Saturday, September 29, 2007

The President's role in the ZTE scam

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had authorized negotiations to award the national broadband network (NBN) project to China’s ZTE Corporation months before the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) started its evaluation of the project, reports GMANews.TV.

Arroyo okayed talks with ZTE on NBN before NEDA review
Source: GMANews.TV
September 28

Through "special authority" documents she gave two Cabinet secretaries, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo authorized negotiations for the award of the national broadband network (NBN) project to China’s ZTE Corporation, months before the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) started its evaluation of the NBN project, according to official records submitted to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

And four days before formal talks with ZTE could start, Mrs Arroyo brought the ZTE chairman to Cotabato City, as her special guest, at the joint Cabinet-regional Development Council meeting there on July 8, 2006.

She told local folk at the meeting that ZTE was investing US$1 billion in telecommunications and other projects in the Philippines.

Read here for more.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Revolutionizing journalism

The September 2007 issue of the PJR Reports, which focuses on the press situation during the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship, is already out.

While waiting for the issue's stories and sections online, you might want to take a look at the contents of our last month's issue.

Here's my story in the August issue of the magazine:

Where three -or more- is not a crowd
A New Way of Reporting the News

by Hector Bryant L. Macale

Faced by dwindling revenues and staff downsizing, should news organizations—the traditional gatekeepers of the news—be afraid of a world where blogs and citizen journalism have become increasingly important?

The future of journalism remains hotly debated among members of the press. Yet, news organizations may yet learn a thing or two from the new trends and techniques in which the news is being researched, reported, and presented.

“It’s a revolutionary moment in journalism. There is room for all kinds of experimentation now,” said journalist Sheila Coronel during her presentation on new trends in investigative reporting before a group of journalists last July 13. It was Coronel’s first visit to Manila since she assumed the post of inaugural director of The Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at the Columbia University in the United States last year.

The first and one of only three Hall of Famers of the Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism, Coronel is a co-founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism where she served as executive director for 16 years.

“The business models that supported journalism for the longest time, especially print journalism—which are circu-lation and advertising that allowed newspapers to get revenues—are slowly crumbling and possibly collapsing,” Coronel said, adding, “Many newspapers are losing their circulation.”

Click here for more. For those who have read my earlier post about crowdsourcing and pro-am journalism, this is my story about the issue.

Other articles in the August issue include:

Main Story

Why Boy, Lolit and Cristy are here to stay
The Power of Showbiz News
by Junutte B. Galagala

Other Stories

Media companies find a bigger, richer market
The New News Target: OFWs
by Don Gil K. Carreon

A pro-active Supreme Court leads a conference on extrajudicial killings
A Summit on 'Salvagings' and Abductions
by Jose Bimbo F. Santos

A journalist compares working abroad with working at home
From Both Sides Now
by Patty Adversario

Click here for the regular sections in the issue, including the Monitor section which prominent journalist Jose Torres Jr. earlier wrote about in his blog.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Red Shirt for Burma Tomorrow

In support of the incredibly brave citizens of Burma: May all the people around the world wear a red shirt on Friday, September 28.

Aside from the usual news sources, you may click
here, here, here, and here for more.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On the Burma situation

Here's a recent press freedom alert on the current situation in Burma by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance:

Journalists, artistes warned from joining thousands of protesting citizens, monks in Burma
24 September 2007
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

As thousands of ordinary citizens join some 3,000 monks and nuns in the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay on their seventh day of peaceful marches on 24 September 2007, the junta is warning the press from joining the protests, worried that journalists, too, may be emboldened enough by the deeply moving spectacle to exercise their right to free expression in its most basic form.

Major Tint Swe, the director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, summoned journalists and editors from Rangoon-based periodicals to his office on 23 September and warned them from participating in the anti-junta protests that are gaining momentum by the day, reports the global organisation of exiled journalists Burma Media Association (BMA).

BMA said the order appeared to be a hasty response to the urging of a new group calling itself the Association of Journalists and Artists, for members of both professions to join what is turning out to be the country's biggest protests in two decades.

Read more here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Kundiman and old Philippine songs rock!

If you like or interested in knowing more about Kundiman and other Philippine classical songs, there are two blogs out there created by one passionate lover of these two almost-forgotten genres in Philippine music.

