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Media group to reporters, protesters: You are not each other’s enemy

A media organization reminded colleagues to go beyond traffic and disruption in reporting on protest rallies as it urged transport organization Manibela not to treat reporters as enemies following an altercation in Quezon City last Monday.

In an alert last Wednesday, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Metro Manila Chapter (NUJP-MMC) said it encourages fellow reporters to focus more on those accountable for problems instead of sectors who are fighting for their livelihood.

“Colleagues are encouraged to go beyond the narrative of traffic and disruption and report on why protests are held in the first place. These inputs will help better inform the truth that we report,” the NUJP-MMC said.

The media group however said that violence or threats against reporters have no justification, adding Manibela could have set a dialogue with Gonzales or file complaint with his newsroom if they object to his kind of reporting.

‘Perwisyo’?

DZRH radio reporter Val Gonzales said he was hit by protesting jeepney drivers while covering their rally in front of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board office along East Avenue.

Gonzales complained he was reporting that Manibela was causing a traffic jam while occupying the road when approached by some protesters who “hit his back.”

“They punched me as Manibela members rushed toward me because I was reporting the truth,” Gonzales said in a live report on the incident.

DZRH reporter Val Gonzales (in red shirt) confronting protesting jeepney drivers. (Grab from Johnson Manaba’s x)

In his report, Gonzales used the Filipino word “perwisyo” (from the Spanish original perjuicio) in describing Manibela’s protest action against the forced surrender of their driving franchises under the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program.

Manibela chairperson Mar Valbuena however disputed Gonzales’ claim of physical harm despite the reporter “provoking” and “insulting” them immediately before going on air.

“He insulted and cursed at members of Manibela saying they should be jailed due to the inconvenience caused before he went on air for the DZRH program,” Valbuena said.

Valbuena said their members only approached Gonzales to talk to him.

The transport leader said he has apologized for the incident, adding that Manibela respects journalists and that he hopes the latter will do the same for them.

ABS-CBN reporter Johnson Manabat’s post on X shows Gonzales being protected by a DZRH colleague while angry-looking Manibela members were trying to get to him.

Not each others’ enemy

Gonzales said he already talked to the Quezon City Police District on the possible filing of a complaint against Manibela members.

The Presidential Task Force for Media Security (PTFoMs) said it denounces the incident, adding will assist the reporter in filing a complaint.

DZRH station manager Rudolph Steve Jularbal said their network will press charges against those involved in the “punching” of their reporter, saying the incident was harassment and a violation of press freedom.

The Defense Press Corps (DPC also condemned the incident, saying the violence was “unjustifiable.”

The Philippine National Police, Justice Reporter’s Organization, Quezon City Journalists’ Group Inc., and Southern Metro Manila Tri-Media denounced the incident.

NUJP-MMC said it reached out to Gonzales who reportedly replied he would soon provide further details of the incident after consulting with his legal counsel.

NUJP-MMC added that despite high tensions and emotions at protests and rallies, the media should not be regarded as the enemy nor should reporters treat protesters as enemies either. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Lipunan, hindi lang sarili’

By Alfonso Tomas P. Araullo

(This is former Kodao contributor Atom Araullo’s Keynote Speech to Philippine Science High School’s (PSHS) 2024 Graduation Ceremony on June 8, 2024 in Quezon City. The multi-awarded journalist is a PSHS alumnus.)

Bakit nga ba espesyal ang Philippine Science High School? Special ba talaga kayo? Tayo? Ano sa tingin niyo?

Tayo ay mga Iskolar ng Bayan. At bilang mga Iskolar ng Bayan, kailangang isapuso ang mga responsibilidad na kalakip ng inyong nahasang talino at mga natutuhang kakayanan sa buong panahon ng inyong pag-aaral sa Pisay.

While here, you received the best possible science education that our country and our gifted teachers can provide you. Samantala, sinuportahan at itinaguyod ng buwis ng mamamayang Pilipino ang inyong edukasyon at mga kagyat na pangangailangan upang matuto at umunlad.

Itinuturing na premiere science high school ng bansa ang Pisay (palayaw ng PSHS–ed) . Bagamat nakararanas din tayo ng mga pagsubok sa ating pag-aaral, hindi maipagkakaila na mas mapalad pa rin tayo kumpara sa milyun-milyong kabataang Pilipino na walang computers, laboratoryo, o kahit mga libro, at pumapasok sa mga eskwelahang binabaha, parang pugon sa init, o ubod ng sikip.

So special ba tayo? Masasabi kong oo. Special dahil sa inyong angking galing at talino na angat sa karamihan, pero special din dahil nalinang ang ating talento dahil sa suporta ng mamamayang Pilipino.

Now here is a hard truth. After feeling special in Pisay, many of us will feel completely normal and ordinary before long. Maraming dahilan dito. Nagbabago ang ating pananaw sa mundo, nag-iiba ang ating mga prayoridad, nadadagdagan ang mga iniisip, nagkaka personal na problema. Ang ipinagmamalaki nating academic achievements, maaring kumupas, at ang pinanghahawakang nating mga talento, maaring magbago. Pero ang hindi mawawala, ang responsibilidad natin sa bayan. What makes us special is not our achievements, but our contribution to society and the common good.

Mga minamahal kong graduates, wag natin kalimutan na ang ating katalinuhan at galing, hindi lang dapat inilalaan sa pag-abot ng sarili nating mga pangarap. Sa isang lipunang kaliwa’t-kanan ang mga suliranin at problema, napakalaki ng papel na kayang gampanan ng mga siyentista at inhinyero para magkaroon ng makabuluhang pagbabago.

