It’s not only about the urban social media user

An early morning discussion with @iwriteasiwrite and @renguila on Twitter brought to the fore some realizations which have been unnoticed over these past few days of objections against the Cybercrimes Prevention Law of 2012 (Republic Act 10175).

In the middle of our discussion as to why very few offline seemed to be bothered by the implications of the law on freedom of speech, privacy of communication and due process, we threshed out that the effect actually goes beyond the young, urban, middle-class, social media-using demographic. And perhaps the rest of the population (roughly 70%) are not bothered because there has been little effort to make them see how the law might affect their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

For those who may not know, there have been several groups in the Philippines which also use social media to advance land rights and agrarian reform. And in the process of advancing these rights, it is inevitable that some of the materials that they post online as updates of their struggle, would ruffle the feathers of some local politicians and bosses in the multinational companies which encroach upon their land. Continue reading


Thank you Papa, Mama, Sorene and Abe!

I got this from my family in Cagayan de Oro last Friday. It was delivered to the office in the afternoon. My Mama told me that she specifically asked LBC to have it delivered that day. And aside from it being my special day. It was supposed to have food so the contents are perishables.


Later, when I arrived at the house, I opened the package and saw among its contents, a couple of shirt from Hong Kong bought by my sister from her recent trip; a couple of boxes of Pastels, a coupld of boxes of krinkles and a pack of dried mango candies.

Thank you very much Papa, Mama, Sorene and Abe! Your package has made my day more special and less melancholic being that I am far from all of you. I will cherish these gifts though they may be consumed in a few days freom their arrival. But the memory of them being sent is enough to make me feel loved and thought of.

I will see all of you soon! Love you all.

Ignorance is boring. And it ain’t cute.

Before I left for the office this morning, I saw a news story where a reporter went around doing MOTS (man-on-the-street) interviews with random persons she bumped into. And with each one of them, she asked if they remember what happened back in January 20, 2001 or February 25, 1986.

Some were quick to say they didn’t know. Others evaded the questions and went about their way. And others gave answers with a hint of not being sure about it. A few were able to give the right answers.

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Rest in peace Pads!

I attended mass at the Loyola House last night. It was for my grade school principal. He had passed on to the other life last January 2. He was buried today, but since it’s not easy getting a leave after you’ve had so many, I decided to attend the last evening mass before the funeral rites.

Fr. Jorge Hofileña, SJ was the principal of Xavier University Grade School in Cagayan de Oro for the whole duration of my elementary education. And he would not just be my principal, but he would also be my mentor and my friend.

I first met Fr. Jorge when my mother brought me for admission at the grade school. By this time, I had already finished nursery and two years of kindergarten at the local public school. Since I was enrolled a year before the usual, I applied for first grade at Xavier when I was still 6 years old.

Back then, there was a practice of separating the ones old enough for first grade and those who need to repeat Kinder II. And it was asking the student to use his right hand to reach his left ear with the hand passing over his head. If the student has difficulty reaching it, he is asked to repeat kindergarten. If not, then he goes on to first grade.

When it was my turn to face Fr. Jorge, he asked me to do the same, and so I did. But being that I was actually still 6 when first graders are supposed to be 7, I could not reach my ear. And so he told me, “you need to repeat Kinder II.” And so I enrolled as a kindergarten student at Xavier and not as a first grader.

I don’t know if there’s a scientific reason behind the practice, but I just dismissed the practice afterwards. I would later learn to appreciate what Fr. Jorge did everytime I graduated from an academic level at the Ateneo. I always had an award I can count on because of his decision, since the loyalty awards at the grade school required seven years; the high school, eleven; and in college, at least fifteen.

Last night, I heard from former Assistant Principal Flerida Nery, that Fr. Jorge back then always told the grade school faculty and staff that they should never scold the students. And instead of getting angry everytime a student does something wrong, they are supposed to talk to them and explain what they have done.

And this brought back an incident back then in fifth grade. Being that ours was an all-boys school, we all had our mischievous sides. And one of those moments where mine would manifest was when we played around with the flagpole at the quadrangle.

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The Longest December Day

I had been warning my family since Thursday about the possibility of another typhoon hitting Northern Mindanao. I gathered from news reports that Sendong (Washi) was on its way to the southern part of the country.

