from our mentors. Writing is a commitment. We've read about it. Analyses.

Write about what has been written, what has been said, what has been done or not done.

And nobody's reading.

Then the mosquitoes start humming. Not unlike the helicopter we see in the movies or hear in the mountains.

And reality bites while the mosquitoes sting.

One is brought back to reality. One starts rummaging into old notes that survive the rats and the cockroaches and the termites.

One goes back in time. Reminiscing past adventures. Slowly turning the yellowed notes and the decaying, no, brittle clippings of old newspapers where one's byline is printed in 14-point Times New Roman bold type.

Then the years come back. The places. The people. What happened to them. Where are they now?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hard struggle, simple pleasures

It’s another day of media interviews.

Mike Abe (DZME) woke me up.

What can we do to protect journalists? Is it right to arm? What’s your reaction to the arrest of suspected killers? How do you assess the situation in the country?

These are questions that I have to answer every time a journalist is killed or attacked.

To tell the truth, it’s not that easy.

I have to speak English when interviewed by ANC and foreign media outfits (BBC and Singapore Straits Times this week), Filipino in radio and television interviews, a mix of English and Filipino when speaking before press conferences and interviews with newspaper reporters, Filipino during rallies and demonstrations, Cebuano for Visayas and Mindanao radio and even Chavacano for radio stations in Zamboanga.

There are times that I have to go around Metro Manila several times a day for various studio interviews and fora. I have to walk from EDSA to the ZOE television studio in Ortigas this afternoon under the heat of the afternoon sun.

It’s not easy.

It’s not easy to talk to the families of victims, to the police and to government officials. It’s not also easy convincing colleagues to support the campaign to stop the killings and protest the inaction of authorities.

It is therefore refreshing to have a short break, like passing by PowerBooks in MegaMall and buying “The Last Temptation of Christ,” which I read more than 20 years ago, and the “Love in the Time of Cholera,” which I read more than ten years ago.

I bought the books because I lost my copies a long time ago and the re-issued pocketbook editions are affordable.

It’s been a long time that I have entered a bookstore so I tried my best to hold on to my plastic money and fight the urge to spend. I would have wanted to buy the latest novel of Paulo Coelho, “The Zahir,” and Amy Tan’s latest novel.

Then I had the honor to have tea with someone I really admire and treasure. I could not help but tremble. I could hardly sip my tea or have a bite of the rhum cake. If only the moment would not end.

After the tea and the cake and several sticks of cigarettes bought from a hawker at the corner, I was gifted with a request to demonstrate how to ride a motorcycle.

It was Mount Everest! I felt like Romi Garduce who did not become the first Filipino to reach Mount Everest’s summit but who did his best to have a spiritual journey.

My heart still pulses with excitement. The moment will continue to live. In my heart.

Thank God for the small pleasures after every harrowing day.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

To 'Anonymous'

Here’s a comment I got from an anonymous reader of an earlier blog entry titled “Road Trip”:

“What exactly can you do if you go to Palawan? Will you be able to bring back the life of your colleague? Journalists are all the same: You have messianic delusions.”

Here’s my answer to this unfortunate being:

“I haven't been to Palawan. I want to see the place. Who said I will bring back the life of my colleague? Even Jesus only did it once, for Lazarus. Thank God for the messianic delusions journalists have, morons like you have something to read. I hope you're not as cowardly as you seem to be, hiding behind an anonymous comment.”

Let me add:

The comment of the reader saddens me, more than it peeves me. I pity the person and the people who share the idea.

“What exactly can you do if you go to Palawan?”

I will condole with the family of the victim. Nothing is more comforting for someone who loses a loved one than a sympathetic handshake, a presence of someone who shares the grief, an expression of support even from a stranger.

The reader who wrote the comment seems to have not experienced losing someone he or she truly loves.

One day, dear reader, someone in your family, like any family, including mine, will die. Then you will experience grief and hopefully will treasure a pat on the back, a sympathetic handshake, a presence of someone who shares the grief, an expression of support even from a stranger.