It's a pity that you can't find any program catering to these types of music in the local television anymore, or at least none that I know of. I am not sure if Armida Siguion Reyna's Aawitan Kita is still airing, but the last time I saw it was around two years ago or more, showing at a God-forsaken hour. When I was a child and much to my consternation then, I was forced to watch Aawitan Kita by my mother, who likes old Philippine songs. Back then, we only had one TV set and computers, I think at that time, had yet to be commercially released.

But thinking about it now, I am thankful that my mother had forced me to watch the program. It has encouraged me to later explore other genres of music, and not just being content with the usual mainstream hits that have become the regular staple of radio programs and even MTV or MYX.

Too bad there's no Aawitan Kita episode uploaded on Youtube (except a video showing Cris Villonco singing in the program and one karaoke song), for the sake of the younger generations who have never heard of any kundiman or Philippine classical song.

Please visit these links: Kundiman and Philippine Classical Music. The Kundiman blog also has several patriotic kundiman songs.

On Forced Democracy

Here's a insightful piece written by Shankar Vedantam of The Washington Post on US President George W. Bush's analogy between Philippine democracy and the Iraq situation.

Lessons in Forced Democracy
By Shankar Vedantam
September 17, 2007

Four years ago, during a speech in Manila, President Bush drew an analogy between the history of the Philippines and the history he was rewriting in Iraq.

"Democracy always has skeptics," Bush said. "Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were proved wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democratic nation in Asia."

Since 2003, Bush has rarely mentioned the Philippines. But as the nation debates Gen. David H. Petraeus's recent report on the state of the Iraq war, a new study by political scientists Andrew Enterline and J. Michael Greig shows that the president ought to revisit his analogy.

Bush got some of his historical facts wrong, but his analogy turns out to be unintentionally accurate -- the Philippines is an excellent example of the risks, stakes and odds of imposing democracy on another country. By contrast, the oft-cited success stories of Japan and Germany turn out to be outliers.

Enterline and Greig's as yet unpublished study is a detailed examination of 41 cases over about 200 years where one nation has tried to impose democracy on another. As Washington debates the success of the recent U.S. "surge" in Iraq, the study offers a sobering glimpse of the big picture -- not the odds that the Iraqi insurgency will go up or down, but the odds that a stable democracy will emerge in the country.

Read here more.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hello, Garci timeline

Here's a "Hello, Garci" timeline from GMANEws.TV.

June 6, 2005

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye holds a press conference, plays two compact disc recordings, says that both contain the voice of the President but one was doctored.

June 8, 2005

Suspended lawyer Allan Paguia says he was the source of the recordings. Paguia intended his distribution to be on an installment basis to keep the Palace in the dark.

June 10, 2005

On June 10, whistleblower Samuel Ong, a former deputy director of the country's National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) announced in a public press conference in Manila that he was the source of a set of audio tapes in circulation for the past week around the country. The master tape is allegedly of a wiretapped conversation between President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Virgilio Garcillano. Ong currently holds, as he claims, one out of four known master tapes that may incriminate Mrs Arroyo. He says that he did not tape Mrs Arroyo's conversation himself; the evidence was just entrusted to him by another source.

June 11, 2005

On June 11, Ong resided in the San Carlos Seminary in Guadalupe, Makati. Sympathizers in the area vowed to prevent his arrest and/or death. Later, the Office of the President formally denied the accusations to the public, although Mrs Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, had earlier acknowledged that it was Mrs Arroyo's voice in the Ong tape. Mass protests grew around the country, by the thousands.

June 12, 2005

On June 12, the country celebrated independence day. Philippine police tighten security around the seminary. Protesters who held vigil in the seminary, and in other areas, dwindled as people paid their respects to the day of independence. Protest activity overall was minimal, compared to the two previous days.

Ong tapes spread, through different forms of media like written transcripts which circulated.


June 13, 2005

On June 13, the official position of the government held on to the stand that the pieces of evidence are fake, and Mrs Arroyo did not commit electoral fraud. Copies of tapes, CDs, and written transcripts spread.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) challenged the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) regarding warning of a possible forced closure of networks that air the contents of the tapes that involve the conversations of President Arroyo.

June 14, 2005

On June 14, The KBP attacked the NTC by calling their warning as "an attack on press freedom." The spread of tapes, CDs, written transcripts are accompanied by the spread of computer files (.doc, and .mp3) versions of the Ong recordings over the Internet. Authorities later released their own government endorsed copies over the Internet, and called the Ong recordings, already widespread, as "manipulated". Ong sympathizers countered by calling the act a last ditch attempt by the government to save itself. Sympathizers said that since the government can't control the spread of the Ong recordings, authorities just tried to confuse the electorate with their own fake recordings.

