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Much ado about merging

1 Nov

Last June 4, a breaking news item by Philippine Star showbiz columnist Ricardo “Ricky” Lo got tongues wagging and cursors hovering in the local internet sphere. The article discussed the green-lighting of a “landmark” merger between media outlets TV5 and GMA7, to be formally launched November this year.

According to Lo, TV5 head Manny V. Pangilinan — popularly known by his moniker MVP – ”virtually confirmed” the merger at a June 2 presscon in San Francisco, where he was inking a separate deal with satellite broadcaster Dish Network in behalf of TV5.

Dish Network also provides satellite services for the streaming of GMA7 shows in the US.

After a few hours, TV5′s online news arm Interaksyon published an article disputing the Philippine Star scoop. Interaksyon cited exclusive correspondence with MVP, who explained how he was misquoted by Lo.

“You know, all I said was: Please support TV5 here in the States. And by the way, please support GMA7, too, since Dish carries GMA. That was all. No mention of merger, investment, combination.

“Certainly no mention of a November deadline or any deadline at all. Sure, some people speculated, and all I said was I can now say we are under discussion but nothing has been finalized at this time,” said MVP. The absence of finality in the merger talks was corroborated by TV5 chief executive Ray Espinosa.

In the following months, buzz of the alleged merger remained. ABS-CBN, the last player in the triumvirate of leading Filipino media networks, even released a PR article online detailing how chairman Eugenio Lopez III was “not threatened” by the proposed GMA7-TV5 deal.

Come October, both parties released statements confirming the fall-through of the controversial merger. MediaQuest Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of the MVP-helmed PLDT group, said that both networks were “unable to arrive at mutually acceptable terms despite the continual discussions and efforts exerted in good faith.”

For his own part, GMA7 CEO Atty. Felipe Gozon proffered: “The issues that the parties were not able to resolve had nothing to do with the price.”

Even if the deal has fizzled out for the time being, this is hardly a case of much ado about nothing. It has opened the minds of media executives, producers and audiences alike to the previously far-fetched possibility of a media merger and its underlying – albeit unrealized – repercussions.

The privatization of media is a double-edged sword. In their landmark text Elements of Journalism, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel explore this duality by dedicating a chapter to the characterizations of who journalists work for.

In the operations of any media corporation, two divisions find themselves both cooperating with and contradicting one another: the newsroom and the network’s corporate arm. As the competition stiffened among different corporations and different channels of media besides, news producers worldwide adapted to various extents a paradigm of the citizen as a customer.

Such a mindset ultimately leads to the corrosion of the integral values of justice, freedom and independence in reportage. Justice in news coverage engages three aspects: fairness, balance and objectivity.

Fairness entails airing both or every side involved in an issue. Balance demands that equal space and equal time be given to all parties. Objectivity, meanwhile, is the avoidance of words and phrases that imply judgment to avoid unduly influencing audiences.

One aspect of freedom in journalism concerns upholding the constitutionally-protected freedom of expression and of the press. This freedom is necessary for the press to adequately and competently perform its functions of citizen advocate and watchdog of power.

Freedom, however, is not only limited to the absence of stifling government control or intervention. Its second aspect entails journalistic autonomy: independence from pressures both internal and external to the newsroom that may impede judicious reportage and editorial judgment.

How do we see these journalistic values lived out or undermined in our most influential news networks? The Philippines alone provides a notable case study.

All three of the largest television networks are owned and operated by businessmen. Affluent families control the publication of the most widely-circulated newspapers and magazines. Such managerial hierarchies lend themselves to what Kovach and Rosensteil dubbed the “bureaucratic inertia” of corporate media ownership.

This presumes that the business, political and even personal interests of head honchos snowball into newsroom decisions to pursue, discontinue or modify certain stories. The danger lies in private interests holding a greater mandate over the public’s right to know.

There is much to be desired and to be enraged about when the priorities of a newsroom shift from producing stories that matter to producing stories that sell. Running a media organization as a business-minded individual or family already brings with it a plethora of conflicts of interest. To imagine the consequences of a merger between two of the largest news networks, both ran by businessmen to boot, would be to multiply the propensities of bureaucratic inertia twofold.

