Compromising journalistic standards
ALTERMIDYA stands with former Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) executive editor Jose Ma. D. Nolasco, former news editor Artemio Jun Engracia, and former PDI reporter Nancy Carvajal in their denunciation of the current PDI management’s decision to strike a compromise deal with broadcaster Melo Del Prado of dzBB Radio-TV GMA Network.
The compromise agreement is in connection with the newspaper’s investigative series on the P10-billion pork barrel scam published in 2014, which alleged that Del Prado benefitted from the pork barrel scam. The report is the basis for the broadcaster’s libel suit against the newspaper now pending at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
According to Nolasco, the compromise deal struck by PDI with Del Prado involves running an apology in the newspaper, expunging 10 pork barrel stories related to Del Prado from PDI’s archives, and paying him damages worth P1.5 million in ad space. In return, Del Prado will supposedly drop his libel suit against Nolasco and several other editors and reporters involved in the publication of the articles in question.
The articles are part of a series involving the multimillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, an issue that rocked the political arena when it was exposed, and led to the arrest and detention (albeit briefly) of some senators allegedly involved in the scam, along with Janet Lim Napoles. Nolasco says in his letter to PDI Publisher Raul Palabrica that the Del Prado libel suit arguably cannot pass the bar set by the Supreme Court for libel suits against the media – for the plaintiff to present incontrovertible evidence that actual malice on the part of the defendants was present.
We cannot comment on the merits of Del Prado’s case. But we do uphold Nolasco’s right to demand that the PDI management defend outstanding journalism, press freedom, and the people’s right to know about vital issues such as the pork barrel scam. The articles in the pork barrel series went through a verification process, and as Nolasco notes, room for comment was also provided those implicated in the scandal. PDI’s investigative reports on the pork barrel scandal brought to light information about which the public has the right to know.
This kind of journalism is what is needed in these times – we are in the middle of a pandemic during which billions in public funds are unaccounted for, and when lack of transparency abounds in government. How can enterprising reporters build the courage to dig deeper and ferret out the truth when they are uncertain if their media organization will support them? To compromise is to chip at the courage that journalists of our times need.
The alternative media community has long admired its colleagues in the PDI – the Philippines’ newspaper of record – for its longstanding reputation of delivering hard-hitting reports that delve deep into matters that concern the public, in this instance, concerning the grand misuse of public funds. It is our hope that the editors and journalists continue to uphold its brand of fearless and courageous journalism.
Alternative media journalists are no strangers to various forms of attacks and intimidation, especially in the past few years. Yet, as journalists who stand by the principle of truth-telling and the hallowed discipline of verification, it is our task to defend that truth and support the journalists that worked hard at obtaining it.