Members of the Philippine Science High School Class of 2024. (FYT photo)

Ano nga ba ang papel at tungkulin ng mga siyentista sa lipunan?

Una —ang gamitin ang kaalaman para sa kabutihan ng nakararami.

Napakayaman at napakalawak ng kaalaman ng mga siyentista. Sanay at bihasa sila —kayo —sa pagsasaliksik. Marunong kayong maghimay at magsuri ng impormasyon sa maraming larangan na may direktang epekto sa buhay ng mamamayan, gaya ng industriya, agrikultura, medisina, transportasyon, at iba pa.

Ano ngayon ang gagawin sa lahat ng kaalamang ito? Marami. Maraming-marami at higit pa dapat sa pangarap na magkaroon ng magandang sweldo o magkamal ng yaman para sa iilang makapangyarihan at malalaking korporasyon.

Magagamit natin ang kaalaman upang baguhin ang buhay ng maraming nagugutom, naghihirap, at salat sa mga oportunidad upang umunlad. Pag sinabi nating “for the common good,” tinutukoy nito ang karamihan sa mga Pilipino na kapit sa patalim at napagkakaitan ng mga batayang karapatang pantao at serbisyong panlipunan. Sila ang dapat pinaglilingkuran ng ating kaalaman at pagsasaliksik.

Isa pang tungkulin ng mg siyentista: lumubog sa mamamayan at makiisa sa kanila. Ano ang ibig sabihin nito? Mahalagang masaksihan at maintindihan ang mga pagsubok na dinaranas ng ating mga kababayan. Sa ganitong paraan, malalaman natin kung ano ang mga kailangang baguhin. Pakinggan natin sila, alamin ang kanilang mga pananaw at opinyon, lalo’t sila rin ang bihasa sa sitwasyon sa kani-kanilang mga pamayanan.

Palawakin ang inyong mundo lagpas sa apat na sulok ng silid aralan —o apat na sulok ng computer screen for that matter. Sa college, sumali ako sa iba’t-ibang student organizations —naging punong patnugot ako ng aming college publication, sumali ako sa UP Mountaineers, at bumuo ng isang football club kasama ng iba kong mga kabatch sa Pisay. I wanted the full student experience, at alam kong hindi lang ito nagtatapos sa pagsusumikap na makakuha ng magagandang grado sa eskwelahan.

Di nagtagal, at kahit walang kaplano-plano, naging bahagi ako ng University Student Council at naging aktibista sa UP. Wow, what a cliche, di ba? Feeling ng mga tao pugad ng mga tibak ang UP, pero ang totoo, maliit na bahagi lang sila ng komunidad, dahil malaking responsibilidad rin ang pagiging student leader.

Hindi ako mangingiming sabihin na dahil sa pagiging aktibista, lumawak ang aking pananaw sa mundo, at lumalim ang pag-unawa sa papel ng mga kabataan at mas malawak na mamamayan sa adhikaing magkaroon ng pagbabago. Nag organize kami ng mga educational discussion, mga concert, nag room to room, minsan napapakanta at napapasayaw pa nga para makatawag ng atensyon sa mga mahalagang issue. Nakipamuhay kami sa mga informal settler communities sa Metro Manila, at maging sa mga mahihirap na magsasaka sa kanayunan. Oo, sumali rin ako sa mga rally noon. Minsan na ring na-tear gas at binugahan ng water canon. Nakulong pa nga ako sandali matapos kaming damputin ng mga pulis sa isang kilos protesta sa Pasay. Pinagsisihan ko ba ang mga ito? Hindi. Kung tutuusin, proud pa nga ako.

Ang mga natutunan ko sa yugtong ito ng aking buhay, ginagamit ko pa rin ngayon, hindi lang bilang isang mamamahayag, kundi isang scientifically-trained na mamamahayag 😉

Alam niyo na marahil na mula nang grumadweyt sa kursong Applied Physics, medyo nagbago ang aking landas at napunta ako sa larangan ng journalism. Sabi nga nila, life really takes you in unexpected directions. Hindi man ako naging ganap na scientist o engineer, nagagamit ko parin ang mga itinuro sa akin ng siyensiya araw-araw: ang maging mapanuri sa pag-iisip, masinop sa pagkuha ng impormasyon, wag agad maniniwala sa mga sabi-sabi, at higit sa lahat, wag matakot kwestiyunin ang mga bagay-bagay, kahit taliwas ito sa pinaniniwalaan ng marami, kung sinusuportahan ito ng ebidensya.

Sa kabilang banda, wag din naman tayo magdunung-dunungan. Aminin natin kapag hindi natin alam ang sagot sa isang bagay, at tanggapin din natin pag tayo ay nagkakamali. Ganyan magpakumbaba ang mga tunay na scientist. Alam natin na hindi tumitigil ang pagkatuto.

Sa aking trabaho lalo ko pang nakita kung gaano kalalim ang mga problemang kinakaharap ng ating bansa, kung gaano karami ang naghihikahos, at kung gaano kahalaga ang mga siyentista, o kahit man lang yung kultura ng siyensya sa ating lipunan. Partikular na naka-aalarma ang learning poverty na aking nasasaksihan saan man ako magpunta.

