Sunday, 29 June 2008

NUJP statement on the dismissal of the Manila Pen case

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is dismayed with the decision of the Makati regional trial court dismissing the case filed by media organizations and practitioners against government and security personnel who were responsible for the arrest of our colleagues during the November 29 standoff in Makati.

We do not agree with the decision and will contest it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

We view the court's decision as a minor setback that will not discourage us from seeking justice and ensuring that no such injustice shall ever again be committed by the police and other security personnel.

We maintain that there was absolutely no justification whatsoever for the security forces to haul off our colleagues, many in handcuffs, to the police headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa.

We will continue to defy any and all attempts by this and any other administration to cow or muzzle us into abrogating our duty to provide the people, whom we serve, with the information they need to make informed decisions about their individual lives and our collective future as a nation.

Jose Torres Jr.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Star-crossed Star ship

Whenever disaster strikes, finger-pointing follows.

Holier-than-thous or know-it-alls – who in their desire to have their names or sound bites included in the running coverage of a disaster story – are quick to the draw in calling for an investigation or demand for heads to roll.

In PGMA’s publicity playbook – a disastrous incident means another opportunity to show she’s in charge. And the best way to get this message across is by showing her fangs in public and put that infamous “temper” to good use.

The pattern of events – which we saw in many incidents like the Guinsaugon landslide of 2006 and in the aftermath of super typhoon Milenyo last year – is again unfolding in the tragic capsizing of M/V Princess of the Stars.

(Aerial photos released by the Philippine Coast Guard Aviation Group)

Media was quick to feast on how the Commander-In-Chief berated Vice Admiral Willy Tamayo, the newly-installed commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard, during a teleconference with officials and members of the National Disaster Coordinating Council. La Gloria went ballistic on why coast guard and port officials allowed the ship to leave port despite inclement weather.

Speaker Prospero Nograles – proving to all and sundry that he really is a “Bomba King” – fired away with a statement demanding the cancellation of the franchise of shipping companies which are considered as “recidivists in terms of sea disaster records.” And what follows in the succeeding paragraphs of Kuya Raul Beltran’s story are quotes and snippets of statements from congressmen eager to give justice to the victims of this maritime tragedy.

Not to be outdone, Transportation Secretary Larry Mendoza came out with an earth-shaking announcement that he’s ordering the convening of a Board of Marine Inquiry.
Len Bautista, the DOTC undersecretary for water transport who ironically is a captain in the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary, vowed to conduct an investigation, but in the same statement has already pinned the blame on Marina.

The nerve of these creeps.
Before I dish out my take on this series of chest-thumping acts by our eminent public servants, which we expect to heighten once the House Committee on Transportation begins its "show," allow me to make a disclosure on why I’m making a fuss on this issue.

1. For close to five years, I covered the maritime beat for the Manila Chronicle as a correspondent for over 2 years and as shipping editor for another 2 years. I joined the Chronicle’s crack team of “shipping reporters” at the time maritime officials and industry stakeholders were tweaking the country’s maritime safety policies in the aftermath of the Dona Paz and Dona Marilyn mishaps.

Our team had a ringside view on how the likes of the late Paciencio “Boi” Balbon, then president of the Conference of Interisland Shipowners and Operators (now called the Domestic Shipowners Association) who became head of the Maritime Industry Authority when Sonny Garcia became transportation secretary; Vicente “Tet” Gambito, then vice president of Sulpicio Lines (he's now a blogger); Commodore Chuck Agustin, commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard who became general manager of the Philippine Ports Authority (he now heads the National Defense College of the Philippines); Undersecretary Valdecanas, the real work horse of the DOTC during Tita Cory's term, and a host of others collaborated and in many instances, crossed swords to find ways to avert a repeat of the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster (the Dona Paz incident).
2. As an officer of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary, I've seen how our coastguardsmen beat the odds to make our seas safe and save lives and properties at sea.
As their brother in unform, I’m duty-bound to help straighten out the distortion of information that at times like this only makes the job more stressful for Admiral Tamayo, Commodore Louie Tuazon (commander of the PCG-NCR-Central Luzon district) and Coast Guard spokesman, Lt. Cmdr Armand Ballilo.

