Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cueshe: Love 'Em or Hate 'Em?

I really have to buy Pulp's latest issue. Their main story is about the band in the country that is well-loved and much-reviled at the same time: Cueshe. Love or hate them? Sorry Cueshe fans, but I prefer the latter. Enough of these guys and clones already!

Speaking of Cueshe
by Aldus Santos

How I leapt from sharing pepperoni pizza with Cueshe to drinking beers with Raimund Marasigan in the space of five minutes is a long story. Needless to say, the famed singer-producer only had the most gentlemanly things to say about the much-scorned Cebuanos. Sadly, you marvel, warts on a drop-dead beauty are still warts. Shallow, skin-deep imperfections are much more apparent than, say, gargantuan bank accounts. Perhaps Cueshe, sales figures and hate-mail combined, is contemporary pop rock's biggest oxymoron: extremely loved and, well, hated with an almost-murderous passion. Such is the nasty drawback of fame and success. Make no mistakes, though: Cueshe is stone-cold and steadfast. In French, they don't give a rat's ass what you think.

"We decided na dapat piliin na lang namin 'yung mga issue na papatulan namin. Kasi, kung magpapa-apekto kami sa lahat, wala ring k'wenta, 'di ba?" drummer and band leader Mike Manaloto shared. Cueshe has only been around in the Manila mainstream for a little over a year, but, already, their notoriety (can't decide if this is good or bad yet) is as omnipresent as any artistas. There, of course, amidst all the plagiarist witch-hunt Orange and Lemons was being burned at the stakes for allegedly ripping off a tune by The Care was their desperate plea for innocence: no, they didnÍt lift the chorus to Daniel Johns' "The Greatest View," off of Silverchair's orchestrally dazzling Diorama. It was a compositional risk, to say the least, and itÍs one of the various occupational hazards of pop. (Dissonant plagiarists, I maintain, are easier to prosecute.) Singer Jay Justiniani, meanwhile, is being sashayed on television as practically every female teen-star's summer fling. He is rock's informal representative to the wonderful world of showbiz dating, as basketball's is James Yap (it used to be Alvin Patrimonio) and politics' is Mar Roxas or Kiko Pangilinan. "All this attention is a result of me being with Cueshe; I can't be popular by myself," Justiniani mused half-seriously, magnanimous of his good fortune, hinting at a bright future when his bandmates will, perhaps, finally get their five seconds' worth of soundbites on S-Files or some such show. If this is the work of a rock-and-roll spin doctor what can I say?he's doing a damn good job. If this is sheer pop music genius, I'm ready to concede as well.

Intrigue really precedes the band, like a flapping PR flyer that won't settle on a curb or corner. There was, more recently, that libel lawsuit against an actress-singer's session drummer, who was the owner of a snare drum that Mike allegedly dented and failed to replace. There was also that hoopla with Hale, who played alongside the boys at a TV show. Allegedly, Champ Lui-Pio and company, before lunging with their hit single (whatever it was at the time), played a full chorus-bar from Silverchair's "The Greatest View." (I've been a music journalist, okay, writer since 1999, but, I must say, this is the first time I am using the word "allegedly" extensively, like IÍm on the frigging crime beat.) Cueshe was surprised and, truth be told, a little hurt.

To read more and check the rest of Pulp's latest issue, click here.

Have media become too intrusive?

Wow, talk about journalism ethics (or the lack of it) in this story.

Reporter admits royal phonetapping
Source: CNN

LONDON, England (AP) -- A tabloid journalist accused of hacking into the voicemail system in Prince Charles' office pleaded guilty Wednesday, and apologized to the prince and his sons.

Clive Goodman, 48, the royal editor of the News of the World, was arrested after members of the prince's household reported suspected security breaches in the telephone network.

Goodman was suspended from his job at the newspaper, Britain's largest-selling Sunday paper.

Glenn Mulcaire, 35, pleaded guilty to the same charge, plus five further charges of unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages.

Other victims of Mulcaire's snooping, the court heard, included the model Elle Macpherson; Gordon Taylor, chairman of the Professional Footballers Association; Andrew Skylet, agent for soccer player Sol Campbell; and Simon Hughes, a member of Parliament.

Read more here. For a related story from CNN, click here.

The issue has raised discussions on how media cover top news sources, especially celebrities and political and royal leaders. CNN asked its online readers if the media coverage of Britain's royal family has become too intrusive. Of the 4257 votes (as of this writing), majority answered yes (81 percent or 3440 votes) and only a small number of people voted 817 (19 percent).

Gunmen kill radio broadcaster-activist

The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, (AMARC), a global body of radio broadcasters who work in the communities, condemns the November 27 killing of Antony Licyayo.

