Wednesday, August 30, 2006

PJR and CJR


In case you want to know, the PJR Reports (formerly known as the Philippine Journalism Review) is patterned after the highly respected media magazine Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) in the United States.

It's still a long way to go for us before we can reach CJR's status, but I can assure you that we continuously try to improve the quality of the country's version of CJR, assuring that every issue of the PJR Reports is concise, comprehensive, and thoroughly thought out. The latest issue of the PJR Reports, if you can recall my earlier post, is now online.

After reading the PJR Reports issue, you might want to read the July/August 2006 issue of the CJR. Every CJR issue, I must say, is worth reading.

CJR's main story for the July/August 2006 issue zooms in on the fight between the constitutional right of the people to know and the government's right to not to publicly disclose some information, especially those touching on issues affecting national security and terrorism. Go to CJR's site for the stories.

Reading the CJR Daily, which offers "real-time media criticism" from the CJR, is also a pleasant and enriching experience. If you are a journalist who wants to improve your reporting skills, or just a media consumer who wants to see how US media cover, check the CJR Daily site.

Here's an August 29 site entry:

What's More Important -- Plants, or People?

On page four today the New York Times carries an 887-word piece from the Canary Islands -- Spanish territory off the coast of southern Morocco home to unusual evolutionary habitats "that fascinated Charles Darwin more than 100 years ago, and that today reveal a new species or subspecies to scientists an average of once every six days."

While the piece focuses on the local flaura and fauna, and the influx of "invasive species" that are threatening the natural habitat, down in the sixth paragraph the paper explains that the ecological problems the islands are currently suffering from parallel another form of stress: "waves of West African immigrants seeking to reach mainland Europe through the porous borders separating the islands from the rest of the European Union."

Ah, yes, that other immigration crisis -- the one concerning thousands of African migrants perilously traveling hundreds of miles in overcrowded boats -- matters too. ("The flood of destitute Africans making the dangerous journey to the Canary Islands to gain a foothold in Europe is so intense that more have been caught in August than in all of 2005," the Associated Press reports today.)

But you wouldn't know that particular fact from looking at the Times, which -- having dispensed with the human crisis in less than a sentence -- returned to explore the dangers the islands' plants and animals face. Meantime, the paper has mentioned the Canary Islands three other times in the past month: on Aug. 1 an Editorial Observer piece included one sentence on Africans crossing to the islands, while on Aug. 10 House & Home profiled a woman who once lived "with a monkey in a Canary Islands cave." The Arts, Briefly column of Aug. 19 also covered the islands, writing about the repatriation of a centuries-old mummy from a Spanish museum.

The threats to the Canaries' rich biodiversity may be serious, but we wonder if the story of poor West Africans journeying from Mauritania and Senegal "in rickety, open fishing boats" in search of a better existence doesn't deserve more attention.

Continue reading here.

Dismantle the culture of impunity

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) came out today with the statement below:

IFJ calls for more action to dismantle the "culture of impunity" of the Philippines

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is heartened by news of the arrest of a suspected journalist murderer, but has called for more action from the Philippines government to end the culture of impunity about journalist murders in the Philippines.

According to local reports police have arrested one of two suspects in the murder of photojournalist Albert Orsolino who was murdered on May 16, 2006.

"We are finally seeing some concrete action by President Gloria Arroyo and her government to address the shocking number of journalists who have been killed in the Philippines," IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

"But more needs to be done to send the message loud and clear that journalist murderers will be caught and prosecuted," Warren said.

"Nearly 50 journalists have been killed under Arroyo's rule, and this is a step in the right direction to finding the perpetrators of these targeted crimes and bringing them to justice. The IFJ hopes that the recent arrest of the suspect in Orsolino's murder is a positive sign of things to come," Warren said.

"These are small victories in the long struggle towards press freedom and safety for journalists in the Philippines," he said.

The IFJ, the organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries, calls on the Philippines government to put in place practical actions to dismantle the culture of impunity that has flourished under Arroyo's rule.

At its fifth annual congress, held August 27 to 28 in Tagaytay City, IFJ affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) remained "unbowed" and determined to continue to fight for the rights and lives of journalists in the Philippines.

"It is inspiring to see the growing numbers of committed journalists who stand up for a free press in the face of danger, threats, intimidation and assaults," Warren said.

"The NUJP, through its dedication to journalists' safety and enhancing the working and economic conditions for journalists in the Philippines, is a vital support network for the Filipino media in their struggle. The IFJ commends the NUJP on their valuable work."

The NUJP also elected a new set of directors and officers. The IFJ sends its warm congratulations to the newly elected team, and our heartfelt thanks to the outgoing team.

Where did that band get its name?

Do you wonder where your favorite musicians get their names from? This site contains origins of the names of various bands and artists. I'm not sure if the site's information is 100 percent accurate, though. So, feel free to comment, especially if you know a lot about the names too.

