Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A victory for press freedom in the Philippines

It was, indeed, as the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) had written in its blog, a decisive victory for press freedom.

I used to be the alerts coordinator for CMFR, monitoring the attacks against and threats to press freedom primarily in the Philippines. With some time in press alerts monitoring, I know that the murder case of journalist Edgar Damalerio (whose photo appears on the left) has become a kind of symbol of the journalist killings and culture of impunity and violence in the country. If I recall it right, the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), a coalition of media organizations addressing such attacks against and threats to press freedom, was organized in January 2003 right after a discussion of the case involving Damalerio, an award-winning Pagadian journalist.

In case you want to know, the FFFJ members are CMFR, the Center for Community Journalism and Development, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Philippine News, and the Philippine Press Institute).

Finally, after a long wait of three years and 200 days, former policeman Guillermo Wapile has been convicted by the Cebu City Regional Trial Court of killing Damalerio, sentencing him of life imprisonment. "Damalerio’s widow, Gemma, broke into tears upon hearing the judgment handed down by Judge Ramon Codilla of the Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 19," CMFR reported in its post. "The emotion was shared by Edgar Ongue, the slain journalist’s friend and key witness in the case, who sat expressionless, but nonetheless heaved a sigh of relief with the outcome of the case."

The decision, CMFR said, is the only third recorded conviction out of a total of 55 cases of journalist killings since democracy regained its ground in the country in 1986. But the conviction is a welcome turn of events following how media-related killings have risen in the last three years, making us the "most dangerous place for journalists", according to international press freedom watchdogs.

“I would like to thank all, especially the media organizations that never wavered in monitoring and helping the case of my husband,” Gemma said to CMFR.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

PCIJ reposts controversial entry on Mike Defensor's "expert"

With the expiration of a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) imposed on this blog, the The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) has reposted the article, "Mike Defensor’s Expert," taken down last November 4 in compliance with the restraining order of a Quezon City judge. I mentioned this issue in a previous post.

The said restraining order is the first to be issued on a blog in the Philippines and "has generated a lively debate on free expression versus privacy in the Pinoy blogosphere," according to PCIJ's post on the issue.

Check out the controversial post.

But where's "hear no evil"?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

PCIJ goes podcasting (and then some)

Hats off to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). Its popular blog, the "Inside PCIJ", now has podcast entries. Its latest podcast entry focuses on the highlights of the infamous "Hello, Garci" scandal, including the government officials whose voices were caught in the tapes. Ma'am Yvonne reports. Of course, you know that "Garci" refers to former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, who as of press time, is nowhere to be seen.

Hmm, by the way, I wonder if Garcillano would really appear before the public and tell us what really happened during the 2004 elections. The search for Garci is beginning to be like an "X-files" episode or a special issue of the United States-based tabloid the "National Enquirer". His on-and-off sightings and possible whereabouts in and outside the country put the UFO sightings or the search for the Lochness monster to shame. I won't get surprised if Bigfoot shows up first than Garci.

Here is what the Professional Heckler (one of the more prominent bloggers in the country) said recently about Garcillano, who won as the Harry Houdini Act of the Year in his blog's 2005 Year-End Awards: "Who else deserves the award but former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. He made a fool out of everyone in the opposition. One day he is in Singapore, the next day, he is in London. A week later, Pimentel claims Garci’s in New Jersey even as Gilbert Remulla reveals he’s in South America. The next day, Lacson would report a sighting in Bataan. Just today, the senator says Garci is in Bukidnon. Talk about omnipresence. For all we know, he is so dead and his spirit has just embarked on a world tour. Matakot na kayo kapag may iniulat na bagong aparisyon sa Agoo."

For those who feel glum about the country's situation, you may find some comfort and humor in Avigail Olarte's report on the October 26 book launch of "Hello, Garci, Hello Ma’am: Political Humor in the Cellphone Age", PCIJ's third joke book.

