Back to the airwaves

The first time I sat as radio anchor was back when I was still in college. RMN’s DYVR station in Roxas City was then being managed by Mrs. Violeta Arnaldo, widow of the late Lorenzo “Inzo” Arnaldo who was a city mayor of Roxas City. I think it was in the summer of 1977 when Tita Violet sent word she wanted to see me. I was 18 years old.

Tita Violet told me her station had a slot for the summer for a disc jockey. But I had no experience talking on radio, I replied. She said I can learn on the job. The time slot was 7-9 p.m. every day, from Monday to Friday. It was just for the two months when school was out. All I needed to do was play music and do occasional ad-libs. At the time, Roxas City had no FM stations. Radio was AM — news, drama and music.

That was 40 years ago. After that two-month exposure to radio, I was hooked. And so it was that in 1991, I was confident enough to accept the job offer of Fred Davis, then area manager of Manila Broadcasting Co. (MBC) to join his line-up of anchors for the new radio station that was to be opened. This was DyOK 720, which is now known as “Aksyon Radyo Iloilo”. I stayed there for two years.

Interview with Jovy Salonga and Nene Pimentel DYOK

As an anchorman of DYOK 720 in 1992, I interviewed the venerable Senator Jovito Salonga who was then running for President in the 1992 national elections. With him are former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr. and the late Iloilo Vice Governor Ramon Duremdes.

Print journalism was always my number one passion. And even when I occupied positions in government, I always managed to find time to write columns for The Daily Guardian and to blog. I have been blogging since 2008. I anchored a weekly radio program when I was Provincial Administrator of Iloilo to deliver reports about the Tupas administration and engaged critics over issues. In 2012, I was back on radio to tackle issues about corruption. Then City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog was a constant target for criticism.

Being a communicator is really in my blood. Recently, I have done Facebook Live broadcasts, and I am happy to note that

With John Paul Tia

Being interviewed by Aksyon John Paul Tia in 2014.

it was well received. This is how I could serve the people — to inform them and to educate them by dissecting issues especially in this age of fake news. It is easy to be confused and misled, and I hope I can enlighten the public about the truth.

This is the motivation that led me to negotiate with 89.5 FM of the Aliw Broadcasting Corp. to buy a radio block time starting the first week of May. The time slot is 7:00-8:00 p.m. It will not be exclusively about politics; I intend to talk about health, business, entrepreneurship and personal growth. I will do interviews with a variety of resource

Aksyon Radyo interview

Speaking before the microphone to elucidate on issues.

persons to achieve that purpose.

It will be like fish being thrown back into the water for me.

As much as possible, I will avoid doing hard-hitting commentaries, although I know that is what many people want. I will keep any criticism positive, with the purpose of calling attention

to matters that need straightening up by those in government and business. I have also ordered equipment to allow me to do Facebook Live during my program and engage listeners not only in Iloilo, but worldwide, in an active conversation about the issues.

Watch out for my announcement on the maiden broadcast. I am just finalizing the details.

Political agenda

Over the weekend, Rommel Ynion published several posts on Facebook outlining his views on what ails Filipino society in general, and Iloilo City in particular. One interesting post dwelt on corruption: Ynion said we should stop complaining about how corrupt our officials are, because there can be no corruption if the people don’t allow it. We deserve the kind of government we have, that’s essentially what Ynion was telling us.

Screenshot 2015-12-28 09.51.26I gave my own observations in reaction to the post. And there followed quite a long thread on our respective viewpoints. There are general agreement that voters are responsible for the kind of government we have. But I argued that voters as we know them now are incapable of making judgments that would lead to choosing leaders who truly look after their interests. Ignorance, brought about by poverty and poor basic services of government, is the culprit.

What struck me as significant is that politics in the Philippine setting has lost its brains. Just take a look at the television and radio commercials being aired — the treatment of vital issues affecting society is skin-deep. Nothing of substance can really be discerned. And the posts made by Ynion could initiate a move in the right direction.

It’s time the electorate demand to read and hear the views of candidates for the May 9, 2015 elections on the burning issues. With the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, it’s possible for candidates to conduct virtual town hall meetings in which ordinary citizens can engage them with spontaneous questions and listen to their viewpoints.

We have reached a point when Facebook and Twitter has become accessible for ordinary Filipinos. Smart and Globe provide free access to their subscribers. Now, any Filipino citizen with a mobile phone can make his voice heard to their political leaders. Genuine leadership  makes it imperative for politicians to rise to the challenge.

