Thursday, November 27, 2014

Uncovering Asia through investigative journalism

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Internet detective work and digging out hidden information online. Fighting back with legal tools. Uncovering hidden assets across borders. Investigating in conflict zones. Teaching investigative journalism. Coping with trauma and threat. Despots, crooks and their wealth. Breathless in Manila.

These were among the workshop topics tackled at “Uncovering Asia: The First Asian Investigative Journalism Conference,” the recent three-day gathering of 300 journalists, mostly Asians, from 32 countries.

Hosted by the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), which is celebrating its 25th year, this conference was a groundbreaking first. The unflappable organizers, among them GIJN’s David Kaplan and PCIJ’s Malou Mangahas, were aiming for only 150 participants but ended up with 300.

Being one of the local sponsors, the Inquirer sent many reporters to attend. It was a gathering of veteran and aspiring investigative reporters, data journalists, media, law and security experts.

Sheila Coronel, PCIJ cofounder and now dean of academic affairs at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, set the tone with her keynote address, “Nine billion eyes—holding power to account in the world’s largest continent.” (It’s on the Internet.) A great opening speech, I must say.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The genius of the Filipino poor

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Sometimes it takes a non-Filipino to discover something great about us that we often ignore, do not notice, or take for granted. Sometimes we need foreign eyes to make us believe that there is more to what we already see.

British journalist Thomas Graham came to the Philippines and visited Gawad Kalinga (GK) founder Antonio Meloto in 2012 to pick his brain about issues such as poverty in the Philippines, economic growth and many more. Graham could have been any parachuting foreign journalist, the kind that makes a quick descent, covers some ground, leaves in a rush and gives the world his or her expert views and analyses. Then calls this country “Gates of Hell” or something.

Graham stayed. He immersed himself among the people—that is, the materially poor and those who work and live with them. He struck gold. What began as a journalistic assignment or curiosity—the Philippines being touted as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia—became a personal journey.

Along the way, Graham also found some answers to a nagging question that challenges the title of his book. “If there is indeed genius in the poor, then why are they poor in the first place?” What is this genius all about?

Graham responded to Meloto’s challenge: “Come alongside the poor, befriend them, partner with them, and you will discover their potential. But don’t take my word for it, experience it for yourself.”

Graham writes about his experiences and shares his reflections in his book, “The Genius of the Poor: A Journey with Gawad Kalinga.”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Are we a nation of malcontents?

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Here is a story that is so unlike the rest, so different from the endless tales of misery that have been served us in the past days leading up to the first anniversary of a world-class disaster.

I am sharing a Facebook post of my good friend and colleague, Rochit TaƱedo, who traveled to Samar after the wrath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” leveled much of Eastern Visayas last year:

“The women of Samar were quiet, uncomplaining, after a long zombie period of looking for their dead. After a month, they were given vegetable seeds. After a week of looking for a patch of land where they could plant (since, after digging a foot deep with bare hands, it was still all muck and sand all around), they found a patch uphill, cleared it of logs and branches and planted.

“When the little seedlings appeared after another week, pandemonium broke. They screamed so loud and cried as if a dam had burst. That’s what happened when they saw how life could start changing.”

After reading this, I wanted to also scream out loud. I clicked “Like” and posted a comment. That FB post gave me an Aha! moment that opened a bright landscape.

Knowing Rochit, I could safely conclude that she posted that to spray clean, sparkling water on the corrosive negativism that has been eating at our spirits, to blow away the swirling ill wind that throws us off-balance.

“Corrosive” is the word. Even while the survivors of Y continue to rise from the ruins, there is the ruinous cacophony from naysayers that accompanies the heroic efforts of individuals, groups and institutions, even of public servants. For these so-called “negas,” something is always wrong, they should always find something wrong. But the silent workers just keep on, without counting the cost or thinking of recognition. They keep making quilts of hope away from the attention of the media that have a predilection for the dramatic and the cinematic, for sound bytes that pit one against another.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Flavier, a barrio parable

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Former health secretary and senator Juan M. Flavier’s departure for the next life on Oct. 30 was timely. Timely—that is minus the prefix “un-” that denotes our human unwillingness to part with a loved one—because he departed from this world when government personages are embroiled in huge controversies and revelations that boggle the mind.

Timely because his passing at age 79 made us pause and reflect on his life of joyful service that once brought smiles and laughter into our lives. Timely because even in death, he made us remember that public servants ought to make life happier and better for the served and not the other way around.

Flavier, with his wit, wisdom and humor, was a giant in my eyes. Long before he served as health secretary in President Fidel Ramos’ administration he was already a popular man, not in the way celebrities and powerful figures are popular, but among the farmers in rural villages where he served as a doctor and community development worker.

He was like a burst of sunlight in the early 1990s when he took over the Department of Health and showed his brand of health service that made people become conscious of what government can do for them health-wise, and what they can do to help themselves. He was 58 then.

I was fortunate to see him up close and follow him around when I was assigned to do a cover story on him as the Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year for the Sunday Inquirer Magazine (“Juan M. Flavier: Doctor for All Seasons,” 1/23/93).

The creative communicator that he was, Flavier used every means possible to push his programs, among them, Doctors to the Barrios, AIDS awareness, anti-smoking, vaccinations. He was a media darling, newsmaker, crowd-drawer. During his first 60 days in office, he received more than 300 speaking invitations. He was a favorite guest on radio and TV, the perfect subject for feature stories.