Let’s heal wounds of conflict — Dureza


ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza on Monday urged stakeholders to work on relationship building and healing the wounds and divisions brought about by armed conflict.

“I always say this before, and even now, I can build easily the [physical] structures destroyed by the [armed] conflict. I can also build the school buildings that were burned down. But building of the relationships, bringing back social cohesion, and mending the torn social fabric brought about the conflict takes time. The healing takes time,” Dureza said in his speech during the celebration of the country’s 119th Independence Day.

Dureza was in this city on Monday to represent President Rodrigo Duterte for the nationwide commemoration. He, along with Mayor Isabelle “Beng” Climaco-Salazar, hoisted the Philippine flag and laying of the wreaths at the iconic Plaza Rizal, fronting the City Hall.

Dureza emphasized the very important process of healing amid the crisis in Marawi and the continuing recovery of Zamboanga City following the 2013's siege.

“I see here in Zamboanga, the healing process has already started. And we can see the results. This is principally due to the leadership of Mayor Beng and the city officials in cooperation with the military, police, and members of the different sector, and most especially the civilians,” the presidential adviser said.

He noted that indications show that Zamboanga “is now moving forward. The city is already building torn relationships.”

Dureza emphasized that the healing process is one of the lessons that could help the current conflict besetting in Marawi.

The rehabilitation process “is not only to rebuild damaged physical structures in Marawi, but the most important task, which is not easy to do, is building back broken relationships and healing the wounds.”

“There is a strong need for social healing…and see to it that we don’t have a continuity of this conflict,” he said.

At the same time, Dureza reiterated the need to check “hatred and deep-seated biases” to advance the cause.

“When you say, ‘I’m going to help bring about peace’. I will ask you: are you at peace with yourself? Because if you have anxieties, angsts, and hatred, then you cannot radiate to others what you do not have. And that is the lesson that we should learn. Because you cannot give what you do not have,” he said.

Equally essential is the strong vigilance of the community to deny terror and extremist groups to set foot in their community.

“One vital measure is for the community to pass timely information to the authorities to prevent similar tragedies,” Dureza said, referring to the strong vigilance of the community in thwarting possible attack of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group in Bohol last April

Dureza said healing and rebuilding relationships are among the major thrusts of the Office of the Presidential Peace Adviser (OPAPP), which is tasked to address the underlying causes of the armed conflict in the country.

At present, the OPAPP is working under the six-point peace and development roadmap of the Duterte administration.

The roadmap covers the implementation of the all the peace agreements the government had signed with the Moro fronts and the ongoing peace negations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

In parallel, the peace roadmap also provides the needed socio-economic interventions to conflict-affected areas in the country.

“The road to peace is not paved. There are humps and bumps. What is important is that we all stay the course,” Dureza said.

Dureza encouraged the people of Zamboanga City to share stories and lessons from the siege, starting with those heroes who fought and died during the armed conflict.

“As we celebrate our 119 Independence Day celebration, we remember all our heroes in the past and also our present day heroes,” he added, referring to those security forces who paid the ultimate sacrifice to bring peace in the country. (end)

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Guidelines for Reporting Disasters and Other Emergencies

I believe

That disasters and emergencies are personal tragedies to the victims that no one else can ever comprehend;
That they are a source of grief and concern to the community; and
That they are trauma-filled experience for the reporters.

I believe reporters, shall:
As first responder:
Be aware of their safety and their surroundings upon first arriving at the scene;
Ensure that they are physically, emotionally, psychologically fit; and
Consider the ethical issues involved (being first on the scene and not lifting a hand to help may be regarded by the public as insensitivity; should you? If you can’t, what should you do instead?)

In preparing for the coverage:
Anticipate what might be needed i.e., emergency toolkit, before jump off;
Reporters and photographers should be aware of existing guidelines/laws on covering children, women, and special topics like bird flu and HIV/AIDS, and be sensitive to special concerns;
News organizations should orient their reporters before they are sent to cover emergencies;
Constant communication/tracking between reporters and gatekeepers (let the newsroom know what you’re wearing);

Be sensitive.

