Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bookfair 2008

After a night of music Friday evening, I went to the MOA-SMX for the annual Philippine International Bookfair.

This year's buys include:

Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech (Craig Silverman)
Turning Back the Clock by Umberto Eco
Peeling the Onion by Gunter Grass (Biography)
Rumi's Spiritual Verses
Visnu Sarma's The Pancatantra
Don Marquis'The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel
Infotopia by Cass Sunstein
Essential Whitman
Jason and the Golden Fleece (Apollonius)
Burmese Days by George Orwell
People before Profit by Charles Derber

Friday, September 12, 2008

US elections

US Embassy officials here in Manila did a great job holding a briefing on the US elections for media practitioners. (Despite our being a former colony of the US, it's amazing to know that many of us don't even understand the politics of our colonizers!)

One reason may be why we also don't understand our own politics or how politicians play with us.

Although I was an hour late for the presentation, I enjoyed the question-and-answer portion of the briefing. I realized that indeed Filipinos still have to read a lot to understand a lot - not only US elections. (Some questions were just wacky!)

On another note, I was reading about Palin's candidacy in the Wall Street Journal and was impressed by how she readily answered the issues raised against her. I still have to read the latest issue of Time where she is the cover girl.

By the way, I was glad to meet old friends this week. First, my dear friend Mujiv celebrated his birthday yesterday with a lot of food. (I only ate the shrimps and crabs, with no rice!)

I had another dinner last night with Fr. Bong Dilag to discuss possible projects that could help the Claretian congregation's mission in the Philippines. Arnie, another former seminarian is also in Manila for a ten-day visit, hopefully to share his blessings with our brothers still in formation.

Well, I'm excited to visit the annual book fair this weekend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On the libel case vs staff of the defunct Chronicle

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility released the following news article that summarizes the details of a Court of Appeals decision on the libel case filed by a businessman against the staff of the defunct Manila Chronicle.

Saying it would have "a devastating and catastrophic effect on the freedom of speech and of the press," on 28 August 2008 the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed its 18 March decision which upheld a guilty verdict for libel on the staff members of a defunct newspaper.

In its 10-page decision, the CA's Special Former 15th Division granted the petition filed by the staff members of the defunct newspaper "Manila Chronicle". The newspaper staff had asked the appellate court to reconsider its 18 March decision which upheld a 2002 Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) ruling ordering them to pay businessman Alfonso Yuchengco P101 million (approx. US$1.9 million in 2002) worth of damages and legal fees.

The appellants-respondents included The Manila Chronicle Publishing Corp., owner Robert Cuyuito Jr., and editors and reporters Neal Cruz, Ernesto Tolentino, Noel Cabrera, Thelma San Juan, Gerry Zaragosa, Donna Gatdula, Raul Valino, and Rodney Diola.

The "Manila Chronicle" filed a motion for reconsideration before the Court of Appeals questioning the 8 November 2002 decision of Makati RTC Branch 136 finding them guilty of libel. The libel case stemmed from a series of articles published in November and December 1994 in the paper, calling Yuchengco a "Marcos crony" and a "'corporate raider' who engaged in dubious financial transactions," the "Philippine Journalism Review" reported in its December 2002 issue.

In its 18 March decision penned by Associate Justice Agustin Dizon, the online news site GMANews.TV reported, the appellate court denied the "Manila Chronicle"'s motion for reconsideration, saying there was a "preponderance of evidence" to prove there was actual malice in the publication of the articles. It also said the newspaper failed to get Yuchengco's side, and that Cuyuito abused his power as chair and owner of the newspaper to publish defamatory reports against Yuchengco. Cuyuito and Yuchengco are both in the insurance business and were allegedly battling over the ownership of Oriental Petroleum and Mineral Resources Corp. at that time, GMANews.TV noted.

However, on 28 August, the CA's Special Former 15th Division said it found no actual malice in the articles. "The records are bereft of proof of actual malice on the part of the defendants-appellants for the imputations made in the subject articles," said the decision penned by Associate Justice Amelita Tolentino, as quoted by the newspaper "The Manila Times".

It also recognized that the previous decision put aside the appellants' arguments that the articles fell under privileged communication as stated in the Constitution and that its subjects are of public interest, the "Manila Times" reported. The "Manila Chronicle" reports involved publicly listed companies like the Benguet Corp., the Oriental Petroleum and Mineral Resources Corp., and the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., which are of great interest to the general public especially small investors, the "Manila Times" reported.

It further noted that the 18 March ruling neglected to note that Yuchengco is a public figure who has served in various government posts, the "Malaya" newspaper said. Yuchengco has been the presidential adviser on foreign affairs since January 2004.

The CA explained that this makes "good intention and justifiable motive" and truth acceptable defense, "Malaya" reported. "The interest of society and maintenance of good government demand a full discussion of public affairs. Complete liberty to comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the case of free speech. Men in the public eye may suffer under the hostile and unjust accusation (but) the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience," the decision pointed out. - CMFR

Election season

The election season has started in the Philippines.

In the middle of the storm right now is the most vocal presidential contender Manny Villar.

Villar has been accused of having a hand in the "road-to-nowhere" controversy that Senator Panfilo Lacson wanted to investigate.

In fairness to Lacson, also a presidential contender, he only called on Villar to look into the possible anomalous allocation of funds in the road project.

Ironically, Villar issued a statement Monday that he wanted the proposed 2009 General Appropriation Act to pass closer scrutiny in both houses of Congress.

And while all these political storm brew in Manila, people in Mindanao, especially in the autonomous region, are leaving their homes for fear that they might be caught in the middle of armed clashes between government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


There’s this new computer software dubbed SpinSpotter, which I tried but failed to make it work this evening.

The idea behind the new software is to spot biased news stories on the Net.

If it will just work properly it would be a great help for journalists, editors especially, to spot errors in stories. It will also help readers “read between the lies” in media.

A story in the Wall Street Journal today said the software is supposed to flag and comment on questionable content using a guide to potential inaccuracies and biases created by a panel of journalists.

I installed the program on my desktop (Note: It only works on Firefox 3.1) and tried to flag stories on GMANews.TV. I thought that it would automatically lock into errors (for instance a sentence that is in the passive form), but it is the user who has to highlight the error and identify it.

I haven’t fully studied the program, but the idea is interesting.