28 July 2016
Shangri-La at the Fort, Taguig City
Now more than at any point in our history, people around the world consume more news than food, hindi ko alam kung totoo yun, and yet we know and appreciate very little of the determination, commitment to accuracy, and very long hours that print journalists need to just put one issue of a newspaper to bed.
Many of you have been doing this for the last 30 years. You have lived through the shift from analog to digital printing, from walkie talkies to the pager to text messaging, from the fax machine to email, and from FX, to MRT to Uber. I don’t know if anyone here started working when the kalesa was still the mode of transportation? If so, let me personally shake your hand after, it would be an honor to meet you.
To the outside world, you seem to be hardened pessimists. Journalists are known to be hard to impress. You see everything. Some of you, perhaps out of frustration may claim you are doing this job only because you need your salary. But we know better.
We know that you’ve lasted this long in the industry because you are passionate about truth. We know that you do it because the Fourth Estate is not something to be trifled with, and you would do the job even if it means working very long hours. You complain and vent every day precisely because you love this country. So we get you.
The freedom to speak your mind, to express your frustrations, and to call for change is a freedom bought by the blood, sweat and tears of many great journalists before you. It is because of them that we are able to celebrate 30 years worth of published daily issues. Imagine how many mountains of published words you have churned out in the last 30 years — words that not just one pair of eyes pore over every day of your lives, but many pairs of eyes.
Many of our nation’s problems could be solved if people read newspapers on a daily basis. We would have a more educated voter base, a more engaged citizenry, youth that understand what critical thinking entails, and parents who know that their children don’t need a lecture on their grades but a lecture on integrity and good citizenry. That is what we truly believe in.
Your words are a blessing to our nation. If they are written truthfully, with a view towards not just pointing out errors, mistakes of judgment, and poor policies, but with the end in mind of engaging to understand, empower, and reform, published words can move a nation to greatness.
Now that the government has put the full force of its commitment behind the Freedom of Information, and with open data institutionalized in government agencies, the press can be an even more powerful instrument for deep change that will last. The information highways are open; it is up to you to dive deep into the numbers and make sense of them.
As you know, during the 16th congress, I filed a Freedom of Information bill ensures that every Filipino citizen should be able to access information from the government pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as government research data used as a basis for policy development, regardless of its physical form or format. Our bill also ensures that information should be supply-driven, not demand-driven. In other words, government should be obliged to make information public even without demand. On top of that, information should be communicated in a useful or friendly way.
When my husband was still Mayor of Naga, the City Hall has always made data available to its citizenry. Information about public biddings, prices for public school chairs, each square meter of concrete constructed for public highways and things like that, are posted in public places. But good governance is a two-way street. Government should be open about its data; but people have to care enough to use them. If our citizenry is not yet ready, we hope that you already are. Soon you no longer have to beg the officials in your beats for memos. They are obligated to make all these available before you even ask.
I see now that you are excited about partying, more than anything else. Maybe excited about the raffle. It has just been announced that a Ford Escape is waiting for a new owner, and I will end my speech now so that the booze and conversation can start flowing, for real. So I’ll end with this: may Philippine Star live longer and prosper better and may all of you reporters, editors, copy editors, managers and everyone who works in Philippine Star get the bonuses you deserve. Enjoy the night and please remember drive home safely. Happy anniversary to everyone, magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat!