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Home Sections Literature and Fourth Estate The Firing of Bel Cunanan Is Another Reason Why We Should Organize Finally an “Alternative Press” in RP
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Sections - Literature and Fourth Estate
Written by Bobby M. Reyes   
Saturday, 10 July 2010 12:27

 

The Firing of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan Is Another Reason Why We Should Organize Finally an “Alternative Press” in the Philippines

 

(Part One of an “Philippine Alternative Press” Series)

 

T he truth is that almost all of the major Philippine newspapers and broadcast companies headquartered in the nation’s capital are part of the so-called “The Imperial Manila” (TIM).

 

And Uncle TIM is the Filipino equivalent of Uncle Sam of the United States, if not of the American military-industrial complex.

 

The firing of much-respected columnist Belinda Olivares-Cunanan by her bosses in the Philippine Daily Inquirer illustrates best the truth about the supposed “freest press in Asia.” The Filipino Fourth Estate—as we know it—is beholden, to a large degree, to vested interests led by Uncle TIM. We are reproducing at the end of this article “The Truth About Bel Cunanan's ‘Resignation’,” as posted online by Neomi Olivares. The narrative is but an illustration of the typical way of how many of the Filipino publishers operate. Many Filipino-media bosses do not respect intellectual independence or even due process.

 

The sacking of Ms. Cunanan actually started during the campaign leading to the May 10, 2010, Philippine presidential elections. Many of the major Philippine newspapers and television companies showed their preference for one presidential candidate, Benigno S. Cojuangco-Aquino, III, and most of their columnists, broadcasters and opinion makers blasted often unkindly the rivals of their chosen bet. Now that their chosen candidate is President, the heads of journalists—like Ms. Cunanan and others who attempted to level the playing field during the last elections—have started to roll down from the publishers’ equivalent of the guillotine.

 

At least this website was honest in the matter of endorsing a Filipino presidential candidate. Unlike many Filipino publications and media outlets in Metro Manila that tried to portray themselves as “neutral,” we decided to endorse the candidacy of Sen. Manny B. Villar, Jr. While we defended Mr. Villar against the below-the-belt attacks by at least five Manila-based columnists, we reprinted also the critics’ articles about Manny Villar – as we compared their allegations to the truth that we tried to point out. We published also news reports about the pro-Noynoy Aquino supporters in the United States, as sent to us by our Chicago-based correspondent, Joseph G. Lariosa.

 

And we can proudly say that we did not receive – as professional public-relations’ or writer’s fees, advertising revenue and/or payola – even a single Philippine centavo or U.S. cent from Manny Villar, his campaign organization and even from his kin in the United States. In fact, we spent our own resources in campaigning for Mr. Villar and his national slates.

 

But true to journalistic tradition, we congratulated the victor and pledged to respect the 100-day honeymoon period that the universal press honors any newly-elected President. Readers may like to read again our pledge given the day after the May 10, 2010, Philippine elections, We Congratulate President-elect Aquino and Pledge to Observe the 100-Day Honeymoon Period with the Press But . . .

 

We will discuss in subsequent articles in this series how an “Alternative Press” can be formed and viably exist at that – especially if the Overseas-Filipino Fourth Estate were to lead its formation and the Overseas Filipinos were to help in securing its funding.

 

In the meantime, please read Ms. Neomi Olivares’ indictment of the Philippine Daily Inquirer . . .

From: Neomi Olivares
Sent: Mon, June 28, 2010 6:56:38 PM
Subject: The Truth About Bel Cunanan's “Resignation”

Fact: Bel Cunanan did not resign from the Inquirer, but the publisher and other officers of Inquirer are perpetuating the lie that she did.

Fact: Bel Cunanan has suffered a grave injustice by being mistreated by her own publisher. She was given notice without any cause for her dismissal. Her fault that she was anti-Noynoy.

Fact: I have not seen eye-to-eye with my sister-in-law Bel about politics, but I defend her right to say what she wants to say in her column. After all, she is an opinion writer.

Please read the following and pass on to others. – Neomi

The Truth about Bel Cunanan's "Resignation"

T hree weeks ago, on June 2, 2010, Belinda Olivares-Cunanan's twice-weekly column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer was summarily terminated, effective last June 9 (but subsequently changed to June 17 when PDI publisher Isagani Yambot realized that June 9 was just a week from June 2), on the pretext that PDI was accepting the resignation she supposedly made in a mid-campaign meeting with the publisher and Op-Ed page editor Jorge Aruta. The fact is that Bel never resigned---she was terminated without due process and on the basis of pure hearsay. Was it because she was singing a different tune in the editorial page or because the newspaper officials with PCGG case (cases) are eager to please the new powers that be?


Last Feb. 23 Cunanan was invited by Mr. Yambot to a meeting with Mr. Aruta to discuss "guidelines on the coverage of the campaign." Bel argued that if anyone needed the guidelines, it was some of the other PDI columnists who had become propagandists for a particular candidate and who virulently and unrelentingly attacked his rivals. At that Feb. 23 meeting she felt she was being pressured by Messrs. Yambot and Aruta to resign because she was supposedly "too partisan" against Noynoy Aquino, raising a number of issues in her columns against him. Mr. Yambot also opined that Bel's husband's job in government made her "too pro-GMA." Her reply was that some of her columnist-colleagues were far more partisan, but FOR Noynoy (and later Binay) and one even admitted to his own role deep within the Noynoy organization. A colleague also unleashes a daily diatribe against GMA in virulent language that one could only read in ultra right-wing periodicals in the
US. Yet all this hyper-partisanship and propagandizing and the daily virulent attacks against the sitting President were tolerated by PDI, a clear example of double standard.

That Feb. 23 meeting ended with Bel's statement that she won't resign, but intends to write each and every one of those 26 columns she had until May 10. After that date, she emphasized to the two PDI officials, "let's sit down again and talk." But they never got to talk, as on June 2, she was called to the phone (as an e-mail hadn't reached her by then) and told that her "resignation" was being accepted.

This week Inquirer announced that two new columnists had come on board. This is well within its prerogative under the terms of contract with columnists, but what Bel objects to the manner whereby she was unjustly and dishonestly treated by PDI's executive committee, despite her 25 years of continuous and honorable service, her having helped Eggie Apostol found PDI and her being a stockholder. Why the need to lie about her "resignation?" Where is her letter of "resignation?" One cannot even think of getting rid of one's driver of 25 years service by instructing the cook to give him the message, how much more a columnist of good standing. There are rules of engagement in civilized society, and PDI boasts of "accuracy and fairness."

The summary action of PDI produces a chilling effect on media practitioners: if the newspaper owners and publisher could do this to Bel despite her quarter-century of service, think of what fate those with lesser years of service and no security of tenure could suffer from the arrogance of power. This is a crusade for justice and honesty, of humane treatment and fair play. Media, as the purveyors of truth, are more duty-bound than other professions to practice these rules of the game. # # #

 

(To be continued . . .)

 



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Last Updated on Saturday, 10 July 2010 12:36
 

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