Don't blame the Coast Guard

Admiral Tamayo -- a product of the US Coast Guard Academy -- was right in insisting that the Coast Guard is not at fault on why the ship was allowed to leave port.

After the Dona Paz and Dona Marilyn incidents, maritime officials came out with a set of guidelines that clearly spells out which types of vessels are grounded and which are allowed to set sail during stormy weather conditions.
The Princess of the Stars, which has a rated capacity of over a thousand passengers, was only carrying over 800 and is therefore, not overloaded when it embarked on its last voyage. The Coast Guard had no basis whatsoever, to prevent the vessel from leaving port.

Admiral Tamayo was trying to explain to GMA that under existing maritime safety guidelines, the Princess of the Stars is big enough to cut through rough seas – unfortunately, the ship’s engine conked out preventing it from running to the nearest harbour and seek shelter.

If I remember it right, a new set of guidelines was put in place after the 1998 Princess of the Orient tragedy. A copy of the revised guidelines signed by Admiral Damian Carlos in 2007 can be found on the website of ABS-CBN News.

During the watch of Vice Admiral Reuben Lista, there was a time that the Coast Guard was extra strict on vessel departures. There were a number of times that carte blanche grounding orders were issued even when the storm signal was only on the first level which smart alecks in the media feasted upon.

At one time, Admiral Lista and the entire PCG drew flak from the general public when they prevented ships from leaving port – because there was a storm signal – and the day went on with no rain drop falling from the sky. What followed was a strong lobby from the business sector for the Coast Guard to relax its guidelines with some even threatening to sue the PCG for the losses they claimed to have incurred.
Countless times, our poor Coast Guard would find itself in Catch 22 situations for doing or bungling its job to save lives and properties at sea.

Cheap points

Like Speaker Nograles and the other politicos, General Larry Mendoza, the policeman turned transport czar, attempted to score cheap publicity points when he announced that he has ordered the convening of the Board of Marine Inquiry. General Mendoza, you need not make this announcement as the BMI is automatically convened in cases like this. Lousy ka sir!

The Board of Marine Inquiry is expected to determine whether the ship was seaworthy at the time of the accident. Investigators, including master mariners, will pore over safety inspection reports and check on the licenses and competence of the ship’s officers and crew. The Board will interview survivors, and witnesses to get a picture on how and why the accident happened.

My two-cents advice to our blood-thirsty congressmen, hang fire and allow the BMI to do its job. You can have all the time in the world to make a circus out of this tragedy after all the facts are in.

Tragic reprise

Incidentally, the ill fate of the Princess of the Stars reprised that of its star-crossed sister ship, the Princess of the Orient in 1998.

Like the Princess of the Stars, M/V Princess of the Orient was a big interisland liner. Like most vessels in the Philippine domestic service, Princess of the Orient was bought second-hand from Japan.

No shipowner in the Philippines can afford to buy a brand new ship. Before the modernisation of the domestic shipping industry came to fore in the 1990s, ships ferrying passengers to interisland destinations were mostly made of wood. Steel-hulled ships were over decades old, rickety and small in size.
The need to modernise domestic shipping prompted the government in cooperation with banks and foreign funding agencies to come out with a scheme to help local shipping companies acquire better, safer “second hand” ships.
The initiative revolutionised interisland shipping. William Lines, Gothong Lines and Aboitiz Transport merged into the WG&A and launched the SuperFerry while Sulpicio and Negros Navigation went on expansion mode. It was also through this shipping modernisation programme that we saw the entry of fastcrafts in short interisland routes.

During its prime, the Princess of the Orient was considered one of the best ships that plied domestic routes. Princess of the Orient was one of Sulpicio’s answer to the famed SuperFerries of WG&A. Talo lang sa publicity ang Sulpicio since they don’t have a Sharon Cuneta to call on travellers to: “Sakay Na!”
About a year before the Princess of the Orient sailed its last in September 1998, the Princess of the Orient caught fire while docked at the Manila North Harbor. I rushed to the North Harbor to cover the incident and was able to board the then tightly-guarded ship as a “consultant” of Arnie Santiago, then the chief investigator of the Marina.
I haven’t seen Arnie’s final report on the Princess of the Orient sinking, but I believe the fire affected the ship’s seaworthiness, but that’s getting ahead of our story.

