At Last, the Youth Are Heard

Anthony Chua

It is almost treated as cliché, but the national hero of the Philippines, Dr. Jose Rizal, has said it so eloquently and meaningfully that it is deemed an indispensable fact: Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan (The youth is the hope of the nation).

As Filipinos, it is a saying we always hear at home, in school and virtually everywhere. It is a conventional wisdom, a proof of nationalistic allegiance as a member of the Malay race.

Yet behind this oft-quoted maxim is another truth, this time disgraceful. As we boast Rizal’s genius, heroism and as we express our pride of being his compatriot, we, in effect, put him in shame. Because behind our advocacy for Rizal’s wisdom is the fact that majority of our youth are deprived of education.

The lack of quality education delimits Filipino youth of opportunities to develop their intellectual, emotional and spiritual faculties. It delimits their chances to improve into well developed human beings capable to give a better future to the country.

The organizers of the Youth Concert and Convention (YCon con): Isang Araw Lang, The Sequel offers the proceeds of event to address this problem. The concert not only staged popular bands and performers, the proceeds will provide for entirely free education for willing students with the establishment of La Verdad Christian School in Caloocan City. The school gives education complete with books, uniforms, and even meals, for free. It only needs the commitment and dedication of the students to pursue their studies until graduation.

Like his movie Isang Araw Lang, which benefits the outreach projects of UNTV37, Kamanggagawa Foundation and Ang Dating Daan of Bro. Eli Soriano, Kuya Daniel Razon’s brainchild concert showed that the values and virtues championed by our heroes can be revived and be realized by modern day Filipino youth.

What’s more touching is that thousands of youth supported Kuya Daniel Razon’s cause, proving that the youth indeed are the hope of the nation.


Editors receive death threats

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – Editors of a Davao City-based newspaper received death threats last 20 August 2009 for publishing stories allegedly biased for the city government.

Stella Estremera and Virginia “Gigie” Agtay, editor in chief and news editor, respectively, of Sun.Star Davao, received two threatening messages last 20 August. Both messages were sent through Agtay’s mobile phone.

The first message arrived at around 7: 20 p.m. (local time) warning Estremera that a single bullet could end her life if she remains “biased” for the city government. Sun.Star Davao quoted the message verbatim: “Hi stella, we knw na kasali ka payrol ng city hall. Pero huwag mong kalimotan puede kang isang bala kalang. Sayang lang galing mo. Nabulag ka sa katotohanan. BE FAIR NAMAN IN REPORTING. Maybe u knw what i mean. Dont be bias (sic). Ang panahun baya ay weather2 lang (Hi Stella, we know you’re in the city government’s payroll. But you should not forget that you could die with a single shot. Don’t waste your talent. You’re blinded from the truth. Be fair in reporting. Maybe you know what I mean. Don’t be biased.).”

Another message came approximately two hours later (9:07 p.m.) asking Agtay to tell Estremera to be fair in her reports. The message, loosely translated from the original Visayan-Tagalog mix,  said: “You’ve been regarded as an outstanding journalist, but you can’t always be on top. A single bullet would be enough for you two.”

Estremera in the Sun.Star Davao report denied that their news reports had been slanted in favor of the Davao City government. “(Our) stories can speak for themselves,” she said in the report

Estremera also denied being on the payroll of the city government.

CMFR tried to call the mobile number (+63917-912- 5620) used in sending the threats, but it is no longer accessible. The incident has been reported to the local police.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is a controversial figure who has been accused by, among others, his political rival, House of Representatives Speaker Prospero Nograles, of at least tolerating the extra-judicial killing of drug pushers and other common criminals. One of the cases of the two journalists killed in Davao City during Duterte’s watch has been linked to the mayor, who has denied any involvement. On the other hand, it was Nograles who sued local journalist Alexander Adonis for libel. Adonis was pardoned after serving almost two years of a four-year sentence. Libel is a criminal offense in the Philippines.

Two Sun.Star Davao editors get death threats

Two Sun.Star Davao editors received death threats through a text message, accusing them of presenting news stories favorable to the city government which the editors denied.

According to reports, editor in chief Stella Estremera said the threats did not refer to specific stories where the paper was allegedly in favor of the City Hall.

The threats, which came from an unlisted number and received by news editor Gigi Agtay, reportedly said “isang bala lang kayo” (”all it takes is just one bullet”).

A text message received by Agtay at 7:20 pm of August 20 from cellphone number 09179125620 read, “Hi stella, we knw na kasali ka payrol ng city hall. Pero huwag mong kalimotan puede kang isang bala kalang. Sayang lang galing mo. Nabulag ka sa katotohanan. BE FAIR NAMAN IN REPORTING. Maybe u knw what i mean. Dont be bias. Ang panahun baya ay weather2 lang.” (”Hi stella, we know you are included in the payroll of the city hall. But don’t forget that it takes just one bullet [to bring you down]. Your talent is just going to waste. You have been blinded from seeing the truth. JUST BE FAIR IN REPORTING. Maybe you know what I mean. Don’t be biased.”)

