Friday, October 28, 2005

Killings, attacks, threats continue to hound Philippine press

The latest issue of the i Report of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (November-December 2005 edition) carried a story written by Ma’am Vinia on the case of Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent for the Southern Luzon region Melinda “Mei” Magsino-Lubis. Lubis has been hiding for more than three months now after her stories on alleged irregularities in the Batangas provincial capital involving Gov. Armando C. Sanchez had angered Sanchez, said to be one of the biggest jueteng operators in the country. Lubis had to leave her family and five-hectare mahogany farm in Batangas in July after a police source told her that two convicts from the provincial jail had been released to find and kill her.

Lubis’ story reminded me of the state of journalist killings in the country, which the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) has been monitoring since 1991, aside from other threats to and attacks against press freedom. The high number of journalists killed in the line of duty since 1986 (54 as of the present CMFR count), when our democratic institutions following the Marcos dictatorship have supposedly been restored, prompts one to ask: Is the Philippine press really free?

CMFR did a recent study on the journalist killings, focusing on the 25 journalists that have been murdered since 2000. It presented the findings of the study to the media on September 6 (In case you want to know, the press coverage of the CMFR study was anything but accurate, as noted in a PJR Reports monitor).

Among the findings were:

- Most of those killed were community journalists;
- TV and radio broadcasters were more vulnerable to attack;
- Other factors show the weaknesses of the press as an institution, such as the lack of institutional identification/credentials on the part of the broadcasters, the lack of education and formal training in journalism, among others.
- The failure of owners to supervise broadcast press responsibility

In the study, CMFR reiterated that no single solution could solve the cycle of violence and impunity against journalists. While it emphasized the “freedom of speech and press should never be penalized except through the course of libel, slander, or organizational sanctions imposed in line with self-regulation,” CMFR enumerated ways in how to strengthen the press against press freedom violators. These were:

- Safety training undertaken by newsrooms
- Strong legal defense with coordination from law enforcement agencies and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
- Ethics training and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas accreditation
- Strengthening the Philippine Press Council (PPC) of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and the regional press councils in Baguio, Cebu, and Palawan as venues of complaints against the press. In his article, “The Press and the Public: Words, not Guns, Please,” published in the June 2005 issue of the PJR Reports, PPC chair Gary Mariano noted the potential of a strong PPC in solving complaints against the press. With an invigorated PPC, he said, the real winners will be the journalists. “Journalists with fewer libel cases because grievances are quickly settled at the Council. Journalists remaining free because legislative threats are preempted by effective self regulation. And journalists staying alive, yet fighting as ever, because complainants do not escalate beyond an exchange of e-mails or faxes.”

I met Mei Lubis when she went to the office telling her case. Her story reflected the difficulties community journalists have to face in reporting the truth in their communities. I just hope she won’t be the 55th.

By the way, check out the upcoming November issue of the PJR Reports. Mei is our writer for the issue’s “Back Page” section, telling us her story.

And the truth shall be bought?

I can’t believe that The Philippine Star did not have a report on October 15 about the previous day’s “canonization” of those in the Mendiola prayer rally. Excuse me, Star, but is your pro-GMA slip showing?

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) took note of the press coverage of the said prayer rally led by three Catholic bishops of the Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya. (A small note: The CMFR monitor on the October 14 rally is just a part of a more comprehensive monitor of the coverage of the rallies amid the government’s controversial “calibrated preemptive response” (“CPR”) policy which will be on the November issue of the PJR Reports.)
The rally was attended by prominent anti-Arroyo personalities such as former Vice-Pres. Teofisto Guingona, activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, and TV host Oscar Orbos. To me and gazillions of people out there, the “water-dousing” incident should be the biggest story the next day. Whether the paper is for or against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo does not matter. The news elements in the hosed-down prayer rally are pretty much obvious for it to land in the front pages on October 15.

While the rest of the papers were feasting over the latest rally to brush against the government’s notorious “CPR” policy, the Star, apparently, was not interested. From cover to cover, there was no report on the dispersal anywhere in the Star’s October 15 issue. Not even a small, itsy-bitsy news bullet in the paper’s Metro page. To think that Star is considered a major paper, one of the so-called “Big Three.” Why, even the conservative Manila Bulletin had its front-page report on the incident! Hello, Star?