Again like the Star, the Orient was given clearance to set sail because it was heavy enough to withstand the expected strong waves that come with storm signal 1.

Arnie, who investigated the accident, said the Orient’s ballast – which is responsible for helping keep the ship’s balance – malfunctioned, causing the ship to list to starboard before eventually capsizing off Fortune island in Batangas. My hunch, the fire that struck the ship’s engine room could’ve had affected the ship's ballast.

Based on a survivor’s testimony which I read in one news site, the Princess of the Stars was adrift and was already listing when it was pummelled by huge waves off Romblon. The violent rocking of the boat snapped the cables used to latch the cargoes stowed in the ship’s hold causing the Star to lose its stability and eventually sink.

Need to modernise

There were reports that the Coast Guard and Sulpicio’s in-shore crew received the Star’s distress signal, and promptly tried to send out a search and rescue party.

Lt.Cmdr. Balillo was quoted saying that a Coast Guard SAR vessel was despatched to the Star's last point of contact, but it had to turn back due to strong waves.
Helicopters from the Air Force and the Coast Guard could not go airborne as the PAF’s Hueys (not even those upgraded as Huey 2s) and the PCG’s BO-105s are not capable of all-weather flight unlike the Jayhawks used by the US Coast Guard.

Rescue teams had to wait for the weather to clear out before moving out to sea. Retrieval operations had to stop at nightfall as our navy, coast guard and air force are not equipped for night-time operations. Geez!

This highlights the need for a modern, well-equipped Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard was detached from the Navy primarily so that it could modernise its assets as a civilian agency.
As a military unit, many funding agencies like the JICA could not extend assistance to the PCG.
It was after the Coast Guard’s separation from the Navy in the late 1990s that the modernisation program went on full steam.

Through counter-trade, the PCG was able to acquire state-of-the-art Tenix SAR vessels from Australia. The coming into service of the spanking new ships boosted the morale of the Coast Guard.
In one party aboard the BRP Edsa Dos (which was skippered by then Capt Willy Tamayo), Admiral Lista boasted that with the modernisation programme up and running, they could even afford to return some of its boats and ships to the Navy since these rickety cutters would only eat up on their maintenance and operating budget.

Admiral Lista was even looking forward to the acquisition of all-weather rescue helicopters to replace the PCG’s ageing BO-105s as well as much bigger and powerful SAR vessels.
The good admiral has long retired and at least three of his successors had also gone fishing, his chief of staff (Admiral Tamayo) is now at the helm and his dream of a modern Coast Guard remains a dream.

More lives could’ve been saved if only the PCG had long-range, all weather SAR aircraft like C-130s modified for SAR missions and Jayhawks used by the US Coast Guard that can bring rescue swimmers like Kevin Costner’s character in the movie The Guardian to disaster sites.

Meantime, all we can do for now is hope for a better-equipped Coast Guard and pray for the victims of this tragedy.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

NUJP statement: Kidnapping of ABS-CBN journalists highlights need for media safety

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines greets with great relief the safe release of journalists Ces Drilon, Jimmy Encarnacion, Angelo Valderama and university professor Octavio Dinampo.

We thank all those who helped secure their safe return, especially Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidullah and Senator Loren Legarda, the military and police, and our colleagues who offered prayers of hope and the media outlets that kept close tabs on the unfolding crisis.

But even as we welcome back our colleagues, we also urge everyone in our profession to reflect on this incident as a sober reminder of the risks we constantly face as we go about our work.

If anything, the kidnapping of Ces, Jimmy and Angelo highlights a continuing problem within the industry that adds to the external dangers and threats to press freedom, and that is the responsibility of media owners and outfits to ensure the safety and welfare of those they send into the field, even into the line of fire, to deliver the news to our audience.

We urge everyone in the industry, from correspondents to media owners, to soberly reflect on this problem and come together to address this issue. We owe it to ourselves, to our families and to our audience.