The second message received still by Agtay at 9:07 pm of the same day read, “Ikaw din Gigi pagsabihan mo yan kaibigan mo si Stela. Be fair in ur reporting hindi bias. Naging most outstanding kayo hndi lahat panahon kayo nasa ibabaw. isang bala lang kayo.” (”You too Gigi, tell your friend Stela. Be fair in your reporting, do not be biased. You were awarded most outstanding [but] you can’t be on top all the time. It just takes one bullet [to bring the two of you down].”)

In their website, Estremera denied being in the City Hall’s payroll and that their reports are biased for the local government. “The stories can speak for themselves… We take our job seriously,” Estremera was quoted as saying.

Estremera, however, refused to name any person or group who may be behind the threats, or speculate on the probable motive.

IFJ-NUJP Media Safety Office

NUJP statement on the harassment of media members in yesterday’s Malacañang protest

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines protests in the strongest terms the manhandling by personnel of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) of photojournalists who covered the protest and violent dispersal of youth activists at Malacañang on August 19 and demands immediate accountability.

While at times covering such protests and their violent aftermath can accidentally cause physical harm to journalists and media workers, the account of Philippine Daily Inquirer photographer Rem Zamora indicates that the assault on him and other colleagues, who were properly identified and were clearly there to perform their duties, was deliberate.

Zamora says he and the other photojournalists were not spared rough handling as the PSG and police began to disperse the protesters. In fact, he said, Ms. Alanah Torralba of the European Press Agency, fell down twice and her camera lens broke when she was pushed by the authorities.

Zamora said when he started taking photos when he saw PSG and police personnel beating up students who had already been apprehended, some of the uniformed personnel tried to cover his camera lens to prevent him from documenting the incident.

As he tried to move away, he said, a PSG officer blocked his path. When Zamora showed his PDI identification card, the PSG office “pulled it violently from my neck.” Even as Zamora was explaining that he was with the press and had, in fact, covered Malacañang for about a year, the PSG officer grabbed him by the arm and tried to force him out, even accusing media of being cohorts of the protesters and “thus giving him the right to do what he was doing to me.”

Zamora only got out of his bind when colleagues responded to his shouts of “Media! Media!” and a cameraman from GMA 7 came to his rescue.

But this was not the end of Zamora’s ordeal. Even as he had stepped aside, the same PSG officer again approached him and photographer Luis Liwanag and pushed them toward the Palace gates. Seeing there was no point in arguing, the two went outside.

Ironically, outside the Palace gates, the same PSG officer, now armed with a camera, took pictures of the protesters, who seized the camera and returned it only after erasing the pictures. Realizing this, the PSG officer who, only minutes earlier, had manhandled Zamora, now approached the photojournalists asking if he could ask copies of their photographs.

We would not like to think that the PSG, as a whole, or the uniformed services, are ignorant of what media are and do, and our role in society.

But the fact is that the PSG officer clearly targeted Zamora for abuse because he was a member of the media and a “cohort” of the protesters. This is a very chilling revelation into how the PSG and, very possibly, the uniformed services view the media. Not surprisingly, however, given how little value and respect this administration has shown for freedom of the press and of free expression, if we go by the accounts that the state of national emergency in 2006 was intended to crack down on an “intransigent” press.

Equally chilling is the same PSG officer’s asking media for photos of the protesters who he and his colleagues had earlier physically assaulted. The media exist to document events as they happen, not to be part of anyone’s intelligence gathering arm, especially so if the information may lead to the abuse of human rights and other constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms.

We demand redress for the violent treatment of our colleagues during the Malacañang protest and sanctions on all those responsible. More importantly, we demand that the uniformed services immediately educate its members on what media are and what media’s role is in a supposedly free and democratic society

Nestor P. Burgos, Jr

Three government media staff hurt in shooting attack

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – Three practitioners from government media aboard a helicopter with military personnel survived a shooting attack by still unidentified men in Basilan province last 16 August 2009 at around 10:45 a.m. (local time).

Television reporter George Bandola of the state-owned National Broadcasting Network-Channel 4, cameraman Egay Luciano and Office of the Press Secretary photographer Louie Iglesia were wounded during the attack in Basilan, a province in Mindanao approximately 901 kilometers from Manila.

Bandola told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility in a phone interview that they were not wearing any protective gear such as bullet proof vests at the time. However, he said they were briefed by the military on the dangers of joining them.