Here are some of the site's entries:

The Beatles - A few stories floating around about this one. Stuart Sutcliffe came up with The Beetles in 1960, which was evidently a play on Buddy Holly's Crickets. They went by The Quarrymen and The Silver Beetles awhile later, then shortened and mutated that to The Beatles. Lennon and Sutcliffe may have also been influenced by the film "The Wild One", which featured a motorcycle gang called the Beetles. John Lennon is generally credited with combining Beetles and Beat to come up with The Beatles spelling. Lennon was also fond of saying he had a vision as a child of a flaming pie in the sky that said "You are Beatles with an "A"...

Black Sabbath - they were originally a cover band called Earth. The band saw Boris Karloff's 1963 horror movie "Black Sabbath" one night and were inspired to call their first original song "Black Sabbath". They found out at a gig that there was another band called "Earth", so they changed their name to Black Sabbath.

Blink 182 - They were originally called Blink, but were forced to change their name because a techno band from Ireland was already called that. 182 doesn't actually mean anything. The band has helped start rumors about 182 like: Al Pacino said "fuck" 182 times in Scarface, Al Pacino said "fuck" 182 times in "The Godfather", etc. Source = interviews with the band.

Blur - The band was originally called "Seymour", but a condition of their record deal was they had to pick a new name from a list that the label supplied. "Blur" was on the list.

Bon Jovi - A mutation of Jon Bon Jovi's real name: John Bongiovi, Jr.

Chemical Brothers - They were originally named "The Dust Brothers" after the famous American producers until the real Dust Brothers caught wind of this. "Chemical Brothers" was derived from a song of theirs called "Chemical Beat", which was allegedly inspired by all the drugs in the clubs they played.

Dream Theater - They originally met in Boston and called themselves MAJESTY. That had to change because of another band with the same name. Mike's father suggested the name Dream Theater as taken from a movie house in Monterey, California.

They had to drop their original name "Majesty" due to copyright problems and named themselves after a theater in their LA neighborhood.

Foo Fighters - David Grohl was fascinated by the Roswell incident and sci-fi in general. He decided to name his new project after a slang expression used in World War II by US pilots to describe the alien-looking fireballs they sometimes saw over Germany (specifically, betueen Hagenau in Alsace-Lorraine and Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in the Rhine Valley). Foo is a mutation of the French word for fire, "fue". Sources: the band's official website and an NME biography.

Guns and Roses - From Axyl Rose and Tracii Guns' names. Some think it's a combination of LA Guns and Hollywood Roses.

INXS - Three members are brothers with the last name Farriss. They narrowly decided on INXS over Farriss Brothers. INXS is a cool way to spell "In Excess", which they hoped their music would be. There is an old story that their girlfriends approached XTC saying their boyfriends were in a band called the "Farris Brothers" and they wish their name was as cool as XTC's.

Iron Maiden - nasty medieval torture device.

Megadeth - Dave Mustane was inspired by a government pamphlet after getting kicked out of Metallica. A Megadeath is a military term for one million dead people, so World War II was responsible for 80 Megadeath. Megadeth is the phonetic spelling for Megadeath.

MxPx - Their original name was Magnified Plaid. On a poster for one of their shows, the guitarist put M.P., but the periods looked like little x's so people thought they were MxPx. The nickname stuck.

Pantera - Their first name was Pantego, the name of a Texas town. Pantera is Portuguese for Panther.

Pearl Jam - A couple variations: 1- Eddie's grandma (who's name is Pearl) used to make good jam 2- Eddie's grandma used to make peyote jam. Rumour has it the band almost named themselves "Mookie Blaylock" after their favorite basketball player.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - They were originally called "Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem". Anthony Kiedis says he was inspired to change the name to the Red Hot Chili Peppers after seeing "a psychedelic bush with band's name on it". It may be a coincidence, but the famous pimp and piano player Jelly Roll Morton had a band called Red Hot Peppers in the 1920's.

Sepultura - The singer was inspired when translating the Motorhead song "Dancing on your Grave", which is "Dancando Na Sepultura" in Portuguese.

Sex Pistols - Malcom Mclaren came up with the name. It was partially inspired by his wife's punk clothing shop called "Sex".

Silverchair - A mutated combination of "Sliver" by Nirvana and "Berlin Chair" by You Am I. They were requesting the songs from a radio station and the name was inspired by notes a band member made to himself to remember the song titles.

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Siouxsie volunteered to play a gig at the 100 Club and had one night to think of a name. They saw the 1970 Vincent Price movie "Cry of the Banshee". Adam Ant and Sid Vicious were also Banshees for that first gig.

Skunk Anansie - Anansie is a creature in Jamaican folklore who is half man, half spider, and always a prankster. Skunk refers to either good marijuana or the smelly little black and white animals.

Smashing Pumpkins - A few stories and plenty of BS around this one: Billy Corgan claims Gene Simmons told him in a dream that "Joe Strummer is a pumpkin, drunken and smashed". Corgan has also claimed he meant "smashing" as an adjective, as in "daring pumpkins". Billy Corgan's home town is known for its pumpkins. The name is a rumored revenge against his home town an ex-girlfriend who said he would be there for the rest of his life.

Read more here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Unbowed, triumphant

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has just concluded its 5th National Congress last August 27 and 28 in Tagaytay City. Here's the group's statement:

Unbowed

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) wraps up its 5th Congress held August 27 to 28 in Tagaytay City secure in the knowledge that the free and independent Philippine media's staunch defense of freedom of the press and of expression has expanded the frontlines with more committed journalists rallying to the cause.

