MANILA – Members of the National Union of the Philippines (NUJP) posthumously recognized four journalists and a lawyer who played vital roles in advancing press freedom in the country during its 8th National Congress Sunday (Feb. 24) evening.
NUJP honored Philippine Daily Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot (died Mar. 2, 2012), Philippine Press Institute (PPI) Executive Director Jose Pavia (died April 11, 2011), radio commentator and environmental advocate Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega (murdered Feb. 24, 2011), Bulacan-based journalist Maria “Nene” Bundoc-Ocampo (died Sept. 17, 2012), and human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong (died Sept. 16, 2012), for serving as instruments in promoting excellence in journalism and in fighting impunity.
Apart from being the publisher of Philippine Daily Inquirer from 1994 until his death, Yambot had supported every press freedom campaign that NUJP waged. Rowena Paraan, incoming NUJP chair, said Yambot had always made himself available whenever the organization invited him, be it forums or jam nights with media colleagues.
She said Yambot was so moved with the brutal murder of 58 people including 32 journalists in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009 that in one event held immediately after the massacre, tears fell from his eyes.
Accepting the posthumous award for Yambot was Joan Bondoc, Inquirer photojournalist and former Philippine Center for Photojournalism chair.
Imparting his knowledge and skills in every training and conference conducted by PPI under his leadership, Pavia had endeared himself to students and fellow journalists alike. Even after his death, the Bulacan-based paper Mabuhay, of which he was publisher, continues to set the standards for community journalism and journalism in the vernacular.
A radio commentator until his death in February 2011, Ortega was known for his commentary on the misuse of government revenues from the Malampaya oil project, which, as established in a recent Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Hearing, could be linked to his killing. NUJP Directorate member Redempto Anda, Palawan Inquirer correspondent and a friend of Ortega, received the recognition.
Ocampo, Mabuhay cofounder, Pilipino Section editor of the Philippine News Agency during the Martial Law era and Ang Pilipino Ngayon section editor, strove for excellence in journalism in the local language at a time when many journalists look down on the idea. Fred Villareal, Manila Standard Today correspondent and Ocampo’s former colleague at Punto Central Luzon, accepted the award.
Pro-people lawyer Capulong was very much loved and esteemed by journalists. He was among those who prepared the petition filed by NUJP and media organizations for the live broadcast coverage of the Ampatuan Massacre.
In one of his last engagements with journalists, he urged them to take risks and “push the envelope” to get around the seemingly restrictive guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court for the live coverage of the massacre trial.
The two-day National Congress discussed how the organization will better respond to challenges faced by the Philippine Press. Members from NUJP’s 50 chapters also elected their new set of officers during the event.