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Luis Teodoro leads 2019 Titus Brandsma Awards winners

Veteran journalist and activist Luis V. Teodoro leads this year’s recipients of the prestigious Titus Brandsma Awards, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) announced.

The former two-time University of the Philippines College of Communication dean and People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) founding chairperson is named the Freedom of the Press awardee by the the Titus Brandsma Media Center, media ministry of the Carmelite Order in the Philippines.

Teodoro is a CMFR trustee and currently writes a column for BusinessWorld.

“Teodoro is recognized for being ‘a journalist, editor, and journalism educator whose incisive critiques of Philippine media have inspired generations of media practitioners and scholars,’” the CMFR announcement said.

“Many of the latter are now established journalists, editors and media scholars who, in turn, imparted to their audience and students, the ethical principles and the professionalism of the craft of journalism that they have learned from Luis. His sharp analyses in his columns often step on the interests of the powerful and the mighty, and necessarily so as the overall thrust of his media advocacy is a democratized access to information for a learned society,” it added.

Six other journalists are also recipients of the 2019 Titus Brandsma Awards:

  • Ed Lingao, TV5, for Leadership in Journalism;
  • Christian Esguerra, ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), for Emergent Leadership in Journalism;
  • Belina San Buenaventura-Capul, Philippine Information Agency (PIA), for Leadership in Communication and Culture & Arts;
  • Gina Lopez (posthumous), ABS-CBN Foundation, for Leadership in Environmental Communication & Advocacy; and
  • Fr. James Reuter, SJ (posthumous), for the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Esguerra told Kodao he is deeply honored by the recognition.

“I am deeply honored and at the same time humbled by the recognition. But more importantly, may the memory of Titus Brandsma inspire all of us to stay true to journalism’s calling, at a time when press freedom — and truth — are under heavy attack,” Esguerra said.

The Titus Brandsma Awards are given to individuals and groups especially to journalists in print and broadcast media who shares the virtues of Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite priest, journalist and educator who was martyred in 1942 in Nazi Germany’s Dachau Concentration Camp for writing and defending the truth.

Brandsma was beatified by Pope John Paul II on November 3, 1985 and was declared a “Martyr of Press Freedom.”

The award is the Philippine version of the international Titus Brandsma Award given by the Union Catholique Internationale dela’ Presse, the world forum of professionals in secular and religious media.

Former winners of the local Titus Brandsma Awards include Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Conrado de Quiros, Rappler’s Patricia Evangelista, Vera Files’ Yvonne Chua, GMA’s Kara David and Howie Severino, MindaNews’ Carolyn Arguillas and others.

The awardees will formally receive their awards in a ceremonial dinner on October 28, at the SM Skydome, North EDSA in Quezon City.

The award comes with a National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon Abueva-designed trophy. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[The reporter is the 2015 Titus Brandsma Award for Emergent Leadership in Journalism recipient.]

Joma on Gina’s rejection: Reactionaries in Congress won

ENVIRONMENT and Natural Resources secretary Regina Paz Lopez’s rejection by the Commission on Appointments (CA) diminished the prospects of negotiated reforms for a just and lasting peace, National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

Reacting to CA’s 15-9 vote against Lopez’s confirmation today, Sison said “reactionaries in Congress cast a dismal shadow on the prospects of legislation that is needed to enable the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to fulfill its obligations under the CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms) now being negotiated,” Sison said.

Despite widespread support of Lopez’s anti-destructive mining crusade, the 25-member commission rejected with finality one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s most popular cabinet appointments.

“The people are left with no choice but to fight even more fiercely against the big compradors, landlords and the corrupt politicians,” Sison said, blaming “reactionaries” in the Duterte government for Lopez’s rejection.

Progressives also expressed dismay at the development, calling it a victory for mining oligarchs.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said an extraordinary chance to protect the environment and the rights of the people has been squandered.

“Bureaucrat capitalism and vested interests triumph once again in the rejection of the appointment of Gina Lopez,” Reyes said.

Reyes said compromises may have been made along the way and questioned how such a rejection can happen under the Duterte regime that wields the majority in both houses of Congress.

“Big business interests continue to hold sway in the Duterte regime, both in the executive and legislative branches,” he said.

Reyes encouraged Lopez to continue her environmental advocacy even as a private citizen once more.