While it is initially reassuring to know that irreconcilable factors not concerning money weighed in on the GMA7 decision, audiences and media practitioners alike ought to be vigilant for the likelihood of another think – and another deal – coming, especially when these could compromise the impartiality and integrity of local news operations.

Of Prayers and Devotion: A Prelude to the Feast of the Black Nazarene

8 Jan

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The Feast of the Black Nazarene every January 9 is among the most celebrated liturgical feasts for Filipino Catholics. At least one million people from all over the country come together to commemorate the translacion, or the relocation of the original image of the Nazarene from Luneta to the Parish of Saint John the Baptist, more popularly known as the Basilica of the Black Nazarene or Quiapo Church.

Devotees of all ages flock to the image of the suffering Christ to seek the fulfillment of their personal intentions or to express their gratitude for answered prayers.

In an interview with CBCP News, Quiapo Church rector Msgr. Clemente Ignacio views the devotion to the Black Nazarene as a testament to the empathy of Filipinos: “The Filipinos see themselves in the image of the suffering and struggling Black Nazarene.”

“If you will notice the Black Nazarene is a snapshot of Jesus rising again after the fall… we will see there the resilience of the Filipinos, they never lose hope,” he added.


Our photojourn prof assigned us to cover the Feast of the Black Nazarene, but a morning class and prior commitments would keep me from joining the throng on Monday. To make up for it, I headed to the Basilica yesterday with my friend Raine, hoping to squeeze in a few shots before sunset.

Because I arrived two days before the main event, I expected to find only a handful of churchgoers, the image of the Christ, and if I were lucky, a photogenic candle or two. But from the time we saw a row of sidewalk vendors flaunting their Poon memorabilia and a parade of about a dozen replicas of the Black Nazarene, it was clear that there was more to be beheld at the premature coverage. It surprised me to see so many young devotees — teenagers, gradeschoolers and even toddlers. There was even a pregnant lady and a cripple in the crowd.

I haven’t joined a religious procession since high school, so yesterday’s foray was a refreshing experience for me. Among the people we met was Ka Ed. He had been boarding the andas or the base of the statue’s carriage since he was 7.

Now 49, he carries on his devotion by pioneering and leading the Anak ng Poon ng Nazareno (ANPON), an organization of volunteer-devotees who provide manpower — think of them as bouncers, if you will — and maintain the peace in the Black Nazarene procession.

Ka Ed

He and an ANPON comrade, Ka Jojo, helped Raine and I find the best angles with the least amount of risk. They advised us to ask the Poon‘s permission as we took photographs of His image. Even under unfavorable conditions, they said, the Nazarene grants the prayers and desires of devotees with the resolve to sacrifice and unwavering faith in Him.

We left Quiapo a little past dusk with muddy shoes, maxed out memory cards and new-found appreciation for the seminal spiritual experience that is the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

Cheer factor: UP Pep leads national delegation to worldwide cheerleading tilt

25 Nov

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The UP Pep Squad is no stranger to pushing limits, be it as individuals or as a team. After clinching the UAAP Cheerdance championship four times in the last five years, they now set their sights on a greater challenge: representing our country as delegates to the 6th Cheerleading World Championships (CWC).

Dubbed the “Olympics of cheerleading”, the biennial competition will be held from November 26-27 at the Hong Kong Coliseum and will pit around 70 teams from 20 countries. The 2011 CWC marks the Philippines’ debut in the international cheerleading arena.

The 55-member national delegation is comprised of students from three cheerleading teams – the UP Pep Squad, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Stars and the Centro Escolar University (CEU) Lady Scorpions. They will be competing in the group stunt, partner stunt, cheer mixed and cheer dance categories.

“This didn’t come from out of the blue – these guys paid their dues going there. They had to go through literally the eye of the needle,” said Evan Alvia, president of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines Cheerleading Federation.