Sigh, living in the Philippines is like appearing in a tragicomedy or at the Theater of the Absurd. Our current situation is almost absurd that it is funny. So funny it hurts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Two journalists murdered

This is lifted from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility's (CMFR) blogsite, "Freedom Watch":

Two journalists shot down

In just a span of 60 hours, two journalists were gunned down in separate incidents in southern Luzon over the weekend.

Robert Ramos, tabloid reporter, and Ricardo Uy, a radio commentator and party-list leader, were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the Laguna and Sorsogon provinces, last 20 and 18 November, respectively.

Ramos, who worked for the Laguna-based paper Katapat, was waiting for a ride near the newspaper’s office at 7:30 p.m. Sunday (20 Nov.) in Cabuyao town (less than 100 kilometers south of Manila) when two armed men onboard a motorcycle stopped in front of him. One of the BIKERS then pulled out a .38 caliber handgun and shot the victim twice in the head, killing him instantly, according to a report by the Inquirer News Service.

On the other hand, Uy, an announcer of radio station dxRS and provincial chairman of the party-list group Bayan Muna (Nation First), was on the steps of his home in Sorsogon City, around 500 kilometers south of Manila, when he was shot five times by an armed assailant, using a .45 pistol.

Uy was pronounced dead on arrival at the nearby Sorsogon Doctors Hospital, after sustaining gunshot wounds in the head, mouth, and torso. The gunman casually walked away towards a nearby bridge and boarded a red motorcycle driven by another unidentified man, according to a report by national daily The Philippine Star.

Read CMFR's entry.

Back to Kalye Juan and went home defeated (again)

I went back to Kalye Juan last November 19 – my third time to go to the resto, which offers great food that surprisingly cost relatively cheaper than the other chi-chi bars in Morato. I was hoping then that, together with CMFR colleagues Lara and Ate Carol, and my cousin Philip, we would be able to finally finish everything in our dishes (which I and Ate Carol failed to do so in our last two attempts).

Our mission: to finish 3 plates of Sisig (two pork and one tuna), one Salmon Sinigang sa Miso, one plate of Adobong Kangkong, and one plate of Dinamita with six cups of rice.

This, I am ashamed to say: that I failed again to finish the Pork Sisig, which I had been eagerly looking forward to.

I promised myself that on my next battle with Kalye Juan’s sisig, I’ll finally emerge as the victor. Haha.

At left is our appetizer, the Dinamita (breaded chilli peppers filled with cheese with mayo dip). You get like six pieces of Dinamita for P85.

Tuna Sisig costs P140. Pork Sisig costs the same as well.

The delicious Salmon Sinigang sa Miso is priced at P120.

Adobong Kangkong is only P65.

One happy customer.

I should't have taken too much of the refillable iced tea (P40). Naubos ko sana iyong sisig.

Kalye Juan is located in CKB Center, T. Morato corner Scout Rallos, Quezon City. Contact numbers: (+63 2) 376 2508 and (+63 917) 847 8744.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pinoy's coconet wins BBC World Challenge

And now, a bit of good news.

Remember the only Philippine entry to the BBC-Newsweek World Challenge contest, the Coconet? Well, this soil erosion control net made from waste coconut husk won the contest's first prize on November 17, besting other 11 finalists all over the world. The innovative product was among the 456 entries from 90 countries that joined the competition.

"Agricultural engineer Justino Arboleda of the Philippines won the first prize in the First World Challenge contest sponsored by BBC World television in London on Nov. 17 for his soil erosion control net or coconet," reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer on November 21.

Coconet was named as the best environmental grassroots project in the world, the Inquirer article added.

Here is a photograph of Mr. Arboleda, proudly showing his coconet. This photo appeared along with the Inquirer article.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

“Pinoy Ako” is actually “Penoy Akow”?

