Wednesday, 14 May 2008

National Pressed Club

picture from

I drafted a blog entry at the time the canvassing of votes for this year’s National Press Club elections was ongoing, But due to the hassle, hustle, stress, anxiety that I had to overcome the past few days, that blog entry was never finalised and has been overtaken by events.

My good friend, Benny Antiporda, who writes a column for Remate, won the presidential derby, outpointing another friend, Roman Floresca, assistant business editor of the Philippine Star.

Manong Roman, who has served in various capacities at the NPC, belongs to the old boy’s club. I first met the guy way back in 1993 when I was executive editor of AgriScope magazine and he was president of the Philippine Agriculture Journalists.

AgriScope had just been elevated to the Hall of Fame for winning three-straight Binhi Agriculture Magazine of the Year awards and the PAJ officers and Binhi winners were at Malacanang Palace for a photo op with President FVR. That was 15 years ago, I was 23 years old, and some old fogeys in the Agri brat pack were sour-graping that a newbie and a virtual unknown was able to hack it over them.

Through the years, Manong Roman and I would share a drink or two with friends and colleagues either at the NPC bar or at Peter Lee's. We even ran together in Louie Logarta’s Press Freedom Party ticket. He won, I lost.

In past NPC elections, Manong Roman would always emerge as a winner because as an old Club habitué, he enjoyed “brand recall” and the “equity of the incumbent.” Not to mention, he carries more clout as assistant business editor and agriculture editor of the Philippine Star, the third largest broadsheet paper in the country, while I was just a news editor of a Manila-based tabloid or in my first attempt, Metro editor of a short-lived pro-government broadsheet.

The two elections that I tried to measure my popularity among industry colleagues ended up as failures. The last one I lost by just three votes. Louie had attributed my defeat to my refusal to compromise and soften my hardline stand against “hao shaos” or hustlers and hoodlums masquerading as journalists and for including the purging of the NPC’s membership roster in my program of priorities.

Benny Antiporda, on the other hand, came to my consciousness as his family name rings a bell among Manila-based journalists. I’m not really sure if he’s related to the infamous Jess Antiporda, a former colleague in the Journal Group, who also served in the NPC board. Jess’s daughter, Jessa, was our mascot at the old Chronicle.

Jess was implicated in the “envelopmental journalism” scandal that rocked the Club in the early 90s, which had my kumare Jinky Joan Jorgio, then a correspondent of the defunct Daily Globe, as one of those who blew the whistle. The incident led to a much-publicised Ethics Committee probe and a massive exodus of Club members..

A few years later, Jess’s “cherubic” face would grace primetime news after he was arrested in an entrapment operation when he allegedly demanded “mansanas” from a police general who doesn’t count him as one of the apples of his eyes.

Benny A. inspecting the controversial press freedom mural done by the Angono artists

Back to Benny. I initially knew him as a columnist for Remate, writing about crime or police-related issues. He was never a reporter. He never pounded the beat, poring over police blotters in search of a juicy story and never experienced getting eaten alive by an overzealous editor over a missed deadline or a mangled composition. He goes around town in luxury cars or SUVs with a coterie of armed bodyguards. He was once featured in a GMA-7 documentary on how journalists are defending themselves against threats. He has a lugawan along Roces Avenue which was once victimised by a freeloading “hao shao.”

If I’m not mistaken, Benny is still head of the Special Operations Group of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group, making him a functionary under the Office of the President. He continues to write columns for Remate and another tabloid.

Our paths would cross from time to time, but we were never really introduced to each other. Naintriga lang daw sya sa akin dahil kung saan-saan daw niya ako nakikita.

Benny suddenly emerged at the height of the NUJP’s “Stop Killing Journalists” campaign, joining us at the symbolic Manila Bay sunset photo-shoot protest and torch-lighting ceremonies at the Scout’s Circle.

Our bond was somewhat cemented when he agreed to help Lyden Mendoza raise money for the liver transplant of his then two-year-old son Mark, who was suffering from biliary atresia.

Benny and NUJP chairman Joe Torres were the last media colleagues I chilled out with before I went back to Dubai. Rumours had it that Benny was priming up Joe to run as his vice president in this NPC elections. But Joe -- who became the poster boy of the Committee to Protect Journalists, head honcho of and an accomplished journalist and book writer -- was just laughing off the bits that came out of the grapevine.

As Lito Malinao wrote in his Manila Times column, Benny came from out of nowhere when he ran as Roy Mabasa’s vice presidential candidate in the controversial 2006 NPC elections.

