MANILA (UPDATED) - Veteran journalist and former National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chairperson Jose Jaime "Nonoy" Espina passed away Wednesday night. He was 59.
Espina's demise was confirmed by his family. In a Facebook post, his sister, Inday Espina-Varona, said Nonoy survived a severe infection of COVID-19 and was able to return to his family before his death.
Nonoy died of liver cancer, Espina-Varona said.
Nonoy practiced his journalism in Negros Occidental. He was the chairman of NUJP until early 2021. He was also a member of the alternative media organization, COBRA-ANS, and an editor of the local Courier.
In a statement, NUJP paid tribute to Nonoy, "a tireless champion for the freedom of the press and the welfare of media workers."
"He was a press freedom hero worthy of admiration and emulation. From the Marcos dictatorship until the Duterte administration, he consistently served the Filipino people by upholding the truth," it said.
As one of the founding members of NUJP, Nonoy led the group through various waves of attacks and harassment by the government.
"For his defense of colleagues, he was red-tagged himself, and, alongside other members of the union, was made a target of government propagandists," NUJP said.
"NUJP thanks him for his long years of service to the union and the profession and promises to honor him by protecting that prestige. Nonoy leaves us with lessons and fond memories, as well as the words he often used in statements: That the press is not free because it is allowed to be. It is free because it insists on being free," it added.
Nonoy was also a correspondent of the TODAY Newspaper and later worked at the Manila Standard, Inquirer.net, and Interaksyon.
"To his last breath, he waved that banner. Patriot, journalist, loving husband, father, and brother, you will not be forgotten," Espina-Varona wrote.
Details of the memorials for Nonoy will be announced soon, but according to Espina-Varona, there will be no wake as Bacolod City is under general community quarantine.