The top awards went to stories on press freedom and the effects of the war on drugs.
Journalists Patricia Evangelista of Rappler and Christian Esguerra of ABS-CBN bagged the top awards in the 2019 Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism announced after a seminar conducted by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) Thursday.
Evangelista, a multimedia and investigative journalist, was chosen as the 2019 Marshall McLuhan Fellow while ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) host Christian Esguerra received the Award of Distinction.
Evangelista and Esguerra were among the seven panelists selected by CMFR’s Board of Trustees for their journalistic work. The five others were Ed Lingao (TV5), Malou Mangahas (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism), Rambo Talabong (Rappler), Jun Veneracion (GMA-7), and Chiara Zambrano (ABS-CBN).
The panelists discussed today’s burning issues that included the Duterte administration's war on drugs, the West Philippine Sea dispute, and media freedom.
Evangelista shared in the seminar how a statement of President Rodrigo Duterte led her to covering the latter’s drug war since 2016. That statement was: “Certain people needed to die, they deserve to die, that they were not humans and that he would be pleased if their bodies washed up in the sea…”
She also shared the sentiments of “vigilantes” she interviewed on credit grabbing by the “police” for alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.
“One is that they were very angry at the police for saying they were responsible for killings that they thought the police had ordered; and, two, they were angry because the police took credits for the ‘kills’ they had suffered for,” she explained.
She said she will never forget an answer from one of her vigilante interviewees. He said, “Some people need killing. And that killing is like drugs, it’s addictive.”
Meanwhile, Esguerra, who also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas, said journalism plays a key role in helping people understand politics. And decide who to vote to lead the country.
“Filipinos are very much interested in politics but many of them don’t actually understand what’s happening in politics. So, I think it’s very important for us, the journalists, to explain to them,” he said.
He asked: “Basically, why do we keep electing clowns in public office?” He added that media should bear the responsibility. “Perhaps we’re doing a miserable job. That’s why people keep electing clowns in office.,” he said.
He also cautioned journalists covering politics not to have a “Stockholm syndrome” in covering politicians. He said, “It’s very easy to lose yourself if you do not have the proper character, that proper grounding that should have been developed early on. So that you’ll lead to so many complications later.”
Zambrano and Veneracion shared some of their experiences in covering the conflict in West Philippine Sea particularly the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Mangahas discussed her experience in covering corruption while Lingao shared how he was tagged as “biased” and “being painted an anti-Marcos,” which he “dispute(s).” Talabong, the youngest among the panelists, shared his transition from being a campus journalist into working as a professional journalist.
When asked in an interview what would be her tasks as a McLuhan Fellow, Evangelista replied "I tell stories. So, what I do here is the same I'll probably do there. I don't know very much about it yet. But I hope I can tell stories.”
The Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism) is a yearly event organized by the CMFR to promote the practice of investigative and explanatory reporting. These involve the basic clocks for any kind of reporting: research, probe, inquiry, and corroboration to insure the validity of one’s findings.
The Marshall McLuhan Fellowship, named after the Canadian communication guru and administered by the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines, supports the chosen fellow’s study tour of Canadian media and academic institutions.The fellow also participates in lecture forums in select Philippine universities arranged by the Canadian Embassy.