Monday, July 31, 2006

Apostol, Magsaysay awardee

Veteran newspaper publisher Eugenia "Eggie" Apostol is this year's Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism, Literature and Creative Arts.

"Proven to be one of the Philippines' most influential newspaper publishers for the past three decades," The Philippine Communication Centrum described Apostol in its site, Apostol "is a tireless advocate for press freedom," noting that she was "instrumental in helping overthrow two corrupt rulers in the country, Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada by turning public opinion against them."

She was recognized for her "courageous example in placing the truth-telling press at the center of the struggle for democratic rights and better government in the Philippines."

Just when will the killings stop?

This coincided with the deaths of some activists also in the country. We live, indeed, in a working democracy.

Manila photojournalist slain
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

A Metro Manila-based photojournalist was slain this morning, 31 July in Malabon City, just north of Manila.

Based on initial police reports, Dick Melendrez, a photojournalist working for Manila-based tabloid Tanod (Guardian), was murdered just before 9 a.m. in front of his house in a village in the said city.

According to a report by GMANews.TV, Melendrez was allegedly a cousin of photojournalist Albert Orsolino, who was similiarly shot dead during an ambush last 17 May.

Orsolino, who was also a former reporter covering the Malacañang (President Gloria Arroyo), worked for Saksi Ngayon (Witness Today). Police investigation showed that he was killed most likely, because of a personal grudge with a neighbor.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) is still looking into the circumstances behind Melendrez's slay.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

And another libel case

'Tis not only the season for journalist killings: it's also the open season for libels.

Embattled former President Joseph Estrada is set to file a Php30-million (US$580,000) libel suit against a Manila-based national daily and two others for accusing him of involvement in a money-laundering operation.

According to Rufus Rodriguez, Estrada’s legal counsel, the former president will sue Manila Standard Today for publishing a series of “malicious” articles based on the exposés made by former beauty queen Joelle Marie Pelaez and her mother Blanquita. Pelaez and her mother are
also to be named respondents in the planned libel suit.

In a series of articles that appeared in Standard Today last May, Pelaez accused Estrada of using her name and signature to embezzle more than Php2-billion (US$38.7-million) worth of stocks, bonds, and cash certificates through transactions with a government-owned bank. Estrada was said to have allegedly courted the United States-based Pelaez in 2000 by giving her expensive gifts.

However, the Sandiganbayan Special Division – the court handling the plunder and perjury trial of Estrada, who was ousted by a popular revolt early 2001 – decided last 17 July, not to allow former President Joseph Estrada to leave his detention quarters in Tanay, Rizal to file the said
libel case against Standard Today and the Pelaezes.

The court decided instead, that a government prosecutor could just go to Estrada's detention place to swear to the authenticity of the complaint his lawyers will file before the Pasig City Prosecutor's office.

Hagedorn sues journalists for libel -- Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

A local mayor recently filed libel complaints against two editors, a columnist, and the circulation managers of two tabloids.

Puerto Princesa City mayor Edward Hagedorn alleged that the tabloids published columns and articles, which were malicious, defamatory, and damaging to his name and reputation. The articles exposed him to public hatred, contempt and ridicule by imputing to him certain criminal acts, such as the recent killing of hard-hitting broadcaster Fernando Batul.

Charged before the Puerto Princesa City Prosecution Office were Joey Galicia Venancio, columnist; Erny Baluyot, editor; and Edwin Alcala, of the tabloid Police Files Tonite; and Joe Dalde, editor in chief and Lenie Venancio, circulation manager of the tabloid Hataw.

Less than a week after murder took place, the Philippine National Police claimed it has “solved” the case with the arrest of police officer Aaron Golifardo of the Palawan police force. Three witnesses identified Golifardo as Batul’s killer.

The family and colleagues of Batul, believe though, that Hagedorn could be behind Batul’s slay. Batul has consistently criticized Hagedorn on air when the former was still alive.

Other allegations that Hagedorn listed in his complaint are his alleged involvement in the killing of Rev. Paul Domingo, a pastor of the United Church of the Philippines, in August last year; the sabotage of the helicopter of Gov. Joel Reyes, causing it to crash in 2004; the killing of former mayor Dennis Socrates; and his having formed a commando army headed by a certain Tantan Anicete.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility tried to get the reactions of Hataw and Police Files Tonite editorial heads, but they could not be reached as of this writing.

Vigo murders, a solved case?

Is this really a solved case, as the police claimed?

PNP claims it “solved” Vigos’ murder
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

Local police declared recently that they have “solved” the recent killing of two part-time Kidapawan City-based journalists with the filing of a criminal complaint before the city prosecutor’s office against three alleged communist party members last 23 June.

Three days after the killing of George and Maricel Vigo – two human rights advocates who also worked as part-time journalists – Regional police chief German Doria announced that the Sparrow Unit of the communist group New People’s Army (NPA) was behind the Vigo killings. Doria identified one of the three suspects as Dionisio Madanggit, allegedly a member of the Sparrow Unit of NPA Front 51.

North Cotabato deputy provincial police chief Jose Calimutan, who headed Task Force Vigo, reiterated last 18 July that the police have done their part. “It’s now in the hands of the prosecution,” he said, as quoted by online news agency Mindanews.

The Vigo couple was riding on their motorcycle on their way home when shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen at a local subdivision at around 5 p.m. last 19 June.

A day after the murder took place, the police formed Task Force Vigo, composed of the Police Regional Office (PRO 12), the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG), and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Co-founders of the Federation of Reporters for Equality and Empowerment (FREE), the two continued to do part-time media work until their death -- George hosted the Tingog sa Kabatan-unan (Voice of the Youth), a 30-minute radio program of the CFSI aired every Monday noon, while Maricel hosted the Kalihukan sa Kongreso (Congress Affairs) of Rep. Talino over DXND every Sunday noon.

Doria said George was suspected by the NPA of having tipped off government forces on the whereabouts of Renante Edisa, 32, alias Commander Benjie, believed to be the head of the group’s Front 51, on November 21, 2004. Edisa was killed in a military raid days later.

Citing records from the Philippine National Police, Doria said Madanggit was also responsible for the series of killings in North Cotabato, including the killing in March 2005 of a military officer of the 39th Infantry Battalion, believed to be the triggerman of Commander Benjie.

“The suspect, now the subject of the manhunt of the authorities, was also behind the killing of Magpet town councilor Gerry Lingaro, a known anti-communist advocate last December 2005, and one Engineer Villahermosa, a businessman from Makilala town who allegedly refused to pay
revolutionary taxes to the NPA,” Doria said.

The family however, believes that the police have not sufficiently completed its investigation of the case.

“I know, in my heart, the authorities have not talked to the real witnesses. There are still witnesses now hiding because of fear. These are the persons who might give them clues, but are not yet that strong to come up in the open,” Maricel’s younger sister Maribel said. – based on reports by MindaNews

Police nabs three suspects in Pace slay

Another alert from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility:

In just two days after the incident, police apprehended three suspects in the 18 July killing of broadcaster Armando Pace in Digos, Davao del Sur, around 680 kilometers south of Manila.

On 19 July, the police nabbed suspect Juan Jesus Sataum, a money lender, whose motorcycle was allegedly used by the killer of Pace, according to Task Force Newsmen chief Pedro Tango.

The TFN chief said Sataum was taken into police custody after the black Kawasaki motorcycle, used in the slaying of the radio journalist, was found in his residence.

The second suspect, whose name was withheld by the police, allegedly went around bragging that he was the one who killed the radio commentator. The police, tipped off by the man’s neighbors, arrested him that same day.

The third suspect to be nabbed was identified as Joy Anticamara, alias “Tongol.” Anticamara was held by police at his residence in Junsay Subdivision in Digos City last 20 July by operatives of CIDG.