Peasant leader involved in outspoken community radio station shot dead

November 28, 2006. Kathmandu -- The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) Asia Pacific deplores in the strongest terms the brutal assassination of peasant leader Antony Licyayo, 38, chairperson of Kaguimungan-Cagayan Valley in the Philippines. Antony was shot at 8:30 AM, November 27, 2006 by an unidentified gunman. The bullet entered his head and exited through his mouth. He was carrying his one-and-a-half-year-old son and was on his way to their field in Sitio Torkia, Barangay Cabiraoan, at the time of the incident. The child was unharmed.

Antony and the Kaguimungan (a local peasant alliance) are among the producers of Radyo Cagayano, a community radio in Baggao, Cagayan Valley. Radyo Cagayano has been a strong and a very vocal advocate on peasant issues in this town. Last July, eight armed men in ski masks entered the station and burnt it down after hogtying the staff. On November 11, then-Kaguimungan peasant leader Joey Javier was murdered in Baggao municipality.

The death toll of journalists and other members of the media under the Arroyo regime is now at 43. This excludes numerous libel suits, acts of intimidation, threats and harassment directed toward other media in the country. AMARC holds the Arroyo government culpable for these grave and mounting violations of human rights perpetrated against the media and other progressive individuals and organizations. Despite international clamor for the Arroyo regime to seriously endeavor to stop the killings and the grave abuse of human rights in the Philippines, the violations still escalate.

AMARC Asia Pacific expresses its sorrow and deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Antony Licyayo. His death is a blow to the already very frail freedom of expression situation in the Philippines.

AMARC stands firm in its commitment to freedom of expression and to free the airwaves for the marginalized and oppressed people. Let us broadcast over our radios this brutal killing and be an instrument for the immediate dispensing of justice for Anthony and all other victims of human rights abuses in the Philippines.

AMARC is an international non-governmental organization serving the community radio movement in over 110 countries, and advocating for the right to communicate at the international, national, local and neighborhood levels. AMARC has an International Secretariat in Montreal. It has regional sections in Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific and offices in Johannesburg, Buenos Aires and Kathmandu.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The movie to see next year

Can't wait to see this.

NUJP presentation reset for tomorrow

From the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines:

The scheduled presentation of the Petition to Decriminalize Libel today at 5pm at the Office of Senate President Manny Villar has been reset. Senator Villar's Office sent word just now that the Senator has to attend to an emergency meeting, apologizing for the postponement.

We would be very happy if you could still join us in the presentation of the petition on Wednesday (November 29), 2 p.m. at the office of Senate President Villar, 6th Floor, Senate Building, Pasay City as it important to show the Senate President our collective stand on the issue of decriminalizing libel.

Truman as Nostradamus

Is Truman talking about the present Philippines more than fifty years ago?

"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."
- Harry S. Truman, U.S. president, 1950

Truman, in his quote, might as well be referring to the voice of the Philippine press threatened by the Arroyos.

(Photo on the left, courtesy of Wikipedia: "Truman was so widely expected to lose the 1948 election that the Chicago Tribune ran this incorrect headline," says Wikipedia.)

My Eskwela ID

Philippine-made starts inviting users
Source:, a social networking service designed for Filipino students, has launched a "semi-open" version allowing people to start building their own virtual social cliques.

Semi-open means people should be invited by a registered user to start using the service.

To attract more people to sign up, the creators have launched a "get as many friends and win a T-shirt" competition, a public forum website, and a blog. was among the first few people invited to evaluate this Philippine-made social networking website.

Inspired by the popular, a social networking website started by a Harvard student Mark Zuckerburg in February 2004, hopes to "fill in the void" in the local market for social networking that caters to students, according to co-founder Terence Pua.

A brainchild of LJ Delgado, founding engineer and alumni of the University of the Philippines Diliman, Pua said is seeing more people signing up to the service but he declined to reveal the current total number of users.

Read more here.

And here's my ID:

As noted in the article above, having an account in the site is at present by-invitation only. For those who want to have an invites, feel free to email me.

Monday, November 27, 2006

NUJP to present petition decriminalizing libel

From the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines:

Recent events have clearly shown how the country's libel law has been abused and exploited to harass media practitioners. No less than First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo leads in filing cases against 43 journalists in what seems to be an attempt to cow the media

The action is a brazen attack on press freedom. The example of the First Gentleman, a powerful and controversial national figure, can only encourage other public officials to step up the use of libel to intimidate critics.

The trend is dangerous. It not only tramples on the basic rights to a free press and to free expression, it also opens the door to abuse of authority. History shows that the narrowing of democratic space leads to the repressive use of power.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has successfully launched a campaign among various media groups to lobby for the decriminalization of libel. We have collected hundreds of signatures from local and foreign journalists supporting our proposal.

We invite you to join us as we formally present our petition with the collected signatures to Senate President Manny Villar on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006, at 5 p.m. at Rm. 602 GSIS Bldg., Financial Center, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City.