Alam kong nabasa ninyo ang mga news report tungkol sa napakababang reading and comprehension levels ng mga Pilipinong estudyante. Oo pumapasok sa eskwelahan ang mga Pilipino, pero natututo ba sila? At ano nga ba ang itinuturo sa atin? Magagamit ba natin ang mga leksyon sa silid aralan para paunlarin ang ating sarili at upang magkaroon ng mas magandang kinabukasan?

Sa totoo lang, napakaraming maling pananaw at pag-unawa tungkol sa mahalagang mga usapin ang patuloy na lumalaganap sa ating bayan. Atrasado o mababaw ang pag-unawa natin sa mga isyu ng civil, democratic, at human rights. Dahil na rin dito, tinitignan pa rin ng marami na maling tuligsain ang katiwalian sa pamahalaan, o ang magsalita laban sa pang-aapi at pang-abusado.

Ang isang mamamayang mulat sa kanyang mga karapatan ay hindi papayag na ang mga ito ay yurakan. Ang isang Pilipinong may pagpapahalaga sa karapatang pantao ay hindi papayag na abusuhin siya o ang kanyang kapwa Pilipino ng kahit na sinong nasa poder ng kapangyarihan.

Naniniwala ako sa galing ng bawa’t isa sa inyo dito. Ang hamon sa atin ngayon —maging mga guro rin ng lipunan.

Palaganapin natin ang tama at siyentipikong impormasyon tungkol sa climate change at kung bakit nag-uugat ito sa pang-aabuso sa kalikasan, ganid ng malalaking korporasyon, at kawalan ng pakialam sa kalagayan ng ating mga gubat, karagatan, at baybaying dagat.

Palaganapin natin ang mga paliwanag tungkol sa ugnayan ng makabayang pagtindig para sa ating karapatan sa West Philippine Sea at sa pagtatanggol ng ating mga coral reef, marine biodiversity, food security, at kabuhayan ng mga mangingisda.

Maisingit ko na rin, sana palagi rin tayong updated sa mga nangyayari sa daigdig at sa kalagayan ng mamamayan sa ibang bansa. Sana alam natin ang ugat ng mga gera, bakit patuloy ang pananakop sa mga bansa kagaya ng Palestine, at bakit kahit ilang beses na nagtipon ang mga gobyerno ng daigdig, gumagapang pa rin ang sangkatauhan patungo sa kawalan o extinction dahil sa climate change.

Kayong mga kabataan, kayong mga future scientists, engineers, mathematicians, at environmentalists can advocate for policies that promote social equity and environmental justice. You can influence decision-makers to implement policies that protect marginalized groups and ensure equitable access to scientific advancements which, in turn, will help society as a whole.

Tao bago pera. Lipunan at hindi lang sarili. Pursuing your dreams and ambitions is important. Still, this should not come at the expense of societal responsibility.

Based on my personal experience, integrating personal goals with a commitment to social good can lead to a fulfilling career. My hope, is that in some way, however small, my work is making a positive impact and a difference. That is the sum of my ambitions.

In closing, my appeal and request to the Graduating Class of 2024, and perhaps even to all our teachers and officials present, may we all use our learning and expertise for the betterment of our society. This underscores a fundamental aspect of being a responsible and ethical scientist, a responsible Filipino.

May we make it part of our plans and goals to frequently engage with communities, seeking to address inequalities, advocating for just policies, and balancing personal ambitions with a commitment to the common good. As scientists, engineers, architects, artists, writers, we all can make significant contributions to our country, and by extension the world and humanity.

Panalangin ko na lang na abutin natin lahat ang panahon na kaya nating sabihin na lagi’t lagi, pipiliin natin ang Pilipinas, at sa pagsabi natin nito, hindi na tayo matatawa, maiiyak, o masasaktan, kung hindi ay masayang maninindigan. To the class of 2024, gawin natin ang lahat upang maglingkod sa bayan, gamitin ang lakas, galing, tapang, at talino para sa kapwa natin Pilipino.

Search for the untarnished truth. Mabuhay kayo. #

On journalists and objectivity

Today is the 91st birth anniversary of Antonio Zumel II, a pioneer of unionism among media workers. A former national president of the National Press Club, he was proclaimed a hero of the Philippines in 2016 at his name’s inclusion at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

Acknowledged by his peers as an impeccable writer, including former House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Zumel worked as reporter at The Philippine Herald and editor at the Manila Bulletin. He went underground on the night Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared martial law on September 22, 1972. He went on to edit the underground newsletter Ang Bayan of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Liberation and its news service Balita ng Malayang Pilipino of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and regional newsletter Dangadang.

After Marcos was deposed in 1986, Zumel served as member of the NDFP Negotiating Panel in its peace negotiations with the Corazon Aquino government. In 1990, he was elected chairperson of the NDFP while seeking political asylum in The Netherlands. He died of kidney failure and diabetes in Europe in 2001.

Kodao’s Villanueva wins Lagerwey communication excellence award on peace

Kodao Productions reporter and editor Raymund B. Villanueva is among this year’s recipient of the 3rd Lagerwey Awards for Communication Excellence, cited for his continuing coverage of the peace process between the Manila government and the revolutionary Left.

The Communication Foundation for Asia (CFA) in a special citation bestowed its communication excellence award on peace to Villanueva for his continuing coverage of the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The 3rd Lagerwey Awards ceremony was held last Friday, May 5, at the CFA compound in Sta. Mesa, Manila.

