Thursday, September 13, 2007

Conflict-Sensitive Reporting aims to rethink journalist's role

BACOLOD, Negros Occidental (Mike Baños / Sep 13) - The Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON) recently completed its first ever trainer's training in a bid to multiply its advocacy to revisit the journalist's role especially in the reportage of conflict stories.

PECOJON International Coordinator Antonia Koop lectures PECOJON trainers during the first PECOJON trainor's training held in Bacolod City recently.

"PECOJON is the only network of journalists worldwide that links theory and practice in conflict-sensitive journalism as defined by German journalist Nadine Bielke, based on peace journalism tools and techniques developed by British journalists Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick, who in turn started their ground breaking work from the works of peace scholar Johann Galtung" said Antonia Koop, international coordinator for PECOJON based in this city.

"We are an international network of journalists who work in, with, and about conflict," said Jeanette C. Patindol, national coordinator. "The members are print, radio and broadcast journalists, journalism teachers and students as well as writers and filmmakers who have committed themselves to solidarity and networking for a constructive conflict reporting."

"The network is a platform for investigation and practical support but also acts as a base for common projects, trainings and discussion," said Ledrolen Manriquez, chief of operations of the PECOJON national secretariat, who together with Ms. Koop and Ms. Patindol, co-founded PECOJON in 2004.

Ms. Koop clarifies that conflict-sensitive journalism is not peace advocacy but rather seeks to create space for peaceful resolution, instead of escalation, as many news stories are now researched, written and presented.

"This new reporting paradigm seeks to re-establish the journalist's role in reporting conflict by using peace journalism tools and techniques such as conflict analysis, to help the stakeholders involved in a conflict to understand its nature, who are involved in it, and the information they need to resolve it themselves," Ms. Koop said.

The "round-table" approach to reportage gives voice to the goals of the various stakeholders involved in a conflict, thereby opening up space for creative solutions to the conflict, she added.
"I got years of extensive experience in the profession but learning has always been a continuing process for me. I have dedicated my career on achieving excellence in journalism," said Dennis Jay Santos, Davao correspondent of a national broadsheet, following the first trainer's training.

"PECOJON gives me a fresh understanding on how journalism takes an important role in the modern world and insights on how to best meet the challenges that confronts us as journalists."
PECOJON started as a Philippine-German partnership and now has some 350 members in Australia, Austria, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Japan, Kosovo, Nigeria, Somalia, Thailand, Togo, United Kingdom, United States and the Philippines.

Currently better known as a training institution, PECOJON has been running a series of trainings on conflict-sensitive reporting with assistance from the International Institute for Journalism (IIJ) of InWent, Berlin. However, Ms. Koop feels its time for members to take their learnings to the next step and use it in their profession.

"Our network is member-driven," she said. "Everything comes from the members, everything is for the members. Transforming the world, all ideas come from members. How the world covers conflict is how members want it."

At present, PECOJON has six chapters in the Philippines : Manila, Luzon, Visayas, Western Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and Davao.

"We have no "top-down" culture," said Ms. Patindol. "We are on track with our own vision which is "member-driven." Members present ideas on how they can grow better, we just support."
For now, all chapter coordinators all volunteers, but in the future each chapter is envisioned to nominate three coordinator candidates with the National Secretariat making the final choice.

"The National Secretariat's criteria on who is best suited to coordinate the chapter would depend on its current development and needs," said Ms. Manriquez. "We need coordinators who have the ability, time and most important, commitment to lead their chapters."

German journalist Antonia Koop tours visiting journalists at the PECONON Headquarters in Bacolod City.

The National Secretariat is composed of all chapter coordinators and acts as the body that would shape the network, and choose a national coordinator from among themselves. It will be the center of the national network and its main channel of communications, Ms. Patindol said.

"The international coordinating committee consists of a representative each from each national network and we envision this to be organized in five to seven years," Ms. Koop said.

Like in the Philippines, all international chapters will be manned by volunteers with each country given the leeway to choose its own legal personality, given the peculiarities inherent of the law in each country.

As of now, PECOJON will focus on its trainings and coming out with the PECOJON Handbook before the end of the year, Ms. Patindol said.