Assistant coach and professor Pio Niño Opinaldo is optimistic about UP Pep’s performance. He recounted how a month after winning the UAAP Cheerdance, the team members continued training for six hours daily to get in shape for the CWC.

Squad captain Kathleen Madrigal, a graduating elementary education student, said: “(We feel) honored but pressured. There are lots of people to handle, but I still have the captains of PUP and CEU to help me out.”

Funds and government aid

Plans of sending the UP Pep Squad to the 2009 CWC in Bremen, Germany fell through due to financial constraints and visa conflicts. Two years after that botched attempt, the national contingent had to raise P5-million – with expenses pegged at $850 per person – to cover the costs for this year’s competition.

Alvia explained that since cheerleading was not an Olympic sport, it was unreasonable to expect monetary support from the national government: “Government right now is sending 55 sports to the SEA Games. We don’t want to be a problem, we want to be part of the solution.”

Government’s contribution to the national contingent’s bid came in the form of tax exemptions, particularly on airport tax for the 55 players and their coaches. According to Alvia, making the teams raise their own funds for the competition instill in the players a stronger sense of discipline and community involvement.

“All through adversity, after 2009, they stuck around. They trained regularly. They trained just as hard as the boxers and the Olympic athletes. Some of them are magna cum laude and cum laude candidates. They’re not just gonna graduate as athletes doing nothing. We’re assured and we’re confident that they will progress in life. We stand up for them because they are role models,” he added.


The Philippine contingent showcased their final routines in a send-off at the UP College of Human Kinetics last November 20. The event also served as a turnover ceremony for the Mat Project, spearheaded by former Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Grace Gregorio and art studies professor Eloisa Hernandez.

Launched at 9 a.m. on September 20, the project aimed to gather solicitations for new rubber training mats for the UP Pep Squad. Thanks to social networking and word-of-mouth, 300 pledges were gathered within thirty six hours of the campaign’s launch. Gregorio shared that once, when some pep squad members were gathered at the AS parking lot, an elderly man approached and handed them P1000 as his donation to the Mat Project.

Interestingly, it was not only UP alumni who were willing to extend financial support to the squad. Other notable donors include Patch Adejar of the University of Santo Tomas, Edward Yu of rubber manufacturing firm Bantex and columnist Tessa Prieto-Valdez.

Prieto-Valdez represented her contemporaries in Assumption High School Batch 1981, who pitched in P100,000 for the Mat Project. “It’s something else that we’re able to compete abroad even if it’s not for a sport. Even if it’s for the first time, win or lose, they’re already winners,” she said.

Even as he anticipated a strong showing from the national delegation, Alvia stressed the significance of their giving back to the community that made their CWC bid possible. He said, “It’s not about the winning. If they do win, and they feel better about what they are after the competition, then that’s paying it forward. If we train you to fund your own way, you can do that for other causes…If you get there, you know it’s because you deserved it.”


15 Jul

Because sometimes, one letter makes all the difference.

In other newsss, congratch Fighting Maroons! UPKERIGOFIGHT o/*

News Feats and Heart Beats: ‘Deadline’ in review

4 Jul

Lamangan and Ilagan incorporated real life elements and personalities into the screenplay of "Deadline", the last in a trilogy of films depicting grisly social realities in the Philippines.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

What happens when the pursuers of truth are themselves pursued by the very individuals whose wrongdoings they are committed to expose? Such is the question raised by “Deadline” (2011), the last in a trilogy of advocacy films helmed by Joel Lamangan and penned by Bonifacio Ilagan. In a bid to project social realities on the silver screen, the duo also produced “Dukot” (2009) and “Sigwa” (2010), films on extrajudicial killings and the First Quarter Storm of 1970. With “Deadline”, the filmmaker and scriptwriter paint a grisly picture of the situation of local press freedom and reels audiences into the lives – and in certain scenes, even the gruesome deaths – of journalists in the Philippines.