But at the same time, this Congress also reflected the sober realities journalists face as the war against civil liberties in the country appears to have intensified and reached a more vicious stage.

As our keynote speaker, the venerable Vergel O. Santos (chair of the board of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility -- Bryanton Post), reminded us in the wake of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales' ominous pronouncement about the supposed communist infiltration of the media, "We may even be in bigger trouble than we think."

As he so aptly pointed out, the 50 or so journalists slain since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power "are enough to staff one national daily and that, therefore, their murder means the silencing of one potential collective voice of public conscience…silenced for precisely doing what it is in its perfect nature to do so – speak."

Not to mention the often odious working conditions and even more odious economic benefits so many of our colleagues, especially those in the frontlines, the provinces where the calling to serve the people's right to know is most needed, have to bear with.

And there among us, delegates to the NUJP's highest policy-making body, were living proof of the risks and dangers we face.

Tony Abejo of the NUJP's Ozamiz chapter is publisher and editor of the Malindang Tribune, a family-run community paper in Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental.

Carolina Montilla of the NUJP-Tacloban is publisher/editor of the Eastern Times, based in Leyte's capital city and serving Eastern Visayas. Maureen Japzon is an editor and feature writer of the community paper and, incidentally, was voted by the Congress to the NUJP National Directorate.

Last Friday, the eve of his travel to Tagaytay, Abejo received no less than eight text messages on his cellular phone, warning him to "be cautious" and, eventually, suggesting that he divide what little wealth he had among his wife and children because he would "rest in peace."

Tony can only think of one reason for the ominous messages: Retribution for using his newspaper as a platform to rail away at official incompetence and corruption.

Indeed, for Tony, threats have been a constant companion for the last 14 years. This time, though, he acknowledged, they appeared to be striking closer to home, the venom seemingly more potent than before.

Not that he fears as much for himself as for the future of the harbinger of truth he has worked so hard to establish if those who seek to slay him – and the truth along with him – succeed.

Roli Montilla is no stranger to the dangers that face the Philippine press either.

When Martial Law was declared, her colleagues at the national daily she used to work for had to all but bodily shove her out of the country to escape the wrath of the dictatorship.

She returned from exile and to the profession she loves. Only to find that the dangers she faced then remain and have, in fact, grown in the midst of our supposedly restored democracy.

It is not only Roli who is at risk but practically everyone who works for and with her at the Eastern Times.

In July, a Samar-based columnist for her paper received a letter bordered in black ribbon from an "Anti-Communist League" telling him to "regret what you have done." Since then, Roli told the Congress, the columnist has reported being trailed by motorcycle-riding men, the dreaded common thread in the pattern of murders that has ravaged the ranks of both the Philippine press and legal dissenters.

As have two of her staff reporters in Tacloban, one of them treated to the sight of an arrogantly flaunted bulge at the waist.

Roli and Maureen have been receiving text threats regularly.

That Tony, and Roli and Maureen, notwithstanding the personal worries that weighed heavy on them, showed up at the Congress and lent their time and experience to strengthening the NUJP is a tribute to their courage and dedication and the truism that, indeed, real strength lies in unity.

The unity of those who share the same dream of a free and independent Philippine press serving the people's right to know and their right to free expression, the unity of those who together wage battle against those who seek to stamp out the truth in pursuit of selfish interests.

Tony, Roli, Maureen, the writers of the Eastern Times and all of our threatened colleagues are what the International Federation of Journalists fittingly paid tribute to, Filipino journalists who "continue to strive for increased professionalism and a strong, independent and free media" and "defend the public's right to know, despite regular and violent attacks from all sides."

They are, as Vergel Santos fittingly observed, "freedom's last line of defense" in the face of "one evidently desperate president," a national security adviser "out of an old dangerous mold of official enforcers – those programmed to feel more needed as their bosses feel more insecure," their favorite general, "who seems to relish being called 'executioner' as an affirmation of efficiency – efficiency in a barbaric sense," and a government gripped by an "official cold-bloodedness and twisted sense of retributive proportion."

Our threatened colleagues are the raison d'etre of the NUJP. They ARE the NUJP. And they are the best proof that, at the end of this arduous path, the Philippine press and the Filipino people we serve will emerge unbowed, triumphant.

Libel season opens

And speaking of libel suits, here's a collection of recent reports on libel prepared by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. Hmm. How come PAGASA didn't inform us that we're going to experience a heavy downpour of libel suits?

Solon files libel vs. local journalist A local journalist was recently slapped with libel by a congressman in Pampanga, 80 kilometers north of Manila.

Dante Fabian, a Sun.Star Pampanga reporter, was sued by Pampanga Rep. Francis Nepomuceno over three stories on the alleged P19-million water pipes scam in Pampanga’s first district, which the official represents.

In his complaint filed last 03 August, Nepomuceno called the stories a form of “malicious reporting.”

Narciso Sula, the paper’s general manager, said Fabian was “singled out” while one of the sources of the stories, Angeles City Mayor Carmelo Lazatin, Nepomuceno’s longtime political rival, was spared from litigation.