At left are the top three papers' front pages on October 15.

According to the CMFR monitor, text messages pertaining to Star’s snubbing of the October 14 rally instantly circulated. The text message circulating said that the paper had been “bought” by the Palace to keep mum over the incident. The Star should be boycotted, the message said.

Interestingly, Star publisher Max V. Soliven also got the same message. In his October 18 column, he said that he was in Europe when the incident happened and got embarrassed when he found out that his paper did not have a story on it on October 15. He called up his editors for an explanation, Soliven said. “The following day, a day too late, was a follow-up headline: ‘Guingona III: Rally dispersal form of tyranny, oppression’,” he wrote. At least Soliven was correct in saying that it was a day too late for his paper to publish the incident.

What was his reaction to the critical text message he got? “Oh well. Those who believe that stupid canard must already be readers of the other newspapers anyway. Truth will prevail, as our masthead says. No more excuses.”


Friday, October 21, 2005

Blogging conference for journalists

I was invited by Sir Alecks P. Pabico of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) to attend a conference they organized on blogging for journalists tomorrow, October 22. The conference, “Journalists as Bloggers,” will be held in The Linden Suites in Pasig City.

About 60 journalists from the mainstream media, bloggers and non-bloggers alike, will attend the event and discuss insights on the relatively new medium of blogs.

Among the speakers are some of the prominent names in journalism -- Sir Alecks, news anchor Ricky Carandang, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s John Nery, Malaya columnist Ellen Tordesillas, and journalism professor Rachel E. Khan of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication. Ma'am Rachel is also our deputy director.

The one-day activity will discuss issues of law, ethics, and corporate policy affecting blogging, and the impact and directions of journalism in the country in the Internet age.

The conference happens a few weeks after Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a global press freedom watchdog, launched a handbook for bloggers. Entitled “Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents,” it is primarily a guide for those who want not only in setting up a blog but in using it as a tool to fight censorship in their countries while remaining safe and free from government control.

The guide identifies bloggers as the “new heralds of free expression” and the “vanguard of new information revolution.”

Can't wait to be in this event.

Ripping off the rip-off "Pinoy Ako"

The Orange and Lemons rip-off affair has taken several turns and twists a few days after I did my initial post on the issue. Will take them up in a future post (as soon as I finish with the November issue of the PJR Reports).

Meanwhile, here's the newest version of "Pinoy Ako" from Toothpick of Pulp Community. Saw this version too in Rickey's Blog from someone who commented on his post, but I'm using Toothpick's version.

Ripping off another rip-off, here's the song.

Pinoy Ba Ako?
By Ponkan and Calamansi

Lahat tayo ay naging biktima
sa dinig pa lang ay malalaman na
di man ito kagustuhan
ngunit ito ang katotohanan

Original na lyrics ang hanap ko
magbibigay ng paghalaga sayo
Nais mo bang ipakilala
kung sino ka ngang talaga

Pinoy ikaw ay Pinoy
ipakita sa mundo
kung anong ginaya mo
Nahihiyang Pinoy
Wag kang mang gagaya
maging original ka
Pinoy ako Pinoy tayo

Pakita mo ang tunay kung sino ka
wag kang umasa lang sa iba
Kailangan ay perpekto basta ito ay totoo

Original na lyrics ang hanap ko
magbibigay ng paghalaga sayo
Nais mo bang ipakilala
kung sino ka ngang talaga

Pinoy ikaw ay Pinoy
ipakita sa mundo
kung anong ginaya mo
Nahihiyang Pinoy
Wag kang mang gagaya
maging original ka
Pinoy ako Pinoy tayo

Talagang ganyan ang buhay
Wag tayong masanay
walang ring mangyayari kung
kung laging nakikigaya

Wag ipagmalaki ang sarili
kung ito ay yong gawain
“Ang Lagi mong Iisipin
Kayang Kopyahin”

Pinoy ikaw ay Pinoy
ipakita sa mundo
kung anong ginaya mo
Nahihiyang Pinoy
Wag kang mang gagaya
maging original ka
Pinoy ako Pinoy tayo

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Orange and Lemons' "Pinoy Ako," a rip-off

I like the Orange and Lemons band. Not because they're also BulakeƱos, but because they offer a fresh and vibrant sound amid the melange of rock and pseudo-rock bands (mostly of the pogi-rock-band type) currently lording over the local music scene. When the group came out with "Hanggang Kailan," I instantly became a fan.