From the Philippines, PECOJON will eventually conduct its trainings in East Timor and Indonesia by 2008; adding one training each for Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia by 2009 and two trainings in these same countries by 2010.

In the long run, PECOJON visualizes itself as one international network with which journalists can work together. Other projects online include media consultancy to invite media leaders to ask their opinion on how they can improve journalism and exchange programs to strengthen international ties starting with Togo, West Africa.

Eventually, the network aims to establish a PECOJON Palm Academy which aims to close the gap between theoretical background and practical application of conflict-sensitive journalism based on a training needs analysis which shall identify the gap between academe and PECOJON members in the field.

"The idea is to run a complete program for conflict-sensitive journalism perspective on quality management on air TV, radio stations from a united newsroom," Ms. Koop said. "The core idea is to have resources shared by all media organizations and grow the young ones together for better reporting."


Life sentence for Erap

P876M deposits, house forfeited

CAGAYAN de Oro Journal (Peter Tabingo / Sept 13) FORMER President Joseph Estrada was convicted yesterday of the crime of plunder and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a maximum of 40 years.

But the Sandiganbayan Special Division acquitted him of the crime of perjury for lack of evidence.

Estrada’s co-accused in the plunder case, Sen. Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and lawyer Edward Serapio, were acquitted for insufficient evidence.

The Special Division decided to allow Estrada to be detained at his Tanay rest house pending his appeal owing to his stature as former president.

Estrada’s lawyers will file a motion for reconsideration.

The Sandiganbayan ordered the forfeiture of his documented bank accounts and a house and lot dubbed as "Boracay Mansion" in New Manila, Quezon City, which the graft court held was purchased by Estrada using P142 million from jueteng payola.

The bank deposits included the P200 million in the bank account of the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation and the P189 million Estrada was supposed to have received as commission from the purchase of Belle Corporation Shares by the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System.

All in all, he stands to give up P876.29 million.

Estrada was barred from holding public office either by election or appointment.

The court session which was broadcast live started at 9:20 a.m. and adjourned 15 minutes later as defense lead counsel Jose Flaminiano manifested the wish of Estrada that only the dispositive portions of the decision on the plunder and perjury cases be read.

Estrada arrived at around 8:40 a.m. and was brought to the holding room at the sixth floor.

He was led to the courtroom at 9:13 a.m., accompanied by former Sen. Luisa "Loi" Estrada, and his sons, Jinggoy, San Juan Mayor Jose Victor Ejercito, Jude Estrada and daughter Jackie Ejercito-Lopez.

Also in the courtroom were former Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, Sen. Loren Legarda, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, Malabon Mayor Toby Tiangco, Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn, former Estrada spokesman and Shariff Kabunsuan Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla, and Estrada spokesman Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

Ma. Teresa Pabulayan, special division clerk of court, read the perjury ruling first and although Estrada was acquitted, there was no cheering or hardly any sound from either side as both waited for the court’s pronouncement in the main case of plunder.


When Pabulayan announced that Estrada was guilty in the plunder charge, the former president shook his head twice while Jackie broke down in tears.

Later, JV and Jude Estrada also cried. Estrada made his way out of the courtroom barely controlling his tears.

The former president himself had red-rimmed eyes as he made his way out of the courtroom.
But he consented to requests from reporters for his reaction.

"It (conviction) was to be expected. I subjected myself to the rule of law against the advice of my close friends. This was a special division created to convict me," Estrada said.

Rene Saguisag, co-lead counsel for Estrada, told the court that the former president would rather be jailed in the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

"President Estrada has absolutely no intention of seeking special treatment, Your Honors. Far be it from him to seek special privileges. This may be confirmed by the convict himself," Saguisag said.

Flaminiano said they had expected the guilty verdict noting: "History has it that special courts were made to convict an accused."

Saguisag and Flaminiano said that Estrada secretly nurtured a hope he would be exonerated.

"In his heart of hearts, he believed that it was a case of ‘guilt not proven,’" Saguisag said.


Prosecutors secured Estrada’s conviction in two of the four predicate crimes that formed Estrada’s indictment for plunder.

The graft court held that evidence of Estrada’s involvement in illegal gambling protection as well as his application of pressure on the GSIS and SSS to buy P1.88 billion worth of Belle Corp shares were each sufficient to convict him for plunder.