So far, in Iloilo City, only Ynion has shown that he possesses the intellectual readiness with his views on issues. If he keeps up with similar posts, he should be able to articulate a well-crafted political agenda that every Ilonggo can ultimately claim as his or her own. That’s because as the discussions get deeper, Ynion will get to understand how people feel and know what their aspirations are.

Ynion might be running for a City Council seat this time, but it doesn’t stop him from assuming a position of leadership in Iloilo City. He can serve as a guiding beacon that would slowly, but surely, illuminate the minds of fellow Ilonggos and make them realize it’s in their power to achieve the changes in their lives.

Change does not happen in a vacuum. It requires a charismatic and determined leadership to make it happen. I strongly believe Facebook and other social media are giving us the singular opportunity to achieve that goal.

The voice of hope

I must confess I was surprised at the images posted on Facebook these last few weeks showing Rommel Ynion doing house-to-house campaigning for his bid for a city council seat in Iloilo City as an independent.

I told myself, “This isn’t the same Rommel Ynion I knew in 2012, the guy who disdained having to wake up early to head out for the trenches, so to speak, and touch flesh with the people.”

Back then, the campaign staff literally had to haul Ynion from his bedroom to get him on the road to shake hands with people and convince them he was the better candidate for City Mayor after the 45-day campaign period had started.

Hardly a day had passed these last few weeks without seeing Ynion, trailed by an army of youth volunteers and women leaders in the barangays, doing house-to-house campaigning.

The intensity of his campaign showed Ynion is a different man than the mayoralty candidate I helped campaign for three years ago. Determination is written all over his face as he ignored the searing hot sun to meet constituents.

Nothing can stop us

“Nothing can stop us now.”

But nothing prepared me for the images that were splashed all over Facebook last week: Ynion campaigned even when a downpour kept everybody else indoors. That he was drenched from head to toe didn’t slow him down.

“I am doing this campaign as if my life depended on it,” Ynion told me over the phone a few days ago. He learned from his mistakes in the 2013 elections. He’s not about to commit the same mistakes all over again.

I haven’t had the opportunity to join Ynion in these house-to-house sorties, but with the help of Facebook, I have been able to track almost his every activity.

And the one thing that struck me in looking at the pictures is the delight that brightened the people’s faces when they shook hands with Ynion.

To his own surprise, many people he met on the dirt paths and bamboo-slat footbridges that he had to traverse to get to the innermost parts of the city — where the poorest of the poor lived — profusely thanked him for the help he had extended to them.

“I don’t remember having met you before, nor having done anything to help you,” he said time and again to these constituents. Then the people showed him the nebulizers that he had distributed three years ago, the DVD players and even toilet bowls in their shanties. Unknown to him, the Ynion name became a permanent fixture in their homes. His nebulizers even saved lives, he was told.

Salamat Rommel

Everywhere Ynion goes, there is always a heart warming scene of people thanking him for help he can’t even remember having made.

As a veteran political strategist, I had always counseled Ynion to devote more effort at house-to-house campaigning. I told him the people wanted to see him, touch him, and convey their gratitude to him in person. This is the greatest lesson I got from my former boss, the late Governor Niel Tupas Sr. I was extremely happy to see he heeded my advice.

The positive response to Ynion’s person-to-person campaigning has drawn a great amount of excitement among the people. All of a sudden, surveys conducted by RMN 774 showed Ynion in the top 6 among the prospective 12 winners in the elections. It is clear his name, and his message of hope (“paglaum”), are reaching the deepest recesses of the city.

There is reason for me to believe he might land on the number one slot.

With his down-to-earth style of relating with people, Ynion evoked memories of the late Evelio Javier when he was a young candidate for Governor of Antique back in the 70s running against the established political dynasties in his province.

One image that stuck to my mind about the Evelio Javier political campaign was his ability to draw children to accompany him in his sorties. The kids carried coconut palm branches as if these were rifles, and they were his praetorian guard to protect him. Antique was then known for private armies and the use of violence during elections. The children volunteered to be his bodyguards.

This time, Ynion is accompanied by youth volunteers, young adults who want to do their share in bringing change to a city constantly rocked by scandals of corruption, illegal drugs and murders in broad daylight (and some at night).

“My campaign has taken on a paradigm shift,” Ynion told me. “In the past, campaigns were always run by the older members of the community, and I fell into that tradition in the 2013 elections. Now I have involved the youth.”

