As the Philippines continues with an environment highly dangerous for journalists and media people to live in, the journalism profession persists to play a vital role in keeping in check the powers that be.
With this, it was unexpected that stories that hold authorities and institutions accountable for their misdeeds claimed the top spots in this year’s Philippine Journalism Research Conference (PJRC) held March 6 at University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.
Speaking to an audience of communication practitioners, educators, and students, Christian Esguerra, anchor of ABS-CBN News Channel’s (ANC) morning show Early Edition, emphasized the significance of journalism as an empowering tool for the public to use in dealing with individuals and institutions that rule the country.
“Journalism is that imperfect tool that allows them (people) to raise questions, demand accountability, insist on competent and strong leadership, but not at the expense of basic human rights. We do this by arming them with truthful information,” the ANC senior reporter said.
Esguerra did not fail to regard what he called “a crisis of truth driven by systematic disinformation” as the “biggest danger” confronting journalism in the current political climate of the Philippines.
Comparing the gravity of untruths during previous administrations with that of today, Esguerra said: “While others in the past did it with certain finesse, the twisting of the facts today is more sophisticated, well-oiled, and well-funded.”
He then cited cases of major media organizations in the country – Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and ABS-CBN – and the 22 media workers killed since 2016, as clear proofs of the existence of threats and attacks against journalism today.
But journalists – especially the future ones – are ready to face these dangers head-on, as shown by the kind of stories entered and subsequently recognized for the 8th PJRC.
To prove, the following communication students were successful in bagging this year’s Chit Estella Student Journalism Awards – given to outstanding journalism stories under the academic research, investigative reporting, special projects, and photo essay categories:
- Deina Ida Blancaflor from UP Diliman, for her analysis on suicide reporting done by online news websites;
- Blanch Marie Ancla and Khim Joshua Raymundo from UP Diliman, for their investigation of the Department of Labor and Employment’s failure to enforce labor laws which, in turn, put the lives of construction workers of a mall in Pasig in danger;
- Summer Dagal from the De La Salle University, for her photo essay featuring the Malaya Lolas, a group of Filipina victims of the second World War; and,
- Joseph Charles Lim, Michelle Francesca Co, Hannah Milene Pagaduan, Edelito Mercene Jr., Jo Comuyog, Aimee Lontok, Rick Berdos, Moira Natividad, Gab Alicaya, and Bryan Daniel Manalang from UP Diliman, for Factrakers.org, a fact-checking initiative by journalism students of the College of Mass Communication, UP Diliman.
The awards were given in honor of veteran journalist, former UP Journalism Department professor, and VERA Files trustee Chit Estella-Simbulan, who died in 2011 in a road crash along Commonwealth Avenue.
The PJRC, which commenced in 2013, is an annual event organized by the UP Department of Journalism to encourage communication students to produce investigative reports and researches on journalism studies. This year, 30 schools from all over the country participated in the conference.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)