We hope to see you there.

For inquiries, please call the NUJP at 411-7768.

Max Soliven's last column

My condolences with Mr. Max Soliven's family and colleagues at The Philippine Star.

Soliven dies in Japan

At six o’clock last Thursday evening, Max Soliven called The STAR newsdesk from Tokyo to ask, as he always did when he was away on a trip, "What’s the big news there?"

Later in the evening his column came in by fax, an expectedly kilometric discourse on Japan under newly installed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Twelve hours later, we got the news that our publisher and chairman had died of cardiac and respiratory arrest at the Narita Red Cross. He was 77.

He died doing what he loved best, and what he did better than most - he was a journalist to the end.

At the time of his death, Soliven was publisher and chairman of the board of The Philippine STAR, PEOPLE Asia magazine, and Mabuhay, the inflight magazine of Philippine Airlines. He was also chairman of the OB Montessori Center.

Although he did not hold office in Port Area —he wrote his column out of his home office on a manual typewriter, the ribbon of which was changed weekly — Soliven’s presence as publisher was imposing.

By phone, he checked up on stories, took reporters, deskmen and editors to task for slip-ups, but also offered praise for a job well done - but, he always cautioned, not too much praise, because "you might ask for a raise!" When he did come to the office though, he visited each department in the newsroom, chatted with everyone, and –although against his grain as an Ilocano –always coughed up money for merienda.

Read more here. For the Wikipedia entry on Mr. Soliven, click here. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Soliven's column is this.

Still on the class civil suit

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also releases a statement today on the class civil suit against Mike Arroyo.

NUJP supports civil case vs President Arroyo's husband

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) supports the filing of a class civil suit against Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The presidential spouse has, since 2003, filed libel cases against 43 journalists, demanding at least P141 million in damages. On November 11, policemen in plainclothes attempted to arrest one of those accused by Mr. Arroyo, Malacañang reporter Mia Gonzales, despite the absence of a court resolution.

Mr. Arroyo, apart from being a public figure and a public officer whose actions are open to fair comment and reporting, is also a lawyer who is presumed to be knowledgeable of Philippine laws and jurisprudence. Yet Mr. Arroyo continues to harass media practitioners with his barrage of libel suits.

This spate of libel cases filed by Mr. Arroyo has brought a chilling effect on media and is a brazen affront to press freedom.

The NUJP, with its more than 500 member journalists nationwide, has committed to join the journalists facing libel suits in filing a civil case against Mr. Arroyo.

Among the basis for filing a civil case are the following provisions in the Civil Code:

* Article 32 which states that "Any public officer or employee, or any private individual, who directly or indirectly obstructs, defeats, violates or in any manner impedes or impairs any of the following rights and liberties of another person shall be liable to the latter for damages..." Among the rights enumerated are the freedoms of speech and of the press.
* Articles 19, 20 and 21of the Civil Code, which all pertain to a person's willful abuse of another person's rights.

Meanwhile, the NUJP has launched a signature campaign calling for the decriminalization of libel and an end to Mr. Arroyo's libel filing spree against journalists. Signatories of the petition have reached over 600 media practitioners, including editors of almost all major newspapers and magazines and coming from as far as the Middle East.

NUJP notes that the United States has already decriminalized libel as early as 1963.

Lawyer Harry Roque of the Roque & Butuyan Law Offices will handle the case for the journalists.

Abuse of rights and violation of free expression

Just came back from Bangkok for the Organizational Development Workshop hosted by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance. So many things had happened on the local media front since last week.

The biggest, in case you do not know, is the filing of a civil suit by Filipino journalists and media organizations against the Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, the husband of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for "abuse of rights and violating freedom of expression."

Philippine media to file class suit vs. president’s husband
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)

FILIPINO JOURNALISTS and media organizations will file a civil suit against the husband of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for abuse of rights and violating freedom of expression.

This was announced during a press briefing by lawyer Harry Roque at the University of the Philippines Law Center on 22 November 2006. Roque described the legal action to be taken by journalists as “an unprecedented social experiment.” It is, however, based on Articles 19, 20, 21 and 32 of the Philippine Civil Code.

Over the past months, Arroyo’s spouse, Jose Miguel, has sued 43 media practitioners for libel. The libel cases were widely believed to be aimed at creating a “chilling effect” on the press which has been critical of Mr. Arroyo.

The press has been reporting on Arroyo’s alleged unexplained wealth, his involvement in alleged cheating to help his wife win the presidential elections, and his alleged profiting from government projects.

All but one of the 43 members of media who were charged by Arroyo joined other journalists and media organizations in filing the class suit. The complaint is expected to be submitted to the Makati Regional Trial Court on the last week of November.