Anticamara was identified by a 16-year-old witness who said she was about five to 10 meters away from the gunman when he shot the broadcaster. Police said the witness positively identified Anticamara as the person who shot the broadcast journalist in a police lineup.

The witness, who is now under police custody, said Anticamara was wearing a cap during the attack and, after shooting Pace, he casually tucked in the pistol he used.

The police said the witness’ testimony was solid because she personally knew Anticamara.

Pace had just left the radio station after his daily one-hour block time program Ukadyang (12:30-1:30 pm) and was on his way to downtown Digos City when the men pulled beside the victim's own motorcycle. One of the men shot Pace in the dead several times using a .45 caliber pistol.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Deputy Director General Razon sent Tango to Digos City to coordinate all investigative efforts and extend technical assistance to local PNP units who conducted follow-up operations on the murder of Pace, a block timer for radio station dxDS.

Police investigators added that Pace’s killing could be motivated by "a personal grudge or related to his fiery radio commentary that earned him strings of libel cases filed by politicians, businessmen and other individuals."

According to a report by the Inquirer News Service, Pace regularly criticized politicians and even businessmen for their alleged wrong-doings.

Pace was imprisoned once for failing to post bail in connection with a libel case filed by a politician a few years ago. He always bragged that he was the most sued broadcaster with about 99 libel suits, the report added.

Coyiuto sues Journal Group for US$19.3M libel

Libel alert from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility:

Two executives of an insurance company recently filed a Php1-billion (US$19.3-million) libel case against officials and editors of the Journal Group of Publications.

Philippine Journalists, Inc. (PJI) for allegedly publishing malicious articles portraying them as “corrupt tax cheats.”

Roberto Coyiuto Jr., chairman of the Prudential Guarantee and Assurance Inc., and Celestino Ang, PGAI senior vice president, filed an eight-page complaint with the Manila Prosecutors Office.

One of the points raised by the complainants was that the PJI articles claimed that Coyiuto and his company failed to pay Php800 million (US$15.5 million) in tax liability for the years 1995 and 1996. But the tax liability, which amounted to only Php151.2 million (US$2.9 million), had already been settled with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in October 2000, Coyiuto and Ang said in their complaint.

Named respondents in the libel case were the board of directors of the Philippine Journalist Inc., namely Augusto Villanueva, editor in chief; Paul Icamina, managing editor; Saturnino Sofranes, associate editor; Ma. Teresa Lardizabal, news editor; and Jun Pisco, city editor of People’s
Journal Tonight.

The PGAI executives said they sued for libel after PJI officials refused to rectify their malicious articles that came out in People’s Tonight entitled “Tax raps vs Coyiuto dead?” last 08 June and “Why is BIR not after Coyiuto?” in People’s Journal on 28 June.

“The article was maliciously written, composed, and published by respondents with the obvious intention of impugning and holding to public derision and ridicule the reputations of the complainants,” the PGAI officials claimed in their affidavit.

Coyiuto added that the articles cannot be considered as “fair and true report(s)” but rather acts of “rumor-mongering,” aimed at tarnishing their reputation because the PJI, if only it wanted to write the story factually and without malice, could easily mobilize its reporters and resources to
check its veracity before the bureau.

Coyiuto’s lawyers, last 28 June, demanded upon Villanueva to rectify the false allegations contained in the articles but “he and other respondents refused to rectify their malicious publication thereby highlighting the criminal purpose and intent to malign us.”

In a phone interview with the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility last 25 July, Villanueva said they haven’t received any libel notice on Coyiuto’s complaint.

According to Villanueva, they were asked by Coyiuto’s lawyers to make a public apology to resolve the said inaccurate reports.

“In the interest of the tax-paying public, we published Coyiuto’s reaction letter to the said articles,” Villanueva said. “We even asked Coyiuto to publicly explain how he managed to pay his tax liabilities amounting to P800-million.”

When asked about the authenticity of the figures that came up in the said articles, Villanueva said they have not received the official account from the BIR.

“We decided to publish the articles anyway,” Villanueva added, stressing that their facts came from a very reliable source inside the BIR. – with reports from Manila Standard Today and BusinessWorld

Urgent press advisory -- Mariano case arraignment set on July 28

Tomorrow, July 28, the arraignment for the trial of Roger Mariano murder case will be held at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 54, Manila City. Coverage requested.

Case Background

Roger Mariano, hard-hitting radio journalist based in Laoag, Ilocos Norte was killed mercilessly on his way home along a desolate national highway after coming from his radio program “Roger Mariano in Action” aired over dzJC Laoag. He was peppered with 16 bullets (9 in the back and 7 in the head) which killed him instantly on July 31, 2004. Mariano left her wife, Alma, and their eight children hurting and agonizing over his death.

Almost four months after his death, two suspects (including SPO4 Apolonio Medrano) were arrested, and the case was filed at Ilocos Norte Regional Trial Court. The family and local journalists learned that the suspect is notoriously known to have strong political links, and has reportedly been utilized as gunman/bagman/middleman of known politicians. Because of this,the Mariano family felt threatened that the suspect, Medrano, might be able to influence the outcome of the trial.

With the fear of case whitewash, the family, with the help of their lawyer, decided to file for a Petition for Change of Venue (of the trial) to Manila, so as to provide us a neutral ground. With the help of endorsement from the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists, Inc., the petition was granted last April and has been raffled to Branch 54 of the Manila Regional Trial Court. Subsequently, Branch 54 issued a Court Order last July 3, 2006 for the immediate transfer of detention of the two accused to Manila City Jail on or before July 28, 2006. The family, colleagues, friends, and the concerned media organizations are hopeful that we will be able to get the elusive justice for Roger Mariano and score a victory for the country’s battered press freedom.

In view of this, the FFFJ is inviting the both the national and local media to attend the hearings to follow the course of the trial. Continuous coverage and daily news stories on this case from your organization and all the other media entities will help put constant pressure on the government and the justice system to end this culture of impunity.

For details, please contact Nathan: (Tel.) 02-840-0903/02-840-0889

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Chinese reporter dies from police beating

The Paris-based press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders comes this report:

Reporter beaten to death by policeman in Guizhou province -- Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders has voiced shock that reporter Xiao Guopeng of the daily "Anshun" was beaten to death by a policeman in the province of Guizhou on 18 July 2006. The policeman has been arrested and a criminal investigation is under way. Xiao was the second journalist to die this year in China as a result of a beating by a police officer.

"We will not be satisfied with administrative sanctions," the press freedom organisation said. "The judicial authorities must identify those responsible and impose prison sentences. We also call on the authorities to take the necessary measures to put an end to attacks against journalists and their assistants, as promised last February."

Xiao, 39, was attacked by police officer Pan Dengfeng outside the building that houses his newspaper. Pan knocked Xiao to the ground and continued to hit him despite the protests of a crowd that gathered. Xiao was finally rushed to a hospital where he died as a result of cerebral haemorrhaging.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy linked the attack to a recent article by Xiao expressing strong criticism of the local police.

Wu Xianghu, the deputy editor of the "Taizhou Evening News" in Zhejiang province, died in February as a result of being beaten by a policeman because of an article criticising the local police. A local official told the Xinhua news agency at the time that measures would be taken to ensure that this kind of incident did not reoccur.

For further information, contact Vincent Brossel at RSF, 5, rue Geoffroy Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 70, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail:, Internet:

Is this Pinay blogger really in Beirut now?

An MIRC friend referred me to this blog.

"Ako ay nasa loob ng Beirut, Lebanon. Nais kong iparating sa mga tao sa Pilipinas ang tunay na nangyayari dito," A Pinay in Beirut wrote. "Ang aking amo ay isang German diplomat at ako'y pinayagang umalis subalit di ko maiwan ang kanilang villa sa kadahilanang maraming mga kawatan na naglipana. Iniwan sa akin ang kanilang satellite phone at itinuro sa akin pano mag internet, tumawag at mag text sa pamamagitan nito."