Jose Torres Jr., Chairperson
Rowena Paraan, Secretary General

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Father's Day gift

Uy! Father's Day nga pala bukas. Can I greet myself "Happy Father's Day"...after all, blog ko naman to.

And since I greeted myself, nakakita rin ako ng perfect "Father's Day" gift for myself. This is what I need....tadaaaaaa

And here's how this stuff worls....... from

Okay, have a seat. We're gonna be perfectly honest with you and you may not like what you hear.

You know you're getting screwed at work. People without half your talent are being promoted left and right, while you're stuck in your dead end position. Now stop scratching your head and pay attention... here's the reason.
Everyone's better at brown nosing than you are. You have too much (note the quotes) "integrity." You're too "honest" and "straightforward." Well, you can sit there patting yourself on the back and stay a "loser" forever, or you can do something about it.
Ass Kisser Breath Spray will help you climb the corporate ladder by lowering your personal standards. Have trouble saying "yes" to the boss's bad idea? Just take a hit of this tasty cinnamon spray and you'll find yourself saying, "That's a great idea, Mr. Jones! It's an honor working for you!" (If your boss is not named "Jones," please substitute the correct name.)
You'll be amazed how far you can go with the help of Ass Kisser Breath Spray. You'll be invited to important meetings. You'll be taken to corporate dinners in swanky restaurants. And quicker than you can say "I've become the kind of person I've always despised," that elusive promotion will be handed to you on a silver platter.
Hey, we like self-esteem as much as the next guy, but try paying your mortgage with it. So the next time you're with the boss, swallow your pride and take a healthy spritz of Ass Kisser Breath Spray. You'll learn what your co-workers have always known -- Behind every brown nose, there's a lot of green!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Mabuhay ang kalayaan!

bantay bilihin sa Dubai

Okay, you've probably heard rants or read stories on how high the cost of living here in Dubai.

Choithram, one of the largest supermarket chains here in the UAE, has embarked on a very unique promotion -- a Philippine Independence Day sale -- targetting the hundreds of thousands of Filipino expatriates living in the fastest, costliest place in the Gulf.

I doff my hat to Choithram for putting one over "Filipino stores" such as DeBelchior, Philippines Supermarket, Kabayan Supermarket among others for coming up with such an idea.

I see this also as an opportunity to show my non-UAE-based friends how much are the prices of goods here.

Be guided that one UAE dirham is equivalent to 12 Philippine pesos (as of 2149H according to Take a look at Choitram's promo flyer and compare the prices.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

NUJP statement on Ces Drilon's abduction

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is deeply concerned at the reported abduction of respected broadcast journalist Ces Drilon, her crew, Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, and their host, peace advocate Octavio Dimampo, in Sulu by what authorities say are members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Whatever the abductors stand for, whatever their goals are, there is absolutely no justification for seizing journalists whose sole concern is to seek out the truth and present this as accurately as possible.

To them, we say, release Ces, Jimmy, Angelo and Mr. Dinampo. Seizing them cannot in any way serve your ends and can only bring down condemnation on your heads.

We call on authorities to exert all efforts to ensure the safe return of the journalists and their host. We are also urging for sobriety among our colleagues in the media in reporting about the incident so as not to aggravate the situation and endanger Drilon and her companions.

We are only too aware of the risks journalists go through in our work. Too many journalists are sent into dangerous coverage situations without adequate preparations and safety measures.

Many silently bear the scars and traumas of their coverage, with hardly any support from those who profit from their toil. It is time Philippine media owners soberly assess the situation and take steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues oftentimes caught in the line of fire just to get the news out.

To the families of Ces, Jimmy, Angelo, and Mr. Dimampo, we are one with you in praying for their safe return.


Jose Torres Jr., Chairperson

Rowena Paraan, Secretary General

Monday, 9 June 2008

Buti pa si lola....naka Crocs!