“Our awardee continues to strive, to spotlight individuals and initiatives that seek harmonious conditions and to lead constructive public dialogues on issues about justice and equity,” the CFA said.

In his speech, Villanueva asked faith-based institutions such as the CFA, the academe, mass media and other communication initiatives to write more about peace to create a constituency among the people who would demand and work for peace in the Philippines.

“[The peace negotiations] should be talking about human rights, national industrialization, rural development, environmental protection, and the rights of the poor,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva was nominated for the award by Iglesia Filipina Indipendiente Chaplaincy for Europe Bishop Antonio N. Ablon.

A three-decade veteran journalist, Villanueva said peace and social justice are the most important issues for journalists that impact the people’s lives “in the most profound of ways.”

Villanueva authored two books on peace, “Quest for Peace” (Pantas and Kodao, 2020) and “Waylaid Peace” (Pantas and Kodao, 2021), collections of his news reports and essays on the GRP-NDFP peace process.

He is the national chairperson of Altermidya, a national network of independent and community media outfits and a former deputy secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Villanueva was also the recipient of other journalism and broadcasting awards, including Gawad Agong, Titus Brandsma Award, and Gandingan Awards.

The list of finalists of the 3rd Lagerway Awards that were each declared winners in different categories.

Media and faith

The awards is named after Fr. Cornelio Lagerwey, a Dutch priest and a Missionary of the Sacred Heart who spent years in parishes across the Philippines after his arrival from Indonesia in 1954.

Fr. Lagerwey first published the Philippine Catholic Digest before founding the Social Communications Center (SCC) with Filipino journalist Genaro Ong in 1965 to produce “socially relevant publications and radio and TV programs.”

Fr. Lagerwey and other SCC top executives were arrested in 1972 when Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared martial law. SCC’s license to publish was also revoked.

SSC’s name was changed to the CFA in 1975 and continued its work. Lagerwey died in 1995.

The awarding ceremony for 3rd Lagerwey Awards last Friday was the first to be held with the actual presence of organizers and awardees.

The award was established in 2020. #

I was Luis Teodoro’s student, and I took it for granted

By JC Gotinga

I was a broadcasting student at UP Diliman, and Journalism 101 was part of the syllabus. But I had no plans of becoming a journalist, and I didn’t really concern myself with current affairs.

I thought I was going to be a hotshot TV-and-film director. This was before there were smartphones. We shot our projects with MiniDV handycams. The iPod, a music player that didn’t require CDs or tapes, was just a rumor.

I remember next to nothing from my Journ 101 classes. What I do remember in vivid detail was the time I made Professor Teodoro so fuming mad, I worried he was going to have a heart attack.

My friend Naomi and I sat on the back row of his class – very telling of how much interest we had in the subject. That day, a new issue of a university paper that was a parody of The Collegian was going around. In the middle of class, Naomi nudged me and showed me something funny – inappropriate – on the back page. I don’t remember what it was, but I blurted out in laughter.

It was a scene out of a jackass movie where the whole class turns to look at you, tutting their disapproval.

I had never offended a teacher before that. I was a teacher’s pet all through elementary and high school, and I’d generally been cool with my college profs. It’s just that journ class bored me to death, and I didn’t think I’d have anything to do with journalism.

Even I was in shock and disbelief at the creature I had, at that moment, become.

“Who laughed?” Professor Teodoro demanded to know.

I raised my hand.

I forget what he had been discussing, but it was, like all of his lectures, serious. In so many words, he told me how dare I laugh in the face of such profundities. How dare I make light of a subject, of a practice, of a tradition for which he and his contemporaries had been incarcerated and tortured, even murdered.

He was so angry he was trembling. I half-expected him to faint. His eyes behind his thick glasses watered.

He walked away from the whiteboard and towards the window. He held on to the sill, and I thought he was being dramatic. The light from outside cut him a sharp profile from where I sat.

He then started talking about the mortal dangers he and his contemporaries lived through while fighting the Marcos dictatorship. He mentioned Amando Doronila who I gathered was his friend and an equally battle-scarred journo.

I think back on this now and I realize it might not have been anger that riled him up but frustration. Frustration at how, no matter how sharp, eloquent, beautiful, profound his lectures were, the message was still lost on the likes of me – heathen children of a younger generation privileged to not have known mortal crisis.

The heat of his rage dissipated and his tone mellowed. Still by the window where the light outlined his sharp nose and tall forehead, he talked about the struggles of the era we were lucky to have missed. He talked about jail. I couldn’t imagine him, the most dignified man I had ever met, a prisoner.

I imagined myself as a prisoner. I asked my self, fleetingly, if I would ever let myself be so given to a cause like patriotism or free speech that I’d end up a prisoner.

No, thanks, Professor. Thank you for your sacrifices. But I am a soft child of my fortunate generation. I am sorry you lived through a terrible time, but now is a different time. A more enlightened time. People and the world have evolved, and we don’t need to inherit your hard-skinned virtues.

My thoughts at the time. And then life and current events happened. Here I am, a journalist.

I understand now how events can turn so that a good, dignified man can end up in prison. That powerful people with much to lose are capable of torture and other nasty things because, like every other person, they’re selfish, but the stakes for them are much higher, and they’d probably long sold their soul to get to that level of wealth and influence anyway.

I’ve now seen for myself the [many forms of] oppression the Professor battled. I now try to battle them myself as another wielder of a pen. I now ride the nag I inherited from him and his contemporaries to confront dragons disguised as windmills. I, like him, now even make references to literary classics.