During coverage/interview:
Reporters must dress appropriately; in neutral colors;
Unless there is no other choice, never ride a military vehicle;
Should avoid disruption and interference in rescue and disaster response operations

(see above about first responder);
Introduce yourself properly;
Do not pass judgment on your interviewee;
Avoid intruding upon the grief of victims, but if circumstances force you to, then be sensitive;
If someone doesn’t want to talk to you, respect that and just leave a contact number just in case he/she would want to talk later. Never force anyone to talk when they are not ready, not resort to talking to children without getting the permission of their parents or guardians;

Make sure the person understands the terms of your interview. We as outsiders and the media may by just our mere presence, bring undeserved hope that will make the personal tragedy/loss even worse because we are not there for deliverance but to tell the story;
Be sensitive to the customs and culture of the affected community;
Employ as many sources as possible (government, NGO, first-person, etc/multisourcing);

Your emotional reaction, while tempered, should not be ignored. Be human and humane at all times;

Always give respect and dignity to the victims. This means knowing when to back off and stop your questioning and probing;

In a disaster or emergency, the worst sin is to talk too much. Listen, let the people tell their story. Never prod. Line of questioning should not be interrogative; be versatile;

Consult social workers in interviewing victims of disaster especially those who have experienced trauma.

Writing the story:
Always be accurate; use pertinent details to describe the victims, situations, and environment;

Provide context to your story through research and parallel interviews of experts outside the disaster scene;

Remember, your coverage will have an impact on your community. The trauma can become worse by the way     you treat a story and a person;

Do not sensationalize or exaggerate sufferings; should exercise utmost prudence in choice of language;
Editors should prudently exercise their discretionary powers in choosing photographs of the victims taking into  account the risk of unwanted exposure and the harm it may cause to the victims;

For community paper coverage of disasters where families are evacuated:

Inform public where the families are (specific evacuation sites and who the key persons are) and what their situations are for the information of relatives who may not know where to reach the victims;

Write to raise public awareness and mobilize public support;
Photos and graphics should not inflict more trauma on the victims or depict them in an undignified manner.

Reporters welfare:

Reporters should undergo debriefing after covering disasters and have a venue for them to talk it out of their system.
Reporters should be entitled to breaks after covering disasters.


Launched and approved by the PPI members
28th May 2008

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Guidelines in Reporting on Children


That children have the same dignity and rights as those of adults;
That children can be productive for themselves and for society;
That children need protection from all kinds of harm; and
That in reporting about children, their best interests come first.

I therefore shall:

STRIVE to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct in my reporting;

CONSIDER its short-and-long-term implications on their welfare and rights;

REFRAIN from illustrating my reporting with photos or graphics that commodify, or sensationalize their plight;

AVOID using words that stigmatize or traumatize children;

PROTECT and RESPECT the diverse cultures of Filipino children;

AVOID discriminating against children on the bases of sex, gender and cultural identity, as well as ethnic and religious background;

SEEK, CONSIDER, and RESPECT the opinions of children, and promote their right to participate in decision-making on issues affecting them;

EXERCISE patience and sensitivity when interviewing children, using words or language they easily understand;

WRITE stories raising public awareness and mobilizing public support for their survival, development and protection, as well as their participation in creating an environment in which they are protected from information, data and images that promote sex, violence, discrimination, conflict, vices, and the use of illegal drugs and substances;

In cases of children who are victims of abuse, in conflict with the law, caught in armed conflicts and in other special circumstances, I shall:

OBSERVE the confidentiality of their names and other information that may lead to their identification to ensure their safety and privacy whether as victims, witnesses, or aggressors;

SECURE the consent of their guardian or custodian before interviewing them or taking their photographs;

REFRAIN from exploiting any of such cases for fund-raising and similarly-oriented activities; and

REMEMBER always that children in special situations are victims of circumstances. This is a challenge to me as a journalist and the general public to protect and empower them.