Young kids pose with their idol

This campaign is dedicated to the next generation of Ilonggos – Ynion

Youth never fails to punctuate the message of hope. Ynion’s volunteers are aged between 18 to 25. Their sector constitutes the broadest segment of voters. And they are the most driven to campaign hard.

“I am truly amazed at the energy and devotion shown by my volunteers,” Ynion said, his eyes moistening as pride and gratitude swelled inside him.

During the first salvo for his campaign, the Ynion volunteers literally stormed the city’s barangays, leaping from one area to another to put up the orange-colored tarps showing his image with a simple caption: “Tingog sang Paglaum”.

And even when they ran into a wall of harassment by barangay leaders who wanted to lick the behinds of the incumbent officials — with their tarps torn down almost as soon as these were tacked on house walls and lamp posts — the kids refused to surrender. They simply came back with more tarps. For them, no intimidation, and threats of violence, could stop this orange wave from spreading and engulfing Iloilo City.

Tarps on parade cropped

The orange tide is spreading rapidly.

Ynion has taken a break from his campaign activities for the Christmas holidays. “For the next two weeks, I will spend every waking minute with them and shower them with hugs and kisses,” he said. He wants to “deposit” large amounts of love and care to his two children that should last them until election day. “After New Year, I will be back on the campaign trail and finish what I had set out to do,” he added.

Elections are still a good five months away. But this early, it is safe to bet that Ynion will secure a seat for himself in the City Council and become a voice for hope for the people.

Drug lord’s FB cover photo

This is the latest cover photo on the Facebook account of Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa Jr. who goes by the name “Jacob NO Fear Espinosa”:

Screen capture of the Facebook profile of Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa Jr. under his account name “Jacob NO Fear Espinosa” showing him together with Congressman Jerry P. Trenas as a proud testament of their deep friendship. This illustrates how deep narco politics has penetrated the upper reachers of political power in Iloilo City.

So much ado about the Porsche

Now that he is President of the Republic of the Philippines, His Excellency, Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, is finding out the hard way that almost nothing about what he does, officially or unofficially, publicly or privately, can escape public scrutiny and criticism. The latest episode centered on his recent acquisition of a pre-owned Porsche 911 sports car, certainly one of the best cars any individual can own and drive. And within minutes after word about the “toy” got out in the media, President Noynoy became target for a torrent of excoriating and nasty criticism especially on his Facebook page.

The main criticism stems from the seemingly ostentatious choice of a vehicle for the bachelor President. A Porsche, in the eyes of these critics, does not sit well in light of the widespread poverty still prevailing in the country. One writer even compared the purchase of the car to the Le Cirque scandal that rocked the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2009. Why, said another, did he buy the Porsche when the President had ordered all “government officials” (actually it was directed to agencies, not the officials individually) not to acquire luxury SUVs.

This is the closest to a lynching mob that President Noynoy has had to face so far. But is the issue valid?

Buying a car involves not just being able to afford it, but also getting one that suits one’s personality and assures premium value for money. It projects who we are, not in the sense that we lavish on luxury, but demand the best in what we own and possess. A lot of people know that aside from guns, the next passion of the President are cars. Those who know him well will tell you he is quickly engaged when talking about Glocks or HKs or Kimbers. And then he also likes talking about cars. Each of us has that character trait. We don’t necessarily have to own so many of what we like, but we like to read about them, or look at them in malls or stores.

It’s like choosing a cellphone. Who among his critics are quick to buy the latest model of cellphones? I’m sure many own an iPhone 4, or its predecessor, an iPhone 3GS, or even the original iPhone. Why did they buy a communications tool that’s fairly expensive? Why not settle for a basic Nokia 1100 or similar model? Of course, the answer is that the decision was based on the features of the iPhone not found in cheaper models, as well as the financial capability (although many even buy on credit, and pay interest to own one). There is a feeling that it’s worth its price. The prestige of owning one also comes along as another factor. In fact, I know many people who don’t even bother to know the features on the phone and use only the phone and text function. But we don’t begrudge them for picking an iPhone 4, or its earlier models. It just feels good to own one.