Time has a way of teaching you the lessons you missed when they were first taught to you, right? I’ve found myself staring out of windows a few times, wondering what went wrong and what I could have done differently and how else I could communicate what I think people need to understand. In the few years since our democracy started to decline, I’ve been in a constant rage, wanting to both embrace and destroy this heathen generation that can’t seem to recognize its own good.

I don’t think Professor Teodoro would have remembered me. I did hope to find myself again in the same room as him and introduce myself as that student who laughed during his class two decades ago, and say that I am sorry. Not just for disrespecting him, but for taking his message for granted.

That message found another way to reach me, and I still cannot really claim to be his student in the real sense of the word. But at least I think he would have enjoyed the irony and savored the poetic justice time has served him.

I could wish his heart wasn’t broken by our country’s recent history, but I am certain it was. I, the heathen who only recently came to the light, am heartbroken. How could he, who had wagered far more for the cause than anyone, not be?

His sun set under the rule of the same family that terrorized his generation. If we are headed for darker times, then his passing is a mercy to one who has fought battles long enough.

Because what I did pick up as the man averted his gaze from me that day I disrespected him was that he would never, ever, have stopped fighting. Even then, he seemed frail of body, but I saw his spirit, and it made me tremble. Only his body could fail him.

Rest in peace, Professor Teodoro. Please forgive me. #

One last question I wanted to ask Jorge ‘Ka Oris’ Madlos

By Raymund B. Villanueva

(The author has been covering the peace process between the NDFP and the GRP and has interviewed Jorge ‘Ka Oris’ Madlos on several occasions. Here is the journalist’s look-back on one of his most respected sources.)

He was inside a swidden hut that Christmas night I first laid eyes on Mindanao’s legendary rebel leader. An electric bulb was casting a wan glow on a makeshift porch and Jorge Madlos was wearing a stubby flashlight on his forehead as he furiously tapped on his laptop, seemingly unaware of the frenzied atmosphere around him. It was the eve of the Communist Party of the Philippines’s (CPP) 42nd founding anniversary and the then National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)-Mindanao spokesperson was busy polishing the statement he was to issue the next day.

His comrades directed us to a nearby creek to wash up, noticing our pants and shoes were caked with drying mud, victims of several spills on rice paddies and mud puddles on the way to the New People’s Army (NPA) encampment on Mt. Diwata’s foothills. Finding our way back to his hut, Madlos, more famous as Ka Oris, was done typing, beaming a toothy smile and waiting to finally welcome the new arrivals from the city.

“Maligayang pagdating. Salamat sa pagpunta. Kumusta ang biyahe?” Oris asked, eager to hear what we had to say in return. (Welcome. Thank you for coming. How was your trip?) His interest was understandable; we have been told he had a direct hand in organizing the trips. He had done so in the many decades that he welcomed to NPA camps journalists and many other kinds of visitors.

He invited us to dinner, a surprisingly sumptuous fare of adobo and lechon on heaps of piping hot fragrant mountain rice. “Are these the ones being cooked in the barrios we passed by?” we asked. “No. What the masses are cooking tonight will be brought to the celebrations tomorrow. December 26 is their real holiday,” he said. “These adobo and lechon are gifts from local politicians,” he added, laughing. Oris however had fish stew, a healthier meal to manage his urination problems brought about by a spine infection.

It was getting late and Oris held back on asking the many questions he was also known for. Journalists from all over trooped to where they could get hold of him, but he was equally famous for quizzing them in turn. “Baka pagod na kayo. Maaga tayo bukas. Doon sa may mangga ang pwesto niyo,” he said, pointing to where our tents were being put up. (You may already be tired. We have an early day tomorrow. Your tents are being put up under that mango tree.)

We almost never got the chance to have Oris to ourselves again the next day. Along with the thousands of attendees who descended on an open field were Mindanaoan reporters and national and international journalists there to cover the biggest story of the day and interview one of the country’s media darlings. Even journalists who were known to be critical of the communists were invited and welcomed.

During the celebrations, we witnessed firsthand how Oris was one of the journalists’ most beloved sources, especially by Mindanaoan reporters. He had ordered special spots for us to be able to take good photos of the NPA parade. He issued us press passes and badges that were proudly worn the entire day. He made the press conference part of the day long celebrations, fielding the seemingly never-ending stream of questions with dashes of wry humor. He repeatedly thanked the journalists who came, easily identifying which parts of Mindanao or elsewhere in the world they were from or writing for. He handed out “certificates of attendance,” accepted with much jollity and, I suspect, are being kept to this day. A “class picture” with the journalists capped our day, with Oris at the center, looking much like a grandfatherly school principal among wards. I very much doubt any Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) general went as famously with the journalists as the diminutive guerilla did.

Hard-nosed journalists emerge satisfied with every interview session with Oris. He was obviously naturally intelligent, conversant in at least four languages. Questions designed to trap him were deftly turned around, such as, “You have been waging this war for decades, yet you have failed to win,” to which Oris replied, “The much stronger government and imperialists could not defeat us either.” A correspondent of an international news wire agency asked, “Will it not be more difficult for the movement at this time, given that President Aquino is popular?” “He is not popular in our areas of control,” was Oris’ riposte.