Members of the Pampanga Press Club condemned Nepomuceno’s filing of libel as an apparent attempt to harass a member of the press.

Nepomuceno denied using the libel suit to harass Fabian.

“If I had wanted to harass him I would not have resorted to this legal process,” he told the Manila-based Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday. “All I want from [Fabian] is fair reporting.”

He said Lazatin and the others liable for the “defamatory” stories would be given their day in court. The paper was not cited as a respondent.

But Fabian said he had always gone out of his way to seek Nepomuceno’s side. Always, he said, Nepomuceno did not reply.

His reports, Fabian said, were based on the official letters of local village leaders who claimed they did not receive water pipes distributed in 2005 by the Department of Public Works and Highways and funded by Nepomuceno’s priority development assistance fund (PDAF), more commonly known as “pork barrel fund.”

In his complaint, Nepomuceno said at least five investigation reports from the Office of the Ombudsman for Luzon, Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. and the Commission on Audit’s regional office “confirmed my innocence and that the alleged anomaly that they were trying to impute unto me were proved baseless.”

Fabian said there was reason to pursue the story because village leaders continued to report the non-delivery of the water pipes.

Lazatin said he exposed the supposed anomaly in light of President Macapagal-Arroyo’s campaign against graft.

“[Fabian] should not have been sued. Nobody should be sued because there are documentary evidences [which show] that something went wrong,” Lazatin said.

He said it was not Nepomuceno but the officials’ employees who should be compelled to make a proper accounting of the “missing pipes.” (based on reports by the Inquirer News Service).
Deposed president files US$0.6-M libel vs. broadsheet

Former President Joseph Estrada filed a P30-million (US$582,000) libel suit against the staff a Manila-based newspaper and two individuals on 03 August for allegedly accusing him of malicious charges.

In his 19-page complaint, Estrada filed the said case against reporter Christine Herrera and editors of the Manila Standard Today, Joelle Marie Pelaez, and her mother, Blanquita, at his rest house in Tanay, Rizal, where he is detained while being tried on plunder charges.

Estrada said he was filing the libel suit to let the people know that the charges leveled against him have ruined “his name, honor and integrity.”

Pelaez claimed that her name was used by Estrada and his allies to launder billions worth of government securities and bonds. She has filed cases against Estrada and a number of bank officials.

The story was published by Standard Today in a series of articles from 15 to 19 May.

In a Manila Standard Today interview, Pelaez alleged that Estrada and his cronies used her name to launder P2.07 billion in securities, bonds and other debt instruments in 2000.

Estrada was ousted during a popular revolt on 24 January 2001 – just less than three years after he was elected as president – for charges of corruption and plunder.

Presidential spouse suing hard-hitting brothers for libel

Jose Miguel Arroyo, the husband of Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is planning to file a libel suit against the Tulfo brothers for their alleged "rehashed and malicious lies."

Jesus Santos, Arroyo’s lawyer, said that the planned libel suit stemmed from the recent tirades made by broadcast journalists Ramon, Raffy, and Erwin Tulfo, whose program titled “Isumbong Mo, Tulfo Brothers” was recently cancelled by its carrier, the government-owned RPN-9.

The television station had earlier issued a statement saying the decision not to renew the contract of the Tulfos was a "painful decision though it was done without fear or favor."

The Tulfos however, claimed in a press conference two weeks ago in Quezon City that it was Arroyo who had requested RPN-9 not to renew the contract of their television program in retaliation for their exposes on the alleged smuggling activities of Vicky Toh and her brother Tomas Toh.

Santos said his client had nothing to do with the cancellation of the show of the Tulfos.

Ramon, the eldest of the siblings, had claimed that the Tohs are virtually "untouchable" at the Bureau of Customs because they are protected by the Arroyo.

He had also claimed it was President (Gloria) Arroyo who gave him the go-signal to do the expose.

Santos said the Bureau of Customs had just concluded a seven-month investigation "which found no record or evidence against the Tohs. The investigation report was signed by six people and noted by two directors and one deputy Customs commissioner. Again we dare Ramon to call these officials liars."

Mr. Arroyo has sued or is suing six politicians, two publishers, and 12 editors and writers, including the Tulfo brothers.

In an P11-million (US$213,385) damage suit against Lito Banayo, a former The Daily Tribune columnist and spokesman for opposition senator Panfilo Lacson, Arroyo complained Mr. Banayo had described him as "el esposo gordo" (the fat spouse). This description was "obviously meant to denigrate me for my rotundity," Arroyo complained.

Appearing in court for a pretrial hearing of the Banayo case, Arroyo brought along bomb-sniffing dogs and presidential palace guards, who barred the media from the proceedings, according to court sources.

The judge, Concepcion Alarcon-Vergara, ordered Mr. Banayo’s lawyer to cross-examine Mr. Arroyo without being given time to study Mr. Arroyo’s 102-page testimony.

Two weeks ago, Malaya newspaper publisher Jake Macasaet, along with his editors and reporters, were compelled to attend a pretrial conference after being arraigned on Arroyo’s libel charges.