“We thank Gina for her outstanding service to the Filipino people. She is more than welcome to continue her activist role for the environment, in the mass movement and even in the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP,” Reyes said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

STREETWISE: High stakes confirmation hearing

Streetwise
by Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
On Wednesday 3 progressive cabinet members — Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez, Social Welfare Secrtary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano — are up for confirmation by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA).
They have been twice bypassed by the CA and subsequently twice reappointed in the interim by President Rodrigo Duterte. But because the current CA has approved a rule that a cabinet member may only be bypassed three times after which the CA will have to reject or confirm the concerned official, it appears that Wednesday will be the final showdown.
The backstory to this is very interesting if only because it is so unusual.  Newly elected President Duterte surprised everyone when, even before he was sworn to office, he offered the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) four Cabinet positions.
Pres. Duterte said the four departments he offered to the CPP – Labor, Agrarian Reform, Social Welfare, and Environment and Natural Resources – dealt with the “most oppressed” and that the Left was known to be “the most vigilant” when it comes to pressing national issues. He also related his offer to restarting peace talks with the revolutionary movement under the umbrella of the National Democratic Front of the Philipiines (NDFP).
In response, NDFP Chief Political Consultant and CPP Founding Chairperson Jose Ma. Sison welcomed the offer but said the CPP could not accept any position not until the peace negotiations had reached the point of a comprehensive peace settlement. In the meantime, Sison said the NDFP could nominate people who are patriotic, progressive, competent, honest, and diligent but not necessarily communists.
Upon the NDFP’s recommendation, Pres. Duterte appointed University of the Philippines Professor and former political prisoner Judy Taguiwalo as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Long-time peasant leader and former Anakpawis Party List representative Rafael Mariano became secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The labor portfolio eventually went to former Justice Secretary Sylvestre Bello III, concurrent head of the government peace panel negotiating with the NDFP, while that of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) went to Gina Lopez, a known environmentalist and scion of a wealthy business clan.
The appointment of Leftists and social activists, including former Gabriela Party List prepresentative Liza Maza to the National Anti-poverty Commission, lent credence to President Duterte’s avowal that he too was a “leftist” and a “socialist” even as this became fodder for accusations of his political enemies that the Duterte administration had betrayed the country to the communists.
Policy differences surfaced when the burial of the so-called remains of the Dictator Marcos was allowed by President Duterte at the Libingan ng mga Bayani setting off a torrent of mass protests wherein victims of martial rule and anti-dictatorship activists from the Left figured prominently.  Taguiwalo, Mariano and Maza stood their ground in opposition to the Marcos burial but asserted that this was not sufficient basis for them to resign their posts.
While snide remarks surfaced in social media intimating that the three had sold their souls to the devil, these accusations of cooptation did not gain much traction.  The three have proven to be one of the most hardworking, competent, and upright in the Duterte Cabinet.  They have navigated the perilous course of holding top government positions and being subjected  to myriad pressures and enticements while remaining true to their Leftist principles and continuing to serve their “most oppressed” constituents.
The lines began to be drawn for Sec. Taguiwalo during the budget hearings last year.  Many congresspersons, not least of which were those in the leadership of the House of Representatives, objected to and resented the attempts of the DSWD to ensure that the department’s beneficiaries are those truly in need and not merely “lucky” recipients of patronage politics. A compromise was eventually hammered out: congresspersons’ recommendations would be taken into account and given weight by the DSWD even as the set of qualifications specified by the agency would prevail.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The “honorable” congresspersons wanted ironclad assurances from Sec. Taguiwalo that certain funds they had earmarked for the DSWD would only be spent in their districts in accord with their wishes.  In other words the old pork barrel system was alive and well albeit disguised as an informal arrangement between the head of agency and the “honorable” congresspersons. When Taguiwalo refused to play along, her confirmation in the CA was placed in jeopardy.
As for DAR Secretary Mariano, one of his orders that raised the hackles of his fellow Cabinet members particularly the economic managers, was the DAR proposal for a two-year moratorium on land use conversion. Mariano wanted to put the breaks on rampant conversion of farmlands for residential, industrial, commercial or mixed-use purposes. Not only has land use conversion been a tried-and-tested way to go around land reform, it has even been used to cover up landgrabbing itself.  But apart from frustrating the ends of social justice as envisioned by a series of failed land reform programs, this proposed moratorium is in line with ensuring the country’s food security what with the rapidly shrinking agricultural land devoted to food production.
Needless to say, the big landowners in the country especially the owners of sprawling haciendas and corporate farms are literally up in arms over Secretary Mariano’s unflinching support for the right of the tillers of the land – tenants and farm workers – to own their own plots of land.  Recent attempts of DAR to install agrarian reform beneficiaries in land awarded but forcibly taken from them have met with armed resistance from private security guards and hired goons. In some instances, the police have averred that they cannot help DAR enforce its orders because they are outnumbered and outfirepowered by private security forces.
DENR Secretary Lopez’ decision last February to close 23 mines and suspend five others for breaching environmental standards together with the cancellation of 75 contracts for mining projects located in watersheds constituted a declaration of war against large-scale corporate mining in the country.  For this the country’s mining firms banded together to not only oppose her confirmation, but to file corruption charges against her before the Ombudsman.
Too bad Lopez’ anti-mining stance is popular among a public reminded of the horrendous toll on the environment and affected communities from mining accidents and the over-all destructive effects of large-scale mining operations. Moreover her boss, President Duterte, has continued to back her.
For its part, the NDFP recently stated that it views “in very positive terms the presence of (the three) in the Duterte cabinet”.  Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP Panel chair said, “Ka Paeng will play an important role in implementing a program of free land distribution for poor peasants. Ka Judy will likewise play an important role in implementing expanded social services for the people. Gina Lopez meanwhile has expressed willingness to work with the revolutionary forces in protecting the environment against destructive mining operations. They will no doubt be helpful in implementing a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) that may be agreed upon by the GRP and NDFP.”
The stakes are truly high in the confirmation hearing of the three officials on Wednesday. Will the people’s clamor for meaningful reforms be dealt another serious blow by reactionary interests through their front men in the Commission on Appointments? #
Published in Business World
1 May 2017