"(The) repeated collections of jueteng money from November 1998 to August 2000 would fall within the purview of a "series" of illegal acts constituting plunder," the court declared.

"It is unnecessary to indulge in an exposition of whether the two series of acts… proven in the course of the trial could have amounted to two counts of plunder. It would be a purely academic exercise, as the accused cannot be convicted of two offenses or two counts of plunder on the basis of a single Information," it added.

The court said the prosecution failed to connect the alleged illegal diversion of P130 million tobacco excise tax funds to Estrada since none among the alleged "couriers" were even connected to Estrada.

"Not a scintilla of evidence links former President Estrada to any of the obscure personalities who withdrew the P130 million namely, Delia Rajas, Alma Alfaro, and Eleuterio Tan and to any of the official bank documents that made possible the diversion and misappropriation of the aforesaid public funds," the court noted.

"In sum, the paper trail in relation to the P130 million diverted tobacco excise taxes began with Gov. Singson and ended with Atong Ang. This Court does not find the evidence sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt that President Estrada or any member of his family had instigated and/or benefited," it stressed.

What drove the court to convict Estrada in relation to illegal gambling protection were the testimonies of various bank officials and the paper trail of the gambling money including the P200 million that eventually found its way to the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation.

"The slew of bank documents, involving mind-boggling amounts of money and authenticated by competent and credible bank officers, convinces the Court that collection of jueteng money for former President Estrada indeed took place and the entries in the ledger were not manufactured by Gov. Chavit Singson," the court said.


Ironically, the court found that seven checks containing P182.76 million traced from the Urban Bank account of JV Ejercito were strong proof that Estrada was the owner of the "Jose Velarde" account.

"The evidence of the Prosecution which showed that three Urban Bank Manager’s checks for the amounts of P10.88 million, P42.72 million and P54.16 million received by JV Ejercito as well as the four Urban Bank Manager’s Checks totaling P75 million were deposited to EPCIB S/A No. 0160-62501-5 of Jose Velarde constitutes corroborative evidence that, as between Estrada and (Jaime) Dichaves, it can be inferred that JV Ejercito, being the son of Estrada, would contribute to the account of his father but not if the account were owned by Dichaves," the court said.

Prosecutors claimed the Velarde account at one time contained P3.2 billion but the deposits were drained shortly after Estrada’s ouster in January 2001, before the court could issue a freeze order on his assets.

The Sandiganbayan held that Estrada’s admission that he signed bank instruments as "Jose Velarde" in front of prosecution witnesses Clarissa Ocampo and Manuel Curato, former officials of Equitable-PCI Bank, was additional evidence that he and Velarde were the same person.

"Being a judicial admission, no proof is required and may be given in evidence against him. Being an admission against interest, it is the best evidence which affords the greatest certainty of the facts in dispute. The rationale for the rule is based on the presumption that no man would declare anything against himself unless such declaration was true," the court said.

Another crucial evidence against Estrada was his office trustee, Baby Ortaliza, who was identified by bank officials testifying for the prosecution as the one who transacted various businesses relative to the Velarde account and the other accounts of the Estrada couple.

"The evidence of the Prosecution which showed that Baby Ortaliza - a trusted person of former President Estrada and who enjoyed (his and Loi Ejercito’s) confidence - transacted the various personal bank accounts of (the Estrada couple) as well as the Jose Velarde accounts, also constitutes corroborative evidence that the Jose Velarde Accounts are owned by former President Estrada and not by Dichaves," the court ruled.

Documents on the purchase of the Boracay mansion showing that the funds came from the Velarde account clinched the prosecution’s case against Estrada.

"The evidence of the Prosecution that the Boracay Mansion was purchased from funds coming from the Jose Velarde accounts is another corroborative evidence that the Jose Velarde accounts are owned by former President Estrada. The documents found in the Boracay Mansion show that the beneficial owner is former President Estrada and is used by Laarni Enriquez whose relation to former President Estrada was never denied," the court held.

On accusations that Estrada profited from the GSIS and SSS purchases of Belle Corporation shares, the court said that "Estrada took advantage of his official position, authority, relationship, connection and influence to unjustly enrich himself at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines."

