Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima revealed to publishers and editors her Department’s three priorities to improve the country’s justice system: improvement of the disposition rate at the preliminary investigation level, improvement of the conviction rate, and eliminating corruption and enhancing integrity within the ranks during the Philippine Press Institute’s (PPI) 15th National Press Forum last June 22 at Traders Hotel Manila.
De Lima, who was keynote speaker, said that she hoped this “doable wish list” would be realized at the end of her term. But she also told her audience the sad reality that “nothing has changed – journalists are still being kidnapped and killed as fast as the speed of modern information technology.” A case in point is the Maguindanao massacre that claimed the lives of 58 people, at least 30 of them journalists.
“The trial is ongoing, and I cannot tell how many years it will take for the trial to last,” she said. “Hearings are continuing every Wednesday and Thursday every week. It’s not a difficult case. It is just to cope with the peripherals of the trials; that means the continuing attempt of the accused and their cohorts to jeopardize everything has been done. We would not know exactly when the verdict would be handed out.”
The National Press Forum is the annual gathering of regional and Manila-based publishers and editors of the 69-member publications of the PPI. The PPI is the only media organization of its kind in continuous existence since 1964. It was declared moribund during Martial Law years and revived in 1987 when democracy was restored in the country.
In the same forum, Liberal Party spokesperson Rep. Lorenzo R. Tañada III reiterated his commitment to push for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to strengthen the Aquino administration fight against corruption. Tañada said the passage of the FOI Act is key to good governance, along with consolidating the reforms in institutional governance and a coherent economic reform agenda. The proposed consolidated bill is in Congress waiting for final action by the Committee on Public Information.
PPI elects new board
Members of the Philippine Press Institute, the national association of newspapers, re-elected Malaya publisher Amado P. Macasaet as chairman and BusinessWorld publisher Vergel O. Santos as vice chairman for the term 2011-2012 during the annual membership meeting the following day. Also elected in the board were Philippine Daily Inquirer publisher Isagani M. Yambot and Southern Leyte Times publisher Ruevivar M. Reyes as corporate secretary and trustee for Visayas. The other regional trustees elected were Lucena Herald publisher Elnora F.A. Cueto (Luzon) and Mindanao Times CEO/publisher Atty. Jesus G. Dureza (Mindanao).
The appointment of Ariel C. Sebellino as the new executive director was also officially announced.
The members also approved by acclamation the Institute’s first implementing rules and regulations or operations manual that will ‘give a more relevant and dynamic direction” to PPI in the future. This historic move has set the tone to the highly anticipated 25th anniversary of the Institute in April 2012.
“To my mind, the PPI achieved important milestones since its revival in 1987. Up to this day, it has remained true to its mandate of protecting press freedom and promoting ethical and professional conduct of journalism in the country,” Macasaet said.
In the evening, former Supreme Court Justice Vicente V. Mendoza underscored the common responsibility of the courts and the press to “keep the marketplace of ideas free” in his keynote speech prior to the announcement of winners of PPI-The Coca Cola Export Corporation Civic Journalism Community Press Awards.
“Imagine then what a powerful combination for good the press and the courts can make. Between them they can keep the government clean. Between them, they can ensure that debate on public issues will be truly “uninhibited, robust, and wide open. Our quest should be for a responsible press and an independent judiciary,” Justice Mendoza said.
Wally Panganiban, media affairs director of The Coca-Cola Export Corporation commended the efforts of the Institute to continually recognize excellence in community journalism. “We believe that the print media plays a very critical role in the development of the community. With programs to uplift and improve journalism in the countryside we can truly see better more empowered and progressive communities in the near future,” he said.
Panganiban said that initiatives such as the community press awards and Coke’s continuing partnership on civic journalism, the PPI is able to drive excellence among its members and the community print media in general. “We are very happy with our collaboration and we are very honored for their trust. With the renewal of our partnership we would like to reiterate our commitment to build better communities hand in hand with the Philippine Press Institute,” he added.
In April this year, TCCEC renewed its partnership with PPI on civic journalism sustainability program for another three years which covers, among other things, the conduct of the annual National Press Forum and Civic Journalism Community Press Awards.