NDFP endorses Mariano, Taguiwalo and Lopez confirmation

THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) endorsed the confirmation of three Rodrigo Duterte cabinet secretaries a few days before their final Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing by Congress.

In a statement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they look forward to continue working with the three officials in the framework of peace negotiations and achieving meaningful reforms to benefit the Filipino people.

“The (NDFP) Negotiating Panel views in very positive terms the presence of DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Secretary Gina Lopez in the Duterte cabinet,” Agcaoili said.

“Their inclusion bodes well for the entire peace process as they would be in a position to help push much-needed socio-economic reforms,” he added.

Mariano and Taguiwalo were NDFP nominees to the Duterte cabinet.

Mariano, Taguiwalo and Lopez have all been previously bypassed by the CA and will get their final chance at confirmation at the Senate on May 3, Wednesday.

The NDFP said Mariano and Taguiwalo will play an important role in implementing a program of free land distribution for poor peasants and in implementing expanded social services for the people, respectively.

Lopez on the other hand has earned the underground group’s admiration for her strong stance against destructive mining.

She also recently expressed willingness to work with the New People’s Army in protecting the environment, generating eco-friendly livelihood in mining affected areas and attending the formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

“They will no doubt be helpful in implementing a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) that may be agreed upon by the GRP and NDFP,” Agcaoili said of the three.

The NDFP likewise warned the officials’ removal from office “by reactionary interests” will run counter to the people’s long-standing desire for reforms in government.

Meanwhile, activist groups launched a social media campaign since yesterday calling for a rally at the Senate on May 3 in support of the three secretaries.

“There is an urgent need to show broad support for the progressives in the Duterte cabinet and thwart plans by the CA to confirm only those who wish to uphold “business as usual” politics. It is not every day that we have cabinet officials who truly work for the interests of the people and defy well-entrenched elite interests,” the online appeal said.

“Let us amplify the call to confirm Judy, Ka Paeng and Gina. Join us also in the mobilization and gallery trooping on May 3, 9am at the Senate,” it added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gina Lopez to Joma’s invitation to the peace talks: ‘Yeah, I’ll go’

ENVIRONMENT and Natural Resources secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez said she is willing to attend the formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Asked for her reply to NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison’s invitation for her to attend the next round of formal talks, Lopez said, “Yeah, I’ll go.”