The AFP was furious at the brazenness of the CPP celebrations that day that, despite the existence of ceasefire declarations, it put up checkpoints on the roads leading out of the area to harass attendees on their way home. The local Philippine Army (PA) battalion commander was in a towering rage, sources said, especially when a politician’s mindless aide delivered his donation of lechon to the PA camp, instead of the intended NPA camp. “Mabuhi ang CPP! Mabuhi ang NPA!” the mayor’s written message on the lechon carton reportedly read.

At about three in the afternoon and while the celebrations were still on full blast, Oris granted us some time to ask him about the NDFP’s peace negotiations with the Benigno Aquino government. With the 15-minute interview over, he suggested we hitch a ride with other civilian attendees out of the area later that afternoon. “There will be other opportunities for us to talk. It is more important that you get home safe. Thank you for spending today with your friendly NPA,” he jestingly said. There, tired and preoccupied with everyone’s safety, Oris’ famous brand of humor sent us on our way home.

It took us another four years to get another chance to cover Ka Oris in a CPP anniversary celebration. This time, the AFP was more vociferous in preventing the thousands from attending CPP’s 46th anniversary celebrations. Even with local politicians and a congressman telling government soldiers that the mutual rebel and government-declared ceasefires allowed for another open CPP celebration, they delayed the attendees by hours. Revelations that the occasion would even be attended by a Malacanan Palace emissary for peace negotiations consultations were ignored. Many other journalists were also delayed.

As in 2011, I and some colleagues arrived at the venue on Christmas night precisely to avoid the hassle of passing through AFP checkpoints in broad daylight when they are known to be braver. We also hoped to spend more time with Oris alone before the frenzy sets in. When we arrived however, he was already busy welcoming the throng arriving with us, including a group of Catholic nuns. What he did not fail in doing was to ask how our trip was, insisting that we grab a bite and ensuring we have a place to sleep.

The rumpus the government soldiers caused prevented Oris from giving us time for an exclusive interview in the morning. What he did was to give a presser for the many journalists who arrived and answer all our questions as per usual. He also gave copies of the statement he read in the delayed program. Later, he managed to give Kodao an on-cam interview. When it was time for goodbyes, he made sure we would be safe in our travels, as was his wont.

Sometime in between those two coverage, we received a letter from Oris, saying it is time for that exclusive no-time-limit interview. I thought it would be in the same type of area and I packed lightly. It turned out that the venue was at a major NPA camp up high in the mountains. From one of the island’s major cities, it took me and my guide the entire day to travel by bus to a fairly large central Mindanao town and by motorcycle up more and taller mountains. When we ran out of roads and began seeing NPA fighters by the roadside, I thought we’ve reached our destination. I was then told we were just halfway up. What followed was a night-time climb up steep and narrow mountain trails, slogging through swamps and crossing burbling creeks, aided only by small flashlights. We reached camp at near two o’clock in the morning and there was Oris, waiting for us while boiling water to disinfect his urinary drainage bags (urobags).

“You made it!” he beamed, offering us the unique Mindanao NPA handshake. “How was your trip?” he asked, this time with a guffaw, seeing I was near collapse, tethering on my walking stick. Again, beside him, also beaming, was Alvin Luque, alias Ka Joaquin Jacinto, the activist who succeeded Oris as NDFP-Mindanao spokesperson. (Oris and Luque, both ill at the time of their respective deaths, were killed by government soldiers less than a year apart.)

The next morning, Oris gave us a tour of the camp where huge tents housed activists on week-long educational discussions. Other tents served as offices, kitchens and dining halls. All around were individual huts for camp regulars. No, there were no huts or tents that served as armory. He then invited us to conduct the interview, “Before the noisy insects start their concert.”

But the ever-curious Oris wanted something from us in return. He asked young-looking NPA fighters to observe as we set up our equipment. After the interview came his string of questions on which cameras, tripod, microphones, lights and other equipment would best survive their environment. He encouraged his comrades to ask questions on camera panning, tilting and tracking as well as visual composition he obviously already read up on. Months later, the rebels would be uploading videos of Oris issuing statements online.

It was brutally cold on our second night in the mountaintop NPA camp and I began shivering as soon as I tried to go to sleep. I wore all my shirts underneath my thin jacket to no avail. It did not help that my sleeping station was a hammock fashioned from rice sacks under a plastic sheet (tarapal). Past midnight, I felt hands lifting my malong and putting a soda bottle filled with warm water between my legs. It was Oris. Noticing I was woken, he whispered; “I can hear you shivering. This will warm you up.” It indeed did and I slept restfully until morning.

It was time for us to go back home the next day and we left with another special Oris quip: “You are welcome for the honor of visiting another NPA camp,” he said, his eyes twinkling.

It turned out that those were my only chances to personally interview Jorge Madlos. There have been two other CPP anniversaries I covered in Mindanao since. One was in Surigao del Norte 2015 and the biggest yet in Davao City in 2016 when even several Rodrigo Duterte government Cabinet members were in attendance. We were informed that Oris may attend both occasions, but the AFP was even more determined to get him, ongoing peace negotiations notwithstanding. He stayed out.

On October 29, 2021, the AFP killed the 73-year old icon of the revolution in the Philippines. His wife Maria Malaya said Oris was unarmed and was on his way to a medical treatment with an aide when waylaid by the soldiers. Possibly in spite, government soldiers cremated his remains a few days later without giving his family the chance to view his remains one last time. In a twisted way, this could be understood as their way of getting back at Oris even more for eluding them for more than five decades.