October 13, 2003
Launched and approved by the PPI Members

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Code of Professional and Ethical Conduct of the Philippine Press Institute in Covering Elections

 “The success of a free press is reflected in the ability of journalism to honor a primary responsibility to the public. Journalistic principles of truth-telling and independence work together to honor that loyalty.

“In order to seek truth and report it as fully as possible, journalists must be independent.

“Journalists must remain free of associations and activities that may compromise their integrity or damage their own or their organization’s credibility.

“Credibility is what others think of us. Ethics is what kind of people we are.

“Conflicts of interest occur when individuals face competing loyalties: to a source or to their own self-interest, or to their organization’s economic needs, as opposed to the information needs of the public.”

This Code of Professional and Ethical Conduct of the Philippine Press Institute will become a living document to the extent that individual newspapers, their publishers/owners, editors and staff writers will infuse it with life and vigor.

Ethics, and how individual journalists conduct themselves, are, first and last, the individual’s call. But it takes a community of journalists and newspapers living it out together to make this Code the genuine, positive, powerful norm and standard it should be for the industry.

Professionalism is the key to upgrading and enforcing ethical standards in the media. In the Newsroom, on the beat, in the boardrooms, and wherever it is journalists meet with their sources and make editorial decisions, the Code should serve all member newspapers of the PPI as a reference of conduct and decisions of the individual journalist and newspaper. At the least, this Code seeks to clarify; at best, it offers a road map for where the journalist and the newspaper should go, abiding by professional and ethical standards, according to widely held traditions and practices of the free press in the Philippines and overseas.

But this Code also assigns publishers/owners and editors the primary role in upholding professional and ethical standards. Fulfilling the spirit and intentions of the Code on the field requires the full, unqualified support—in terms of money, resources and corporate leadership—of the newspaper owners. Applying its terms to the day-to-day flow of operations and decision-making in the newsroom, and to the performance evaluation of reporters, photographers, desk persons, artists, columnists and contributors—or even popularizing and explaining the letter of the Code to the newspaper’s editorial staff—are the tasks of the editors as gatekeepers.

Ethics, and how individual journalists conduct themselves, are, first and last, the individual’s call. But it takes a community of journalists and newspapers living it out together to make this Code the genuine, positive, powerful norm and standard it should be for the industry.

Professionalism is the key to upgrading and enforcing ethical standards in the media. In the Newsroom, on the beat, in the boardrooms, and wherever it is journalists meet with their sources and make editorial decisions, the Code should serve all member newspapers of the PPI as a reference of conduct and decisions of the individual journalist and newspaper. At the least, this Code seeks to clarify; at best, it offers a road map for where the journalist and the newspaper should go, abiding by professional and ethical standards, according to widely held traditions and practices of the free press in the Philippines and overseas.

But this Code also assigns publishers/owners and editors the primary role in upholding professional and ethical standards. Fulfilling the spirit and intentions of the Code on the field requires the full, unqualified support—in terms of money, resources and corporate leadership—of the newspaper owners. Applying its terms to the day-to-day flow of operations and decision-making in the newsroom, and to the performance evaluation of reporters, photographers, desk persons, artists, columnists and contributors—or even popularizing and explaining the letter of the Code to the newspaper’s editorial staff—are the tasks of the editors as gatekeepers.

On the industry level, this is what the PPI will be guided by.

  1. Covering elections

Pay your way.

  1. The newspaper must cover the cost of coverage during the election campaign and count, including dining out sources for stories, the airfare, hotel accommodation, per diem and operations expenses of staff members assigned to political parties and candidates.
  2. This prohibition excludes transport services and common rooming accommodations arranged by the political parties for all members of the media.
  3. Staff members shall clear with their supervising editors invitations from the candidates or political parties to join out-of-town or overseas coverage events, so the newspaper may appropriate the necessary budget, if these are newsworthy events.
  4. Do not accept cash or gifts in kind from politicians and political parties.
    1. All editors, reporters, photographers, columnists, artists and other

staff members must resist all attempts  of candidates or political parties to bribe the newspaper in cash or in kind. Newspapers are encouraged to expose such attempts, whether consummated or aborted, to identify the culpable parties and to promptly return the bribe or donate it to charity with the appropriate documentation.