Sorry for being insensitive. I didn't mean to ridicule the old lady in this picture but the naughty Pinoy mind in me couldn't help but find a fun angle on this pic.
But seriously, my heart goes to people like her -- homeless, lonely and penniless. Asan ba pamilya niya? Why are they letting this poor lady beg on the streets? What is the government doing to alleviate the plight of our poor senior citizens? To think that government agencies are splurging on taxpayers' money -- like OWWA (per a COA report) spent tens of thousands for the ringtones, picture, games and mobile phone applications downloaded by the agency's officials and staff -- makes my blood boil.
Makonsyensya naman kayo!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Remember Walt Frazier

Initially, I thought this was just another NBA basketball trivia-nostalgia piece that usually comes a dime a dozen during the week that precedes the NBA Finals (especially now that the Lakers-Celtics rivalry has come out from the dead), but I was wrong.

Francis Kong's piece is inspiring especially to those who feel "down and out". I'm yielding my space to his Star column item. If you need to lift up your sagging spirit, check out his blog to help yourself get back on your feet.

BUSINESS MATTERS (Beyond the bottom line)
By Francis J. Kong

Philippine Star

Sunday, June 1, 2008

There are people in the work place whose favorite part of the human anatomy is the back. These are the people who love to back-stab and back-bite and they feel that the only way they can add value to themselves is to devalue others. They are in the work place, they are in organizations and they are also found in churches too.

What do you do when you are a victim of injustice?

What do you do when you are on the receiving end of a smear campaign? Ask me. I’ve got stories to tell. I am not speaking theory here but I am speaking based on actual experiences. These experiences are not exactly ecstatic for me but I sure am learning a lot from it.

There are people out there whose joy in life is to see me fail as I am sure there are people out there whose mission in life is to destroy you and your career or business. These are insecure people who cannot stand good and healthy competition. These are yellow-bellied cowards who would not dare fight you face to face. They scheme. They mislead. They plot. They conspire. Lying is their native tongue. Hypocrisy is their virtue.

Deception is their character. And then they hurt you or at least they irritate you.

So what do you do?

Some times it gets to you. You have within your means the arsenal to fight back and you are almost there. It is so tempting. All it takes is a hard blow. Just one strike is all it takes and you have all the plans in place. Your mind tells you: “The best defense is offense…!!!” Should you hit back or shouldn’t you?

When you find yourself in this situation…try to remember the celebrated basketball player of the New York Knicks Walt Frazier.

Walt Frazier was the soul and the spirit of the New York Knicks in the early ’70s—unflappable, unselfish, versatile and smooth, he embodied the essence of what made champions special.

Although he was overflowing with basketball talent, he was first and foremost a team player. And although he’s often remembered for his on-court and off-court smoothness, his game was definitely not all-style-and-no-substance. Frazier brought the goods—he had an inner toughness and heart underneath the controlled flow.

Many years ago during a Knicks-Bullets playoff game, one of the Bullets came up from behind and punched Walt Frazier in the face. Strangely, the referee called a foul on Frazier. Frazier didn’t complain. His expression never changed. He simply called for the ball and put in seven straight shots to win the game, an amazing display of productive anger. This provides us with a great moral lesson as well.

Watching Frazier played his ball game many years ago, I officially considered him my hero for “Coolness.” I taught myself at a very young age that being “cool” is the tool of the intelligent.

Being destructive is the tool for fools. Being “cool” accomplishes more than being emotional and explosive.

And in being cool, I have discovered 3 ways of hitting back these cowards who continue their mission of destruction. And if you are currently being hit these days, do the following:

1. Pray. God does not sleep. Vengeance is His not yours. He knows how to deal with the situation. And when you know that you have Him on your side you will always be on the winning side. No, don’t pray for God to hit those losers with thunder and lightning but you should pray that God forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. That they may come to genuine repentance and realize the sins they are committing.

2. Learn. Realize that wickedness lies in the heart of people. And if this could happen to them the same thing could happen to you as well. The heart is hopelessly and wickedly deceiving. So learn form the experience and be on guard. Determine never to decline and deteriorate to their level.

3. Live. The best form of revenge is a life well lived. Excel in what you do and use the energy and channel them on doing more than what you are able to do. Let these losers fuel you with the creative anger and passion to succeed more.

Be a Walt Frazier in the hard court of life and business.

And always remember this:

Never wrestle with a pig. And there are 2 reasons why:

Number 1: You get yourself dirty and number 2: The pig loves it!