Before the incident, the three covered a military flag-raising in Sitio (sub-village) Kurrelem, Barangay (village) Silangkum in Tipo-tipo town, Basilan at around 8 a.m. The ceremony marked the capture of the supposed main camp of the Abu Sayyaf group, which is known for its kidnap-for-ransom operations.

He said the two UH-1H helicopters, better known as “Hueys”, were returning to the Edwin Andrews Airbase, the headquarters of the Philippine Air Force in Zamboanga City which is around 38 kilometers from Basilan.

The helicopters were flying at low altitude when fired upon from the ground at the boundary of Tipo-Tipo and Al-Barka town, Basilan. Contrary to earlier reports, Bandola said soldiers aboard the helicopter fired back.

The transmission oil line of one of the helicopters was damaged, forcing the pilot to make a “precautionary landing” in Lamitan City, Basilan. The helicopter which carried the journalists also landed. Both helicopters sustained bullet holes.

“We were just so lucky we survived the attack,” said Bandola who was brought to the Edwin Andrews Airbase clinic along with Luciano and Iglesia for treatment.

Media groups have called the attention of the police and military to the need to assure the safety of journalists and media practitioners who join their operations. Last June 3, tabloid reporter Jojo Trajano died during a police anti-illegal drug raid. Alleged drug syndicate members fired at the police raiding team he was with.


That journalism is a dangerous and high risk venture in the country is true, as has been proven by the long list of media workers murdered for doing their jobs.

We, journalists in the Province of Masbate, have experienced the same terrors sown by onion-skinned individuals, public officials – career or elective – and those who would wish nothing more than to silence the press so evil may flourish.

This small province has already lost two journalists to the enemies of press freedom – Nelson Nadura on December 2, 2003 and, recently, tabloid reporter Antonio Castillo on June 12, 2009. Both left orphans in the care of their widows, Castillo with eight children, six of them still in elementary or high school.

Nadura’s murder has yet to be solved. Neither have any suspects been identified or caught in Castillo’s killing.

Other than these murders, our colleagues also suffer the harassment of influential political personalities, the worst case being that of Joaquin Briones Sr., editor of the Masbate Tribune, a weekly tabloid.
Briones has been out on parole since 2005, after serving five years, two of these at the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, after he was convicted of several cases of libel.

After his release from jail, Briones returned to what he does best, joining other colleagues in Masbate in helping the province’s search for good governance by exposing and criticizing the misdeeds of errant officials.
Among the subjects of their criticism has been Vice Governor Vince Revil, who crusading Masbate journalists have criticized on several issues, including ghost employees and a coal-fired power plant.

In his pique, Revil, instead of responding to the issues and working to improve governance in the province, has singled out Briones for retaliation, exploiting the vulnerability of the local publisher’s parole to exact vengeance.

He has filed a case for two counts of libel against Briones and used this as a basis to write the Board of Parole and Probation asking that the journalist’s parole be revoked and he be returned to the national penitentiary.

Aside from this, Revil’s lawyer, Ruben Songco, who is also his uncle and the counsel of the Masbate Electric Cooperative (Maselco), has filed three separate libel cases against Briones on behalf of the power distributor.
We have it on good information that Revil instigated the filing of these cases.

Revil’s singling out Briones and seeking his return to prison because he cannot withstand criticism on valid issues of governance or the lack thereof is nothing less than oppression and the perfect example of how the high and mighty in Masbate regard the media and their role.
It is also a telling commentary on the true nature of many of our local politicians, who see public office not as a public trust but a private endowment.

Despite this, the media community of Masbate remains firm in our commitment to keep the flames of press freedom alive and oppose the continuing attempts of those who would silence us in their unceasing efforts to plunge our province into a reign of darkness.
Norman Laurion, chair
Ram Sison, vice chair

3 journalists wounded in Basilan

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines received reports that three journalists were wounded when two military choppers, one of which had members of media on board, were fired at by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in the island province of Basilan (southern Philippines). The incident occurred at around 10 AM today.

The journalists were members of the state-owned television network NBN 4. Maj. Gen. Dolorfino of the armed forces’ Western Mindanao Command said they sustained “splinter wounds” but no one was seriously wounded. A photographer from the Office of the Press Secretary was also wounded.

A Malacanang reporter told NUJP that the news team covered the flag raising ceremony in an Abu Sayyaf camp that was overran by government troops last week and was on its way back to Zamboanga City when the choppers met heavy fire.

The Huey helicopters made an emergency landing Barangay (village) Tumakid in Lamitan City because one of the choppers incurred a torn transmission oil line. They were reportedly flying low due to bad weather when hit.

(IFJ-NUJP Media Safety Office)