All have pleaded not guilty to maliciously publishing a May 2004 article in which former opposition senator Francisco Tatad named Mr. Arroyo as "chief cheating operator".

Tatad, however, was dropped from the charge sheet after he claimed he was misquoted.

Ellen Tordesillas, Malaya chief of reporters, was also originally among those accused, but she was dropped from the case for unknown reasons.

Tordesillas, a veteran journalist who is being treated for cancer, said the case had shown her first-hand how such suits were "really expensive" in terms of time, money and effort.

"I had to go to court even if I had just finished chemotherapy," she complained. "Lawsuits are one way to pressure the media into silence by intimidation."

Broadcaster’s conviction affirmed

The Court of Appeals (CA) recently affirmed the conviction of a journalist for 14 counts of libel arising from several articles he had written nearly a decade ago about a customs officer.

Abante Tonite columnist and part-time television broadcaster Raffy Tulfo was previously convicted by Judge Priscilla Mijares of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court, sentencing him to two years, four months and one day in prison for each of the 14 counts – equivalent to 32 years and eight months – plus a fine of over P14.7 million (US$285,000).

In its 31 July 2006 resolution, the CA said the prosecution had successfully proven that Tulfo’s stories were written in “reckless disregard” for the truth.

According to the decision, the complainant Carlos So, a former Bureau of Customs intelligence officer, was pictured as an extortionist, smuggler, grafter, corrupt public official, womanizer and a violator of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, among others.

Bill stops use of libel to harass media

In a recent positive development, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 77 requiring libel suits against journalists, publications or broadcast stations be filed at the regional trial court of the province or city where the journalist, publication or broadcast station holds its principal office.

The approval enables the bill’s transmission to the Senate. Once a bicameral version of the bill has been approved by both the House of Representatives and Senate, it goes to the Office of the President for approval.

According to the said bill, civil actions connected with such libel suits should also be filed in the same court where the criminal complaint is filed.

Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill will prevent individuals from using libel as a convenient tool to harass journalists.

“Libel, whether filed as a criminal or civil action, is used as a convenient legal tool to harass journalists, especially the community newspaper and broadcast practitioners,” Del Mar said, stressing the need to address this particular concern of local journalists.

“The community journalist and his organization, mostly financially handicapped and already afflicted with all sorts of pressures and threats, need immediate relief from the present rule on venue of libel cases, whether criminal or civil, which create an opportunity for oppression,” the lawmaker said.

Under prevailing court rules, Del Mar said the complainant or offended party, if he is a public officer, can file the complaint in Manila if his office is in Manila or in the office outside Manila if his office is located there.

If he is a private person, the venue is his place of residence at the time of the commission of the offense.

Because of this, a newspaper or broadcast station in Aparri or Jolo, Cebu or Davao can be made to answer a complaint filed in Metro Manila where the complainant resides although the cause of action did not arise in Metro Manila.

Del Mar noted that this situation is not changed by the fact that the complainant or offended party has the option to file the action at the regional trial court of the province or city where the libelous article is printed or first published. This is because the offended party usually does not exercise that option since he chooses the venue that is far away from the principal office of the defendant.

Just recently, two separate filed libel suits were set for pre-trial in the coming months in Makati and Quezon City – both located in Metro Manila – against the staff of Bandillo ng Palawan, a community newspaper based in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, around 600 kilometers south of Manila.

Arroyo's photo from this site.

Suspects in 2 journalists’ slay fall

So, is this another "solved" case by the police? The police definition of a "solved" case has always been a problematic one for media groups.

Suspects in 2 journalists’ slay fall
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

The police recently presented one of two primary suspects in the 16 May killing of tabloid reporter Albert Orsolino.

Ramon Rivera, a Navotas jailguard on absence without official leave, was arrested by the police intelligence through a warrant of arrest issued by a Malabon City regional trial court, according to Northern Police District chief Leopoldo Bataoil.

A witness, who asked not to be identified, tipped off Rivera when he spotted the fugitive in Quezon City.

Records showed Rivera has a pending homicide case with five other jail guards over the mauling and clubbing to death of an inmate in December 2004 inside the Navotas municipal jail.

A witness to the Orsolino case pointed Rivera as one of the assailants positioned at the gas station, where the reporter was gunned down in the morning of 16 May.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director Gen. Oscar Calderon announced last 07 August the arrest of the alleged hitman in the killing of a Orsolino’s cousin and photojournalist Prudencio Melendres in Malabon City last 31 July.

Roberto Lopez, a 36-year-old plumber and a resident of Caloocan City, was arrested by the NPD and Malabon City police based on information provided by witnesses in the killing.

“The murder of tabloid photographer Prudencio Melendres is the second case of high-profile murder that we were able to solve within the 10-week timetable given by President Arroyo,” Calderon said.

Melendres, a photojournalist working for Tanod and Dyaryo ng Bayan tabloids, was gunned by four unidentified men while on his way to work in Gozon Compound, Letre, Tonsuya Village, Malabon City early morning last 31 July.

According to Bataoil, Lopez was positively identified by several witnesses when he was presented in a police line-up.

Lopez is a cousin of a certain Antonio Lopez whose name reportedly appeared in a letter dated 14 June that Melendres gave to his wife for safe keeping prior to his death.