Their second hit for me is better than the first one. It has the right ingredients for a follow-up hit: Quite-poppy-but-catchy melody, nice lyrics, and a cool band image. Not to mention that this is the theme song of the hit ABS-CBN reality show "Pinoy Big Brother." But, I'd like to think that "Pinoy Ako" is a hit because it is about having a sense of pride as a Filipino.

A few weeks ago, there were news reports that the Orange and Lemons hit is a rip-off from a foreign group. A Manila Bulletin report on the issue carried the denial of band member Clem who said that "Pinoy Ako" is different from the song "Chandelier," an original song of the UK-based 80's band The Care. A representative of the Star Records, which released the group's song, said that Orange and Lemons may have been influenced by the new wave group but the former did not copy their song. Initially, I didn't give a damn about the issue. I thought maybe someone was trying to pull down Orange and Lemons. And besides, I do not know The Care, so I can't really compare if Orange and Lemons did copy one of The Care's songs.

I was browsing the popular blogsite recently, and lo and behold, he also wrote about the issue. He even got the mp3 files of the two songs in contention (and for that I salute you, Mr. Rickey!). Here are his links to download the files:

Pinoy Ako - Orange and Lemons

Chandelier - The Care

After hearing both songs, I'm convinced. Orange and Lemons copied the melody of "Chandelier." Why, for an unsuspecting listener, "Pinoy Ako" could even pass as the Tagalog version of The Care original! The songs do not have the same lyrics, but eerily, have almost the same melody, except for the chorus part.

Someone commented in the post on the rip-off issue who said that there are other alleged rip-off cases earlier this year.

The hit "Leaving You" of another good group, Session Road, was a rip-off from the "Garmonbozia" song of the US-based band Superdrag. Actually, I've heard this rumor before in Pulp Community, but I did not have the Superdrag song back then.

And the second case was the more recent hit "Stay" of the pogi-rock band Cueshe. It was allegedly copied from a song of the Australian grunge band Silverchair entitled "The Greatest View."

I looked for these foreign songs in Limewire (I already have "Leaving You" and "Stay" in my music folder) and fortunately, they are available. Too bad, I can't upload the mp3 files here in my blog (unless has uploading features that I do not know) but if you want a copy, just give me a pm on my yahoo messenger id -- deadlynecromancer.

And oh, my conclusion: "Leaving You" is indeed a rip-off! "Leaving You" unabashedly copied the melody of "Garmonbozia." The melody of both songs are almost the same, even in the chorus part. The melody of the two songs are so similar that you would think Session Road and Superdrag are the same (well, maybe except on the vocalist, since Session Road's vox is a female and Superdrag's a guy).

Compared with how Session Road ripped off "Garmonbozia" and turned it into "Leaving You," you'll only notice the similarity between "Stay" and "The Greatest View" on the chorus part, where the tune in both are similar. But, "The Greatest View" is edgier and harder in guitar riffs and drum beats compared with "Stay," aside from the fact that Silverchair's Daniel Johns has a much wider vocal range than the two cutesy vocalists of Cueshe. So, I don't think "Stay" is a rip-off from "The Greatest View." This is where I can accept the argument that maybe Cueshe is "inspired" by Silverchair.

Going back to Orange and Lemons, I profess that I am not a music expert, but as an avid music enthusiast and a band member, I dare say: "Pinoy Ako," the song that tells Filipinos to show to the whole wide world that we are proud as Pinoys, was a blatant rip-off. How ironic.

Download the files. Judge for yourself. And tell me your thoughts about the issue. It doesn't matter if we agree or not.
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