Although the defense claimed that Estrada merely made suggestions to former SSS chairman Carlos Arellano and former GSIS president Federico Pascual over the Belle purchases, the court held that, coming from an appointing power, the calls had coercive effect particularly when repeatedly made.



Moreno meets Pia of ANC on Erap's plunder verdict

CAGAYAN de Oro Journal (Transcribed by Maricel Casiño / Sept. 13)

PIA HONTIVEROS : Governor, tell us what you thought when you first heard the verdict?

GOV. MORENO: Well, actually Pia, before this verdict, what really was bothering me was - this is a no win situation for this government , for this administration. Either way, there would be political statements that would tend to polarize our people. So to me, it didn’t matter whether he would be acquitted or convicted. What should still be important is our people, our country would be able to survive this politically motivated crisis and move on. Now there are many principles here that the decision, one way or the other, I had hope would strengthen:

Independence of the Judiciary - judiciary must be respected and preserved, protected as an independent branch.

Rule of Law – no one is above the law, and we are a government of laws and not of men.
Principle of accountability of public officials- public office is a public trust and all government officials must at all times be accountable.

Equal protection and the law is obliged equally to all.

I have observed the comments earlier of the defense lawyers and I appreciate the comment of Atty. Mendoza, the comment was focused on the legal side but other comments were focused on the political side.

PIA : Your referring to comments made by Atty. Rene Saguisag?

MORENO: He was my professor Pia, in San Beda.

PIA: So you thought that Atty. Mendoza made his case well?

MORENO: I think he had explained quite well what he perceives as the defects of the decision and let it be. Let them raise those defects and let the Sandiganbayan take another look at that and assess whether they have made a good decision or not. Now the problem that we now face is that there will be certainly attempts to destabilize or weaken… and of course, that problem is exacerbated with complaints of corruption in government and so you have the moral ascendancy issue. But I would like to look at that as separate from what we are going through now. And what is important is we are able to survive this crisis and emerge stronger and respecting the independence of the judiciary and adhering to the principles that I have mentioned.

PIA: Governor, I cant help but think that or ask you how different things would have been had the impeachment trial not been aborted because you were halfway through - presentations of prosecution’s evidence and there was no time for Mr. Estrada to present his case in his defense, how would things have been so different, or how would things have been different, had there been a completed impeachment trial?

MORENO: I agree with you totally Pia that very unfortunate that the impeachment did not end up on its natural conclusion. Now for instance, on the Jose Velarde account which I have focused in the impeachment trial, the opening of the second envelope could have led us to the transaction documents that would have proven the 3.2 billion-peso deposits over as a span of 7 to 8 months and they’re withdrawn. Full withdrawal that ended sometime in November 2000. We would have had the chance to prove were the money came from and where the money went. But the second envelop did not show up because the second envelop contained only the ledger of the account- just the debit, credit but the transaction number in the second envelop could have brought as to the transaction document. The beauty in banking is that transactions are documented and bank documents do not lie.

On the “jueting” money, we have demonstrated that a total of 200 billion was placed in an account. Now the defense have asserted, although they had not presented their case yet but in the press statement, they had asserted that the 200 billion went to the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation. Ostensibly, the money did not belong to the former president because it belong to the foundation which is a separate entity. But had the impeachment went on, we would have had the chance to look deeper into that. And I had theorized then that the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation was just an after thought. Anyway that’s now a thing of the past. Now on the excise tax, the money was in fact released and eventually withdrawn from a private bank, by the way, let me add, I would like to congratulate that Landbank, a government bank because they did not cooperate with what the plan was, in relation to the release of the funds. But the money was released.

PIA: Governor, will there be closure now that there is the decision on the plunder and perjury charges that former president Estrada had faced?

MORENO: I hope so Pia, but I’m afraid not especially since the presidential election of 2010 is not far away anymore.

As to the closure, I said I hope that the decision when it becomes final, they go all the way to the Supreme Court will put a closure to this sad episode. Unfortunately, the reality is that, people are now looking at 2010, the presidential elections.

PIA: Governor Moreno, a final word from you sir.