Jorge Madlos, Mindanao’s most successful rebel leader and one the Philippines’ most legendary communist cadres, is physically gone. But it would have been nice for me to meet him one last time and field the one question I had long wanted to ask: Did the warm water bottle come from his urobag disinfection ritual? #

‘We commit ourselves to the highest standards of journalism to serve the oppressed’

“We, the member student publications of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, strongly call and urge every campus journalist to join us in commemorating the evils witnessed by the nation during the Marcos dictatorship. In honor of our brave predecessors Liliosa Hilao, Leticia Ladlad, Ditto Sarmiento and Antonio Tagamolila, we will never forget the horrors that the Marcos regime tried to hide but never succeeded. We commit ourselves to the highest standards of journalism to serve the oppressed and exploited masses. We won’t and will never forget!”

NUJP to military: Why blame the journalists, not the Chinese?

A media group strongly reacted to an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) statement blaming an ABS-CBN news team over an incident with Chinese military vessels at the West Philippine Sea last Thursday.

Reacting to AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgar Arevalo’s statement issued Friday, April 9, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) took exception to AFP’s suggestion the incident was caused by the “journalists’ insatiable desire to be ahead in reporting.”

A Chinese Coast Guard and two missile-bearing People’s Liberation Army-Navy boats engaged a civilian Filipino vessel with the news team on board in an extended high-speed chase near Palawan Thursday.

ABS-CBN reporter Chiara Zambrano and her team were headed to Ayungin Shoal in Kalayaan, Palawan and was intercepted by Chinese ships while inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Arevalo implied Zambrano was simply hungry for a scoop and did not exercise prudence in doing her job.

“While we understand the journalists’ insatiable desire to be ahead in reporting, we appeal to them to exercise prudence in the course of their job,” Arevalo said.

The NUJP pointed out however that the journalists were on board a civilian boat sailing in Philippine waters and were not doing anything illegal.

“It is almost like the military is asking the Filipino journalists ‘what were you doing there?’” the NUJP said.

“[T]he better question might be aimed at the AFP: What were you not doing there? An even more important question is what the Chinese military was doing in our waters and how the (Rodrigo) Duterte administration plans to address this incident,” the group retorted.

The NUJP said Zambrano and team should instead be praised by the military and the Duterte government instead of being blamed.

“We commend them for going the extra nautical miles to try to get a better perspective on the situation in the West Philippine Sea,”

Chinese presence within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone had been on the news since last month as hundreds of Chinese vessels had been discovered to be overstaying at the Julian Felipe Reef. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

2020 saw most brazen abuses vs journalism—NUJP

The year 2020 had been particularly bad for journalism in the Philippines that saw more media workers killed, arrested, jailed and lose their jobs, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported.

The media group said four journalists have been killed in the Philippines, including Cornelio Pepino in Negros Oriental last May 5; Jobert Bercasio in Sorsogon last September 14; Virgilio Maganes in Pangasinan last November 10; and Ronnie Villamor in Masbate last November 14.

Villamor was shot dead by the Philippine Army that claimed the journalist was a communist supporter and killed in an encounter.

Maganes, who survived the first slay attempt against him in 2016 by playing dead, was killed inside their family compound in Villasis, Pangasinan.

“Their deaths have brought the total of media killings under Duterte to 19, and to 191 since 1986,” the NUJP said.

The International Federation of Journalists lists the Philippines as among the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world in 2020.

Their killing of four Filipino media workers figured in the list of 60 journalists killed worldwide in 2020 by the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The IFJ list made the Philippines the fourth most dangerous country for journalists in the world in 2020, along with Syria and after India (8 killed), Pakistan (7), Afghanistan (7).

The list made the country the most dangerous in Southeast Asia as well.

Twenty-seven journalists were killed in the Asia-Pacific, the most dangerous region for journalists in 2020.

Arrests and detention

Seven journalists have also been arrested, at least two of whom remain detention, both women and executives of alternative media outfits.

Those arrested in 2020 include Glenn Jester Hitgano in Jan. 21 (arbitrarily arrested during coverage); Frenchiemae Cumpio in Feb. 7 (illegal firearms possession); Ramil Traya Bagues in Aug. 18 (cyber-libel); Rommel Ibasco Fenix in Sept. 15 (libel and violation of Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009);  Virgilio Avila Jr.  in Nov. 10 (cyber-libel); Mia Concordia in Nov. 10 (cyber-libel); and Lady Ann Salem in Dec. 10 (illegal possession of firearms and explosives).

Cumpio, executive director of alternative media outfit Eastern Vista, was sleeping at a church group’s dormitory when arrested in the dead of night.

Her case was among those cited by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights report in June last year as a clear case of human rights violation.

Partial Committee to Protect Journalists list of jailed media workers where Frenchie Mae Cumpio appears.

Cumpio’s imprisonment also made it to the list of 274 journalists jailed in 2020 globally by the New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The CPJ said the number was “a new high…as governments cracked down on coverage of COVID-19 or tried to suppress reporting on political unrest.”

Salem, editor of alternative news outfit Manila Today was arrested, of all days, on International Human Rights Day.

The NUJP has reported Salem’s case to the CPJ but the latter’s list has yet to include her name.

Salem is currently is in a Covid-19 isolation protocol at the Mandaluyong City Jail after her transfer from the Philippine National Police’s jail facility at Camp Crame.

CPJ infographic on countries where journalists have been jailed in 2020.