Foreign experts reportedly confirmed that the Ong recordings do indeed have the voices of Mrs Arroyo and Garcillano. This was confirmed by New Jersey based Voice Identification Inc. Mrs Arroyo has yet to respond. With the tape itself authenticated, and the voices therein confirmed, Ong sympathizers began a fresh wave of protests calling for the legal ouster of politicians. They called for the Supreme Court to declare the 2004 elections null and void. They also supported the creation of interim government, new elections, all to be followed by a new legitimate government. Mrs Arroyo stood by her claim of innocence.

June 17, 2005

On June 17, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the Arroyo administration for attempting to restrict the airing of the Ong recordings. Christopher Warren, IFJ president said that, "Threatening journalists and media organizations is an unacceptable practice in a democracy; the [Arroyo] administration needs to be more transparent in its dealings with election officials."

Authorities instead allowed the country's media to play a government endorsed recording which they claim to be the original. The government tapes portray a conversation of Mrs Arroyo and a man named Gary, rather than Garci (nickname of Garcillano). The Ong recordings though have already been verified (both tape and content) by two neutral parties. Also, the courts have not yet had a say on the matter.

June 18, 2005

On June 18, the KBP announced that the Ong recordings may now be aired to the general public, until it is proven to be an illegal wiretap by the Arroyo administration. Both the Ong recordings and the government endorsed recordings were broadcast on mass media channels.

June 19, 2005

On June 19, Virgilio Garcillano was reportedly seen in Zamboanga City, preparing to go abroad. Copies of both recordings spread further everywhere through almost every possible means of mass media. A significant number of the country's electorate was already able to access the recordings. Names of many other election candidates and other politicians are reportedly mentioned in the recordings.

Procedures that are already in place could help end the issue of electoral fraud allegations on Mrs Arroyo, Garcillano and any other related party. Everyday life for most citizens moved back to normal, though the crisis is still ongoing. Members of Congress reportedly were interested in starting hearings about the crisis.

June 27, 2005

On June 27, a day before the burial of the former Archbishop of Manila Jaime Cardinal Sin, President Arroyo addressed the country with a television broadcast. She admitted that it was indeed her voice on the tape. She explained that she was just asking for a count in Mindanao, the southern island. Her admission was followed by an apology addressed to the people stating that she made a "lapse in judgment" in communicating with an electoral commission official during the election. Lawyer Oliver Lozano filed an impeachment case against Mrs Arroyo on the grounds of her alleged betrayal of public trust. Representative Prospero Pichay was confident that no congressman would endorse the impeachment case, however a party list representative had indeed endorsed it. The largest opposition group did not support impeachment because they believed that it was part of the political maneuvering of the administration. Former president and opposition leader Estrada said that Mrs Arroyo could not be impeached because impeachment is made on a legitimate president which, according to him, she was "not."

Click here for the full timeline.


Presenting the top 10 big stories the US news media missed in the past year. Wow. I wonder what stories did the Philippine press missed (or maybe even underreported) this year.

The top 10 big stories the US news media missed in the past year
BY Amanda Witherell
September 5, 2007

There are a handful of freedoms that have almost always been a part of American democracy. Even when they didn't exactly apply to everyone or weren't always protected by the people in charge, a few simple but significant rights have been patently clear in the Constitution: You can't be nabbed by the cops and tossed behind bars without a reason. If you are imprisoned, you can't be incarcerated indefinitely; you have the right to a speedy trial with a judge and jury. When that court date rolls around, you'll be able to see the evidence against you.

The president can't suspend elections, spy without warrants, or dispatch federal troops to trump local cops or quell protests. Nor can the commander in chief commence a witch hunt, deem individuals "enemy combatants," or shunt them into special tribunals outside the purview of our 218-year-old judicial system.

Until now. This year's Project Censored presents a chilling portrait of a newly empowered executive branch signing away civil liberties for the sake of an endless and amorphous war on terror. And for the most part, the major news media weren't paying attention.

"This year it seemed like civil rights just rose to the top," said Peter Phillips, the director of Project Censored, the annual media survey conducted by Sonoma State University researchers and students who spend the year patrolling obscure publications, national and international Web sites, and mainstream news outlets to compile the 25 most significant stories that were inadequately reported or essentially ignored.

While the project usually turns up a range of underreported issues, this year's stories all fall somewhat neatly into two categories — the increase of privatization and the decrease of human rights. Some of the stories qualify as both.