What will I do in Palawan?

I will just be there, if my schedule and resources will allow me. I will see the place. I will talk with people and, maybe, even enjoy the plane ride.

Will you be able to bring back the life of your colleague?


That’s one of the most stupid questions I’ve answered my whole life.

Journalists are all the same: You have messianic delusions.

Not true.

Not all journalists have “messianic delusions.” Some are in the profession for the money, others for fame, others for influence, while others become journalists because they don’t know what to do with their lives.

Actually, my dear, only a few in the profession have “messianic delusions.” And it’s really unfortunate.

Early bird

Thanks to Radio Veritas, I woke up at 5:30 this morning and was able to attend a forum on media killings in Pasay at seven o’clock.

What I personally hate about the spate of killings of journalists in the country is the early morning radio interviews. They always wake me up at 5 a.m. Most of the time, I get the first break of reports from production assistants who call to tell me to “stand by” for a live phone interview. After three to five of these radio interviews I already memorize what to say the whole day for television and newspaper reporters.

What a way to start a day.

It was good to be back in the field. I was reunited with friends and colleagues of more than 10 years after so many years of not hearing from each other. Some have grown thin, others have gained weight. Some have been promoted, while others remain field reporters although transferred to other beats. What’s good to hear is they’re enjoying their lives.

The 777 breakfast forum invited me and my friend Joel Egco to expound on the issue of arming of journalists that became front page story of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Journalists split over issue of arming selves
By Alcuin Papa

Editor's Note: Published on Page A1 of the May 25, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

FILIPINO journalists are divided over the issue of arming themselves after Malacañang remarked the other day that it was amenable to it as a way of stopping the wave of killings of media practitioners in the country.

Joel Sy Egco, president of the Association of Responsible Media (ARM), yesterday said the Palace pronouncement was “most welcome.”

“Finally, they (Palace officials) have come to their senses and have heeded our call to give us a fighting chance when confronted with a violent situation,” Egco told the Inquirer.

He added that “media is also responsible to police our ranks” and get rid of “bad eggs” and irresponsible journalists.

But Jose Torres Jr., spokesperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said his group believed that arming journalists would only beget more violence.

“We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe arming journalists is the right answer to the threats to our lives. It’s just an invitation to more violence,” Torres also told the Inquirer.

At least 79 journalists have been killed, mostly by unidentified gunmen on motorcycles, since 1986 when a “people power” uprising ousted the Marcos dictatorship and restored press freedom in the country, according to the NUJP. More than half of the killings have taken place during the Arroyo administration.

The latest fatality, broadcaster Fernando Batul, was shot and killed on Monday in Puerto Princesa City.

Not work-related

Director Emmanuel Carta, chief of Task Force Usig, told the Inquirer that 31 of the 42 killings involving journalists since 2001 were work-related. “The suspects are those that the victims have written about critically on radio or print,” he said.

He said it was the individual’s judgment call on whether to seek security from the police or to get a gun.

Carta said the killings could also be partly attributed to the large number of “loose” firearms in the country.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has directed the military and police to “look after and account” for journalists, along with left-wing activists and politicians, amid mounting criticisms here and abroad that her administration was purportedly tolerating the killings.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Ms Arroyo issued the order during a security cluster meeting on Tuesday, which was also attended by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and top military and police officials.

Arroyo directive

“She has put her foot down. Her directive is very strong -- let us stop these killings, look after them and account for them. She wants the police and military to hasten the investigations in order to put to rest the spate of killings,” Ermita said in a briefing yesterday in Malacañang.

Egco’s ARM is advocating the right of journalists to bring guns for as long as they satisfy legal requirements. It is seeking strict rules in securing permits and licenses as a deterrent against illegal firearms in the hands of criminals.

Arming media persons should not be the end of the government’s efforts to solve the killings of journalists, said Egco, a defense reporter of the Manila Standard Today.

“We see that the government has neglected efforts to solve the killings. What is needed to help us journalists prevent the killings is to arrest the perpetrators of past killings and bring them to justice,” he said.