I am finally speaking after the “Pinoy Ako” controversy has pretty much watered down, although I am quite sure that the issue would still linger, primarily due to those rabid Orange and Lemons fans who would probably shoot anyone defaming their beloved band, and to those who wanted bands like Orange and Lemons to speak the truth behind the rip-off. Now that the radio stations and music channels are airing the band’s next single, let me state a few things before I finally move on.

A rip-off, period

To begin, I would like to reiterate what I posted earlier: “Pinoy Ako”, the song that catapulted Orange and Lemons to stardom, is a brazen rip-off from “Chandeliers”, a song of the defunct 80’s band The Care based in the United Kingdom. For those who staunchly defend Orange and Lemons, I dare them to actually listen to both songs. Why, even youngsters could tell that the chords and melody of both songs are practically the same!

But all you have to do is listen to both songs. You don’t have to be a music expert to know that “Pinoy Ako” was a “Chandeliers” rip-off. I am an avid listener of music, including new wave and rock music. Our band has performed mostly rock songs, particularly on the emo-punk and emo-core genres. But my limited knowledge of music says that “Pinoy Ako” was a second-rate, trying hard copycat of “Chandeliers”.

I already posted earlier on this issue, complete with audio files of “Pinoy Ako” and Chandeliers”. But here are the audio files of the two songs again, for those dismissing the issue outright as a black propaganda on the popular band and the skeptics out there who are too lazy or do not have the time to browse through my pages:

“Pinoy Ako” by Orange and Lemons
“Chandeliers” by The Care

I was able to have a link comparing the files at the same time. On the right speaker, you will hear the Care song, and on the left, the Pinoy version. Got this information from a new acquaintance, Pulp music magazine writer Giselle Roque:

“Chandeliers” and “Pinoy Ako” combined version 1

Another link combining the two songs:

“Chandeliers” and “Pinoy Ako” combined version 2

Several bloggers have tackled this rule as well, with some interesting findings. One such blogger is Alfie Vera Malla, who, according to his blog, is into New Wave (the Orange and Lemons said in their interviews that most of their influences came from 80’s or New Wave bands) and an Ian Broudie fan (Broudie was one half of The Care duo; Paul Simpson was the other). Malla said in his post that in his discussion with fellow new wave enthusiasts, “Pinoy Ako” was indeed a rip-off.

Alfie said: “As a fan of Care and as an enthusiast of Alternative Rock music for more than two decades now, I knew right away, upon first listen to the song in question, that it is not simply an accidental sound-alike of The Care’s ‘Chandeliers’, but that it is in fact a direct rip-off of this – something which the Orange and Lemons most likely thought would pass unnoticed because of The Care’s obscurity.”

He added: “In fact, even some friends who are not that much into music, more so Alternative Rock, after listening to both songs, did not find difficulty in passing judgment: ‘Both (songs) did sound uncannily alike’.” By the way, Alfie and Giselle are members of an e-group of New Wave musicians and enthusiasts. Alfie discussed the rip-off issue with the said e-group, with most of them concluding that indeed, “Pinoy Ako” was rip-off.

Another blogger wondered: “I wonder if the band Orange and Lemons realize that copyright infringement isn’t something to be proud of. She asked: “Anong sinasabi ng kantang ito? Na ipakita natin sa mundo na ang kaya lang ng Pinoy ay manggaya?”

“A part of me wants (Orange and Lemons) to get sued to teach them a lesson. A part of me feels sad that they had to resort to this to gain a foothold in the music industry. What had become of the local music industry?” another said.

Now, what are the arguments raised by Orange and Lemons in their defense?

The “seven-chord progression rule” defense

The foremost mantra taken by the band and fans was: The song did not violate the seven-chord progression rule, and therefore it did not plagiarize the Care song.

Alfie was able to find an article written by songwriter A-J Charron, who has written more than 60 articles for the Guitar Noise music website, who explained how to determine if a song plagiarized another. Taking Charron’s article in mind, I would say that, basing from the chord and melodic patterns of “Pinoy Ako”, the Orange and Lemons hit was a rip-off of the “Chandeliers” by The Care. Alfie also shares a similar view.