The letter addressed to Bataoil and Senior Supt. Moises Guevarra, Malabon City police station chief, was handed to the victim’s wife shortly after his cousin, a certain Norberto Orsolino, was laid to rest.

The letter allegedly indicated that there was a personal grudge between the Lopezes and the victim and that he was seeking police help.

Aside from the letter that gave the investigators a lead on the murder case, Bataoil said the series of dialogue that they conducted with the community where Melendres stayed also convinced witnesses to come out and cooperate with police authorities as part of their civic duty.

“The early solution of the Melendres case… manifests the keen resolve of the PNP not only to comply with the orders of the President but to serve the ends of justice to all victims of heinous crime, particularly working journalists and members of cause-oriented groups and party-list organizations,” Calderon said.

Earlier, Bataoil confirmed it was “highly probable” that the killings (Orsolino’s and Melendres’s) were related.

Relatives said that after Orsolino was killed, Melendres replaced him as president of Letre Urban People Homeowners’ Association. Both Orsolino and Melendres were also members of the CAMANAVA (Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela) Press Corps.

Melendres, had been helping residents in the area to acquire the land on which they had been considered previously been illegal settlers, reported the Inquirer News Service.

Press freedom still in peril

While presidential spouse Mike Arroyo's favorite suit against journalists and detractors may be the libel suit, press freedom violations remain rampant in the country. Reports from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsiblity:

Reporter escapes kidnap try in Laguna

A tabloid correspondent recently escaped from three men who tried to abduct him while he was waiting for a ride home in Calamba City, 60 kilometers south of Manila.

According to police reports, Dick Garay, a provincial correspondent of tabloid Police Files Tonite, was waiting for a ride along a highway in a local village late in the evening of 15 August when the three men grabbed him.

Garay resisted and managed to run away as the unidentified men tried to shove him inside a van.

“I strongly feel that they were hired goons of people I have criticized in my reports,” Garay said, as quoted by The Philippine Star.

Garay, who reported the incident to police authorities, admitted that he has suspects, adding though that he has been going through his articles to buttress his suspicions on who could be behind it.

Tabloid reporter survives ambush

A tabloid reporter managed to escape death after being shot seven times last 14 August in Valenzuela City, just north of Manila.

Roger Panizal, a reporter of tabloid Bagong Tiktik, underwent a surgery to remove a slug in his right arm. He suffered seven gunshot wounds including those on both palms, and at the back of his left ear.

Police said the shooting took place 5:30 a.m. at the corner of St. Jude and Sta. Juliana Streets in Barangay Malinta.

The attack stemmed from a personal grudge with the suspect, identified as Jeorge de Jesus alias “Boy Demonyo” (Boy Demon).

Panizal’s son, Rommel, himself a reporter for the same paper, said his father is the present secretary of E. Martin Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association, had a punching bout with the suspect last month. The victim confronted the suspect three weeks ago for parking another tricycle ahead of him in their line.

Sources said Boy Demonyo is known notorious robber victimizing mostly students and employees on jeepneys and in crowded streets.

“Panizal had no idea that the suspect was in cahoots with a passenger who, upon alighting, coincided with the appearance of Boy Demonyo armed with a 9 mm-cal. pistol from a dark section of the street,” police investigators said.

Panizal was passing along MacArthur Highway corner Gov. Santiago Street when an unidentified man standing in front of a gasoline station flagged him down and asked him to be ferried to a nearby village.

The suspect was about to approach Panizal but the latter sensed danger when the former was about a few meters away from him.

Despite his injury, Panizal managed to run but the persistent suspect shot him again grazing the back of his left ear.

Radio anchor gets death threats

A broadcaster of a government-run radio station in Kalinga recently reported receiving threatening messages via her cellular phone.

Hazel Gup-ay, a broadcaster of Radyo ng Bayan dzRK in Tabuk, the capital town of Kalinga, said the text messages accused her of being biased in reporting the 31 July 2006 ambush of Bayan Muna provincial chairman Dr. Constancio Claver and his family.

The threatening messages, sent through two mobile phone numbers, criticized Gup-ay for supposedly favoring the Clavers, whom the text message sender tagged as having links with the New People’s Army (NPA).

Gup-ay recalled that she got a slew of text messages when she aired a message dismissing as an “unconvincing alibi” the statement of Kalinga deputy police director Hover Coyoy that police checkpoints failed to block the ambushers’ getaway vehicle because he did not have the phone numbers of those manning the roadblocks. (with reports from The Philippine Star).

Monday, August 28, 2006

Gonzalez and Gonzales

Yesterday, Raul Gonzalez said that the University of the Philippines "breeds the destabilizers that haunt the country year after year." He also told the Philippine Daily Inquirer: "They are acting as if they are the only ones who know how to run the country.”

"He made it clear, however, that he was not assailing the entire university population because 'there are many students there who are bright and good'," the Inquirer report said.

Is this another case of Gonzalez's propensity for doublespeak?

He also criticized the Oblation run of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity as "another indication of the kind of students that came from UP."

Read the report here. Gonzalez is really funny, no?