Losing end

Torres, online news editor of GMA 7, noted that some of the journalists killed in the past had been armed. “Whether we bring a gun or not, we can still be shot and killed because any suspect intent on killing a journalist will succeed. We are still at the losing end.”

He added: “We are not trained to fight and to kill. We are trained to write and to expose the truth. That’s the job of the police and the military.”

Torres criticized top government officials for their inability to solve the killings.

“While we agree with Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye when he said that the pen is mightier than the sword, we find the statements of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez ironic when he said he is amenable to arming media. It is a virtual admission that the justice system is helpless and inutile to solve the killings,” he said.

The government should instead “look deeper and pursue the cases,” he said.

“File cases against those who are suspects and masterminds, no matter how high their positions are. They should set an example. We challenge Gonzalez to give teeth to what he is saying and investigate and prosecute the killers of journalists and not look the other way,” Torres said.

The justice secretary does not “have the faintest understanding of press freedom” since it was he himself who ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct surveillance on Visayas-based journalists when Presidential Proclamation No. 1017 was issued, he added.

Amnesty Int’l report

Ermita said it was “lamentable” to hear harsh criticisms from local and international groups, including the Amnesty International (AI) which condemned the “climate of impunity shielding the perpetrators,” but the former general and defense secretary shrugged them off as nothing new.

He said the government’s commitment to human rights was engraved in the Constitution, which, he noted, was the only one in the world that included the establishment of a Commission on Human Rights.

In a statement, Bunye said: “The conjectures of Amnesty International are unfair and misplaced. There is no such thing as climate of impunity in the Philippines. We uphold the rule of law and criminal justice will eventually catch up with killers of whatever bent or stripe.”

Bunye said the killings were being investigated and that suspects had already been pinpointed and were being hunted down.

Culture of violence

Reacting sharply to Malacañang’s plan to allow “legitimate” members of media to carry firearms to protect themselves from assassins, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Satur Ocampo was quick to describe it as a “bankrupt idea” as it would perpetuate the “culture of violence” in the country.

“Adopting a policy of arming journalists is an admission of failure of governance,” said Ocampo, who once worked as business editor of the Manila Times before martial law, during a dinner with Inquirer senior editors and reporters on Tuesday.

“Does the government want a country with a large group of paranoid and armed journalists who may end up doing more harm than good?” asked Cavite Representative Gilbert Remulla, erstwhile chair of the House public information committee.

He said arming journalists was not the solution “because this option has long been available to journalists and yet has not deterred their killers.”

De Castro

Vice President Noli de Castro also rejected the proposal.

“Arming media men is not and will never be the answer to the spate of killings of journalists,” said De Castro, himself a former broadcast journalist for 20 years.

He said that no amount of guns could protect mediamen from determined assassins. “In fact, implementing a measure to arm media people may be seen as an indictment of the failure of our law enforcement authorities to maintain peace and order.”

The NUJP spokesperson called on his fellow journalists “to be more vigilant and aware of their safety.”

“The best defense is the ethical and responsible practice of journalism,” Torres said.

“We respect the desire of journalists to bear arms. They have that opinion as long as they follow the rules. But we don’t believe that’s the solution. Journalists are better off being more vigilant of their safety and conscious of their security rather than to bring a gun,” he said. With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Michael Lim Ubac and Cynthia D. Balana

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tag-ulan na naman

Naligo ako sa ulan kanina. Inabot ako sa daan at 'di ko natakasan ang pagbuhos ng ulan. Naalala ko tuloy ang luma kong "post" sa dati kong blog tungkol sa tag-ulan. Heto 'yon.

Tag-ulan na naman, malamig

Tag-ulan na naman dito sa Pilipinas. Pasukan na naman ng mga mag-aaral. Simula na naman ng pagkakamot sa ulo ng mga magulang na ang tanging pangarap ay huwag matulad sa kanila ang mga anak kaya kailangan nilang kumayod para pangmatrikula.