Sison earlier invited Lopez to the formal negotiations following her pronouncements she loves the New People’s Army and that she considers them selfless people only on the lookout for the welfare of poor Filipinos.

“The desire of Gina Lopez to work with the NPA for peace and development is welcome by the NDFP.  It is directly related to the environment, agrarian reform and rural development now being negotiated under the substantive item Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms,” Sison said on his Facebook account.

“It will be fine if Gina attends the fifth round of formal talks,” Sison Added.

But Lopez said she wants to be confirmed first by the Commission on Appointments before attending.

“But if I don’t get confirmed, what will I do there? I have to have papel,” she said.

She added that she would also want to attend the formal negotiations with completed eco-tourism projects she could already present as viable alternatives to destructive activities such as mining.

“What I would want to do is to create models first than just talking.  What I would like to do is to work with the NPA and create models where we get people out of poverty in like six months to a year.  Then I’ll go talk to him (Sison): ‘Sir, look at what we did here. What if we do these everywhere?’” Lopez explained.

Lopez also said GRP President already knows her plans.

“Oh, yeah (the President knows). I like the President.  He is really matapang (brave),” Lopez said.

Environment Protection, Rehabilitation and Compensation is Part VI of the ongoing GRP-NDFP negotiations on socio-economic reforms, along with Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (Part IV), National Industrialization and Economic Development (Part V).

According to their April 6 Noordwijk Aan Zee Joint Statement, the parties said they will start negotiating on Part VI of the socio-economic reforms agenda. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP STATEMENT: No excuse for Sec. Lopez’s treatment of Businessworld reporter

Statement April 7, 2017

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemns Environment Secretary Gina Lopez’s totally unjustified behavior toward Businessworld reporter Janina Lim, who she cursed and maligned Thursday for simply doing her job.

It is doubly unfortunate that Ms. Lopez, the scion of a family intimately involved in media, should justify her boorishness toward Ms. Lim by blaming one of the qualities indispensable to being a journalist – persistence.

A recording of Ms. Lopez’s tirade captured her berating Lim of being “just a f—ing employee” and asking the reporter why she did not have a “heart for the poor.”

Ms. Lim was simply asking Ms. Lopez to elaborate on her order for miners to set aside more funds apart from what they are required to contribute to a “rehabilitation fund” for formerly mined lands but the DENR secretary berated Lim and another colleague, telling them: “You know, you guys should do your work, but why don’t you have a heart for the poor? Where’s your heart?”

When Ms. Lim tried to follow up, Ms. Lopez turned on her and said: “You know you are so young and you’re already bought by the greed and selfishness.”

It was at this point that Ms. Lim finally answered Ms. Lopez squarely, saying: “I was not bought, Ma’am. I was not bought. Thank you. Thank you.”

Ms. Lopez subsequently sent a message to Businessworld attempting to explain her side. If anything, however, she only helped indict herself even more.

She claimed she was late and rushing to a TV interview when accosted by Lim in a stairway and was piqued because she had “often been irritated” by the “line of questioning” of the “young and persistent reporter.”

“She was not the best person to meet while rushing for an appointment. So I lost my cool with her,” Ms. Lopez said in her message to Businessworld.

She also attempted to blame Lim for recording “a repartee that took place in a stairway” that, she claimed, should have been “left in the privacy for which it is meant,” even hinting the whole incident seemed to be “like looking for some kind of hole to punch.”

When does being “irritated” by a “persistent reporter” give a public official or anyone else for that matter the right to verbally abuse them?

If, indeed, Ms. Lim had consistently and persistently shown objectionable or offensive behavior in the course of her work, Ms. Lopez could easily have communicated this with the reporter’s superiors and asked that the situation be rectified.

And no, Ms. Lopez, what happened was not “repartee.” It was a legitimate attempt by a journalist to interview you on an issue related to your work and, thus, of public interest.

If you were, as you claim, in a hurry because you were late for an interview, you could have simply said so or even ignored the question. Instead, you actually took the time to stop and insult Ms. Lim and, worse, belittled her for being “just a f—ing employee,” as if honest toil were something to be ashamed of.

Ms. Lopez, your zeal for the causes close to your heart can never justify your despicable treatment of Ms. Lim. If anything, such a mindset, which brooks no questioning or dissent, is anathema to democracy.

We demand that you apologize to Ms. Lim and pledge to be more open to questioning. This is the least you can do. #