Meanwhile, here's the report of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility on the claims recently made by the "other" Gonzalez:

Government links communist group with media

A government official recently warned against possible communist infiltration of the country’s newsrooms.

During a state-sponsored forum last 21 August, national security adviser Norberto Gonzales said that there “are big possibilities in the media that there are some practitioners being courted by enemies of the state and probably successfully.”

“We are profiling everybody as you (the media) are profiling us,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said that media had always been a primary target of the communist movement anywhere in the world because of its emphasis on propaganda.

Just last month, the Philippine National Police claimed that the communist group New People’s Army is using certain media organizations – both local and international -- as its front in undermining the government.

“It’s hard to say that there is no attempt to infiltrate media here. Media practitioners are either mercenaries or sympathizers who will continue to create issues even though they know if they are helping the leftist cause,” he said.

Gonzales claimed that he had proof of the rising influence of the left in news headlines but he did not show this. Gonzales admitted though that these communist sympathizers in media were only a few.

“But (what is important) is not in terms of their numbers or percentage but if they are able to present their view effectively,” said Gonzales.

“What will be controversial is the action of the government. But so far, you have observed that the government has not in any way clamped down on media. Our attitude is that these are additional challenges to us,” added Gonzales, who was one of the key figures in President Gloria Arroyo’s declaration of a state of national emergency last February. The declaration sent a chilling effect across media with the raid on oppositionist newspaper The Daily Tribune and the arrests and harassment of certain journalists and media organizations. (with reports from the Inquirer News Service)

Friday, August 25, 2006

15 most influential sites in the world

Here are the 15 most influential websites in the world, according to John Naughton of the UK-based The Observer.

"To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the web we've assembled a list of sites that have become the virtual wallpaper of our lives," Naughton wrote. "What the corresponding list will be like in 15 years' time is anyone's guess. As the man said, if you want to know the future, go buy a crystal ball. In the meantime, read on and wonder."

Hmm. I wonder what's the 15 most influential websites in the Philippines. Or is the cyberspace here in the country so young for us to come out with similar findings?

15 most influential websites in the world

1. eBay.com
2. wikipedia.com
3. napster.com
4. youtube.com
5. blogger.com
6. friendsreunited.com
7. drudgereport.com
8. myspace.com
9. amazon.com
10. slashdot.org
11. salon.com
12. craigslist.org
13. google.com
14. yahoo.com
15. easyjet.com

Read here why.

Unbowed

An announcement from our friends at the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

NUJP to tackle media killings, economic rights in 5th Congress

THE National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) will tackle issues and challenges facing the media today including media killings and harassments during its 5th Congress on Aug. 27-28 in Tagaytay City.

NUJP delegates representing more than 30 chapters from all over the country will discuss and find solutions to economic, safety and press freedom issues confronting the Filipino journalists today.

With the theme "UNBOWED: Resisting assaults against press freedom, advancing the economic rights of journalists," the participants will also discuss media ethics and government policies.

Vergel Santos, a veteran journalist and media critic will be the keynote speaker.

Established in 1989, NUJP works for media freedom, professional and ethical practice and defense of journalists' rights and welfare.

In partnership with the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists and other media organizations, the NUJP has been conducting trainings, giving support to slain journalists' families, and monitoring the journalists safety situation among other activities.

The congress will culminate with the election of the new set of officers which will hold a two-year term. Inday Espina-Varona, Philippine Graphic editor-in-chief is this term's chairperson.

And back to the Middle Ages

After briefly suspending I-Witness for showing phallic symbols which it had found offensive (see the July 2006 issue of the PJR Reports), the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) is at it again. Are we going back in time?

State TV censor body suspends popular news documentary
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

For airing an episode showing individuals using drugs, a documentary program of a popular network was recently suspended by the country’s movie and television review board.

In its memorandum dated last 15 August, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) suspended the ABS-CBN Network’s documentary program The Correspondents for three consecutive weeks or three episodes.

The suspension arose from the program’s 26 June 2006 episode entitled, “Ang Pinoy Rasta (The Filipino Rasta),” which “featured the actual smoking of marijuana [of a young man] in the presence of his father who, in turn, confessed that he smoked marijuana with his son occasionally.”

Like in many countries, the use and sale of drug marijuana (cannabis) are illegal in the Philippines.

MTRCB had issued an earlier memorandum, released 10 days after the episode was aired, reprimanding the ABS-CBN for projecting, through the show, “that smoking marijuana is an enjoyable activity … sending a strong message that [it’s] okay.”

The earlier memorandum noted that the father had even said that smoking marijuana had no ill effects on his health.

Through their counsel, the show’s representatives asserted that the documentary was not about drug use, but about Rastafari, “a Jamaican religious practice adopted by some Filipinos as a way of life.” The network’s representatives said the offending portion had not been done in a manner that showed marijuana smoking as enjoyable.

Current affairs head Luchi Cruz-Valdez was quoted by national daily Philippine Daily Inquirer as saying that since the network was practicing self-regulation, the program producers refrained from showing celebrities, who are considered role models, in the controversial scene. Instead, they opted to feature the unknown Rastafarian and his father.

According to Valdez, the episode in question was aired at 1:20 a.m. and carried the Parental Guidance (PG-13) warning.