Mag-aral ka, iyan lang ang tangi mong puhunan. Mahirap lang tayo. Ito ang ‘di ko makalimutang pangaral ng aking ama noong ako’y hindi pa marunong mag-brief at tanging kaligayahan lang ang makapanood ng tig-P1.50 na palabas sa nag-iisang sinehan na pugad ng surot sa aming bayan.

Bakit nga ba pinili ng mga matatalino noon sa ating bayan na gawing Hunyo ang pasukan, kung kailan halos araw-araw lumuluha ang langit at nagbo-bowling ang mga anghel sa ibabaw ng ulap. Hanggang ngayon, kung kelan isa-isa nang pumuti ang aking buhok, ‘di ko pa rin maarok ang dahilan kung bakit Hunyo ang simula ng pasukan.

Bakit nga ba parang kaligayahan yata ng mga nakakatanda ang pahirapan ang mga nakakabata. Bakit nga ba kailangan pumasok ng ala-siete ng umaga kung pwede namang alas-nuwebe ang oras ng pasukan.

Tandang-tanda ko pa noong ako’y bata pa. (Oo minsan din ako naging bata at nangarap tumanda.) Hindi pa man sumisilip ang haring araw sa may silangan, nagtatalak na ang aking ina. Kesyo kailangan nang pumunta sa palayan at mamulot ng ligaw na kangkong para ipakain sa baboy, kesyo kailangan mag-igib ng tubig para may pansaing, kesyo kailangang magwalis dahil makapal na ang dahong nagkalat sa silong.

Mabuti na lang ‘di ko alam na child labor pala ang ginawa ko noon, kundi lagot ang mga magulang kong mahal at siguradong demanda ang kanilang aabutin. Aba, mantakin n’yo ba namang ang sarap ng tulog ko mambubulahaw ang nanay dahil kailangan ko magtrabaho kesyo mahirap lang kami at kailangang magsumikap.

E, bakit nga ba ‘di kami mayaman? Lintek na buhay naman. Bakit nga ba kung sino ang naghihirap at nagpapapawis para kumita siya ang walang makaing masarap at walang sasakyang magara.

Siyanga pala, pasukan sa eskwela ang pinag-uusapan. Pagkatapos kong magpaalila, layas na ako papuntang eskwela. Bitbit ang libro’t papel na nakasiksik sa bag na butas-butas, ‘yong gamit ng mga probinsyano sa pamamalengke, o kaya plastic na supot na tanging yaman naming mga estudyanteng probinsyano.

Masaya na ako noon kapag makapagnakaw ng bayabas sa puno ng kapitbahay o kaya’y hinog na kalamansi. Kaya siguro kahit wala kaming makaing mga probinsyano ‘di kami madaling magkalagnat o sipunin kahit dahon ng saging o gabi lang ang payong kapag umuulan. Sa dami ba naman ng nananakaw naming bayabas at kalamansi siguradong overdose na kami ng Vitamin C.

Liban sa pasukan, tag-ulan din ang panahon ng pagpapakasal ng marami sa ating mga kababayan. Siguro dahil masarap makipagyakapan sa gabi habang pumapatak ang ulan sa bubong na nipa o cogon o di kaya’y sa yerong kalawangin.

Pero bakit pati mayayaman sa tag-ulan nagpapakasal? ‘Di naman siguro nila nararamdaman ang ulan sa loob ng air-conditioned nilang mga tahanan. Pauso rin lang siguro, ano po. E ba’t di na lang sa Disyembre magpakasal, medyo mahaba-haba ang taglamig at romantic pa dahil maraming makukulay na parol at memorable ang tugtog kahit sa mumurahing mga radyo na AM lang ang istasyong nakukuha.

Hirap intindihin ng buhay, no? Hirap isipin kung bakit pa lalalayas sa Pilipinas at sa ibang bayan pa maghahanap ng pagkakaperahan na kung tutuusin napakayaman naman ng ating bayan.