The rest of the arrested Filipino journalists were able to post bail, except Bagues whose current status the NUJP is trying to find out.

Red-tagging and charges

The NUJP said that the Philippine government had been especially vicious against the press the past year as compared to the first three years of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“[B]ad as the first three years were, 2020 trumped them all as Duterte and his minions ramped up their attacks on the free press even as the COVID-19 pandemic began to make its deadly grip felt,” the NUJP said.

The media group said the Duterte government displayed a “most brazen abuse of state power” by red-tagging journalists and media institutions.

Aside from Cumpio and Salem, various government agencies and officials red-tagged alternative media outfits Kodao Productions, Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly, Northern Dispatch, Panay Today, Manila Today, Radyo Natin-Guimba as well as dominant media organizations ABS-CBN, Rappler, CNN-Philippines, among many others.

Veteran journalist and NUJP director and former chairperson Nestor Burgos Jr. had also been red-tagged.

Editors and staff of Baguio City-based Northern Dispatch faced various police-instigated charges in court throughout last year.

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Rey Santos Jr. were judged guilty in June last year of libelling a businessman with links to Duterte.

Maria Ressa in a press briefing after her conviction of libel last June 15. (Photo by R. Villanueva)

ABS-CBN closure

The NUJP said the pandemic gave Duterte convenient cover to make good his repeated threats to shut down ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ biggest media conglomerate.

As threats of arrest forced the growing crowds that had rallied to the beleaguered network since late last year to stand down, the House of Representatives allowed ABS-CBN’s franchise to lapse, forcing the network to stop broadcasting on May 5.

On May 5, the network stopped broadcasting and, two months later, in June, the majority of the House committee on congressional franchises sealed its fate, voting to deny it a new franchise to operate.

Duterte thus become the second president after Ferdinand Marcos to force ABS-CBN off the air, the NUJP said.

The closure left thousands jobless and the loss of ABS-CBN regional stations also left many areas without their major source of news and entertainment.

The full extent of this would become clear during typhoons Rolly and Ulysses that caught millions of victims previously dependent on ABS-CBN news and alerts unaware of the hazards of the disasters, the NUJP said.

We strongly condemn the NTF-ELCAC’s callous, dangerous, and evidence-less red-tagging of the Altermidya network,” media organizations including the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines Department of Journalism, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, MindaNews, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Philippine Press Institute as well as media outfits Rappler and VERA Files said.

Bright spots

All was not gloomy in 2020, however, as there had been bright spots in the local media community’s defense of press freedom, the NUJP said.

“Not least of this was the successful push to have UNESCO revert the status of the Ampatuan massacre to ‘unresolved’ after it was pointed out that the legal process is not finished and 76 suspects are still at large and will need to be tried should they be arrested, the media group said.

The NUJP also cited other notable victories such as the case of GMA workers who sued the network over unfair labor practices

In February, the Court of Appeals decided to reinstate, with no loss of seniority and with full back wages, 51 employees who had been illegally terminated while the Supreme Court in September ruled to reinstate 30 cameramen and assistant cameramen illegally dismissed by GMA in 2013.

The NUJP also said that despite “continuing efforts of the enemies of truth to spread disinformation, the media community has, by and large, successfully fended them off, including the paid influencers and trolls of government.”

“As we thankfully bid goodbye to 2020, we are also aware of what could be even greater challenges and threats to freedom of the press and of expression in 2021 and beyond…And so we look forward to 2021 resolved to continue defending and pushing the boundaries for press freedom in our land,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journalist, 6 trade union organizers arrested in police raids on human rights day

[UPDATED] A journalist was among those arrested by the Philippine National Police in a wave of arrests today, International Human Rights Day.

Lady Ann Salem, editor of alternative news site Manila Today, was arrested by the police at 9AM at her residence in Mandaluyong City.

Salem inside an unmarked police car this morning. (Photo by a relative)

She was first taken to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) headquarters in Quezon City but was whisked to a Pasig City police office just as her lawyer Kristina Conti arrived.

Conti and Manila Today staff followed the police van to Pasig City but were led to a chase that ended in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where Salem is now being detained.

Salem, a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP-CMC), co-founded the alternative media group Tudla and was among those who attended the founding assembly of the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) in 2010.

She is also a fellow of the Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop of UP-CMC.

Tudla and Manila Today are chapters of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Salem is also the communications officer of the global media group International Association of Women in Radio and Television.

https://www.facebook.com/altermidya/posts/1857999847682801

Wave of arrests

Since 2AM this morning, the police had been raiding homes and arresting trade union organizers.

Dennise Velasco of Defend Jobs Philippines was first to be arrested at their home in Lagro, Quezon city by the CIDG and was taken to Camp Karingal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District.

Like many other arrested activists, the police alleged that Velasco was in possession of guns and explosives.

In a Facebook Live post, Velasco’s wife Diane Zapata denied they were keeping such items at their home.

She in turn accused the police of planting them while they were ordered to lie face down for an hour and the police team had unhampered access to their house.

In a police report, the CIDG said it also arrested a Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Raiselle Astudillo, Jaymie Gregorio, and Joel Demate in a wave of arrests in Quezon City, Mandaluyong and Manila that netted several guns, explosives and ammunition.

Human rights and media groups are organizing an online rally at 7PM tonight to demand for Salem and the trade union organizers’ freedom.

Indignation rallies are also scheduled Friday morning at Camp Karingal, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court and Camp Crame. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)