“It is now time to do something apart from protesting Arroyo’s libel suits,” said Luis Teodoro, board member of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), a non-government group that is supporting the class suit along with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

“He is not out to defend his honor,” Roque said of Arroyo. “Despite his knowledge that as a public figure he is open to fair comment and reporting on his public life, Jose Miguel Arroyo continues to harass member of the press with a barrage of malicious libel suits,” he added.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) has pledged P100,000 to support the journalists’ case, according to Roby Alampay, the regional media organization’s executive director.

This was announced during a press briefing by lawyer Harry Roque at the University of the Philippines Law Center on 22 November 2006. Roque described the legal action to be taken by journalists as “an unprecedented social experiment.” It is, however, based on Articles 19, 20, 21 and 32 of the Philippine Civil Code.

Read more here.

CMFR posts its statement on the issue on Freedom Watch today. It said: "The damage Mr. Arroyo’s suits against journalists has caused and may further cause is not limited to the erosion of press freedom. It is also a threat to Philippine democracy itself, given the crucial role that the press performs in behalf of the sovereign citizenry. He must be stopped, and others prevented from copying him."

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility statement on the civil suit against Mr. Jose Miguel Arroyo
Source: CMFR

Libel suits are among the perils journalists must face in this and many other countries including those where press freedom has long flourished. Most journalists are aware that violations of the libel law have corresponding consequences under the Philippine justice system.

A libel suit is properly decided in the courts. The libel suits filed by Mrs, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, against 43 reporters, columnists, editors and other journalists are now sub judice. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), in any case, does not comment on the merits of any libel case until it has been resolved one way or the other.

CMFR does not dispute the right of Mr. Arroyo to file a libel suit against anyone he believes has wronged him through a libelous imputation. But CMFR believes that the sheer number of suits he has filed indicates that the suits are primarily intended to intimidate the press and to silence criticism against himself as well as his wife’s administration.

Read more here.

SEAPA made an official statement in support of the class civil suit vs. Presidential spouse Jose Miguel Arroyo. Media and human rights organizations around Southeast Asia, including CMFR, signed the statement. These were the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Indonesia), the Institute for the Study on Free Flow of Information (Indonesia), the Centre for Independent Journalism (Malaysia), Mizzima News (Burma), Timor Leste Journalists Association, Aliran (Malaysia), the Alliance for Freedom of Expression, Cambodia , and Malaysiakini (Malaysia)

Statement of support for Philippine journalists from free expression groups around Southeast Asia
Source: CMFR

We, representatives of journalist, media, and free expression organizations from around Southeast Asia, and collaborating under the network of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), applaud the initiative of our colleagues in the Philippines to defend their rights in the face of blatant abuse and harassment from the husband of Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

We strongly support the filing of a class civil suit against Mr. Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo for his abuse of power and his clear attempt to undermine press freedom in an important member of the Southeast Asian community.

The Philippines is in the clear minority of countries in Southeast Asia with a functioning—if perennially vulnerable—free press. In this light, the deterioration of the conditions for press freedom under the regime of President Arroyo is a troubling trend that causes anxiety in the rest of the region.

We note with alarm that over the past months, Mr. Arroyo has sued 43 reporters, columnists, editors and publishers of various publications for libel. Many of the journalists he sued had linked Mr. Arroyo to unexplained wealth, vote-buying for his wife's 2004 electoral win, and money laundering.

Although all these issues comprise serious public interest matters that merit scrutiny by the people through the press, the President’s husband is seeking damages totaling P141 million (about US$2.8 million), thereby sending a chilling message to journalists and the Philippine media in general. Backdropped by the alarming rate of murder of journalists in the Philippines, particularly under the Arroyo administration, the antics of the President’s husband underscore the overall decline of official respect for press freedom in the country.

It is in this light that we encourage our Philippine colleagues in their efforts and initiative to fight back against this clear attempt to harass their ranks. If the presidential spouse intends to send a message that journalists who dare to cross him will face a libel suit, then the victims – both the press and the people – must push back with a stronger message that contempt of press freedom is contempt of the people.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Welcome back, PinoyPress!

PinoyPress, that useful and educational blog created by journalist Carlos Conde that tackle issues affecting the media, is back online.

"Some months ago, I decided to discontinue PinoyPress, mainly because it was taking too much of my time," Mr. Conde writes in his blog on the new PinoyPress. "But I realized I just couldn’t let go of it. So it’s back. I am back."

The new site has been improved with new and exciting features including a shoutbox and an easy survey system. But what's more appealing with the new site is that it allows you to "read headlines on the Philippine press, media and journalism in a single page." Readers, according to Mr. Conde, "can do the same for journalism issues, trends and events around the world."