"I think they indicate a very real concern about where our democracy is heading," writer and veteran judge Michael Parenti said.

For 31 years Project Censored has been compiling a list of the major stories that the nation's news media have ignored, misreported, or poorly covered.

The Oxford American Dictionary defines censorship as "the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts," which Phillips said is also a fine description of what happens under a dictatorship. When it comes to democracy, the black marker is a bit more nuanced. "We need to broaden our understanding of censorship," he said. After 11 years at the helm of Project Censored, Phillips thinks the most bowdlerizing force is the fourth estate itself: "The corporate media is complicit. There's no excuse for the major media giants to be missing major news stories like this."

As the stories cited in this year's Project Censored selections point out, the federal government continues to provide major news networks with stock footage, which is dutifully broadcast as news. The George W. Bush administration has spent more federal money than any other presidency on public relations. Without a doubt, Parenti said, the government invests in shaping our beliefs. "Every day they're checking out what we think," he said. "The erosion of civil liberties is not happening in one fell swoop but in increments. Very consciously, this administration has been heading toward a general autocracy."

Carl Jensen, who founded Project Censored in 1976 after witnessing the landslide reelection of Richard Nixon in 1972 in spite of mounting evidence of the Watergate scandal, agreed that this year's censored stories amount to an accumulated threat to democracy. "I'm waiting for one of our great liberal writers to put together the big picture of what's going on here," he said.

Click here for more.

Here are the top 10 stories the US news media missed in the past year.

1. No Habeas Corpus for “Any Person”
Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa’s Resources
Frenzy of Increasingly Destructive Trade Agreements
Human Traffic Builds US Embassy in Iraq
Operation FALCON Raids
7. Behind Blackwater Inc.
KIA: The US Neoliberal Invasion of India
Privatization of America’s Infrastructure
10. Vulture Funds Threaten Poor Nations’ Debt Relief

For the Project Censored's 2008 report, click here.
For another story on this, click here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hello again, Manila

Just arrived yesterday from Thailand, still feeling weary from the weeklong project management training workshop organized by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA). The workshop -- facilitated by MDF management trainers and consultants Susanne van Lieshout and Roshanga Wickremesinghe -- proved fruitful, as it provided participants helpful information on project-related issues such as managing projects, securing funding from various institutions, writing proposals, making presentations, among others.

As I said, the workshop ran for about a week, although a project management workshop like that takes about two weeks. As it was shortened to just a week, the workshop's sessions sometimes stretched from 9 am to 6 pm or more. And the sessions were about management-related concepts, processes, and issues. Talk about major nosebleed.

But don't get me wrong. I am very thankful that the office has sent me (together with Lara) to attend the workshop. I learned a lot from the workshop, and very eager to apply the things I learned in our projects. Plus, I get to meet old friends in Southeast Asia as well as meeting new ones. And it was my first time in Pattaya, the venue of the workshop. Overall, it was great.

The participants, which are managers, project coordinators, and budget officers in their organizations, come from SEAPA and its member-organizations, as well as partners the Timor Lorosa’e Journalists’ Association from East Timor and Centre for Independent Journalism from Malaysia. Aside from the two of us in the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the other two Philippine participants were Jaileen Jimeno and Baby Cacdac of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Here are some photos:

Some of the participants.

Despite the hectic schedule, Lara still manages to look pretty for a photo.

Probably the most difficult task given to the participants was to make a toy car overnight. The cars should be made of recyclable or organic materials only. The participants were divided into two groups. To a group of journalists and press freedom advocates, the task was almost next to impossible.

The other group, Team Ferrari, made this:

Our group, Team McLaren relied on heavy corporate support to do this. Meet the next "It" car. Haha.

The two cars were tested in a car race. Because the Team Ferrari car ran faster and looked prettier than ours, it won. Boo. Haha.

When not eating at the Cosy Hotel in Pattaya (where we were billeted) or elsewhere, one fave dinner hangout of the group was this restaurant, which is near our hotel. Great food and service.

The guy on the left wearing a white shirt, which seemed to me the restaurant's owner, knew which person ordered what food and drinks the previous night. One my first dinner there, I ordered jal jeera for drink, my first time to order it ever. Turned out it was a wrong choice for a drink. The rest of the participants, who sipped the drink, practically agreed with me. I guess it's an acquired taste. I could still feel my stomach churning every time I think of the green-flavored polyjuice potion-looking drink.

At the end of the workshop on Friday, the participants who were leaving on the weekend were accommodated in a hotel in Bangkok.