  1. Do not moonlight with political parties.
    1. No staff member shall be allowed to work on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis with any political party or candidate.
    2. Staff members shall be discouraged from inviting candidates to stand as godparents in baptisms, weddings and other church rites, or as padrinosin the employment of relatives or friends.
  1. Beware of surveys.
    1. Statistical data derived from polling and surveying is especially susceptible to misunderstanding, misinterpretation and misuse. Newspapers should clearly distinguish between scientific polls and non-scientific surveys such as readers’ call-ins or write-ins and person-in-the-street interviews that are reported in statistical terms. This must be done in a way that is likely to be understood by the average reader, including the headlines and graphics.
    2. In using scientific polls, the sample size and the margin of error should be disclosed.
    3. In using non-scientific surveys, the manner in which they were taken and their limitations should be clearly explained in print. Merely labeling a survey as “non-scientific” is not sufficient.
    4. Surveys that do not meet minimal scientific standards of validity and reliability should not be identified as polls, nor should they be portrayed in language suitable to scientific polls.
    5. Great caution should be used in employing non-scientific polls to address substantial questions of public policy or to describe the popularity or approval rating of public officials or public actions.
    6. Conflicts of interest

Individual journalists (publishers, editors, desk persons, reporters, photographers, artists, columnists) must weigh their obligations against the impact of:

  • Involvement in particular activities
  • Affiliation with causes or organizations
  • Acceptance of favors or preferential treatment
  • Financial investments
  • Outside employment
  • Friendships

In the end, individual journalists might do well to ask themselves:

  • Am I being independent?
  • Could my action harm my integrity or my organization’s integrity?
  • Is the mere appearance of conflict enough to diminish my credibility?

Am I willing to publicly disclose any potential conflicts?


  1. Be careful with secondary jobs you take.
    1. “Outside work,” secondary jobs or moonlighting presents per se a potential conflict of interest, especially with individuals, firms or entities:
    2. that are the subject of news, past or future;
    3. that are competitors of the primary source of income of the journalist (another broadsheet or magazine circulating in the same market);
    4. that requires the journalist to render more than just editorial services (writing, editing, art design), additional services that would         compromise the integrity of his/her profession and news agency (pushing press releases, organizing press conferences, acting as        press agent, etc.)
    5. Individual journalists who do outside work or acquire secondary jobs must properly inform their immediate superiors. (A secondary job is one which gives the journalist income less than what he/she gets from his/her newspaper.)
    6. Professional work as stringers or free-lance writers for newspapers, magazines, book publishers, news services, photo agencies and similar organizations headquartered outside their circulation area is usually acceptable. So is part-time teaching in local colleges and other professional or para-newspaper duties. All arrangements of this kind are discussed in advance with management.
    7. Journalists must avoid paid or unpaid work for a politician or political organization, and should not hold public office or accept appointment to any political position for which there is remuneration other than expenses.


  1. Don’t use your paper/job to make money. Draw the line between journalism and your own money ventures.
    1. Financial investment by staff members or other outside business interests that could conflict with the newspaper’s ability to report the news or that would create the impression of such a conflict should be avoided.
    2. A staff member may not enter into a business relationship with a news source. A staff member may not make investments which could come into conflict with the staff member’s duties. A staff member with investments or stockholdings in corporations should avoid making news decisions that involve those corporations.
    3. Similarly, staff members’ employment by news sources or potential news sources should be avoided, and staffers should refrain from lending their names to commercial enterprises with no promotional value to their papers. Business interests that could conflict with a staff member’s ability to report the news, or that would create the impression of such a conflict, must be avoided.