The new PinoyPress also keeps track of what Filipino journalists are blogging about in just a single page. Now, isn't that nice.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Good news and bad news

First, the good news:

Sawasdee again, Bangkok! I'll be leaving Manila for a week starting on Monday to attend the Network Meeting and Organizational Development Training organized by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA). My colleagues at the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) are going as well: Lara (also to attend the same meeting and workshop), Nathan Lee and Jose Bimbo Santos (who are both going to the Gender/Alerts Training Workshop also organized by SEAPA which will also be happening at the same time as the meeting and workshop I am attending).

I had fond memories of Bangkok when I was there back in 2004 (when I was the one CMFR sent to attend the first SEAPA Gender/Alerts Training Workshop), and have made friends with some of my colleagues in the region. The photo above shows me together my other colleagues at the 2004 Gender/Alerts Workshop.

I'm happy to be back there in Thailand!

And uh, the bad news is:

Since I am gone from November 19 to November 26 (including my overnight stay in the office on the 19th), please say goodbye to an occasion I am supposed to have that week. I might have a smaller affair after I get back but I am still not sure yet. To the guys who are expecting that affair, my apologies.

Speaking of good news and bad news. I just remembered a discussion yesterday by the CMFR bosses about this concept of "good news" and "bad news" in the press, with the press trying to look for something to celebrate even as, the country is rife with news and developments that are otherwise hardly encouraging.

Vergel Santos, PJR Reports consulting editor, wrote about the issue in the August 2002 issue of the Philippine Journalism Review. Discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of then Ted Failon's show The Good News, Mr. Santos wrote in his article "Good News, Bad News, Silly News": "News is supposed to be neither good nor bad, but neutral. It is for the customer, not the messenger, to say whether a piece of news is good or bad. And he can judge that only for himself -- good if the news makes him happy, bad if it makes him unhappy."

Mr. Santos added: "Journalism requires that the news be presented uninfluenced by whatever happiness or unhappiness it may bring so as not to engender any false sense of security (as in the case of 'good news') or alarm (as with 'bad news'). Thus, if it happens that the news brings more unhappiness than happiness it is not journalism's fault."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Media helping media

Aside from the local media organizations (like here, here, and here) and journalist blogs (like here and here), the statement made by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) was carried by international press freedom organizations like the International Freedom of Expression Exchange. Media Helping Media, an international site tackling issues involving the media around , also has the CMFR statement as its main story since yesterday. Media Helping Media is created "to provide an area where media (organizations) that need help can ask for it and those able to offer help can respond." According to the site's editor David Brewer, the site has been set up to "help media (organizations) in transition and post-conflict countries achieve financial sustainability and editorial independence."

Readers can put in their comments to the statement posted in the site after the basic sign-up process. Please feel free to comment.

The LRT operator as Confucius

Rode the MRT earlier on may way to work. Can't help but remember the text message Venus sent me:

"Wag po natin salubungin ang mga bumababa, 'di po naten sila kamag-anak."

- LRT operator

Hmmm. Tama nga naman. Wise words indeed.

Leaving Junette the only one...

And Don finally comes out with a blog. Actually he used to have one (in Friendster) before but later deleted it. (Sorry Don, can't help but post your new blog!) To the newbie bloggers in the office, happy posting!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

CMFR updates stand on press freedom assault; other groups support statement

This just in from Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility's Freedom Watch:

"The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) comes out today with an updated version of its statement the previous day calling for a stop to the assault of the present Arroyo regime on press freedom in the country. CMFR's statement is supported by other organizations, names of which are listed after the statement," the Freedom Watch said in its latest post.

In its statement today, CMFR pointed out what it had said the previous day: "CMFR reiterates its call for the decriminalization of libel and the imposition of reasonable limits on the amount of damages that may be awarded. Only then can the libel law cease to be a weapon that at any time can be used to intimidate journalists, erode press freedom, and constrict democracy."

"But CMFR cannot overemphasize the urgency of the present situation, and urges all groups that value press freedom and democracy not only to make their voices heard in vigorous protest, but also to alert their international networks to the urgent need to restrain the authoritarian impulse driving the Arroyo regime campaign against the Philippine press," it said.

Read more about the updated statement and the names of the supporting organizations here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On the latest media assaults

To understand the appeal of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) calling for the stopping of the assault on press freedom by the Arroyo regime, here are the alerts CMFR prepared on the latest assaults on press freedom by the administration:

Police tries to arrest reporter

AN ARREST warrant for a business reporter, one of the 43 journalists sued by the husband of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Jose Miguel Arroyo, was served by at least six policemen right inside the Malacañang Palace compound last 13 November.

Five Manila Police District policemen entered the press working area of the Malacañang Press Corps and sought Mia Gonzalez, reporter of the national business daily, the BusinessMirror, shortly before 11 a.m. Gonzalez was, however, not arrested because she was on leave.

Asked why they were looking for her, the policemen said their purpose was “confidential.” One reporter then checked the area’s logbook, and found out that the police were going to serve an arrest warrant.