I had some free hours on Saturday morning, so I went to the Chatuchak Park and of course, the Chatuchak Weekend Market.

A lot of things happened back home, most especially the conviction of former president Joseph Estrada for plunder . Man, lots of catching up to do.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Out-of-the-country mode

I'm off to Pattaya, Thailand tomorrow. I don't know if I can -- or have the time to -- blog in my weeklong stay there, but I'll try.

For more information about Pattaya, click the Wikipedia entry here. Other useful sites are here and here.

Who's this man?

Who's this young man below?

Click on the photo to see his profile. Or visit his website here.

Can you also see him in this class photo?

Photos taken from his alumni class site. He was an award-winning editor in chief in their high school paper The Chronicler. He was also part of the school's student officers that year as PRO.

According to their yearbook, he dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Thank God, he ended up in journalism. Can you imagine the profession without him?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Guess who's back

Malu Fernandez that's who. She is indeed back, writing for the Manila Standard Today.

Here's her first piece (appearing in today's issue) after the ruckus. The piece, which focused on makeup tips, did not mention the controversy at all.

Unseen evil on your dressing table
By Malu Fernandez
Source: Manila Standard Today

There are two kinds of people who react to bacteria and germs, some are from the germaphobes—or the people who are obsessed about cleanliness —others are just plain filthy. We have all seen those programs on one of the lifestyle channels (such as Clean House and the other one, whose title escapes me, is about the two British ladies who come in and show you how much bacteria you have in an unclean house). But many women I know who keep a decent clean home or are obsessive about cleanliness often forget about cleaning their makeup tables and medicine cabinets. There is a lot of unseen evil lurking on your dressing table and medicine cabinet. And by evil I mean bacteria and germs!

Read more here.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Why I love my job

Actually my original title for this post was "Why I Love Joe Torres." Haha.

Excerpts from his post:

"At last I got my copy of CMFR's latest study, "News Media Coverage of the 2007 National Elections...."

"You would be happy to know that there's a temporary stoppage (at least five minutes) of work every time we in the newsroom receive a copy of CMFR publications, especially the PJR Reports.

"There is always a moment of silence, then ohhhs and ahhhhs, when editors and deskpersons scan the Reports. Your "star and kalabasa" ratings section always gets the desk's attention and, I believe, is the most read part of the publication.

"I hope your latest study will get the same attention from journalists, especially from media top guys.

"I scanned the book and was impressed by the diligence you had in making the study. (The annexes are more reader-friendly compared to the annexes of the 2004 report, which were mostly statistics.) "

Read more here.

Whenever we get reactions like this -- through blog posts, SMS messages, email, or just your regular old-school postal mail -- the difficult media-monitoring work we do at the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility becomes a bit easier, even for a moment. We continue to check and discuss media coverage of issues, knowing that some practitioners -- like Sir Joe -- appreciate our efforts in helping further professionalize the press.

The next time we see each other, Sir Joe, I'm gonna kiss you. Haha.

Diana, Princess of Tales

Media's fascination with Princess Diana continues, even after her death 10 years ago.

"One has to wonder—at what point does all this coverage stop being a tribute and start being an insult?" Columbia Journalism Review asks in a recent piece.

Diana, Princess of Tales
Ten years after her death, the media fascination with Diana lives on
By Megan Garber
Source: Columbia Journalism Review

Ten years ago today, the world awoke to the news that the car carrying Diana, Princess of Wales had crashed in a Paris tunnel, ending her life and, with it, her tragically modern fairy tale.

What the crash didn’t end, of course, was the media obsession with Diana; in fact, the tragedy extended it, heightened it, even justified it, moving the fascination—and the woman who inspired it—into the mythical realm of perpetual youth. The public fixation that had haunted Diana in life magnified her image in death.

There’s no better evidence of this than the resurgence the media have afforded Diana in commemoration of today’s grim anniversary.

Read more here.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Please help Mark

Mark Baul, a great web designer, photographer, and music lover, needs TYPE B+ blood. From his partner Tonyo: "His platelet count is down to 18 due to dengue and typhoid. He is at Room 337 Bed 4 of the Manila Doctors Hospital in UN Avenue, Manila. Donors should go direct to the hospital bloodbank at the 2nd floor. Please mention that your donation is for Mark Baul. Salamat po."

To get in touch with Mark and Tonyo, here is Tonyo's mobile number: (63 917) 892-8277.

Mark, I'll pray for your fast recovery.
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