The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked thePhilippinesthird in their 2011 Impunity Index, a globally-recognized litmus test for press freedom that quantifies the number of journalist killings in various countries vis-à-vis the number of unresolved cases. The country’s high-ranking but dismal performance in the Impunity Index was caused by the dearth of justice for victims of the Maguindanao massacre, where 58 (previous reports counted 57; the body of one victim has yet to be recovered) people were murdered in a horrific display of election-related violence on November 23, 2009.

Lamangan and Ilagan incorporated real life elements and personalities into the screenplay, thereby making a significant chunk of “Deadline” a cinematic allegory to the Maguindanao massacre. The most discernable similarity to real life is the film’s antagonist, long-time governor Muntazir Ghazi of the fictionalMindanaoprovince Abdul Rabb, whose position, political and military influence and ruthlessness is patterned after former Maguindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan, believed to be among the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre.

In the film’s most gruesome tragedy, a press conference with close to a hundred attendees was bombed by Ghazi’s goons – leaving 57 dead, 32 of whom were media practitioners. Although her lines are brief and her face is never revealed to the audience, the nasal intonations and word choices of the unnamed Philippine president in “Deadline” is reminiscent of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, under whose term 79 journalists were killed in the line of duty, according to data from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

The journalist-characters portrayed in “Deadline” and the circumstances surrounding their practice introduce viewers to ethical dilemmas that media practitioners often find themselves in.  One prime example of this is the columnist Ross Rivera (TJ Trinidad), whose role as a “government apologist” earns him and his publication Metro Times Manila not only hefty bonuses from “clients” in politics, but also the disdain of their more critical colleagues.

Another ethical dilemma depicted in the film is plagiarism. When Henry Rosales (Luis Alandy) of the Philippine League of Journalists published groundbreaking articles on warlordism in the Philippine Sentinel, he failed to give credit to his main sources, reporters Azad Sinan (Allen Dizon) and Claire Pasinan (Ina Feleo) of the Mindanao Weekly Herald. When Claire expressed some regret over relinquishing the byline, her editor pointed out that the very exclusion of her name was the best defense against Ghazi, the unidentified but heavily-implied subject of the exposes.

The film concluded with Ghazi gunned down in his verbose mansion; the lone soldier who fired the fatal shot made like an armed David against a political Goliath. The casualties of the bombing were laid to their final resting place, but one is left to ponder about the quality of the “justice” they received. While the image of Ghazi being felled by bullets registers a sense of poetic justice, it is interesting to note that by letting justice be dealt by the hands of a man (in this case, the soldier), the film – intentionally or otherwise – discredited the due process of law. Perhaps this disregard could be interpreted as a metaphor for the disillusionment, or even distrust, towards the slow-moving judicial process that the loved ones and colleagues of slain journalists are left to contend with.

The practice of journalism is rooted in the thorough pursuit of information. Resourceful reporters do not only gather facts but rather hunt them down, especially when there are deliberate efforts to hide or distort them. At that point, the work is far from over – the conscientious journalist knows the importance of separating the grain from the chaff and enriching content by providing context.

It is no secret, however, that the fulfillment of professional and ethical standards comes at a price. All over the Philippines and indeed, all over the world, there will be powerful parties with close minds, deaf ears, iron fists and stone hearts who will attempt to hammer the last nail in the coffin of press freedom. But for as long as there are journalists who commit and continue to fight when they write and speak what is true, the watchdogs of society will not cower away amid the threats to their ranks and lives, and will never be rendered toothless.

The Sunny Professor

18 May

Our first assignment for Journalism 102 (News Reporting) class under Professor Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan was to write a lead on the walkouts staged against the budget cut for SUCs. She returned our works the following week and did so with a disclaimer: “I have here your papers. Please don’t be discouraged.”

Naturally, we were.

As terror slowly crept into our faces, she added with a smile: “You still have a long way to go, but you’ll improve.” That was something we held on to throughout the semester.

Ma’am put a premium on working with what was given — no more, no less — while gleaning the relevance and repercussions of each news event. “There are no small beats — only small reporters,” she once said.