Marami kasing kurakot sa atin. Maraming buwaya. Nabubuhay kasi sa tubig ang mga hayop na ito. Lagi kasing umuulan sa Pilipinas kaya maraming tubig, kaya maraming buwaya. Oo nga, mayaman ang Pilipinas kaya maraming mapagsamantala at ang mga maliliit ang laging nasasagasaan. Saan ka ba naman makakakita ng malaking nasasagasaan ng maliit.

Ba’t ba panay reklamo na lang tayo? Masaya naman sa Pinas a, maraming nakakatuwa at nakakatawa lalo na sa panahon natin ngayon. Tingnan n’yo naman, nakakatawang makalipas ang ilang daang taon, ngayon lang naiisip na imbestigahan ang jueteng. E baka nga pati si Rizal at Bonifacio tumaya ng jueteng noong panahon nila.

Pinag-uusapan din ang korupsyon, aba’y reklamo na yata nila Lapu-Lapu ‘yan noong kanilang panahon. Bakit nga ba di nababago ang Pilipinas?

Marami daw kasing reklamo. E yong mga matatalinong may pamasahe papunta sa labas nagsipaglayasan. Ang mga mahihirap na nakapag-aral lumayas na rin dahil ‘di nabubuhay sa bayang walang pagkakataon ang ‘di kakilala ng may-ari ng negosyo o kamag-anak ng mayor, kongresista , gobernador, Ponsio Pilato, demonyo, ewan ko!

Noong bata pa ako, naririnig ko ang mga kapitbahay naming katsismisan ng nanay ko na nagsabing pinaglihi yata ako sa puwet ng manok. Ang daldal ko daw kasi, ang daming sinasabi. Natatakot nga ako minsan na baka hindi totoo ang kwento nila. Natatakot ako na baka may tama lang talaga ako sa ulo kaya marami akong naiisip. Bakit nga ba ang dami kong tanong. Ang dami kong reklamo. ‘Yong iba naman nabubuhay ng maayos na hindi nagrereklamo at ‘di nagsusulat ng kung anong kwento.

Tag-ulan na naman kasi, malamig. Marami kang maiisip ‘pag malamig ang panahon, tulad ng ginataang saging, kamoteng nilaga, tsokolate ni lola, tuba ni lolo, hita ng kapitbahay, problema sa eskwela, pang-matrikula, pangkain, pera, pera, pera, problema sa lipunan, hustisya, kapayapaan, panggugulo ng mga natatalo sa halalan, ewan ko ba ang daming problema.

Ang saya siguro kung ‘di natin naiisip ang problema, o ‘di kaya wala tayong pinoproblema, kung kasama natin lagi ang mga mahal sa buhay, tawanan, videoke, karaoke, at ok lagi ang buhay dahil may makakain ang lahat, libre ang pag-aaral, malinis ang paligid at walang namamatay sa malaria., walang natitigok sa dengue at walang balitang masama. Wala na rin sigurong diaryo. Wow, grabe, mabuti pa si Wowowee nag-asawa ng maganda dahil lagi siyang nagpapatawa. Minsan swerte talaga ng ibang tao, patawa ka lang kikita ka, ‘yong iba nating mga kababayan kailangan magpunas ng puwet ng dayuhan para lang kumita at mapag-aral ang mga anak o mapakain ang mga magulang.

Malungkot na eksena sa aking isipan minsan ang mga kababayan na napipilitang maglaba, magsaing, paliguan at bihisan ang mga anak ng dayuhan para makabili ng pagkain at damit na malabhan ang mga naiwan na mga mahal sa buhay sa sarili nating bayan. Lungkot ‘no? labo talaga ng mundo. Minsan pwede na ring magdasal na lang, baka hulugan tayo ng swerte ng langit. Pero Diyos na rin ang may sabi na ang sinumang hindi magpapawis sa noo ay walang karapatang kumain. E ba’t yong iba, ni hindi pinagpawisan, nakakakain ng masarap?

Siguro kailangan nga nating kumilos, magtrabaho para kumita, para makapag-ipon, para mapag-aral ang mga bata at para mabago naman ang mukha ng ating lipunan, na tayong masisipag, tayong nagtatrabaho ang kumain ng masarap at lumigaya at ‘di lumuha dahil malayo sa kasintahan, sa asawa, anak at mga magulang na gawain na yata talaga ang magtatalak.