Before I left for Dubai, Benny was already laying down the groundwork for his NPC bid as he was making himself visible in the Club and was busy marshalling resources in forming the Alyansa ng Filipinong Mamamahayag (Afima), which he said was formed “para tulungan ang mga kapwa nating journalist.”

I’m not privy on how the Old Guards see Benny before the last elections, but based on tales I hear from my unreliably unreliable sources code named “Estong” and “Manay Linda,” he has yet to earn the full trust and confidence of the “lifetimers” which explains why the likes of Neal Cruz, and Fred Rosario openly supported Manong Roman in their respective columns.

While Manong Roman was pictured as the “white knight” that was to save the NPC from the dark forces, I’m afraid he too couldn’t lay claim to have formed a ticket composed of “legits.”

In his slate, I saw the names of a former NPC official, who in his prime managed to insert the entire Binondo chamber of commerce into the NPC members’ list ensuring his and his anointed ones' victory in the polls, a close-in photographer of a politician who has no clear and present legitimate links to a media organisation, a former NPC officer who was a publisher of a once-a-year tablod and who comes from a family of "hao shaos," a self-styled entertainment guru who freeloads on travels and events and a "newsman" who has been running in NPC elections since the time of Ka Doroy Valencia, Kumbaga, maski sa line-up nila, may mga “hao shao” rin.

Like in previous elections, this year’s battle royale became a proxy war between the “broadsheets” and the “tabloids.” Anol Mongaya of Sun*Star tackled this in his column.

For me, the NPC elections has degenerated into a tug-of-war between the “legits” and the “hao shaos”.

Through the years, many “hao shaos” have used the NPC as a vehicle to legitimise their illegitimacy. I’ve seen this many times over, and at one time “strained” my relations with Louie Logarta. I’ve seen how scoundrels get away with crime or make a fast buck using their NPC cards as “estampitas” that give them immense power and influence.

Benny had promised to institute massive reforms at the Club, which includes the weeding out of “hao shaos.” I hope he keeps his promise the way I saw him make good on his promise to Lyden Mendoza.

But hey, you don’t get back at your allies. And I see this pledge of “hao shao” cleansing remaining as such.

Prove your critics – including me – wrong, Pareng Benny!

* * *
To supplement this entry on the NPC, I’m reprinting the contrasting columns of Neal Cruz and Louie Logarta. Be the judge.

By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:59:00 05/06/2008

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. — Edmund Burke

And so evil has triumphed again.

The “haoshiaos,” or pseudo-journalists, overwhelmed the legitimate journalists in the National Press Club (NPC) election last Sunday. Many lifetime members harkened to the call and went to the NPC to vote and turn back the horde, but there were just too many of the enemy at the gates. It was like the Mongol hordes sacking the Christian countries.

The silver lining in the dark cloud was the sight of so many lifetime members, genuine, tried and tested journalists all, trooping to the NPC to try to save their club, for which I thank them. It warmed the heart to see many colleagues whom I had not seen in years there. Satur Ocampo and Bobbie Malay were there. Julie Yap-Daza was there. Rolly Espina flew in from Bacolod City just to vote. Another planed in from Davao. Joven Custodio came on a wheelchair. Joe Arazas, recovering from a kidney transplant, left his bed to vote. So did his boss Ed Santiago and his photographers in the Daily Express. Gus Villanueva, who doesn’t usually leave his Journal office, was there. So was Manny Benitez and Lucino Rebamontan and Rolly Estabillo and Julius Fortuna and Alice Colet (though not her hubby Oscar) and many, many others. The NPC should hold elections every six months, not once every two years, if only to have more frequent reunions of veteran journalists.

The number of lifetime members who voted was double that in the previous election. Still, they and the other legitimate members were not enough to stem the tide of pseudos. There are just too many of the latter. They have been preparing for this poll for the last two years by padding the voters’ list. It seems that everybody that the tabloid owners can corral, including their houseboys and drivers, are on the NPC list. Would you believe that three low circulation tabloids in the Bureau of Customs have more members than the three biggest national dailies: the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Manila Bulletin and The Philippine Star?

Winner Benny Antiporda has promised to cleanse the membership roster. Will he do it? Is he sincere? Let’s see.

Antiporda also promised, before the election, to return the lost Vicente Manansala mural. Now that he has been elected will he still do it? Let’s see.