You decide if this blogger is really an OFW in Beirut posting about the ongoing conflict there.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Arroyo's 6th SONA

From the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism:

IN her State of the Nation Address (SONA) today, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo promised economic reforms and a long list of big-ticket infrastructure projects that, according to her, will help put the country “on the path to prosperity.”

“I am not here to talk about politics; I am here to talk about what the people want,” the chief executive said in opening her 70-minute speech that was reportedly interrupted by applause 164 times from a predominantly pro-Arroyo audience of national and local government officials at the Batasan.

The President’s sixth SONA was marked mostly by promises of massive infrastructure plans that include highways, airports, trains, and bridges to be built in several areas in the country.

Some of the major infrastructure programs include roads linking the North Expressway to C-5 and the South Luzon Expressway all the way to Batangas; the expansion of the San Roque Mutipurpose dam; the Subic-Clark corridor which is being built as an international logistics center; and the construction of an international airport in the north and upgrading of several airports in Mindanao.

“By estimates, we would need half a trillion pesos to fund these massive infrastructure projects,” University of the Philippines economics professor Benjamin Diokno, a former budget secretary under the short-lived Estrada administration, said.

Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla asked: “Where will we get the money? The devil is in the details.”

Remulla said that with the country’s fiscal state and at the rate tax collection is going, it is nearly impossible for the President to achieve all of her proposed infrastructure programs even before her term ends in 2010.

But House committee on appropriations chair Joey Salceda said that the government has enough money to fund the infrastructure program. However, he also said the President should have asked Congress to pass the 2006 budget as it would would infuse an additional P135 billion.

In her speech, the President laid out the infrastructure projects for the four, newly-established four mega regions: North Luzon, Metro Luzon, Central Philippines, and Mindanao.

The creation of the four super regions, Arroyo stressed, is for economic and political power to be decentralized from “Imperial Manila.”

Read more here. For a copy of Arroyo's speech, click here. Arroyo's photo above from PCPO.

PJR Reports July 2006 now out

The July 2006 issue of the Philippine Journalism Review Reports is now out. For this issue, PJR Reports asked six interns at the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility to stay for a week or so in the some of the beats that reporters regularly cover to observe the culture in the different beats.

My stories in the July issue are:

"When a news source makes a charge, what's a reporter to do?
Dealing with an Accusation
(on reaction of journalists on the alleged corruption allegation against ABS-CBN reporter Lynda Jumilla)

And the Winners Are...

Will post when the onlive version of the issue is available (Haaay, too busy with the mag's August issue!)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Something's very wrong with this country

Red Batario, executive director of the Center for Community Journalism and Development, comes up this statement amid the latest journalist killing in the country:

Something's Very Wrong

Once again press organizations and media associations will be condemning the latest killing of a Filipino journalist. Once again international press watchdogs will call for a full investigation. Once again police authorities will create another task force to go after the killers. Once again there will be a lot of angry denunciations. Once again nothing will happen.

The murder of community broadcaster Armando "Rachman" Pace, 51, of Radyo Ukay in Digos, Davao del Sur last July 18 brings to eight the number of journalists killed in the country this year.

"This brings the Philippines' atrocious record for journalist safety to a new low, less than a month after the shocking murder of journalist husband and wife George and Macel Vigo," said Christopher Warren, president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The statistics are grim enough reminders that something's very wrong with this country.

But do we as a nation really care about the brutal, blatant, successive, and brazen murder not only of journalists but also of activists, lawyers and others whose only crime was trying to let people know the truth and their rights? Do we in the national media suffer from selective amnesia when we forget to voice our anger because those targeted were community journalists living and working so far away from our own comfort zones? Do we as citizens care well enough to understand media's role in democracy?

These are dark days indeed for the Philippine press and the Philippines as a nation.

All of us should suffer the collective shame of allowing a culture of impunity to take root in our midst. All of us should take the blame for pretending, or at worst believing, that things will become better by doing nothing at all.

Int'l media groups condemn journalist murder (again)

Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists are among the international groups that condemned the killing of Armando Pace.

Mindanao radio presenter becomes ninth Philippine journalist to be murdered this year -- Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the murder of Armando Pace, the presenter of a programme on local radio station DXDS on the southern island of Mindanao, who was gunned down yesterday by two men on a motorcycle. He is ninth journalist to be murdered in the Philippines this year.

"The police should not rule out the possibility that Pace's murder was linked to his work as a journalist," the organisation said. "A very thorough investigation is needed to establish who was responsible and what their motives were. If it turns out he was killed on account of what he said on the air, the authorities will be indirectly to blame because of the climate of impunity they have allowed to take hold in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao."

Pace was shot in the head and chest as he was returning home. He died of his injuries within minutes of being rushed to hospital. The gunmen have not been identified.

He was not employee of DXDS. He rented the airtime for his programme, called Ukadyang. He used to have a reputation for being very critical of certain local politicians and speaking out about drug trafficking. But he had become less acerbic in his comments since starting the radio programme, and focused above all on development issues. The editor of DXDS said Pace had not received any threats but was often the target of lawsuits.

He is the 23rd journalist to be killed since Gloria Arroyo became president in January 2001. The level of impunity is such that only one of these 23 murders had resulted in a conviction. The Philippines were ranked this year and last year as "the world's second most dangerous country for journalists, after Iraq."

Murdered broadcaster adds to Philippines' "atrocious record for journalist safety" -- International Federation of Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed by the overwhelming number of journalists being murdered in the Philippines after a broadcaster was shot dead on July 18 by unknown assailants in the southern city of Digos.

Armando "Racman" Pace, 51, of Radyo Ukay Digos was reportedly shot on his way home by two motorcycle-riding assassins.

"This brings the Philippines' atrocious record for journalist safety to a new low, less than a month after the shocking murder of journalist husband and wife team George and Macel Alave Vigo," IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

According to IFJ affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) this latest murder brings the total to 82 journalists murdered since the Philippines regained democracy in 1986, and to eight journalists murdered just this year.

"The frightening aspect of these statistics is that despite being a democracy, the situation for press freedom and the safety of journalists in the Philippines seems to be deteriorating steadily, with no indication that anything is being done to protect the lives of media workers," Warren said.

The police have reportedly formed a task force, "Pace", to locate the suspects and determine the motive for the killing.

"The IFJ calls for a full investigation into whether Pace's murder was linked to his work as a journalist, and demands the perpetrators of this crime to be brought to justice quickly and satisfactorily," Warren said.

SC orders military to show missing UP students

An update on the case of missing University of the Philippines students

Kin of 2 missing UP students get relief from Supreme Court
Source: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

THE Supreme Court has granted the petition for habeas corpus for two University of the Philippines students and a farmer who were allegedly abducted by soldiers in Bulacan last month.

The high tribunal ordered Northern Luzon Commanding Officer Gen. Romeo Tolentino, and three other military officials, to present the students, Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, and farmer Manuel Merino, to the Court of Appeals on Monday, the 24th. (View a pdf copy of the order.)

Empeno and Cadapan, who is pregnant, disappeared shortly after going to Hagonoy, Bulacan for research. They were being hosted by a local family in Bgy. San Miguel when they were allegedly abducted by rifle-wielding men around 2 a.m. of June 26. Merino was reportedly taken as well after he tried to help the two.

For more, click here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cops identify Pace murder suspect

From Zamboanga Journal:

Police is holding a man who bragged killing a broadcaster in the southern Philippine city of Digos, officials said on Wednesday.

Officials said the man was held after his neighbors informed the police that he bragged about how he allegedly killed Armando Pace. The 51-year old Pace was gunned down around 1 p.m. in Digos City. Police said Pace was heading for home on a motorcycle when gunmen ambushed him.