Wow, haba na ng litanya ko ng reklamo, baka wala na kayong magawa, sige trabaho na tayo, sa susunod naman.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Notes for a lecture

My notes, based mostly on the introduction of a book on online journalism, for my talk during the national convention of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines in Santo Domingo, Albay, on May 21, 2006.

Communication is critical because it impacts on the social, political and economic conditions of a country

Journalists have become the people’s last hope

Journalism has become a foundation for democracy

Freedom to communicate is the foundation for any democratic entity or institution

John Milton: “Society is best served when different views are presented freely in a marketplace of ideas and the truth emerges through a self-righting process.”

John Stuart Mill: “Suppressing any opinion is robbing humanity of an opportunity to find the truth.”

Inclusion vs exclusion – Journalists must be inclusive not exclusive. We must seek information, ideas and opinions

Quality of life – Journalists contribute substantially to a better quality of life for everyone

Media problems and pressures – media outlets are owned by conglomerates, many not having to do with media

News as commodity – make money, sell news and info as commodity

PR quandary – PR professionals muddle the issue to protect clients


Partisanship – the left and the right try to pressure journalists, media organizations

Personal loyalties/beliefs – make stories slanted/hyped



Objective Approach – accuracy, completeness, precision, clarity in collection of information and dissemination

Journalists should be:

1. receptive to new information and alternative explanations
2. skeptical toward authority figures, the powerful and self-righteous
3. creative in finding information
4. imaginative and consistent in making strategic decisions
5. fair and impartial
6. unwilling to support any political, cultural, social or economic interests
7. honest about personal idiosyncrasies and preferences

Alternatives to Objective Approach

1. public/civic journalism – journalists should participate in social, political and economic process to re-connect to the public life from which many have become disengaged
2. existential journalism – practitioners promote freedom and welfare of others; an orientation to being true to oneself

Media Convergence – merger into one newsroom of TV, radio, newspaper and web

Journalists not only write a story for newspapers but may even read the news on TV or radio, take

Journalists should be adaptable and learn a variety of skills

Lines separating job functions have blurred and can even disappear in the future; newspapers can refer readers to websites to watch streaming video shot at the scene by TV crew and annotated by radio reporters.

What must journalists do?

- Understand social, political, cultural and economic context
- Study and learn to appreciate the importance of free and responsible journalism
- Learn why you cannot assume that problems of media consolidation, profit motive and conflicting loyalties will not affect you or why you should not ignore it
- avoid mistakes like plagiarism (learn craft seriously)
- develop genuine sensitivity to the powerless to understand why their voices should be reflected in media
- think why you want to be a journalist and whether this is a profession for you

Monday, May 22, 2006

Road Trip

I had a long drive over the weekend.

I left Manila around two o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday and reached Santo Domingo, Albay, around four o’clock in the morning of Sunday.

I’ve always loved long drives. I enjoy the countryside. It always reminds me of home. I love to eat in small carinderias along the way. There are hundreds on the road from Manila to Albay.

What peeved me was the torture I had to go through when the drive gets rough. The highway in Bicol, except for the stretch from Naga to Legazpi, is tortuous. I wonder how much the contractors and the politicians earned from the road project.

The agony, however, was lost when, for the first time in my life, I saw Mayon Volcano. It’s just amazing. God really makes wonders. I could not help but gaze at the wonder towering over me while I listen to the sound of waves slapping the shores of Santo Domingo.

And then there’s the music of the wind.

I went to Santo Domingo to talk about journalism to campus journalists. It’s sad that after we happily dream about the future of journalism in the country with the advent of new technologies reality crept hours later with the news of the killing of a broadcaster in Palawan.

Enough is enough, we’ve said in our statement. But I really don’t know what to do. Every time I’m interviewed by other journalists the last question is always “What are you going to do?” “What are your next moves?’ I really don’t know. I would have wanted to say “What have you done?” Aren’t you a journalist too?”