  1. You are entitled to advocate causes and join organizations but don’t impose this on your readers. Disclose your advocacies and organizational involvements.
    1. Staff members should avoid any involvement in any activity which could compromise, or appear to compromise, the staff member’s role or the newspaper’s capacity, ability or disposition to gather, report, write or edit, faithfully, factually, impartially or fairly. Such activity must be cleared in advance with the editor(s) whenever any possibility of interference or conflict exists.
    2. Journalists exercise discretion in all relationships with causes and organizations. Staff members are encouraged to join and to perform voluntary services for local religious, cultural, social and civic organizations. Newspapers have the same community responsibility as other businesses in donating editors’ and employees’ time to civic undertakings. Staff members should let supervisors know what groups they’re involved with
    3. Journalists should avoid political involvement beyond voting. In no circumstances may a staff member seek political office or work, for pay as a volunteer, in a political campaign or organization.
  1. Don’t misuse and abuse your privileges as a journalist.
    1. Journalists must take care not to use newspaper property, i.e. its name, its stationery, or press card, for personal gain or advantage.
    2. However, we recognize that our involvement as citizens may sometimes compromise or inhibit our professional responsibilities, and we judge each situation with that in mind. We are particularly conscious of the necessity to avoid personal involvement in either side of an issue about which we would be writing or editing stories for the newspaper.
    3. Unpublished information gathered by the newspaper may not be used by staffmembers for investment decisions. Staffmembers should try to ensure the confidentiality of information gathered by the newspaper by making every effort to keep such information from reaching anyone who might attempt to use it for personal gain before it is published. Staffmembers should be careful in dealings with news sources—particularly those in the investment community—not to disclose before publication the nature of the story that has the potential to affect the price of any stock.  And because the timing of an investment is often crucial, no one outside the newspaper should know in advance the publication date of a story. When there is doubt about the appropriateness of a business investment, or about any possible conflict of interest, the staffmember should discuss the situation with the supervising editor.
    4. No staffmember should write about, report on, photograph or make a news judgment about any individual related to him or her by blood or marriage or with whom the staffmember has a close personal relationship. Writing or editing a story about a friend’s business, for example, presents a conflict and should be avoided. A staffmember who finds himself or herself in a situation where a conflict of interest (or the perception of such) becomes likely should consult with the supervising editor about the circumstances.
    5. Employees shall not use their positions with the newspaper to get any benefit or advantage in commercial transactions or personal business for themselves, their families or acquaintances. For example, they shall not use company connections:
    6. To get information or a photograph for purposes other than those of the newspaper.
    7. To expedite personal business with, or seek special consideration from, public officials or agencies, such as the police.
    8. To seek for personal use information not available to the general public.
    9. To get free or at a reduced rate not available to the public, things like tickets, memberships, hotel rooms or transportation.
    10. Employees shall not use the company name, reputation, phone number or stationery to imply a threat or retaliation or pressure, to curry favor, or to seek personal gain.