The motive of the killing was unknown. “Police is investigating a man about the killing of the broadcaster. The man’s neighbors told the police that he bragged about how he allegedly killed Racman,” police officer Bimbo Labajo told the Zamboanga Journal by phone from Digos City.

Racman was Pace’s nickname. Other reports said a second man was also arrested after the motorcycle used in the killing of Pace was traced to him in Digos City.

Pave was the 3rd journalist killed since last month. Gunmen also shot and killed George Vigo, a correspondent for the Union of Catholic Asian News, and his wife, Macel Alave-Vigo, also a broadcaster, on June 19 in Kidapawan City in North Cotabato province.

Vigo was also the executive director of the non-government organization Peoples’ Kauyahan Foundation, Inc. which initiates community peace forums and dialogues in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said at least 45 journalists have been murdered in the country since 2001. The Philippines now ranks second to Iraq on the list of deadliest countries for journalists in 2005, according to international media group Reporters without Borders.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday condemned the murder.

“We are saddened by the murder of Armando Pace and call for a thorough investigation into his killing…Philippine authorities must bring the murderers of journalists to justice, or the killings will continue,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director.

TV rules (at least for the moment)

From Mike Abundo of Pinoy Tech blog:

Steve Rubel notes that in the same week YouTube hits 100 million streams per day, the US TV networks suffer the lowest weekly ratings ever.

Don’t think the Philippines won’t follow. YouTube is huge in the Philippines.

The big media companies shouldn’t worry that people will post their copyrighted material on YouTube. They should worry that people will post their own stuff on YouTube, and audiences will watch that instead.Paul Graham.

It’s not about artificial content scarcity anymore. It’s about natural attention scarcity.

Personally, I don't think this will happen in the Philippines THAT soon. Why? Because Internet users in the country remain low in general. It is only in the country's big metropolitan areas like Manila do we see relatively high levels of Internet activity. Maybe in a few years the Internet level in the country will change but not now, not that soon.

TV is still Filipinos' preferred medium when it comes to news and entertainment. It will still be in a few years. Now, if it only could stop bombarding us with its inane shows.

When will the killings end?

And another journalist in the country gets killed, and based on initial evidence , the motives behind his murder are work-related. With the rate journalists are getting killed in the Philippines, it won't be long before ordinary citizens have to cover the events themselves to know the news.

Radio commentator slain in Davao del Sur
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

A hard-hitting broadcaster was gunned down by unidentified men past 1:30 p.m. Tuesday (18 July, Manila time) in Digos City, Davao del Sur, around 680 kilometers south of Manila.

Armando "Rachman" Pace, 51, a block timer for radio station dxDS, was waylaid by two men on a motorcycle along a local highway, two kilometers from the said radio station.

According to reports reaching Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Pace had just left the station after his daily one-hour block time program Ukadyang (12:30-1:30 pm) and was on his way to downtown Digos City when the men pulled beside the victim's own motorcycle. One of the men shot Pace several times using a .45 caliber pistol.

Pace was rushed to the nearest hospital, but succumbed minutes later due to fatal wounds he sustained in the neck and breast.

Ramon Sibya, dxDS station manager, said Pace started working for the said radio station only eight months ago.

Before working for dxDS, Pace was known as a hard-hitting commentator for several other local radio stations. The slain radio host, however, has since toned down his remarks since joining dxDS. In fact, his new program tackled developmental issues, such as certain government projects, Sibya added.

The police immediately formed a task force to look into the latest case of slain journalist, the fourth work-related casualty this year (seven overall, including the non-work related cases).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Silent role

Forgot to post this earlier.

Saw Kal Penn (who played Kumar in the cult film Harold and Kumar go to White Castle) in Superman Returns as one of Lex Luthor's goons. Apparently he is "Riley," described as Luthor's lead henchman.

He died in the movie (a boulder from Luthor's self-made island squished Penn and Luthor's other goons near at the film's end) without even saying a word.

Sigh. Just remembered my previous post about the need for more Harolds and Kumars in the movies.

"The world would be a better place if we had more Harolds and Kumars in the movies. And it would be a better place if our news and feature stories had more average, everyday Asian guys who like to kiss girls and go to White Castle," I quoted Tom Huang as writing for Poynter.

See my post.

(Penn's picture from

This day in history

South African leader Nelson Mandela and German dictator Adolf Hitler. What could they possibly have in common? Well, if there is any at all, it's probably the date today.

Nelson Mandela, the noted South African leader, was born today. Mandela's "long imprisonment (1962–90) and subsequent ascension to the presidency (1994) symbolized the aspirations of South Africa's black majority," according to Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Adolf Hitler must have also cherished this date because it was on July 18 when the first volume of Mein Kampf (My Struggle), the political manifesto he wrote, was published in 1925. Two years later, the second volume of the book appeared. Mein Kampf became the bible of Nazism in Germany's Third Reich.

(Mandela's picture from Hitler's photo from

Monday, July 17, 2006

America, the savior

And Americans wonder why there is so much hatred against them.

Iraqi PM Demands Rape Probe, Slams US Immunity

by Ibon Villelabeitia
(Got this through a blog dedicated to the Subic Rape case)

BAGHDAD - Iraq's prime minister called on Wednesday for an independent inquiry into the alleged rape and murder of a teenager and killing of her family by U.S. soldiers and a review of foreign troops' immunity from Iraqi law.

Five months before the expiry of the U.S.-led occupation force's United Nations mandate, Nuri al-Maliki said he was not calling for the early departure of the troops, who he said would remain for as long as Iraqi forces required assistance.

"Yes we will demand an independent Iraqi inquiry, or a joint investigation with Multinational Forces," Nuri al-Maliki told reporters during a visit to Kuwait, in his first public comments since the case came to light five days ago.

"We do not accept the violation of Iraqi people's honor as happened in this case. We believe that the immunity granted to international forces has emboldened them to commit such crimes and ... there must be a review of this immunity," he said.

Lawmakers had demanded Maliki brief parliament on the case.

Under a 3-year-old mandate from the U.N. Security Council, the 140,000 or so U.S. and foreign troops are immune from Iraqi law. Maliki, in his third month in office, has urged U.S. commanders to hold their soldiers to account under military law -- something many Iraqis feel has not happened.

The rape and murder case is the fifth in a high-profile series of U.S. inquiries into killings of Iraqi civilians in recent months, and comes at time when Maliki and Washington face delicate negotiations over a treaty to regulate the presence of the U.S.-led force once the U.N. mandate expires in December.

The rape element in a conservative Muslim society -- highlighted by Maliki's mention of "honor" -- could make the case especially damaging for the U.S. military, which has recently tightened procedures to crack down on rogue elements.

Justice Minister Hashem al-Shibly on Tuesday also demanded a full investigation by his ministry and the Security Council, calling it a "horrific, barbaric and inhuman" crime.

Iraqi media, apparently embarrassed to report on the rape at first, offered widespread coverage of the issue on Tuesday.

Iraq's government, dependent on U.S. troops, is not going to demand the Americans leave. But pressure is growing, not just from the restive and once dominant Sunni minority but also among Maliki's fellow Shiites, for signs the troops will soon depart.


The top general in Washington, Peter Pace, said on Tuesday: "We are going to get to the bottom of these allegations."

Former private Steven Green, 21, is accused of shooting a couple and their young daughter near a checkpoint, then raping and killing the child's teenage sister. Three other U.S. soldiers are suspected of taking part.

U.S. commanders acknowledge the harm of cases like Abu Ghraib and allegations U.S. soldiers killed 24 civilians at Haditha. Last month, they pressed 12 murder charges, more than in the last three years.

Baghdad's central morgue said on Wednesday it had received 1,595 bodies last month -- the highest monthly total since the February bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra sparked a wave of sectarian killings.