True, there are only a limited amount of notes and chords, and chances are, a song may sound similar to another. But “Pinoy Ako” was way too similar in The Care song in melody, chord pattern, and structure for comfort.

Giselle offers another rebuttal of the seven-chord progression defense of Orange and Lemons. She said in her email to me: “I hate to burst the bubble but the seven-chord progression rule, in landmark cases decided by foreign courts under the Intellectual Property Rights which have been in actual existence post- or pre-world war I (has proven to be) a flimsy defense since the pattern could be changed anytime by a fret or a half-note on the seventh note.

“Presently, under the eight-chord progression based on the drum and baseline, if the song or composition in question fails to change at the eighth base and drum progression then it is a vital requisite to be considered as a plagiarized material not discounting the facts of testimonies of credible witnesses and ‘scholars’ to that effect.

“This is what admittedly happened during the course of (the Orange and Lemons) song,” Giselle, who has been a music writer for Pulp since 2003 and a supporter of Filipino indie bands and OPM, explained.

Retorts, denials, explanation

I checked the interviews given by Orange and Lemons on the issue, and frankly, I could not understand their explanations. Talk about inconsistencies.

First, the band cried foul when they were accused of ripping off “Chandeliers”. In an article in the Manila Bulletin, the band said: “It saddens us because it’s unfair.” But they admitted that “perhaps” the “guitar intro part” was the reason why people think that “Pinoy Ako” was a rip-off. If you listen to most New Wave songs, almost all start with a guitar melody, the group said.

Well, maybe most New Wave songs probably started with a guitar melody, but definitely not all of them have guitar intro parts like “Chandeliers”! And besides, the similarities of both “Pinoy Ako” and “Chandeliers” did not stop at the intro part; it extended throughout the former, except for the chorus part which had some different chord and melodic patterns. I’m no New Wave guru, but I have yet to hear another New Wave song that sounded like “Chandeliers”, or any song for that matter. Well, save for “Pinoy Ako”.

In another Bulletin article written by Kate Villagomez also published on October 16, the band admitted to Giselle that they made the song “Carish”. In short, they know that The Care and “Chandeliers” exist, right? Why would they make the song “Carish” if they do not know that there is such a band called The Care?

Three days later, a Philippine Daily Inquirer article quoted vocalist and guitarist Clem Castro as saying: “We have no malicious intent. In fact, we’re not even aware that such songs (‘Chandeliers’) exist.”

Huh? Were Clem and the rest of his band taking crazy pills in their Bulletin and Inquirer interviews? Did they know that The Care and the song “Chandeliers” exist or not?

Ano ba talaga, mga kuya?

To further add insult to the injury, Clem was supposed to have said in the band’s e-group: “Eh ba’t kami magpapaalam? Magpasalamat pa nga ang The Care at pinasikat namin ang kanta nila.”

According to Giselle, the band admitted that they were pressured by ABS-CBN to compose a song for the then upcoming Pinoy Big Brother show, giving them only a few days to submit the song to the network’s bigwigs. Be that as it may, this does not mean that you could copy a song made by someone else. How would Orange and Lemons feel if one of their songs got plagiarized and they were not credited for it? The best thing that they could have done was asking for The Care’s permission to use the song. Or at least, they should have been decent enough to acknowledge the UK band early on, like other Filipino musicians did when they used songs of other musicians.

Some Orange and Lemons fans accuse me of crab mentality; that I am just riding on the band’s popularity. For you guys, I have three reasons: If only Orange and Lemons have been forthright about the rip-off and should have at least credited The Care for the song, then the issue would have died down easily. But, no, they have to wait for someone else to react, apparently thinking that nobody would notice the plagiarism anyway. I would not have known the issue too, had it not for the growing buzz on the rip-off and the band’s inconsistent stands on the controversy.