Gonzalez, who has been covering the presidential beat since the Ramos administration, said that no notice about the court order was received by herself, her lawyer or even the staff of Newsbreak magazine, the publication to which she is a contributor.

“We’re surprised that an arrest warrant was about to be served on Mia Gonzalez, our contributor. We, including our counsel, have not received a copy of the resolution from the court. We deplore the short cut in the legal process, a clear abuse of power,” Marites Vitug, editor in chief of Newsbreak, said.

Read more here.

Newspaper columnist receives death threat

A newspaper columnist who has been charged with libel by the husband of Philippine President Gloria Arroyo received a death threat through the e-mail on 12 November.

Ellen Tordesillas, columnist and chief of reporters of the daily newspaper Malaya, found the threatening message on her e-mail at around 3 p.m. shortly after sending her column. The message, coming from the address, was time-stamped 7:21 a.m. of the same day.

The letter said: “What kind of death do you prefer? To die of cancer? To die of accident? To die of ambush? To die of heart attack due to your libel suit? Masyado kang matapang ha? Puro banat mo sa Pangulo dahil hindi ka napartehan ng gracia kahit kaunti. (You’re very brave, aren’t you? You keep criticizing the President just because you did not even get to have a tiny share of the blessings.) Your days are numbered.”

Read the rest of the alert here.

Commercial lang

This leaves Don and Junette the only writers in the office with no blog. Of course, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility has its own institutional blog, Freedom Watch.

Nathan Lee's blog (which needs updating by the way):

Venus Elumbre's blog (which she created last year but only made her first post recently):

Jose Bimbo Santos's first blog (showing much of his creative and philosophical side)

Bimbo's second blog (a newly-created one on serious issues, he says):

Darker, darker times ahead

The threat to the country's press freedom looms larger and larger with the recent incidents involving journalists.

From the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility:

An urgent call:
Stopping the Arroyo regime assault on press freedom
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

THE CENTER for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) calls on all media organizations, advocacy groups, lawyers’ organizations, and human rights groups to join together to stop the Arroyo regime assault on press freedom. CMFR is issuing this urgent appeal to preempt what could be the beginning of a phase in this assault that could severely cripple press freedom in the Philippines and destroy what little remains of Philippine democracy.

The two latest incidents in this assault are extremely serious in their implications. In what can only be described as a blatant attempt to intimidate the press, a team of policemen tried last Monday to arrest Mia Gonzalez of the magazine Newsbreak right in the Malacañang Press Corps office itself.

Ms. Gonzalez would have been arrested in the presence of several of her colleagues. One of the 43 editors, columnists, and reporters Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo has sued for libel, she was not in the vicinity at the time and thus escaped arrest. But the message of intimidation the police sent was clear enough, and duly noted by journalists covering Malacañang.

This latest attempt to bully the press came on the heels of a death threat against Malaya newspaper columnist Ellen Tordesillas, again one of the 43 journalists Mr. Arroyo has sued for libel. The threat against Ms. Tordesillas could be the prelude to the escalation of press intimidation, including assassinations and attempts on journalists’ lives that have so far been mostly limited to the communities, where 62 journalists have been killed in the line of duty since 1986.

Both incidents indeed occurred in the context of the continuing harassment, intimidation and assassination of journalists which have shattered the Philippine press’ reputation for autonomy and placed the country at 142nd place among 168 countries in the Reporters sans Frontieres Press Freedom Index, and earned it a reputation as “the most murderous place in the world” for media practitioners and as the second most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq.

Earlier last October, seven editors and reporters and a former senator writing editorials for Malaya who are also among the 43 men and women Mr. Arroyo has sued were also ordered arrested by a Manila regional trial court judge. They managed to post bail and avoided a night in jail. But the libel law continues to be a grave threat to Filipino journalists, press freedom, and democracy.

An attack on press freedom is an attack on democracy, a free press being indispensable to the discussion of public issues. It is no coincidence that Mr. Arroyo’s offensive against the media is occurring in the larger context of the Arroyo regime’s multi-pronged campaign to silence opposition to it, which has included the suspension of local officials allied with the opposition.
Journalists may be forgiven for suspecting that the primary reason the Philippines has not kept pace with US jurisprudence on libel—libel was decriminalized by the US Supreme Court in 1963—is the present law’s being a convenient tool of harassment against journalists.

In a number of instances, arrest warrants have been served in the late afternoon or early evening of Fridays with the obvious intention of forcing the respondents to spend the weekend in jail. Philippine courts have also tended to hand out harsh prison terms. They have also awarded excessive and crippling damages to complainants in civil suits.

CMFR reiterates its call for the decriminalization of libel and the imposition of reasonable limits on the amount of damages that may be awarded. Only then can the libel law cease to be a weapon that at any time can be used to intimidate journalists, erode press freedom, and constrict democracy.