She liked to challenge students to become better versions of themselves, both inside and outside the classroom. Mid-January this year, I contemplated on running as an independent candidate in the college student council. The idea of running without a party seemed daunting, and I decided to wait it out instead and try my luck next voting season instead.

On January 18, the point of discussion turned to the upcoming council elections and Ma’am asked if any of us were participating. No one raised their hand. She told our class then, “Oh, you should run. It’s a memorable experience.”

I would later find out that the deadline for filing certificates of candidacy was moved to the following day, January 19. After much deliberation and somewhat scurried preparation, I trooped to the admin office that afternoon and submitted my COC.

It was in J102 that I delivered my first room-to-room speech. I hadn’t gotten the hang of my spiel yet, and I struggled with some parts of it. Ma’am and I were seated at opposite ends of the conference table, so whenever I looked ahead, I would see her looking right back, listening, eyes darting only when she glanced at the pamphlet I had distributed.

She was as much a storyteller as she was a journalist. Our sessions were filled with her lively anecdotes, observations and indispensable instructions. Despite her propensity for sharing, Ma’am valued tuning in to the stories of others’ as much as her own. One of her pieces of advice for us was to talk to people who are usually ignored, because beneath their unassuming silence lay a trove of valuable first-hand information.

Ma’am Simbulan was among the most patient professors I have ever had. On days when we had an article due, it was almost inevitable for some of us students to be tardy or absent. She never chided anyone in front of the class, even those who crept in a good 30 or more minutes after the start of the session.

Once, my classmate Eunille Santos and I rushed to finish an article for 102 in the journalism department. Ma’am arrived past 10 a.m. and upon seeing us huddled over laptop and computer, asked in her usual calm voice: “Anong ginagawa niyo rito? Let’s go.” In the brief seconds before she closed the department door behind her, we replied with a smile and uneasy laughter: “Sige lang po, Ma’am.”

Did Eunille and I try to enter the room only to find the door locked? No. Did we learn and submit the rest of our articles on time after that? Yes.

She was also quick to laugh at herself. Many times, she blamed her lack of spatial awareness for her inability to maneuver the live-view projector we used in class.

Much has been said and written about Ma’am Simbulan’s strong sense of conviction. She was as steadfast in her principles as she was with the littlest things. During the campaign trail, she invited me and candidates from the opposing political parties for a press conference. My classmates and I were to cover the event and submit a news article about it the following week.

At the end of the conference, she said expressed her gratitude to each candidate. “Thank you, Alisa,” she told the ISA secretary hopeful. To the STAND-UP chairperson bet, she said, “Thank you, Norman.” Then she turned to me. Ma’am addressed everyone by their last name inside the classroom, with no exceptions. “Thank you (pause), Miss Britanico. You’re still my student, so you’re still Miss Britanico to me,” she said with a grin.

Ma’am once said that journalism was a Promethean endeavor. Facts are not flowers reporters can pick at their own leisure — they are more like game animals, always on the move, always demanding a chase. But of the 5Ws and H of journalism, I find that the “why” is especially difficult to come by. Some questions just don’t have immediate answers, and even when they do, the answers are not always gratifying.

I have been monitoring the news all week, and there has been great attention to the conduct of traffic in Commonwealth Avenue since the accident. Last Monday, radio announcers broadcasted that the MMDA will install motorcycle patrol units along the “killer highway” to immediately respond to, if not thwart, any more road accidents in the area.

Sometimes when the answer to “why” seems too out of reach, “what now” is the next best question to pin down. Then the “what,” no matter how undesirable or tragic, will be given context, at the very least. At the risk of having Ma’am Simbulan tsk-tsk at me for lack of attribution, I shall quote something she said as relayed to the worldwide web by one of her students: “I hope you will use your skills to turn this country upside down.”

When we recall Ma’am Simbulan’s teachings and how they have touched us in professional and personal ways, we will do so the way our mind’s eyes see her — with a smile. Just as the brightest sun is made to set, her life has come to an end, but not without streaming rays of hope and warmth to the ones she has left behind.