Before I forget, let me offer my congratulations to Antiporda. I hope he succeeds in reforming the NPC and stop the decline that has been going on for the last several years.

In the speeches before the voting, there were many calls for “reconciliation” and “brotherhood” and for disgruntled members to return to their club, but that can only happen when the Antiporda group shows sincerity, when the mural is returned (the sale of which started it all), and the membership list is purged. That is the bottom line. That is the first step to reconciliation.

Remember, you have won a battle but not the war. And from hereon Big Brothers will be watching you. ###

Sour grapes

By Louie Logarta
05/08/2008, The Daily Tribune

Losers will be losers. And as expected, the losers in the just-concluded elections of the National Press Club (NPC) last Sunday — which was made all the more interesting due to the behind-the-scenes participation of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Government Service Insurance System which allegedly pumped in more than P1 million to finance the campaign of certain candidates — are sour-graping.

Who can blame them, after all they were dealt a stinging defeat (14-1) by members of the Press Freedom Party (PFP) whose campaign platform was anchored on performance. The accomplishments of the PFP, most of whose members are incumbent NPC officials, are to say the least impressive.

During the two-year term from 2006-2008, they were able to have the Club’s half-century old elevator (Sen. Manny Villar was once trapped inside the old one when its motor somehow malfunctioned while he was going up to attend a function of the Press Photographers of the Philippines) replaced at a cost of some P1.6 million; repainted the façade of the NPC building which cost around P400,000; retired partially the Club’s old debt to the Meralco which past NPC presidents, including two who are among the current officials’ most virulent critics due to vested reasons, to the tune of some P1.3 million; established a scholarship program for deserving offspring of legitimate NPC members; provided medicines of needy NPC members; set up a pool of top-notch lawyers for the defense of newsmen in courts, especially those caught up in libel cases, among others.

The support base of the PFP was made up of hundreds of tabloid newsmen who had joined forces during the NPC polls with the steely resolve of repudiating those fellow mediamen, as well as paid hacks of their financiers (including this PR man underwriting the expenses of selected columnists and business reporters during the Monday Club at Wack Wack) who had unfairly impugned their integrity by calling them “corrupt hao shiao journalists” during the vitriolic demolition campaign conducted in the campaign run-up.

But it was precisely all this negative campaigning, the incessant branding of tabloid newsmen in bought-and-paid-for newspaper stories and columns as hao shiaos or pseudo-journalists and the thoughtless expenditure of alleged taxpayers’ money that transformed the ragtag tabloid newspapermen into a band of brothers who are now a potent force in NPC politics for years to come.

One bright spot, though, in the super-heated NPC polls, was the unusual interest it managed to stir up among the lifetime members, many of whom who hadn’t showed up in decades. The number of lifetime members who had come to vote was pegged at 152 by the NPC election committee, which was ably headed by veteran journalist Willy Baun. We were told it was the biggest in the Club’s 56-year history.

The observation brought up by the sour-graping losers that three small tabloids have more voting members in the NPC as compared to the nation’s three biggest national dailies (meaning the Inquirer, Star and Bulletin) does hold water.

But it should be pointed out, lest it be forgot, that the Inquirer and the Star totally withdrew from participating in NPC affairs some 18 years ago because they were disgusted with all the alleged corruption and shenanigans going on.

The Inquirer people (myself included) began pulling out after editor Roy Acosta was trounced in the NPC presidential elections by a Bulletin man whom they had accused of padding the voters list with non-existent correspondents, editorial assistants, copy boys and drivers from his organization. And the Star did also a year later after the same Bulletin man soundly defeated one of its people, also during the presidential derby; but this was after the Bulletin guy welshed on a gentleman’s agreement he had made with the Star man (who at the time was his vice president) that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection.

Incidentally, the newly-elected officers of the NPC for the 2008-2010 term are Benny Antiporda of Remate, president; Rolly “Lakay” Gonzalo of UNTV and dwIZ, vice-president; Amor Virata of Remate, treasurer; Berteni Causing of Hataw and Police Files Tonite, auditor; Board members Jerry Yap of Hataw, Marlon Purificacion of People’s Journal, Percy Lapid of dwIZ, Alvin Feliciano of Hataw, William Depasupil of the Manila Times, Ronniel de Guzman of Manila Bulletin, Joel Egco of Manila Standard-Today, lifetime member Freddie Manalac and Rolando Cobarrubias of the Daily Tribune; and yours truly as secretary.

Truly, those who laugh last laugh loudest. ###

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