By Friday 1AM (For those who do not know, we are an insomniac family), my mother sent me a message saying:

Ok ra Ya, wla lagi ulan diri, maayo nlang wla ko nilarga to Butuan kay naa bagyo

It’s okay, it’s not raining here. It’s good that I didn’t push through with the trip to Butuan, especially since there’s a storm coming.

Mama had originally planned to leave for Butuan and get the remaining things she left there after closing down a branch of our family business. And she also visits Butuan from time to time because my aunt lives in Caraga region’s capital.

For those also unfamiliar with Mindanao’s routinary weather, Butuan, as the rest of Caraga, is usually the first part which is hit by fury of storms coming in from the Pacific. And we all thought that Sendong would hit Butuan instead of Cagayan de Oro.

Still, I kept monitoring the developments in CDO at the same time contacting my family for updates on the ground (which are more reliable than Manila-based newscasts).

At 3PM, Mama texted me again;

Ya, karon gaulan, dag-um kaayo, unya pa daw kusog rainfall, ampo lang ta dili mubaha. Hinuon naa naman ang Strada nga makalabang dayon mmi. Ikaw, musta diha? 

It is raining here with dark clouds hanging. They say we will have heavir rainfall later. Let’s pray there’d be no flood. If it does, at least we have the Strada which would allow us to ford the waters. How about you? How are things there?

Since the university where I am working was celebrating it’s annual pre-Christmas celebrations and my job entails that I make sure there are pictures and these pictures circulate the net, I told my mom that I was busy at the moment. But I told her to contact me in case something bad happens.

I was still in the office by 12 midnight, when my mom sent me another text message. She texted…

Ya, niulan na diri kusog2, ug hangin pod. Brown-out ra ba, wla ko natulog kay gamonitor ko, basin musaka suba, giapas namo sorene sa Ketkai nghost SALE, baha na didto. c Papa ngbiyahe Tangub, wla pa ngtxt nakaabot na ba. Ikaw? kamusta diha?

It is raining heavily here, and with strong winds. There is a partial black out that’s why I decided not to sleep and instead listen to the news. The waters of the (Iponan) river might rise. We fetched Sorene (my sister) at Limketkai Mall where she was hosting a program for the mall sale.It’s already flooding there. Your father left for Tangub (Misamis Oriental) and he hasn’t texted yet if he’s already there. How about you? How are you?

An hour later, my brother texted me

Kuya, wala nay kuryente entire CDO. Kusog kaayo ang ulan Kami Ma ug Ate naa diri balay. Wala mi natulog ga-monitor mi. Baha na sa Burgos, Balulang, Carmen Acacia, Macanhan, Gusa and Cugman. Okay ra mi ya, anad naman ko ug baha.

The entire CDO has a black out. The rain is very heavy. I am with Mama and Sorene here at the house. We did not sleep since we are monitoring the situation. Burgos (street); (Barangay) Balulang; (Barangay) Carmen, Acacia (street); (Barangay) Macanhan, Gusa and Cugman: are now flooded. We’re okay since I have gotten used to floods.

My brother’s last line recalled how in January 2009, my family also evacuated the house after days of continuous rain made the Iponan River (which is 50 meters aways from our house) burst its banks.

A month before that (December 2008), my aunt and cousins also evacuated their house in Barangay Macasandig after the waters from the Cagayan River (which was about 100 meters away) flooded the area.

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Is it newsworthy?

That is the question which is often asked of a journalist when he gathers a lead, a tip, or even a whisper from his sources, friends, colleagues and even his family. And when the question is satisfied, the journalist embarks on a quest to gather all the necessary ingredients to make his story one sumptous dish.

But when does one actually know what is newsworthy and what is not? When does one know that the story pursued, gathered and prepared is worth publishing or airing? When does one know if the story is not mere gossip, scandal or rumor?

Where I come from, the news have been awash over these past few weeks with celebrities being killed, celebrities breaking up and celebrities having abortions. And while in some countries these news items are relegrated to the entertainment section of papers of news programs, here they open up the day’s headlines.

Instead of the public being made aware of the cases of graft and corruption which need to be tackled and resolved, they are lulled into the drama of the Familia Bautista-Revilla feud. Instead of being aware of the life-threatening situations migrant Filipino workers abroad face, they join KC Concepcion in crying about her failed relationship with Piolo Pascual. Instead of being concerned with the increasing number of poor Filipinos, they are divided in contending camps in the Rhian Ramos and Mo Twister break up.