She once told our class of young journalists, “You still have a long way to go, but you’ll improve.” That is something we will continue to hold on to, for ourselves and for the country she so loved and served. Because in death as in life, Ma’am Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan not only taught by example, but even bettered the instruction.

Tanaw na Kawalan: Isang sesyon sa Batasan sa mga mata ng isang Moro

25 Mar

Sa unang tingin sa Session Hall ng Batasang Pambansa, madali itong maihahalintulad sa isang arena. Ang bulwagan ay pabilog, malawak at may mataas na kisame.

Kinabubuuan ito ng apat na baitang. Ang unang palapag ay para sa mga kongresista at ang kanilang mga panauhin. Ang pangalawa naman ay para sa mga mamamahayag, at ang pangatlo at pang-apat ay para sa iba pang manonood.

Para kay Kim Matsura, isang seaman tubong Cotabato, makatuwiran lang na ipagpalagay na ang 286 na kongresistang naihalal sa arenang ito ay nakikilahok sa labanang intelektwal. Umasa siyang kahit papaano ay aktibo silang nakikipagtalastasan tungkol sa pampublikong patakaran.

Kaya naman ganoon na lamang ang gulat niya at ng kanyang mga kasamang aktibista mula sa iba’t-ibang pulo ng Mindanao sa una nilang pagtapak sa Session Hall noong ika-22 ng Marso.

Namataan nila ang ilang kongresista na palibut-libot sa bulwagan at nakikipag-usap sa telepono o sa iba nilang mga kasama.

Ang iba naman tulad nila Congresswoman Imelda Marcos ng Ilocos ay nanatili sa kanila-kanilang mga lamesa na pinalamutian ng maka-ilang talampakan ng hindi naasikasong papeles.

Halos kalahati lamang sa mga kongresista ang dumalo sa sesyon, at iilan sa kanila ay nahuli pa nang dating. Kapansin-pansin din ang mga designer handbag ng mga babaeng kongresista at ang mga nagmamahalang sasakyan sa garahe ng kongreso.

Tinitutulan nila Matsura ang pagpasa ng House Bill 4146, na naglayong ipagsabay ang eleksyon sa Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) sa pangkalahatang lokal na eleksyon sa Mayo ng 2013. Ang orihinal na petsa ng botohan sa ARMM ay sa ika-11 ng Agosto ngayong taon.

Dalawang oras na nagdaos ng rally ang kanilang grupo ng mga Bangsamoro sa bungad ng Batasan. Pumasok sila sa Session Hall bandang alas singko ng hapon upang obserbahan ang pagtalakay ng HB 4146 sa plenaryo.

Isa sa mga probisyon ng resolusyon na mariing tinututulan ng mga Bangsamoro ay ang pagtalaga ng mga “transitionary leaders” ni Pangulong Benigno Aguino III sakaling mapasa ito. Pansamantalang mamumuno ang mga ito sa lahat ng elektibong posisyon sa local na pamahalaan hanggang sa eleksyon sa Mayo 2013.

Miyembro ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) si Matsura. Aniya, sumapi siya sa naturang militanteng grupo nang matunghayan niya mismo ang pagkamatay ng kanyang mga magulang at iba pang sibilyan sa isang crossfire.

Ang presidente bilang diktador?

“Idolo namin ang kanyang ina na si dating pangulong Cory Aquino. Sana lang matularan niya ang halimbawa nito,” ani Matsura tungkol sa kasalukuyang presidente.

Ang HB 4146 ay tinalakay sa plenaryo ng sponsor nitong si Congressman Elpidio Barzaga ng Cavite. Uminit ang usapan nang binusisi ni Congressman Antonio Tinio ng ACT Teacher party-list ang naturang panukala.

Kinuwestiyon ni Tinio ang kapangyarihan ng presidente na magtalaga ng mga opisyal gayong dapat raw ang mamamayan ang naghahahalal sa kanila. Dinagdag pa niya na ang ganyang klase ng sapilitang pamamahala ay gawain ng isang diktador.