III. Writing the story

  1. All efforts must be exerted to make stories fair, accurate and balanced. Getting the other side is a must, especially for the most sensitive and critical stories. The other side must run on the first take of the story and not any day later.
  2. Single-source stories must be avoided as a rule. There is always the imperative to get a second, third or more sources, the contending parties to an issue, the expert source, the affected party, the prominent and the obscure, in the story. We must strive at all times to ascertain the truth of our sources’ assertions.
  3. Documents are required, particularly for stories alleging corruption or wrongdoing by public officials or agencies, or private individuals and corporations and groups.
  4. As a rule, anonymous sources shall be discouraged, especially if they are coming from the public sector or publicly accountable agencies. But when we have to shield the identity of our source.—because revealing it would put his/her job or life in danger—we must: First ascertain the truth of his/her assertions; Determine if he/she is not a polluted source or an interested or beneficial party; Describe him/her in a manner that would establish his/her expertise or right to speak on the subject.
  5. We shall avoid at all times language, photographs, visuals and graphics that are racist, sexist, insensitive and disrespectful of men, women and children; the religious denominations, cultural communities, and gender and political preferences.
  6. The identities and photographs of children and women who figure in the news as victims of sexual abuse (i.e. rape, incest, sexual harassment, prostitution, battering, etc.) must not be printed, and details about their personal circumstances and identities must be withheld. In the case of incest victims, the identities of the accused and immediate family members must also be protected. Disclosure of the identities of victims of sexual abuse—but not their photographs—may be allowed only in cases when the adult victim (above 18 years old) has decided to file a case in court.
  7. Suspects in criminal cases must be properly described as suspects, Photographs of a police lineup of suspects must be avoided, except in cases of large public interest, and when prima facie evidence has been established against suspects who are publicly accountable officials.
  8. Documents that had been leaked by sources, especially those from the government, must be properly described as leaked documents, when used in a story. As much as possible, the source must identified.
  9. We shall accord equal prominence to rejoinders, rebuttals and clarification from persons or agencies criticized in our stories. These should run without any delays, or as promptly as possible, and should be edited only for grammar.
  10.  When we commit errors of fact or impression, we must  acknowledge this on print, and promptly issue a clarification.
  11. Misleading practices such as misrepresentation, trickery, impersonation, and the use of hidden tape recorders in newsgathering can seriously undermine a newspaper’s credibility and trustworthiness and should be avoided. An editor confronted with a decision to employ such methods should meet the following conditions:
  • Public importance. The expected news story should be of such public interest that its news value clearly outweighs the damage to trust and credibility that might result from the use of deception.
  • Alternatives. The story cannot reasonably be recast to avoid the need to misrepresent,
  • Last resort. All other means of getting the story must have been exhausted.
  • Disclosure. The deceptive practices and the reasons why they were used should be disclosed on print at the time the story is published.


No code of ethics can prejudge every situation. Common sense and good judgment are required in applying ethical principles to newspaper realities. Individual newspapers are encouraged to augment these guidelines with locally produced codes that apply more specifically to their own situations.


Sources: The Manila Times Editorial Guidelines, Doing Ethics in Journalism, Associated Press Managing Editors Association Code of Ethics for Newspapers and their Staffs


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Journalists’ Code of Ethics

  1. I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.
  2. I shall not violate confidential information on material given me in the exercise of my calling.
  3. I shall resort only to fair and honest methods in my effort to obtain news, photographs and/or documents, and shall properly identify myself as a representative of the press when obtaining any personal interview intended for publication.
  4. I shall refrain from writing reports which will adversely affect a private reputation unless the public interests justifies it. At the same time, I shall write vigorously for public access to information, as provided for in the constitution.
  5. I shall not let personal motives or interests influence me in the performance of my duties; nor shall I accept or offer any present, gift or other consideration of a nature which may cast doubt on my professional integrity.
  6. I shall not commit any act of plagiarism.
  7. I shall not in any manner ridicule, cast aspersions on or degrade any person by reason of sex, creed, religious belief, political conviction, cultural and ethnic origin.
  8. I shall presume persons accused of crime of being innocent until proven otherwise. I shall exercise caution in publishing names of minors, and women involved in criminal cases so that they may not unjustly lose their standing in society.
  9. I shall not take unfair advantage of a fellow journalist.
  10. I shall accept only such tasks as are compatible with the integrity and dignity of my profession, invoking the "conscience clause" when duties imposed on me conflict with the voice of my conscience.
  11. I shall comport myself in public or while performing my duties as journalist in such manner as to maintain the dignity of my profession. When in doubt, decency should be my watchword.

Approved by the Philippines Press Institute, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, and the National Press Club in 1988.

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ASEAN@50: Beyond the Headlines

New 3

Today, at 50, ASEAN’s decades-long existence should prompt some earnest reflection on several fronts. How far has it gone in achieving its goals? How much of its multi-pronged vision for the 625 million-strong regional bloc is now undeniably a reality? Has it made a dent in the lives of its peoples, not just economically but also politically, socially, and culturally? To what extent is this being felt on the ground, if at all?