I left Santo Domingo around three o’clock in the afternoon of Sunday and arrived in Manila around three o’clock in the morning Monday. I had a close call with two big buses near Legazpi. Reality, however, hit me several kilometers later. I could have died, I thought.

Early the next morning I was awakened by calls for interviews by radio stations. It was then that I learned that another journalist was killed. I could have died driving. My colleague in Palawan died working for what he believed was right. I owe it to him to get to Palawan.

It would be another trip that hopefully would not have any close calls with fate.

Enough is enough

The Arroyo government may argue until it is blue in the face that a culture of impunity does not exist in the country.

It should tell that to the family of Palawan broadcaster Fernando “Dong” Batul, murdered early this morning on his way to anchor his regular Bastonero program on DYPR in Puerto Princesa.

And to the families of Albert Orsolino, gunned down in Caloocan City on May 16, Iring Maranan, mauled just hours after Orsolino’s murder by San Pablo City, Laguna Councilor Edgardo Adajar in full view of 100 people, including other journalists, and our 40 other colleagues who have lost their lives in the five years since Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power.

With a death toll of journalists that has already far outstripped the 34 claimed by the 14-year dictatorship and the unabated murders of activists in numbers human rights groups say is fast catching up to the Marcos regime’s record, we no longer see how this administration can claim to preside over a society that claims to be the freest in this part of the world.

The murder of Batul happened just three days after UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura warned Friday that, “When violence poses a permanent threat for journalists, it poses a threat to the whole of society.”

“When crimes against journalists remain unpunished, the future of a country is endangered and organized crime or corruption becomes the main beneficiaries of this impunity,” he said.

Indeed, the Philippine National Police itself has acknowledged that, of the 79 killings of journalists since the so-called democratic restoration of 1986, only five cases have been resolved by the courts.

And we stress that, while the killers in these cases may have been convicted, NOT A SINGLE MASTERMIND has ever been brought to justice. Not to mention the fact that, in many cases, the killings may be traced to agents of state security.

We hold Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her administration accountable for the murders of our colleagues under her watch and the increasingly brazen manner in which they have been killed.

For not only has this administration’s inaction emboldened those who would impose on us the ultimate form of censorship – death – it has actually attempted to muzzle the independent Philippine press.

In its obsession with national security and its own survival, this administration has failed to protect the lives and respect the rights of the Filipino people, journalists included, and consequently failed to defend democracy.

To our legitimate demands for justice and security, what we get are empty promises, inutile task forces, and fatuous claims by the likes of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales that “forces out to destabilize” the government are behind our colleagues’ deaths and those of hundreds of activists.

We reject and condemn such facile attempts to trivialize our colleagues’ deaths and make them another pawn in the political games this government plays.

Today, we say enough is enough. We have condemned enough. We have issued statement enough. We have marched in the streets and called government’s attention enough.

Today, we call on all our colleagues to fight back.

Let us cease to be just observers and recorders to the death of democracy.

United, we can fight back the threats to our lives and liberties with the weapon we know best how to use – our profession, our pens, our cameras, our microphones.

We call on the people, the public, the audiences we serve, to stand with us. For the Freedom of the Press we struggle to uphold is not ours alone but the logical extension of the people’s right to free expression and to know from which all other rights emanate.

It is clear that the survival of democracy now rests solely in our hands.

Jose Torres Jr.
Chairman, Commission for the Protection of Journalists
Spokesman/Director, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

Thursday, May 18, 2006

How to survive motorcycle-riding assassins

Some tips from the PCIJ’s book, Staying Alive: A Safety Manual for Journalists

* Keep eyes and ears alert for vehicles, especially motorcycles, following you. A journalist driving his or her own vehicle must constantly check the rear view mirror for signs of a tail.

* When driving on wide lanes or avenues, drive close to the island to prevent motorcycles from approaching or riding abreast. As in the Damalerio case, the killer came from the left and had a clear shot of Damalerio, who was driving. Vary your routes and your schedules. When going home or to the office, take different routes and leave at different times. The easiest targets are those who keep to a predictable schedule and routine. A journalist’s predictable schedule makes it easy for assassins to conduct surveillance and plan a hit.