Taimtim na pinakinggan ni Matsura ang interpellation ng dalawang kongresista. Hindi daw siya gaanong matatas sa Ingles, ngunit nasusundan naman daw niya ang daloy ng kanilang debate.

Ayon kay Matsura, simple lang naman daw ang mithiin nilang mga Moro – ang maibalik ang kapayapaan at maiwasto ang namamayaning sistema ng palakasan at dahas sa pulitika.

Wala man silang armas pagpasok ng Session Hall, umaasa silang ang kanilang presensya ay sapat na paalala sa mga kongresista na handa silang ipaglaban at ipagtanggol sa anumang arena ang kanilang karapatan sa mapayapa at matiwasay na pamumuhay.

Candidates for UPD Chancellor defend public-private partnerships

27 Jan

Public-private partnerships and the large-class system were among the issues discussed by the five nominees for University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman chancellor in a forum at the National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development (NISMED) Auditorium last Sunday.

Center for Women’s Studies Director Sylvia Claudio said that UP land could be maximized as an autonomous source of income, provided there was efficiency and equity between the administration and private companies.

Former College of Engineering (COE) Dean Rowena Guevara observed that private money was “much easier and faster to utilize,” citing the recent successful merger of the UP administration and COE alumni in constructing the P43-million UP Centennial Dormitory.

Asian Development Bank consultant Patrick Azanza, also a nominee for UP president last year, believed that interaction with the private sector would help academic units improve their curricula to reflect industry expectations and to produce more competent graduates.

College of Mass Communication (CMC) Dean Roland Tolentino said, “There should be no mad dash to bring in private institutions.” He stressed the need for environment-friendly development of the Academic Oval and preservation of green spaces on campus.

In addition to “necessary” public-private partnership, College of Science (CS) Dean Caesar Saloma called on the government to increase budget allocations for state universities and colleges (SUCs). He added that subsidies for SUCs should be embedded in the national expenditure program, and should not come in the form of oft-delayed congressional insertions.

Large classes, downsized learning

The candidates viewed the large-class system as a response to the lack of facilities and teachers in the university. Tolentino said that in colleges like CMC, where the maximum number of students for production classes is 15 to 20, larger class sizes comes at the expense of student learning. This contrasts with CS classes such as Science, Technology and Society (STS), which accommodates at least 100 students per section.

Guevara emphasized the importance of designing a productive overall learning environment for students of different disciplines. She said that in the COE, her Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) students benefitted from a combination of large-class discussion and smaller lecture classes conducted by senior and junior faculty members, respectively.

Incoming UP president Alfredo Pascual attended the open forum and took down notes as candidates fielded questions from students in the audience. “They have to be candid with what they’re saying, so we will know exactly their capability and their plans for UP,” said Pascual.

Selection process

The term of incumbent UPD Chancellor Sergio Cao will end on February 28. In a memorandum dated December 6 last year, outgoing UP President Emerlinda Roman outlined the search process for Cao’s successor.

A Search Committee composed of two senior faculty members, one junior faculty member, a representative of Roman and one representative each for the Research, Extension and Professional Staff (REPS), administrative personnel and students was formed to facilitate nominations and evaluate each candidate.

A series of candidate forums was organized to involve the different sectors of the university in the selection process. Each forum will begin with the nominees’ presentation of their vision papers, and will proceed to an open forum. The next forums will be held on January 31 at the UP School of Economics Auditorium and at the Faculty Center’s Claro M. Recto Hall on February 7.

The committee is set to submit their final report to Roman on or before February 18. She will then select the incoming UP Diliman chancellor from this list and present her choice to the Board of Regents, the highest policy-making body in UP, on February 24.



BJMP man nabbed for robbing student on campus, posts bail

22 Jan

An employee of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) was arrested after he held up at gunpoint a female dormitory resident at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City.

Reports from the UP Diliman Police (UPDP) identified the perpetrator as Francis Lawrence Miranda, 30, staff member of the Office of General Services at the BJMP. The incident happened around 8:45 p.m. last January 7, in front of the Church of the Risen Lord along J.P. Laurel Street.