The figures for June show the pace of killings has increased, even after a U.S. military strike killed al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on June 7.

Morgue assistant manager Doctor Abdul Razzaq al-Obaidi compared the June figures with the 1,375 bodies the morgue received in May: "June is the highest month in terms of receiving cases of violence since Samarra," he told Reuters.

Additional reporting by Haitham Haddadin in Kuwait and Aseel Kami in Baghdad

What happened to UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan?

The University Council of the University of Philippines at Diliman made a resolution last July 12 expressing "great concern" on the inability of the government to locate the two missing UP Diliman undergraduate students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.

The resolution stated:

It is now 10 days since President Emerlinda R. Román wrote a letter to Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and to Department of National Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. requesting assistance in locating the two students. In the letter, President Román described the circumstances attending the abduction of the two students: “According to raw reports reaching my office, six or more masked armed men forcibly took them at about 2 in the morning of Monday, June 26, 2006, in Purok 6, Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan. The masked armed men were using long guns and apparently did not show any court order for their physical detention. We were also informed that Karen was asked to remove her shirt. They used this shirt to blindfold her. Sherlyn is pregnant. The women were then forced into a vehicle that proceeded in the direction of Iba, Hagonoy.”

We would like to emphasize that whatever the motives and circumstances behind it and whether it is carried out by private persons or by persons connected with government, abduction is always illegal and punishable by law, aside from being a violation of the victim’s human rights.

We are greatly concerned that they may be victims of the wave of extra-judicial executions and forced disappearances associated with elements of the security and defense establishments. Indeed, we fear for their lives.

We would therefore wish to strongly support and reiterate President Román’s request to Secretaries Puno and Cruz and other government authorities that they immediately furnish us with information of the whereabouts of Ms. Empeño and Ms. Cadapan, provide them with medical and legal assistance, and release them to the care of the University as soon as possible. We consider the continuing silence of the authorities in this matter of life and death to be inexcusable and a betrayal of the public trust.

In conclusion, we would like to repeat President Román’s words to Secretary Puno and Secretary Cruz: “We know that you share with us a commitment to the spirit of the UN General Assembly’s ‘Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance’ (Resolution 47/133 of December 18, 1992). We also know that the acts done by masked armed men are criminally punishable under our laws. Most of all, as parents committed to teaching the virtues of valuing human dignity, we are certain that you could address the matter with empathy."

Strict censorship compels Burmese mag to scrap latest issue

Press alert from the Southeast Asian Press Alliance:

Burma’s new monthly magazine, New Spectator, has been forced to cancel its July issue after heavy censorship stripped it of four lead articles. New Spectator Publisher Ko Aung told that the four articles rejected by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division included a cover story titled ‘Prospects for our People’ written by Whan Chukee and an article titled ‘Public Intellectual’ which was taken from another magazine titled, Prospect.

‘We cannot release our third issue, as the pages of the magazine have been reduced. It is not good anymore. We will have to release it next month,’ reported on 13 July.

The magazine, which is dedicated to philosophical and ideological articles, has only been in publication since May 2006. It has a print run of 1,000 copies.

Read more here.

Slipknot appearance at Sensation Black results in stage fight


A controversial guest appearance of Slipknot and Biohazard members during the set of Dj Rob Gee at the Dutch techno festival Sensation Black (July 8), has resulted in a stagefight. As Dutch newspaper 'De Telegraaf' reports, techno fans were already boo-ing the DJ away before his set had started. At around 02.00 a.m. Gee was about to start in his 90's Gabber hit 'XTC, You Got What I Need' and a visitor climbed the stage. Rob Gee felt threatened and went on a fist fight with the man.

One day later Rob Gee reacted to the incident: "The guy came running at me and attacked me. I immediately had to think of my friend and former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrel. He got shot on stage."

Here's a clip of what happened from YouTube:


Ryan, an old classmate of mine, texted me this message over the weekend. Hindi ko rin alam ang mga sagot sa tanong niya.

Ryan's text:

Matagal ng gumugulo sa isipan ko ang mga tanong na ito:

1. Does jennifer love hewitt?
2. Where did vincent van gogh?
3. Is marvin gaye?
4. Why is norman black?
5. Where did sandara park?
6. Is chow yun fat?
7. What did henry sy?
8. Why is alonzo mourning?
9. Is lucio tan?
10. When will orlando bloom?
11. What did scooby doo?
12. Is the birthstone of kevin garnet?
13. What is victoria's secret?
14. Kapag namimili ba si manny pacquiao?

Pakitext na lang sa akin ang mga sagot kung meron kayo.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Zidane, Materazzi's savior

"A lot of heads might still be shaking with the header legendary Zinedine Zidane sent barrelling into the chest of Italy's Marco Materazzi," wrote Nathan Lee, one of my colleagues at the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility in his blog.

Did Materazzi really provoke Zidane by saying the "T" word? Or that the former called Zidane's sister a prostitute? Apparently, latest investigation shows that Zidane's "violent outburst" was actually -- gasp! -- to save the Italian's life!

Here's the proof for you guys to see.

Whether the cat belongs to a terrorist group or s/he is just a fanatic fan of the French team still remains unknown to investigators.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Smile! A chicken gives birth to the Allah egg

Now, just to deviate a bit from my previous posts, here is a bizarre report from Yahoo News. Hmm... and the world gets weirder and weirder each day.

Chicken lays mystery Allah egg

ALMATY (Reuters) - A chicken in a Kazakh village has laid an egg with the word "Allah" inscribed on its shell, state media reported Thursday.

"Our mosque confirmed that it says 'Allah' in Arabic," Bites Amantayeva, a farmer from the village of Stepnoi in eastern Kazakhstan, told state news agency Kazinform.

"We'll keep this egg and we don't think it'll go bad."

The news agency said the egg was laid just after a powerful hail storm hit the village.

Kazakhstan is a large, thinly populated Central Asian state where Sunni Islam is a dominant religion.

And I am saying this item is weird with a wide toothy grin, since according to a recent international survey, the Philippines is the 17th happiest country in the world. Jeez.

RP 17th happiest country in survey

LONDON: The Philippines is the 17th happiest country on Earth, according to a study published Wednesday that measured people’s well-being and their impact on the environment.

The tiny South Pacific Ocean archipelago of Vanuatu is the happiest in the Happy Planet Index, compiled by the British think-tank New Economics Foundation.

Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica and Panama complete the top five.

The index gave no specifics on the Philippines.

Read more about the survey here.

PNP claim on journalist killings another cop-out -- NUJP

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines comes out with this statement on the recent claim made by the Philippine National Police on the perpetrators behind the continued media killings in the country.

NUJP response to General Razon

After failing to arrest and prosecute the brains and triggermen behind the murders of journalists, 44 of whom have died under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's watch (The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility counts 28 since Arroyo became president -- Bryanton Post), the Philippine National Police, through Deputy Director General Avelino Razon, now claims that the New People's Army is responsible for our colleagues' unsolved deaths.

We will not debate the veracity or lack of it of Razon's claims.

But neither can we accept his claim at face value.

For, if anything, Razon's statement sounds too much like another cop-out, an attempt to get away with, at best, the inability to fulfill his sworn mandate to protect the lives and liberties of people, at worst, a deliberate effort to sweep culpability under the rug.

Much like previous statements form law enforcement and government authorities, most notably justice secretary Raul Gonzalez, that a number of our slain colleagues deserved their fates, or those harebrained suggestions to arm journalists.

Particularly since, as quoted in news reports, Razon linked the murders of our colleagues to a supposed internal purge by the rebels that the military has also used as a convenient excuse to explain away the unabated killings and abductions of activists and legal dissenters.

Razon's claim, which as far as we know remains just that – a claim – is particularly galling since it was made by no less than the officer named to head Task Force Usig, which was formed specifically to solve the killings of both journalists and activists.