The monitoring report filed by MTRCB’s special agents on 03 July, however, asserted that “scenes [depicting] the actual use of prohibited drugs are beyond the PG classification and [therefore are] not fit for television viewing.”

The board pointed out that Presidential Decree No. 1986 (PD 1986) “clearly provides that the board … has the power to approve or disapprove, delete objectionable portions … which in [its] judgment … are objectionable for being immoral, indecent and contrary to law …”

Signed by MTRCB chairman Consoliza Laguardia, the memorandum also noted that PD 1986 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) “prohibit the airing/public showing of scenes that tend to abet the use of prohibited drugs.”

According to the review board’s rule and regulations, materials classified as PG-13 cannot include a “depiction of, or reference to, prohibited drugs or substances and their use.”

The agents emphasized in their report that the board also received complaints from other sources about the episode.

ABS-CBN stopped the airing of Correspondents last 22 August in adherence to the said decision, which they received last 17 August.

However, in an official statement, the network reiterated, “ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs protests the suspension … [and] stands by its editorial judgment.”

Valdez said that the network had filed a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the suspension at the Court of Appeals last 18 August.

In other developments, representatives of UNTV 37, Ang Dating Daan (The Old Way) Productions, and Eliseo “Brother Eli” Soriano failed to attend an adjudication hearing set by MTRCB last 22 August.

The board had earlier suspended Brother Eli’s two programs Ang Dating Daan and Itanong Mo Kay Soriano (“Ask Soriano”), aired on UNTV 37, because of statements made by Soriano against Iglesia ni Cristo (“Church of Christ”) – a rival sect – the Arroyo government, and the present board.

“After being rated X, a producer can apply for reclassification and his TV material will be reviewed by a different committee,” Laguardia said, in explaining the process. (based on reports by the Inquirer News Service)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The frivolity of lifestyle and youth pages

This post written by Sarah of www.barenakedmedia-ph.com was a bit old (the date was July 10 to be exact), but I think her points raise a very important question: Do we really need the frivolity we get in our newspapers, especially in the lifestyle and youth sections?

"I like my celebrities, quasi-celebrities, and plain social climbers fine. I just don’t like them proliferating in newspapers writing columns and pieces," Sarah began. "As they so often prove, they have nothing to write about, and they bring in the reputation of said newspaper into serious dispute. But newspapers are already bringing themselves down anyway, so what’s a little more mud?"

After mentioning some celebrity columnists, she continued:

"So I might have to give a pass to celebrities about their writing style. It’s not their original calling, yada yada yada. And some of them do write decently. It’s just not something I’d put regularly in a newspaper section.

"But Youngblood? 2Bu? Young Star? C’mon, people. You’re the true Conyoscenti."

She ended by saying: "Nobody dares to write anything aside from the status quo anymore. So we can all just expect pieces on pets, the hazards of commuting, the college experience, and the opposite sex. Now that’s not bad in itself, but compared to the greatness of its predecessors, it’s wanting."

Read the whole post here.

The triviality and shallowness of some sections of the broadsheets have not escaped the notice of the PJR Reports. I wrote something similar in the August-September 2003 issue (then still known as the Philippine Journalism Review), focusing more on the popular society or lifestyle pages. That was the time when the Philippine Daily Inquirer hired society columnist Maurice Arcache, prompting Inquirer founder Eugenia "Eggie" Apostol (who is by the way this year's Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism, Literature & Creative Communication Arts) to criticize the paper's decision and insisted that the paper take out her name from the staff box.

The lifestyle pages, I wrote, "are coming back with a vengeance and are gobbling up more and more newspaper space."

"Sure the press still likes to banner political scandals and controversies involving violence, money, and sex," I continued, "but the abundance of columnists and stories talking about the rich, powerful, and the famous indicate the increasing importance of the society pages to newspaper publishes and/or editors." In case you want to read the full article, the title of my article was "The Society Page: Weddings, Birthdays and Other Earth-Shaking Events."

Are we seeing a similar trend in the other sections, especially the youth pages?

Political quagmire persists

The second impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been junked early this morning. This means that political crisis in this country continues.

Arroyo escapes another impeachment try
Source: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

The House of Representatives this morning junked the second impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Voting 173-32, with one abstention, the Lower House adopted the justice committee’s report endorsing the dismissal of the complaint for lack of substance. The deliberations lasted 17 hours.

Had the opposition mustered 78 votes, the report would have been transmitted back to the committee level for full deliberations on its merits, which will include the presentation of evidence or it would have gone straight to the Senate for an impeachment trial.

MalacaƱang, meanwhile, is “thankful” that the impeachment hearings have finally ended. Political adviser Gabriel Claudio told reporters that the administration is hoping that “the process of healing” will begin and that the impeachment issue “will be replaced by more important matters.”

Last year, the House voted 158-51 to dismiss the first impeachment complaint filed against Arroyo. At that time, there were six abstentions and 21 lawmakers were absent.

The latest impeachment complaint, filed by the Black and White Movement, accuses Arroyo of graft and corruption, betrayal of public of public trust, culpable violations of the 1987 Constitution, bribery and other high crimes.

Read more here.
 
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