* Avoid walking in deserted and dark or dimly lit streets, which make you vulnerable to attack. If walking at night, do so facing oncoming vehicles. If you sense you are being followed, run to a place where there are people and call for help. If you think you are being followed, head straight for the nearest police precinct and report the incident to the police. At the end of the day, do not take your tail home with you. Try to shake him off by proceeding to the police station.

* When riding a taxi, constantly check for suspicious-looking vehicles or motorcycles that may be behind. If you think you are being followed, ask the taxi driver to speed up and honk loudly to draw attention, in order to unnerve and shake off persons who may be following you. Ask the driver to proceed to the nearest police precinct and report the incident.

* When riding a bus or a jeepney, avoid waiting for your ride alone. Blend into a crowd of commuters at a bus or jeepney stop. On a bus, avoid taking a seat near an open window where you can be an easy target. Pick a spot behind the driver or near the door for easy exit.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

'Another one bites the dust'

I refuse to write. I have no new ideas. What could I say that would add to the knowledge that we already have.

There are stories. There are many. There’s no shortage for stories. The adventure of discovering one gives me the kick most of the time.

I have plans. I wanted to write another book. I’ve talked to a publisher already.

I wanted to do a follow-up on my PCIJ story on “sex in the kingdom.” Sheila suggested that I could do something on pork and we will title it “Pork in the Kingdom.”

I’ve been busy these past days putting up an office. There’s a lot to worry. There’s a lot to think about. There’s a lot to work on. There’s a lot of angst. But there’s no need to write about them.

Then the news came this morning. Another one bit the dust. Another journalist was killed. A photojournalist was killed right in the middle of the city in broad daylight.

I still have to get details on the incident. The NUJP is still waiting whether the killing was related to the journalist’s work.

Still, it’s sad. What can I say but it’s sad.

There’s too much grief already after 78 colleagues died since 1986. I’m almost 20 years into journalism and almost every year that I spend in this profession someone dies.

People sometimes ask me why I’m into issuing statements, even courting the ire of authorities for challenging them to do something about the killings.

It’s part of the territory as member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. It's our commitment. Somebody just have to do it or nobody will do.

On second thought, I’ve been complaining ever since even when I was just a kid in Mindanao.

I used to complain why we are poor and others are rich. I used to complain why I could not spend late nights with friends. I used to ask my father why I have to join my uncles in the sea in the middle of the night to fish while friends enjoy their vacation or why I have to gather firewood every weekend while my friends go to the movies or go to the beach.

I wrote "poems" then. I wrote about love, injustice and the quest for equality and peace.

Later in Manila, I met other probinsyanos. I found out that most of them have the same questions, the same angst as me.

Why are people killing each other? Why the hate in our hearts. It was during the time of Marcos.

Then the nineties came - Ramos, Erap, Gloria - and the same situation goes on. People are still killed. There are still rebels. Hunger continues to worsen, etc.

There seems to be no end to the complaints.

I don't want to complain anymore. I've done it a thousand times. But I have to speak. I have to. Not because I'm with the NUJP but because somethings is wrong in all these killings of my colleagues.

I was with Malou this afternoon. I asked her if we would use a story on the passage of the juvenile offenders law.

One of our editors said the story is old. Congress passed it a few weeks ago and President Arroyo just signed it Tuesday. There’s nothing new in the story, the editor said.

Malou said we run the story “for the record.”

Indeed we do some things for the record.

Nothing would happen despite all the statements that we issue about the killings of journalists. The killers might be arrested and jailed but the masterminds will go scot-free.

I will do the talking just “for the record.”

But let me also be clear, I am also doing this because I don't want history to remember us, journalists of our generation, that we just stood by silently as the threats and the killings continue.

Someday, somehow, the threats will be on us. My prayer is that someone will dare make a stand for us.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

"It was beauty, killed the beast."
- King Kong