If, indeed, the New People's Army is behind the killings, then it is reprehensible and condemnable. But there have never been any indications that this is so.

If anything, most colleagues who have taken it upon themselves to investigate the deaths of their friends and co-workers say the signs invariably point the other way – to the involvement of state security forces, whether as hired guns or actually undertaking black operations.

We can only point to the latest atrocity against the independent Philippine media, which eliminated not a colleague but an entire media outfit, Radyo Cagayano.

But even if Razon's claim is true, it does not and cannot justify inaction.

For his mandate, as it is the mandate of every policeman or soldier, as it is the mandate of government itself, is to put an end to the killings and see that the perpetrators and masterminds are punished, not to seek excuses for inaction.

For as we have said again and again, and will continue to say, inaction can only mean culpability or, at the very least, a tolerance of such a wide-scale and wanton violation not just of the media's but of the people's civil, social, political and human rights.

Singapore showdown

Here's a follow-up report from the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) to the recent suspension of Singaporean blogger Lee Kin Mun, popularly known as "Mr. Brown."

"A showdown may be looming in Singaporean cyberspace," SEAPA posted in its blog last July 11, "with the censure of a popular blogger sparking a rare protest in the city state, and the government insisting that the suspension of his column from a state-owned paper is merely consistent with the country’s notorious policies for managing public discourse."

SEAPA continued: "The Agence France Press says supporters of Mr. Brown – whose real name is Lee Kin Mun — gathered at a busy subway station on July 9 ‘for a silent protest at the suspension of his weekly newspaper column after the government criticised his latest satirical piece about high living costs.’ There were at least 30 supporters who turned up at Singapore’s City Hall dressed in brown attire, it was reported from a country where any assembly of at least five people legally needs a police permit.

The Singapore Democratic Party has lambasted the suspension of Lee’s column from the state-owned newspaper. In a statement, the SDP said Singaporean authorities are clearly applying the country’s notoriously uncompromising and intolerant anti-speech laws on new media. ‘The wrapper may change but the package remains decidedly antiquated,’ the SDP said.

A showdown in Singapore’s cyberspace may be looming, however.

The government is defending its position that the mainstream media holds itself to a higher standard than articles posted on Internet chat rooms, reports blogger Singapore Rebel."

Read more of SEAPA's post here. Check out Lee Kin Mun's site here. His photo and website appears on the left.

The power of the press

Malaya's Nestor Mata talks about the recent government uproar in the US after the press, most notably The New York Times, disclosed its secret anti-terrorist programs. Mata compared the US government's reaction to "similar attempts by Gloria Arroyo and her political cohorts to muzzle media, both print and broadcast, in their desperate attempt to draw away attention from the continuing public outcry for her to step down from her illegitimate presidency."

"Indeed, the powers than be cannot be mightier than the press – the "Fourth Branch" of government – here in America or the Philippines!,” wrote Mata.

Read Mata's column here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Regional free expression group launches blog

Got this email from Roby Alampay, executive director of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance or SEAPA. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility is a founding member of SEAPA.

SEAPA joins dozens of journalists and media organizations around the region to put up a blog. Congrats, SEAPA and welcome to the blogosphere!

July 12, 2006

Dear all.

SEAPA has finally made a move to port its online presence from a traditional website to a totally new blog. Please check out

We've been wanting to do this ever since we hosted the Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace in Manila last April. We now appreciate not only the potential convenience and efficiency of blogging, but more important, the capability this brings to elicit participation and build a stronger network–a more active community–with whom we can work for press freedom in Southeast Asia.

Our aim here is not only transfer our Alerts dispatches to a new format, but equally important, to actively engage people in discussions about free expression in our region. Beyond Alerts, we will try our best to actively link to posts pertaining to free expression issues affecting us all. A point in the right direction will always be appreciated.

SEAPA remains an advocacy group for Southeast Asia in particular, but a big reason we're also making this move is so that we can also reactivate our official conference blog last April--and continue our conversation about free expression in Asian cyberspace. With PCIJ's help, we intend to bring back that link as a live and active section where our discussions on free expression on the Internet can continue. (We have a lot of questions, for starters, about this
whole "Internet neutrality" thing.)

Meantime, if you check out our blog, you'll see that as of late, we've been monitoring Singapore a lot, where the blogging community seems to be seizing upon a defining moment in defense of one of their own, and of Singaporeans in general.

Will welcome your comments, questions, advice (both for editorial content AND technical matters) for this beginner's blog. You are all inspirations in this move and development, and we will most certainly value your help in bringing our blog up to standard, keeping it relevant, and actually useful.

Check it out:

Warm regards,

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How do media portray children?

Either as "victims of abuse" or "in conflict with the law." That is according to a recent study made by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR). The study, which was sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), was published in the June 2006 issue of the PJR Reports.

"According to the National Statistics Office, children below 18 years old comprise about 43.4 percent of the estimated population of 84 million Filipinos.

"At the same time, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) country report dated October 2005 noted that the problems facing Filipino children today are 'considerable and pressing.'

"It noted four core threats to the well-being of children related to health, nutrition, education, and protection. In fact, the country report ventures to say that out of 100 Filipino children: eight will most likely die before their fifth birthday, 30 will suffer from malnutrition, 26 will fail to be immunized against basic childhood diseases, 19 will lack access to safe drinking water and 40 to adequate sanitation while more than 10 suffer from some physical or mental disability or developmental delay, and 17 will never go to school.

"Yet, despite these pressing issues, news items about children revolve around only two themes: children as 'victims of abuse' or 'in conflict with the law'," wrote Rachel E. Khan and Elena E. Pernia in their story on the CMFR study on children.

CMFR study noted that reporters and editors should be conscious that "children are not miniature adults and have greater awareness of the impact a traumatic event can have on children." It also recommended that the Department of Justice (DOJ) should be more active in providing journalists with copies of its guidelines in covering children, especially those covering the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and those working in the community press.

"At the same time, there is a need to expand the coverage on children to 'good news' stories and those that tackle issues affecting the children’s quality of life. Instead of straight news stories that can sometimes be reported without sensitivity to the child, journalists should explore feature stories that tackle children’s issues with greater depth, help create an awareness of a problem and possibly propose a solution," the CMFR report said.

Read Khan and Pernia's article in the PJR Reports here.

To look at the study in the CMFR website, click here. You can also look at the report by clicking here.

Download Khan's presentation on the study here. She presented the study in a training seminar for media practitioners on covering children. For more information about the seminar, click here. Khan also has a post on the seminar in her blog.

(Pictures on this post from Lito Ocampo)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Radyo Cayagano: The radio station that peasants built

Bulatlat, the hard-hitting online publication, writes a beautiful piece about the people behind Radyo Cayagano. "The community radio built by peasants is not about to be silenced permanently," it said.

The Radio station the farmers built
Radyo Cagayano: Burned but Not Silenced

After a three-year preparation, Radyo Cagayano started its test broadcast this May. By July 2, the community radio was off the air, after armed men razed the station. But its unfazed although shaken staff promise they would not be silenced permanently.

By Dee Ayroso

Susan Mapa remembered shedding tears of joy the first time Radyo Cagayano went on the air. Mapa is the station manager of dwRC 90.1 FM, a community radio station which began its test broadcast last May 25. After three years of preparing and hurdling all obstacles, they were finally heard in the mountainous town of Baggao and its neighboring villages in Cagayan province (some 500 km. north of Manila).

On July 3, Mapa again shed tears, this time during a press conference at News Desk in Quezon City. Armed men, suspected to be soldiers, razed the station July 2 early morning. Mapa recounted how she and five other radio staff helplessly watched as the radio equipment, as well as their personal belongings inside the station, were burned.