While entertainment news can sometimes be as important as those of national socio-political concern, it is not always the case that an incident in the showbiz industry spells the difference between an ordinary Filipino having something to eat for dinner or having none.

I no longer know what has happened to the state of Philippine journalism over the past few years. I quit my job in the news organization of a network back in 2006 and I have been doing advocacy work, teaching and media relations since then. And although I have maintained ties with old colleagues, we hardly ever talk about the newsroom when we meet up (that’d be a ranting session).

But what I do know is this: entertainment news in this country have moved beyond being a mere segment of news programs and newspapers into being part of the socio-political news of the country. I do not have the authority to say that is good or bad, but I certainly know that they take away the public’s attention from the important issues which concern the jobs, food, education and security of every Filipino.

Back then whenever I encounter tips, leads and hear whispers, I always had a set of questions which serve as a criteria whether something is newsworthy or not. And these are:

  1. Is it relevant? Is it new? Is it pressing?
  2. Does it affect the life of a huge sector of the population? Would it affect the safety and survival of a community or the public? 
  3. How important are the stakeholders involved? Would their involvment have effects on the socio-political structure of a community or society in general?

If all these questions are satisfied then I try to gather the ingredients necessary for one tasty story. Of course, how these questions are satisfied would depend also on the orientation of the journalist. I am sure each journo has his/her self-imposed criteria/standards to fulfill. But for me, these are the tests by which I judge stories then. If they fail these, then I ignore them. 

Mos importantly, while gathering the elements of the story, one should always be guided by the desire to find out the truth. And where the truth can be ambiguous, trivial or just a private incident between two persons, the journo should always ask him/herself: Is it newsworthy?

Just a couple of days after the Maguindanao Massacre, armed men attack another journalist

I woke up to this Facebook status update today from Mindanao-based photojournalist Froilan Gallardo:

LESS than 48 hours after we attended the End the Impunity march and concert, gunmen attacked Bombo radio reporter and anchor Michael James Licuanan or popularly known as James Dacoycoy after he stepped out from his station in Cagayan de Oro City last night. Luckily, the gunmen missed Dacoycoy on their first shot. Dacoycoy fled to the nearest fire station in Cogon but was fired upon again. This time, the bullet found its mark, hitting Dacoycoy on his left buttock. The bullet exited through his stomach. He was still in intensive care as of 3am this morning. 

Terror has struck the very heart of the free press in Cagayan de Oro. The attack sent a chilling effect to all its members. We believed the attempt on his life was made after Dacoycoy assailed the nefarious drug trade in the city. Two months ago, the NUJP had asked reporters what issue they think would pose a great threat to their lives. Their answer is unanimous: drugs. They said if they received reports that journalists would be killed if they would touch on the drug trade in Cagayan de Oro.

I never thought such things could happen in Cagayan de Oro. Not in the city of my birth. But it has and it must be condemned.

This comes a bit of a shock to the city, especially since the Cagayan de Oro press has always been proud to be free, even during the height of Marcos’ Martial Law. Several of its members even claim that the local media was among the earliest in the country which celebrated Press Freedom Day.

A few years ago, Cagayan de Oro RMN radio commentator and later city councilor Zaldy Ocon was also allegedly attacked by unknown men. But many in the local media community dismissed it as a case of “ambush-me” or self-orchestrated attack. Ocon has denied the accusations but the belief among local journos persisted.

In the case of Licuanan or Dacoycoy (as how many among us address him), it is very much real and serious. And this is something which as Froilan said above, would strike fear into the hearts of journalists in Ang Dakbayan sa Bulawanong Panaghigalaay (The City of Golden Friendship). 

I had worked with James back then in the local crime beat. I was with the guy in several anti-drug raids, press conferences and special coverages. And the guy never fails to bring a few laughs to the group. Recalling his gregarious nature, I cannot imagine how someone would find reasons to kill him.

Aside from what happened to Dacoycoy, another journalist was also threatened in Butuan City just a couple of days earlier. ABS-CBN Butuan reporter Rodge Cultura was tipped off that some businessmen gave out a P 50,000 bounty on his head. Cultura’s reports on the illegal logging operations in the area apparently ruffled some feathers.

And so it would seem that the culture of impunity is very much alive in this country. Long live Philippine democracy!