Gelli Anne Dasaban, a 17-year-old engineering sophomore from Laguna, was on her way to the Ilang-Ilang Residence Hall when Miranda approached from behind and ordered her to hand over her bag. He threatened to shoot with his 9-mm pistol if she refused.

Dasaban obeyed but screamed for help before Miranda could run farther than two blocks away. This caught the attention of nearby security guards and members of the Special Services Brigade (SSB).

SSB patrollers managed to retrieve the victim’s belongings: a black bag with two cellphones, a wallet with P1000 cash and two automated teller machine (ATM) cards.

The perpetrator sustained head injuries after being thwarted and mauled by residents of Pook Ricarte, where he had intended to escape. He was sent to the UP Health Service and East Avenue Medical Center before being turned over to the Quezon City Police District Anonas Police Station.

First robbery

Miranda was a first-time criminal, according to SP Gregorio Aquino Jr. who handled the investigation. “Kailangan niya daw talaga magpadala ng P20, 000 sa kanila sa Nueva Ecija, kaya siya napilitan mang-holdap (He said he really needed to send P20, 000 to his family in Nueva Ecija, that’s why he was forced to stage a holdup),” said Aquino.

A robbery case was already filed against Miranda at the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office. However, Aquino said that in recent text messages, Dasaban informed him of her family’s decision to drop the charge. Miranda was freed on January 14, after posting a bail of P100, 000.

The incident was the first robbery case recorded by the UPDP for 2011. This was followed by another holdup at Pook Aguinaldo last January 8, involving a UP history professor. Statistics from the UPDP indicate that robbery incidents saw a decline in the previous year, from 27 in 2009 to 17 in 2010.

Senate OKs 2011 budget for SUCs amid student protests

3 Dec

Students and faculty members opposing budget cuts for state universities and colleges (SUCs) took their protests from the streets to the Senate grounds Wednesday.

An estimated 5,000 dissenters rallied for higher subsidies for the 112 SUCs in the 2011 budget, slated for final deliberation in the upper house that day.

Senators called for a closed-door caucus at 4:30 p.m. The P1,000,387,764,000 budget was passed more than two hours later, with only half the Senate present. The approved budget is scheduled for final bicameral reading on December 6.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III maintained that the supposed budget slash for SUCs was a misunderstanding. He claimed that the overall allocation for SUCs was actually increased, save for the P146-million cut from the budget for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE).

However, Sotto said that the 146-million was already reinstated during the caucus. He added that the upper house was also lobbying for an additional 110-million for MOOEs, subject to the approval of the bicameral assembly.

This 110-million supplement is expected to come from the inflated 800-million budget for “leveraging services and logistics” of the Department of Health’s proposed 2011 family health service program.

Sotto also appealed to students not to pin all the blame on the government. He called on the administrations of SUCs to appropriate their funds efficiently and to safeguard against misinformation.

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Allan Peter Cayetano lauded students for calling the attention of lawmakers. “I don’t think that this solution, kahit first step pa lang ito, would have happened if the students weren’t active,” he said.

“I felt it very much, na nung nag-uusap kami dito naririnig yung boses ng mga estudyante sa labas. Napapanood sa telebisyon, naririnig sa radyo, over the past few weeks. Maraming ibang sektor sa lipunan na nabawasan ng budget. Pero hindi sila nagreklamo,” Cayetano added.

Aquino and the self-sufficiency of SUCs

Earlier, some 150 students from the University of the Philippines Diliman rallied outside the UP AyalaLand Technohub along Commonwealth Avenue, where President Benigno Aquino III had a speaking engagement.

Aquino drew flak from the public higher education sector for his budget message to Congress last August, when he announced the gradual reduction of subsidy for SUCs “to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent, given their ability to raise their [own] income.”

The allocation for SUCs was set to decrease by 1.7 percent, from P23.8-billion in 2010 to P23.4-billion in 2011. Aquino justified the cut by citing alternative income-generating measures, such as partnerships with private corporations, as in the UP AyalaLand Technohub, and tuition fee increases.