MORENO:I know that its very difficult for this government. It’s a pity because things are looking good, looking bright especially for Mindanao and I just hope that we will now be able to move on as nation and survive this sad episode like I said. One way of looking at it is - had the former president not been prosecuted, the consequences would have been much greater for our country to carry, not only for this generation but for many other generations in the future that would have meant that we have a different application of our justice system. One is for the poor, the under privileged and another for the powerful and the rich. This is a very painful exercise or episode but I hope it we will emerge stronger than we had been in the past.

PIA: And I suppose Governor, that this is some sort of message to all former, incumbent and future officials.

GOV. MORENO : Yes Pia, certainly.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Man from Macasandig shot, killed in Marawi

CAGAYAN DE ORO JOURNAL (Ben Balce / Sept. 12) – A STILL unidentified man shot and killed a resident of Macasandig, this city, in Marawi on Tuesday.

The victim, Eldie Caingin, 26, was shot thrice in the chest and once in one of the shoulders along Omaira Ave., Marawi City.

Witnesses said Caingin was forced to step down an Iligan-bound public jeepney by the suspect who was armed with caliber .45 pistol. The suspect had posed as a jeepney passenger.

Caingin was rushed to the Amai-Pakpak General Hospital in Marawi where he subsequently died.

Passengers said Caingin was shot in front of them.

Caingin’s elder brother Rustom said he suspected that the gunman had planned the attack.

He said Caingin had received death threats because of his relationship with a woman from Marawi identified only as Jamailah.

Caingin and Jamailah had live together but the woman’s brothers reportedly took the woman by force last year. The men were reportedly armed when they barged into the Caingin’s family house in Macasandig.

To avoid violence, he said Caingin opted to go Manila and stayed there until July.

The victim and Jamailah reportedly continued to communicate with each other.

Once, said Rustom, he overheard Caingin telling Jamailah they should consider breaking up to avoid further trouble.

Rustom said the victim then showed him a text message that read: “ Kung dili ka maako, dili ka maila.”

Vice Mayor Vicente Emano sent acting city police director Antonio Montalba and Macasandig officials to get the remains of Caingin. He also asked the city police to investigate the Caingin case and identify the suspect.

Montalba said investigators were looking into reports that Jamailah’s relatives have owned the killing.

He said Caingin’s mobile phone showed text message that could be used as evidence against suspects.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

British Council, MSU sign MOA peace education pact

MARAWI City (Ben Balce / Sep 11) - The British Council and Mindanao State University (MSU) yesterday signed a memorandum of agreement (Moa) on peace education consisting 44 modules aimed to broaden understanding and appreciation and enhance personal skills in dealing with conflicts in Mindanao.

"These modules would be the response in reaching out for peace in Mindanao," British Council assistant program director Nannette R. Mercado.

Mercado said the modules that will form part of the instructional materials for the Civil Welfare Training Service (CWTS), a component of the National Service.

"This peace education is first of a kind that will start here in this University," said Mercado adding that the importance of peace education not only here in Mindanao, but schools in the country.

Meanwhile, MSU president Dr. Ricardo de Leon said the modules would also help in resolving the current conflict in Mindanao.

"We are not saying this would help lessen armed violence in the island, but this would be the start in achieving peace in Mindanao," said De Leon.

De Leon also said, the Philippines including foreign governments are all interested in peace-building efforts like the ongoing MILF-GRP peace talks that is now ongoing in Mindanao.
De Leon said the module-making, which took place early August this year, assembled peace experts throughout the MSU System in various parts of Mindanao, who crafted the modules with assistance from the United Kingdom-Philippine Partners for Peace (UK-PPK), an affiliate of the British Council.

"The integration of peace education in the MSU System is aimed to be a "peace university" for other learning institutions in the country to follow," said De Leon.

He said MSU in the previous years produced quality graduates and now through the help of the peace education modules could produce graduates who are well-educated on conflict management.

"Students who understand the roots of the conflict in Mindanao lead the ways to peace, not war," de Leon said.

De Leon also said that someday with this first step, students that would become workers would help and knowledgeable in the maintaining peace in Mindanao.

The recent signing of the peace modules de Leon said, would become a reality for the MSU students, nationwide and even those in foreign countries.