OPINION: The Pulitzer Prize and the Philippines

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at May 17 2018 10:00 PM

We must all delight in the knowledge that the Pulitzer Prize is yet the most outstanding testament to Filipino proficiency in English journalistic reportage. Excellence during the occasions when such talents were exhibited have been recognized and deemed worthy of the Prize. We do take pride!

The Pulitzer Prize is the most prestigious award for achievement in American journalism. There is nothing quite like it elsewhere in the world. It is noteworthy that save for the Philippines, that is of Filipino citizens as well as of Filipino-Americans, no other non-American country has chalked up more honors in the history of the Pulitzer. We proudly claim to have earned the accolade five times.

In fact, the very first non-American citizen news correspondent to be so honored is the internationally prestigious Filipino, General Carlos P. Romulo. 

In 1942, he won the award for “his observations and forecasts of Far Eastern developments” at the outset of World War II. As reporter, editor and publisher of the “The Philippines Herald”, Romulo toured South East Asian capitals and reported in “a series of articles…… about Japanese imperialism, predicting an attack on the United States.” It now appears that the ‘Philippines Herald’ remains to be the only non-American newspaper to ever earn the citation. Romulo’s 1942 Pulitzer Prize was for “Correspondence.”

The Philippines Herald was the undisputed mouthpiece for Philippine Independence, controlled by Manuel L. Quezon and reportedly financed and owned by the influential Filipino tycoon of the era, Vicente Madrigal. The Herald belonged to the DMHM newspaper group (El Debate, Mabuhay, Herald and Monday Mail) After World War II, its ownership passed into the hands of Col. Andres Soriano of San Miguel Brewery.

Romulo referred to the Prize as “every newspaperman’s dream,” when he received the honor awarded to him late in 1942 at Columbia University in New York City. 

Columbia University administers the will of Joseph Pulitzer, (1847-1911) who in his time was one of America’s most powerful journalists. He “helped establish the pattern of the modern newspaper.” He bequeathed his fortune to the University for the “training of journalists at the university level in a school of journalism.” Of the insightful quotes he has said about journalism, the most inspiring is: “a noble profession and one of unequalled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people.”

And lest we forget, Columbia University’s School of Journalism has for its Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor, and its Director of the “Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism,” a Filipina: Sheila Coronel. We remember her as co-founder and executive director of the respected Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. PCIJ’s courageous reportage is regarded as having led to the fall of President Joseph Estrada in 2001. In 2003, Sheila Coronel won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Asia’s premiere prize.

By the way, Pulitzer is pronounced with “pull” and not with, “pew.” Thus, “Pull-itzer.”

A month ago, the Pulitzer Prize awards for 2018 hailed another Filipino, as part of the Reuters (a 157-year old British news agency) team for “International Reporting.” Mogato, Reuters’ Manila-based veteran correspondent, shared honors with Clare Baldwin and Andrew R.C. Marshall. The citation reads: “For relentless reporting that exposed the brutal killing campaign behind Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s War on Drugs. Mr. Stephen J. Adler, Reuters Editor-in-Chief said of the winning entry, it ”demonstrated how the police in the President’s ‘drug war’ have killed with impunity and consistently shielded from prosecution.”
Manny Mogato has been Reuters’ Manila general news and political correspondent for 15 years. He has been “at the front row of the county’s most turbulent events such as the end of the Marcos’ dictatorship and the ouster of the ouster President Estrada in 2001. 

Other Fil-Am Pulitzer winners are: Alex Tizon (R.I.P), in 1997, for ‘Investigative Reporting” with the Seattle Times team; Jose Antonio Vargas in 2008, for “Breaking News Reporting” with the Washington Post team; and Cheryl Diaz Meyer in 2004 for “Breaking News Photography” with Dallas Morning News team. 

News about the Pulitzer Prize won by Manny Mogato, arguably, further brings into entrenched international notoriety, by the very nature of Reuters’ influential worldwide reach, the matter of extrajudicial killings in the Philippine. Obviously, this does not augur well for President Duterte’s potential appointment with the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Especially because ICC Chief Prosecutor Madame Fatou Bensouda is now known to be collecting every bit of damning information about our President Duterte. 

Additionally, news about the very recent controversial ousting of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has been more than adequately covered by news and commentary by the likes of the New York Times, the Washington Post, Agence France-Presse, Al Jazeera, CNN Int’l, BBC, etc., and Reuters, too. That the conclusion markedly put forward by current reportage, of Ms. Sereno’s staunch stand against Duterte’s ‘extra-judicial killings’ and his brazen disregard for judicial due process being the cause of the President’s ill-concealed vindictiveness, will certainly not escape Madame Bensouda’s info gathering dragnet.

There, too, is TIME Magazine’s reference to him as “strong man,” speaking of which the May 14, 2018 issue, where Duterte appears as part of the cover page. Incidentally, only the more limited Asia edition carries that as the cover story. The US edition has “The FBI in crisis” on its cover page with the visage of the FBI badge in tatters. And contrary to the misperception of his loyal horde, the DDS--Duterte Diehard Supporters, the brief reference to Duterte is not at all salutary. It says: “In the Philippines, a rising tide of violent street crime helped elect Rodrigo Duterte, a former mayor who talked more like a Mob boss than a President, on his promise to wipe out the drug trade with his own brand of justice.” All of a column inch buried in a three-page spread! Nothing to crow about, really. 

After all is said and done, journalism is indeed an indispensable aid to prosecution! And who knows, to eventual conviction! That story, when written, will be worthy of a Pulitzer!

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.