But CMFR cannot overemphasize the urgency of the present situation, and urges all groups that value press freedom and democracy not only to make their voices heard in vigorous protest, but also to alert their international networks to the urgent need to restrain the authoritarian impulse driving the Arroyo regime campaign against the Philippine press.

From the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines:

Stop the harassment of media
Support the move to decriminalize libel

The assertion by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo's lawyer Ruy Rondain that his client had nothing to do with the attempt by policemen to arrest our colleague, Business Mirror reporter Mia Gonzalez, in the grounds of Malacañang Palace flies in the face of the following:

By all accounts, the arresting policemen were in plainclothes. Since they were serving a warrant, they are presumed to have been armed. How, we ask, could armed men in civilian clothes – even if they are law enforcers – pass through the tight security around the Presidential residence and enter the Palace grounds without the Presidential Security Group being instructed to let them through?

At the very least, if they had informed the PSG about their purpose and who it was they were after, the Palace guards could have informed the Malacañang Press Corps, if only as a matter of courtesy and decorum. Why was this not done?

And why did the policemen try to deceive the Malacañang reporters who asked them why they were looking for Gonzalez by saying they were just there to ask the reporter some questions?

But even granting Rondain's assertion is true, one glaring fact stands out – this incident is proof of how, wittingly or unwittingly, the power and influence his "private person" client enjoys come into play against those with whom he disagrees and how, in the case of the libel suits he has filed against 43 journalists, this antiquated law is used to harass a critical press and send a chilling message to others who may be inclined to scrutinize public officials and figures.

Like the shameless death threat e-mailed to Malaya columnist Ellen Tordesillas, another of those whom Mr. Arroyo has favored with a libel suit, at best, the attempt to arrest Ms. Gonzalez is, at best, an attempt by some overeager factotum to curry favors with a powerful patron.

At worst, it is a brazen display and abuse of power, not to mention a disgraceful show of inhospitality for harassing Ms. Gonzalez in the heart of the Presidential residence.

This incident merely highlights the need to strike the dated libel law, a remnant of our colonial past, from the statute books to prevent its use time and again as a weapon to bludgeon into silence and submission those whose duty it is to ferret out the truth and inform the public of how those sworn to their service do or do not abide by their oaths.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Express Bolitas

Analyzing news programs is part of our work at the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. We monitor the news programs of the free air channels and ANC.

One of these programs is Balitang Express, the early evening newscast of the government-sequestered IBC-13. Can’t help but say a few things:

Sure, Balitang Express is produced by IBC-13, which we all know is controlled by the government. If it wants to be more credible to the viewers, however, I think those behind the program should not forget the basic tenets of journalism in reporting – balance and fairness. Personally, I think Balitang Express is more neutral and fair than its NBN-4 counterpart, Teledyaryo. Still, much work needs to be done.

Balitang Express has a regular Mindanao-based correspondent, Julie Alipala, which reports on an almost daily basis. Reports about the Visayas region, however, are nil. Why not get another correspondent based in the Visayas? People might think that the Philippines is made up of only just two regions.

The program’s graphics, hands down, are no match with those in ABS-CBN or GMA-7 news program. Okay, that’s understandable, but please: the program’s chargen and news announcements definitely need some grammar and spelling check ALL the time.

Balita Express reporters have this annoying habit of ending their reports with the line, “(Name of reporter), Nagbabalitaaaaa… Express!” (the reporter somewhat raises his/her voice on the “Express!” part) They really should stop that. What is that? I don’t get why they have to do their signature line that way. It’s not even amusing.

If the heat in the studio is unbearable, it’s perfectly understandable to use an electric fan. But please make it sure that it won’t affect the hairdo of your anchors, or at least, the hair of Ali Atienza. You know those shampoo commercials where the model appears out of nowhere, her hair having a life of its own with the help of a large fan? That’s what happened to Ali in one episode, only with lesser hair movement and of course the movement, purely unintended. (Unless they want Ali to appear in a shampoo commercial). Watching Ali doing his spiel while his hair can be seen going all over the place is both a hilarious and sorry viewing experience. If the program intends to use a fan, please don’t put it in front of the anchors. Or make them use hair gel instead.

And talking about Ali, can someone give him a glass of water (Prozac might go well too) before he goes on-air? Ali goes on air every time looking like a nervous wreck, affecting the way he delivers his reports. If he’s not delivering reports five words a second, he buckles several times. I don’t know if that is intended (the program’s name is Express Balita, isn’t it?), but viewers don’t understand what’s he saying half of the time.

By the way, we know Ali (the son of Manila mayor Lito Atienza by the way) is a presidential assistant on youth and sports, but can you not show him when you do sports stories? I remembered seeing his footage when the program reported on Manila Youth Games a few months back. And oh, it was Ali who cued the viewers to the same report. Talk about having your cake and eat it too.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Calling our conscience

Damn. Perfect song and nice video. How come our singers don't do songs and videos like this?