Second, why only “Pinoy Ako” when there were songs also ripped off by other Filipino musicians? “Pinoy Ako” was different from Session Road’s “Leaving You” and Cueshe’s “Stay” (songs also accused of ripping off songs from foreign bands) primarily because it talks about our pride as Filipinos. That, hey! We should be proud as Pinoys. As Giselle said in her email to me, “Cueshe, Session Road, etc. may not be getting much attention because their songs dealt with corporeal, if not, things which do not appeal to a Filipino’s sense of patriotism. However, Orange and Lemons’s song just hit “X” on the spot because it appeals to Filipino pride in general.”

And lastly, why would I engage in a black propaganda against Orange and Lemons? I love Filipino music, and I know the hard efforts of local indie bands to make more people listen to their songs. I do not personally know the guys from Orange and Lemons, aside from the fact that they are my fellow Bulakenyos. I was even a fan of the band. And then “Pinoy Ako” came along. When rumors about the rip-off started, I initially said that it was also a malicious attack against the band. When I heard the “Chandeliers”, my initial stand crumbled.

I promised myself and to my friends that this would be my last post on the controversy. If I would ever break my promise to write on this again, hopefully my post would be on the resolution of the issue. I pray that the issue would end with The Care properly credited for their song Orange and Lemons blatantly plagiarized, and the Pinoy copycat apologizing for misleading the public over the brouhaha.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Can't wait to see this

Yes. Like almost everybody else, I am also a huge Harry Potter fan. In fact I am planning to watch the fourth film in the Harry Potter series on Saturday.

Meanwhile, for those who are waiting to see the film, below is a review of the fourth installment from Yahoo.

Two and a half stars out of four? Hmmm, not bad eh?

Review: 'Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire'

If the third film in the Harry Potter series, last year's "Prisoner of Azkaban," seemed frightening with its soul-sucking Dementors and its German expressionist aesthetic, then the fourth installment, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," will have kids quaking in their seats and perhaps wishing they had an invisibility cloak to hide beneath.

This "Potter" earns its PG-13 rating a first for the previously PG series about the boy wizard as Harry grows into adolescence and learns more about his powers and his past. Of course, young fans have already devoured the J.K. Rowling books that provide the basis for the films, so they know what's coming. (The author is up to No. 6 out of seven planned.) But reading it on the page and seeing it on the screen can be two entirely different experiences, and several scenes will be disturbing to viewers regardless of age.

Read here for more.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A serious blow to the much-vaunted press freedom in the Philippines

Is the country really creeping back to another authoritarian rule?

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) on November 4 to remove from its blogsite a post last August 12 on the background information and credibility of Jonathan Tiongco, the "audio expert" who was presented on the same day by Environment Secretary Michael Defensor in a forum questioning the authenticity of the "Hello Garci" tapes.

"This is the first legal action, and the first TRO, issued against a blog in the Philippines," according to PCIJ in its post on the issue.

For more information about the issue, read the post in the PCIJ blog.

Is the administration that desperate?

This is a serious blow to the freedom of the press in the country. Do people still remember that we have Article III, Section IV in our present Constitution that guarantees the freedom of the press?

Article III, Section IV states that "No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances."

The TRO also gives us a peek of the government would view blog sites in the near future.The Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres) a Paris-based global press freedom advocacy group, identifies bloggers as the “new heralds of free expression” and the blogs “vanguard of new information revolution.” What would be the effect of the TRO in the local blogosphere? Would you blame me for thinking that the government would try to pressure blogs to tone down, if not stop anti-GMA posts? Would a court ruling banning the "Hello, Garci" tapes be that far behind?


Thursday, November 03, 2005

The 14th Lopez Jaena Journalism Fellows

I know this information is a bit late. Sorry. This is an update of what I posted earlier. Twenty journalists and journalism educators were named fellows of the 14th Lopez Jaena Journalism Workshop on Media and Gender Sensitivity. The workshop ran from October 23 to 29 at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC).The fellows were:

For more information about the fellows or the program, check Sir Danny's latest post on the subject.
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