Questions abound in particular on the state of human rights and other thorny issues — the Rohingya crisis and South China Sea dispute easily jumping to the top of the list — hounding, and polarizing, parts of the region, and which are of such a scale they have drawn global attention. Is Southeast Asia, finally, a region where the only thing that sets its peoples apart is their geographical boundaries? (This, amid the march to regional integration.)

It goes without saying that ASEAN is not just about the much-ballyhooed, high-profile summits and similar events regularly attended by its leaders and other high-ranking officials. Yet, mention ASEAN to ordinary citizens of any one of its ten member countries, and what easily comes to mind? (One hopes it’s not the obligatory photo-ops showing our leaders clad in the traditional dress of their host country.) Do they pride themselves, collectively and individually, on being part of ASEAN, knowing quite well what it is all about and should mean for them? Can they, off the top of their heads, explain its role — and relevance — amid ASEAN’s diverse political systems as well as social, economic, and cultural settings?

And amid a flurry of acronyms (e.g., AEC, ASC, ASCC, AEM, AFTA, ATM, AMBDC, AFMM, AMEM, AMMin, etc. — indeed a veritable alphabet soup of abbreviations), how much does the average ASEAN citizen understand about specific ASEAN committees’ raison d’etre and the goings-on before, during, and after official meetings and dialogues, and why should he care?

These and myriad other, even more substantive, issues deserve a deeper look such as the challenges of regional integration, dubbed a milestone in ASEAN’s history.

Who better to explore the issues — including highly polarizing ones — that matter to ASEAN peoples — than the mass media? Who better to tell the stories that are aching to be told — stories that go beyond the headlines, cliches, and catchphrases — and that often get buried in the din of what is arguably superficial coverage of ASEAN — than the media? There is no gainsaying the fact that media are in a strategic (though not necessarily enviable) position — this, by dint of their time-honored function — to expand the breadth and depth of public discussions (to the extent that these are taking place) cannot be emphasized enough.

Interestingly enough, as ASEAN marks its golden anniversary on August 8, some decades-old and recently emergent issues and challenges are still lurking in the dark, waiting to be brought to light, as it were. Perhaps it is time Southeast Asia’s national and regional media, including community newspapers, took stock of the state of their coverage of the regional bloc — and rose to the challenge of shining a spotlight where it’s most needed, long after the latest ASEAN summit has been concluded or regional agreement signed — and long after the visual spectacles that often mark high-level regional meetings vanish from view.

While at it, the Philippines’ chairmanship this year of ASEAN comes at an interesting time, when the country is being hobbled by allegations of human rights violations spawned by President Rodrigo Duterte’s all-out war against drugs. The irony should not be lost on those of us who are familiar with the strong and firm position the Philippine government has taken in the past on specific issues such as when it actively pushed for the creation of a regional human rights body and led calls to strengthen the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in the face of perceived deficiencies in this vital instrument.

To date no ASEAN member state has publicly called out the Philippines for the culture of impunity that human rights advocates say the the country’s anti-drug campaign has engendered. Such a stance seems all of a piece with the region’s principle of non-interference in matters domestic.

To be sure public debate around complex and sensitive issues confronting ASEAN needs to be enhanced. Pointing out the role of the press in this regard would be belaboring the obvious, but it would also mean positing that the media, and all member states for that matter, are standing on common ground where fundamental freedoms are concerned. (Fifty years on, dissent is still frowned upon in parts of the region.)

Still and all, the Philippine Press Institute, on the occasion of its 21st National Press Forum, hopes to make a modest contribution to enhancing public dialogue on ASEAN, with the media at the forefront.


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PPI long-time employees recognized in annual confab


On its 53rd founding anniversary last May, the Philippine Press Institute, also known as the national association of newspapers, recognized two employees of its secretariat for their length of service, commitment and exceptional performance. Edgar M. Abalajon began working in 1988 while Nemy S. Joquino started in 1989.  Both saw the growth of the institute after its revival in 1986.  Special plaques of appreciation were awarded to them by chairman-president Alfonso G. Pedroche at H2O Hotel in Manila.

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