“Ang nararamdaman ko ngayon ay lungkot. Pero alam kong sa bayan ng Baggao, hindi titigil ang mamamayan, dahil alam ko ang hirap nila sa pagtatayo ng Radyo Cagayano.” said Mapa, 32, and a former broadcaster for Bombo Radyo in Tuguegarao City in Cagayan. (I am sad about what happened, but I know that the people of Baggao will not stop, because I know what they went through in putting up Radyo Cagayano.)

Read the article. (The photo on the left, which shows whatever was left of the station after the incident, was taken from Bulatlat.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

State-owned newspaper in Singapore suspends blogger's column

Press alert from the Southeast Asian Press Alliance:

State-owned newspaper in Singapore suspends blogger's column

A state-owned newspaper has suspended the column of blogger Lee Kin Mun, following an information ministry official's warning that "it is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues."

A 30 June 2006 article by Lee in the state-owned "Today" newspaper sarcastically discussed how many Singaporeans cannot make ends meet despite all the "progress" trumpeted by government. The comments by Lee - better known to his readers as the blogger "Mr. Brown" - prompted Krishnasamy Bhavani, press secretary for the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, to warn in a letter to "Today" editors that "it is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the government."

Engaging in the types of social commentary that "Mr. Brown" is known for, Bhavani said in her 3 July letter, disqualifies one as "a constructive critic." He is, instead, "a partisan player in politics," the press secretary said.

On 6 July, three days after Bhavani's response to his article, Lee said in his blog ( ) that he has been informed by the newspaper that his weekly column has been suspended.

Notwithstanding its standing as Southeast Asia's richest and most economically advanced nation, Singapore has some of the strictest controls on free expression in the region. State-owned companies have a monopoly over the print and broadcast industries, the editors and managers of which submit to very rigid self-censorship. The country's Films Act bans work that have political content and themes. Its defamation laws, notorious for their potential to bankrupt individuals and corporations, are ever hanging over the heads of writers, editors, publishers and political dissenters. In the last round of elections, Singapore officials warned bloggers and podcasters not to engage in political discourse.

Another Singaporean blog, Singapore Rebel ( notes that "Lee is recognised as one of Singapore's pioneer bloggers. As part of the traditional printed media's attempt to engage the younger generation, Lee was given a regular column in "Today". When the government banned political podcasting during the recent elections, Lee became the de facto spokesman for "responsible blogging". The mainstream media quoted his slogan, "Prison got no broadband", in discouraging political bloggers from confrontational online postings. Lee himself, however, tested the ban by uploading a sarcastic series of "persistently non-political podcasts" on his blog, one of which spoofed the state's arrest of an opposition candidate.

For further information, contact Kulachada Chaipipat at SEAPA, 538/1 Samsen Road, Dusit, Bangkok, 10300 Thailand, tel/fax: +662 243 5579, e-mail:, Internet:

2006 Freda Utley Prize now open

Here's a media release from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Philippine-based think tanks are encouraged to join.

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation has established the Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty to reward the efforts of think tanks in difficult parts of the world that are most effective in disseminating the ideas of freedom (limited government, the rule of law, free enterprise, the dignity of the individual, etc.).

This annual Prize will provide a $10,000 reward to a single winner that demonstrates excellence in reaching a broad audience or having a substantial impact on opinion-makers, so that concepts relating to freedom become better understood. For example, good candidates for the Utley Prize could be an institute that documents how its radio program reaches 100,000 listeners each weekday with discussions of economic liberty, or an institute that educates 50 college students each year through a certificate program, and has seen a dozen students from past years graduate into high government positions.

Who Can Apply: Atlas specifically solicits applications from organizations in countries where the ideas of liberty are not clearly understood or applied (i.e., countries which the various economic
freedom indices term as "unfree"). Preference is given to organizations that are headquartered in such countries. However, organizations that are based in freer parts of the world, but developing and contributing to the creation of organizations in the target countries (i.e. serving
as a catalyst), are also eligible to apply.

How to Apply: You can submit your application online at , which consists of a simple (one page) nomination essay that explains why the applying institute merits recognition for excellence in advance liberty in a difficult part of the world. Please note that the Prize will not be given to new or proposed projects that do not have an existing track record. Please submit an application about a specific project that has been completed, or a demonstrated body of ongoing work.

Supporting documentation which illustrates the impact of the project, as well as the submission of local references, is an important part of the application process. Examples include media coverage, reviews of the project, testimonies from people who have been directly impacted, etc.

Applications must be submitted in English. The required supporting documentation, however, does not have to be in English. We anticipate that some of the strongest applications will concern programs conducted in other languages. Applications must be received by August 31, 2006.

Selection Criteria & Announcement Schedule: The winning institute will be selected by a panel of independent judges, based upon their demonstration of excellent achievement in reaching and persuading new audiences of the merits of the ideas of freedom and on the impact of
this process.

The winner will be announced at our annual Freedom Dinner in November 2006.

Please note that institutes that have won one of Atlas's Templeton Freedom Prizes are eligible for the Utley Prize, but cannot nominate the same project for the Freda Utley Prize.

The Freda Utley Foundation decided to establish this program at Atlas because of its experience, capabilities, resources, and reputation.

"We see Atlas as an ideal partner in continuing her legacy, because it has the infrastructure, experience, and focus to use funds effectively to promote liberty, especially in the world's poorer nations. Atlas's core beliefs are very much in tune with Freda Utley's: namely, concern for human poverty and misery, and the belief that peoples of all nations have similar aspirations and can learn the universal lessons of freedom and prosperity. Freda Utley would have found the Atlas team very, very much to her liking and affinity, not just in its beliefs, but in its
common sense and activism."

For more information about the Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty, please visit or contact Ms. YiQiao Xu at

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The copycat in me

First, Frank Cimatu "honored" the country's "Champion for Life" with this photo in his blog.

Now comes Manny Pacquiao in the country's reissued P5 bill. Got this from Flicker user Ramil. I wouldn't wonder when in the near future Manny appears in our flag replacing the sun with those eight rays or Extreme Magic Sing becoming the national microphone.

Is the Palace Using ABS-CBN for Propaganda?

Blogger Dean Jorge Bocobo thinks it is so. "Just as (The Daily) Tribune editorial claims," he wrote in his blog. But he said he is supporting the network's decision to air the video. "What were they gonna do? Sit on it? That would be inconceivable from a purely journalistic standpoint."

He however wrote some criticisms on the station's coverage.

First, he said that ABS-CBN's refusal to explain the details about the tape's origin (for "obvious ethical reasons" and that it is the station's right) means that "the public must accept their conclusion or interpretation of the ultimate meaning of this video material on faith."

Second: "Strictly speaking we do not know when it was made, by whom, why it was made, for whom, and if it had actually been seen by anyone else than those who made it," Bocobo explained. "The last is important because NOW it has been seen by millions, and an interpretation of its meaning has been drummed in by Bandila, by (The Philippine Star), and by continuous ABS-CBN coverage for three days," adding that "an illegal, perhaps libelous use of unverified electronic material has been aired against the reputation of an active military officer who has not been charged with any crime thus far and whose reputation has thereby been impugned."

In his third point, Bocobo was in effect asking: Was the video really a result of "perspicacious investigative reporting" and the "careful cultivation of 'trusted sources'"?

And fourth is that the network and the Star, according to him, "did become players and create the news that even bloggers are paying attention to!"

Read his post.

IFJ condemns attack on community radio station

Community radio station set alight and staff members attacked in Philippines

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned an attack on community radio station Radyo Cagayano by eight masked and armed persons in Baggao, north of Manila.

IFJ President Christopher Warren said, "This is a major setback for press freedom, and the targeting of a community radio station is particularly ruthless and disturbing. Stations such as this should be able to operate without fear of persecution, as they are an essential source of information for regional communities."