From Youtube's Aaron:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Into the Abyss: Reporting Iraq 2003-2006 from CJR

From Columbia Journalism Review:

For its forty-fifth anniversary Columbia Journalism Review is publishing a unique oral history of the war in Iraq as seen through the eyes of some fifty journalists who covered it. Into The Abyss is a unique and compelling narrative about the conflict itself and about the learning curve of the reporters and photographers who have worked what is clearly the most significant and difficult story of our time.

These journalists are reporting under circumstances that nearly defy belief, and they have studied what Iraqis call “the situation” closely, some of them for four years or more. They know things we should all know, and we are proud to present their story.

The first three chapters of the oral history are up online, and the remaining seven will follow shortly. This special Web page includes audio from our interviews as well as other extras.

CJR Daily
While you are at it, check out what our daily Web site has been saying:

Liz Cox Barrett astute and amusing analysis of cable TV’s coverage of
Kerry and his alleged joke.

Paul McLeary talks to former Army officer Matthew Currier Burden about
military blogging and its future

Traces of War blog

Traces of War, the band I've been telling you these past few days (here and here), now has a blog. Check it out.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Has his case fallen into the abyss?

What happened to Joey Estriber, the radio broadcaster kidnapped last March 3? What are the authorities doing to solve the issue?

Still no word of missing radio presenter and environmentalist eight months after his abduction -- RSF
From: Freedom Watch, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the indifference of both local and national authorities to the fate of radio presenter and anti-logging campaigner Joey Estriber, who has been missing ever since he was kidnapped outside an Internet café in Baler, in Aurora province (northeast of Manila), on the evening of 3 March 2006.

"It is eight months to the day since Estriber was abducted and nothing has been done by the authorities to find and identify his kidnappers," the press freedom organisation said. "It seems that complicity between the local police and logging companies has prevented any progress in the investigation. The authorities in Manila must restart enquiries as a matter of urgency."

Read more here.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Suspect in Cavite mediaman's killing surrenders

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines came out with this alert yesterday.

Suspect in Cavite mediaman's killing yields

Two weeks after a regional trial court ordered their arrest, one of the two principal suspects in the killing of a Cavite-based journalist has turned himself in to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group on Thursday morning, police said.

Senior Supt. Mark Edison Belarma, CIDG-Calabarzon director, identified the suspect as Nemensio Argente, 47, of Naic, Cavite.

Belarma said Argente, who was earlier identified as "Melencio," was one of the primary suspects in the killing of Arnulfo Villanueva, a writer and columnist for Asian Star Express Balita tabloid.

Villanueva was gunned down inside the suspect's nipa hut in Barangay Munting Mapino, Naic town on February 28, 2005.

Another suspect, Jose Allan Tayson, is still at-large.

"He looked haggard. He said he has not been getting a good sleep for two weeks," Belarma told the (Philippine Daily) INQUIRER, referring to Argente.

"His surrender will be a big boost in our investigation. It will help us to finally resolve the killing of Villanueva," he added.

Despite Argente's surrender, Belarma said they were still uncertain over the real motive of the killing.

"We are still looking at all possible angles in this murder. We are not discounting that this was work-related," he said.

Supt. Elwin Fernandez, CIDG-Cavite chief, said the suspect sent surrender feelers to their office shortly after news about the release of warrants of arrest against him and his co-accused broke out two weeks ago.

Fernandez said Argente contacted one of his men, SPO1 Dionisio Enriquez, who fetched him from a church in Imus,
Cavite at around 8 a.m.

From the church, the suspect was immediately brought to the CIDG office in Camp Gen. Pantaleon Garcia, also in Imus.

During interrogation, Fernandez said Argente denied having a hand in the murder, saying he did not have any motive in killing Villanueva.

"He said he was not around when the killing happened. But the fact remains that it happened inside his (Argente) house," Fernandez said in a mobile phone interview.

"But his statements are doubtful," Belarma said.

Fernandez, however, said that Argente could be released from detention once he pays the required P40,000 bail set by the court.

He said the prosecutor's office only a filed homicide case against the suspects "because what we have were only circumstantial evidences."

"The problem is that we don't have any eye witnesses or direct witnesses who saw the killing," he explained.

Despite this, Fernandez is confident that they can pin down the suspect based on the evidences they will present in court.

Shortly before his death, Villanueva was seen riding on his motorcycle together with a still unidentified woman.

Police records showed the victim went to Argente's house apparently to trade his .38-caliber revolver for the suspect's refrigerator.

But when the suspect found out that the gun was unserviceable, the two engaged in a heated argument which led to the killing of Villanueva. (INQUIRER Southern Luzon report)
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