IFJ affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), reported arsonists blindfolded and held six staff members at gunpoint, before setting the radio transmitter and booth facilities on fire.

The incident comes after a series of threats against the station, which has suffered from many delays due to harassment since beginning operations in May this year.

Local organisations believe the army is responsible for this latest attack.

"So long as incidents such as this are allowed to occur, the media won't be able to perform its duty in reporting fairly and accurately to communities. The IFJ supports the NUJP in calling for increased protection for journalists in the region, and in calling for the attackers to be apprehended and held fully accountable for their actions," Warren said.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Trail of the (Lim) tape

Talk of the town these days is the video showing Army Brigadier General Danilo Lim declaring his withdrawal of support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The video, which was supposedly to air on television had an alleged coup attempt succeeded in February of this year and aired in ABS-CBN's Bandila last July 3, showed Lim saying that he could not bear supporting a "bogus president" (referring to Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo whose election win in 2004 was hounded by cheating allegations) and called on his fellow soldiers to abandon Arroyo, their commander-in-chief.

Lim added in the video: "
We call on Mrs. Arroyo to accept gracefully the formation of a new government. As soldiers, we don't seek political power for ourselves, but we shall not allow anyone to use political power to commit crimes against our people, or to pursue their own personal agenda at the expense of the national interest."

I wrote about Lim's taped speech when it broke out last March. In the April 2006 issue of the PJR Reports, my story focused on how the government was then pressuring ABC-5 to hand over the said tape. Back then, Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor told media that the station has "a taped interview" with Lim announcing his withdrawal of support from the administration. The interview supposedly took place on Feb. 23, the eve of the 20th anniversary of People Power 1.

"The government's dogged efforts to get the alleged Lim tapoe is viewed by the press as reflection of the continuing clampdown on media, especially those labeled by the administration as 'seditious'," PJR Reports wrote.

"A comical, if not pathetic, pattern is emerging," the story added. "The government, which has been earnestly trying to clamp down on media, is also turning to it for help in providing information it needs to fight for its survival."

So, the tape exists, finally showing to the public Lim's speech that has never seen before and which existence has been only whispered in media and other circles. How the press was again the first to confirm and show its existence, even after the government is looking for months for it to surface, deserves another story.

"It wasn’t the intelligence arm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or the National Bureau of Investigation, or the Philippine National Police that did it," as the Philippine Daily Inquirer wrote in its editorial today. "It was the media."

Read the PJR Reports story when the issue first broke out.

Now they raze radio stations

That's the title of the column today of Manila Times columnist Dan Mariano who wrote about the burning of Radyo Cayagano:

"The burning of Radyo Cagayano, although appalling, is but one more statistic in the growing list of casualties in the war of hate spawned by the official demonization of the Left—or of anyone who dares to raise a contrary voice.

"Scores of journalists and hundreds of Left-wing activists have been murdered since 1986—the year democracy was supposedly restored in the Philippines. Thousands more cases of harassment have been reported.

"With the authorities reluctant to solve those crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice, there is little reason to expect that the effort to silence critics of the government will come to an end soon."

Read his column.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Burning of radio station another fatal blow to country's press freedom -- media groups

The media community's reaction to the burning of Radyo Cagayano was quick, saying that the incident is another blow to the much-vaunted press freedom in the country, along with the other past attempts to stifle the media and the worsening media killings in the Philippines.

From the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP):

We demand an accounting

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) expresses its outrage over the burning on Sunday (July 2) of radio station dwRC Radyo Cagayano in Baggao, Cagayan by eight armed men wearing ski masks who also blindfolded, muzzled and tied station manager Susan Mapa and volunteers Erik Ayudan, Arnold Agaraan, Armalyn Badua, Arlyn Areta and Joy Marcos.

While thankful that no lives were lost in this latest atrocity, the burning of the station was as brazen an attack on Press Freedom and the People's Right to Know as any of the scores of murders that have claimed 81 colleagues' lives since 1986, when democracy was supposed to have been restored to our benighted land, and 44 since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001, the highest toll of any administration.

For while the arsonists deigned to spare the lives of our dwRC colleagues, they struck at the very heart of why the media exist – the inalienable right of the people to free access to information by which they can chart their individual lives and our future as a nation and as a people.

The brazenness of the arson is underscored by the fact that reports reaching the NUJP indicate the station was a joint project of the mayor of Baggao and a local farmers' organization with government funding from the party-list Bayan Muna.

Again we demand that the Arroyo government order its law enforcement agencies to act with dispatch to find, arrest and prosecute the brains and perpetrators of this condemnable atrocity.

For, as we have said again and again in the still unsolved cases of so many of our murdered colleagues, and as various human rights and sectoral groups have pointed out in the case of the hundreds of activists killed or involuntarily disappeared since this administration came into power, inaction can only mean culpability or, at the very least, a tolerance of such a wide-scale and wanton violation not just of the media's but of the people's civil, social, political and human rights.

From the Paris-based press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF):

Armed men torch a community radio

A gang of at least eight masked and armed men raided and torched a community radio on 2 July, first tying up six members of staff, who were slightly injured.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the attack on Radyo Cagayano, in Cagayan province, northern Manila, which it said threatened press freedom yet again in this far-flung corner of the country.

"We call for the investigation ordered by President Gloria Arroyo to shed light on this case, that those responsible be brought to trial and that the Philippines government takes the necessary steps to bring these types of attack to a halt," said the press freedom organisation.

The overnight raiders threatened the six employees who were on the premises at the time, including the radio station's director, Susan Mapa, before binding them and setting fire to the building. The shocked members of staff were able to leave the radio and were only slightly injured.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has accused the army of carrying out the raid on the basis of indications provided by the staff. It also condemned inaction by the police. Although based only 300 metres from the radio, they only arrived on the scene three hours after the attack.

"The army is the only group with a motive to launch such an attack, said leftist lawmaker Teodoro Casino. They have been very much the targets of programmes on this radio station," he said. Lieut. Col. Leopoldo Galon Jr however denied any involvement on the part of the military.

This attack is the latest in a long series generally carried out against leftist figures and activists.

From NUJP's Baguio-Benguet Chapter:

NUJP-BB condemns burning of Radyo Cagayano

The chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in Baguio and Benguet (NUJP-BB) condemns the burning of dwRC Radyo Cagayano in Baggao, Cagayan at 2 am on Sunday, July 2, by armed men wearing ski masks. We urge government authorities to conduct a speedy investigation and to charge with appropriate cases those involved in the arson.

We learned that before dawn that day, eight armed and ski mask-wearing men, carrying M-16 and 45 caliber firearms, illegally entered the station area, poured gasoline, and put the station aflame which reduced the station house, including the transmitter and booth facilities, into ashes.

Before the station was put on fire, the station manager, Susan Mapa, and her staff Joy Marcos, Arlyn Areta, Armalyn Badua, Arnold Agaraan, and Erik Ayudan were forcedly dragged, tied and blindfolded outside the station by the perpetrators. They suffered slight injuries and mentally harassed as a result of the incident. All their cellular phones were taken by the

One of the perpetrators was wearing a military uniform while the others wear military watches. They are believed to be from the 17th IB under the 5thInfantry Division.

This cowardly act is an attack against press freedom. It is a concrete move to suppress freedom of expression. Radyo Cagayano is a popular station among local folk as the staffs discuss the present national and local issues. The staff may have criticized policies of the government they believed contrary to people's interests, but they did so in the exercise of press freedom, recognized and protected under the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution and other laws.

We condemn the act as it denied the delivery of information to the people and it destroyed a long-awaited community radio station.

We urge appropriate government authorities to investigate the burning and other related acts and charge and/or punish those involved in this cowardly act. We will be vigilant in monitoring that the incident would not be whitewashed.
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