It’s the same thing with cars. Just because he is President of the Republic doesn’t deprive Mr. Aquino of his personal tastes. His position allows him the use of expensive cars and SUVs in the motor pool of Malacanang. If it’s just a matter of having a mode of transportation, he didn’t have to bother. The government of the Philippines entitles him to bullet-proof rides. But he loves cars, and he saw one that attracted his interest. It’s not something that he can really drive around, because the opportunity to do so will be scarce. The President wants to own one, albeit pre-owned, for the satisfaction that he will derive. It’s not even as a status symbol, as he has no need of one.

Is it an insensitive flaunting of wealth amid widespread poverty? Is it comparable, as one writer said, to the Le Cirque blow-out of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? Is it inconsistent with his own directive against the buying of luxury SUVs by government agencies. My answer is no, no and no.

As already pointed out, it is a pre-owned car. Nobody will dispute the fact that the President can afford to buy a brand new Porsche if he wanted to. But he settled for a second-hand car. And he traded his personal SUV as part of the purchase price. For me, it’s an acceptable compromise.

Second, the Le Cirque dinner was a one-night meal. The next day, the million peso gumption would have been digested and expended by Gloria Arroyo and party. The Porsche will be there even after President Noy leaves office, and its value would not have diminished much. In that manner, it’s an investment. To compare the two acts stretches the imagination to breaking point.

Third, there is no inconsistency as argued by TV reporter RG Cruz. The directive for austerity and simplicity involved the expenditure of public funds. We know that many agencies have been buying expensive SUVs as service vehicles for secretaries, under secretaries and other top officials. The President put a stop to this. If these officials want to ride in luxury, they will have to use their own cars bought with their own money, not the taxpayers money.

Let’s give him a break. Many of us collect die-cast models of sports cars. Men dream about owning sports cars, but that’s about the closest they could get to owning one, or two, or three — model cars. We spend long hours admiring the scale models. It’s enough to fuel those dreams. The President is a human being with the same longings and dreams as most of us. A big difference is that he can afford to buy the car of his dreams — the real one. Do we begrudge him for it? We know the Presidency puts him on a higher plane, imposing higher standards of behavior upon him. But just because he’s now President doesn’t mean we chain him in the “bartolina” where he can no longer exercise normal human behavior.

It’s not a show-off. It’s not an ostentatious display of wealth. It’s not an insult to the deprivation and poverty that exists around us. Even Superman, the man of steel, is known to have human feelings and frailties. Do we tell the President, no, you can’t play like ordinary men? Do we tell him, no, you have to wait until the end of your Presidency until you are restored to your normal norms? Do we tell him that he can’t enjoy the pleasure of driving a powerful car that would respond smoothly and quickly to the slightest pressure on the gas pedal?

Oh, come on, don’t tell me that with the difficult job he’s handling, President Aquino isn’t entitled to recreation and relaxation. Don’t tell me his status prevents him from having fun like any of us. The Presidency isn’t a vow of poverty. It’s a big sacrifice, but it isn’t total detachment from worldly pleasures. Rather than castigate him for this human weakness, if you might want to call it a weakness, then let’s allow him to enjoy it if it’s going to help him get his mind off the problems every once in a while. This way, he can always go back to his job as President with vigor and energy. The nation deserves a President who is always enthusiastic and refreshed. If it’s a P4.5 million Porsche that can make that happen, then we should be happy he’s found the right “toy” to keep him full of energy.

Can Facebook hasten impeachment of Merci?

Gone are the days when causes are fought with signature campaigns. The battleground has shifted from paper and pen to cyberspace, where a click is enough to manifest a citizens stand on an issue. In a recent article in the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine, the ouster of Philippine President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2001 was attributed largely to the massive text messaging campaign that brought people to EDSA. That was that start of a new era where social media is believed to possess vast powers in shaping the political landscape of every nation.

The impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has given birth to an experiment on whether Facebook can generate enough followers to manifest the people’s growing disgust over the corruption that her leadership at the anti-graft body has managed to engender rather than stop. Two impeachment complaints were filed before the House of Representatives last year against Gutierrez, but before the House of Representatives could even proceed with its hearings, Gutierrez already went to the Supreme Court and obtained a status quo ante order. The issue  is still pending before the Supreme Court. A few days ago, the SC spokesman said the tribunal will set another deliberation in three weeks, a move that many perceive as a delaying tactic.

The “Impeach Merci” Facebook page seeks to mobillize public opinion in support of a move by the House justice committee to pick up where it left off on the impeachment proceedings without waiting for a Supreme Court ruling. The Filipino sovereign is supreme over any governmental power in the land, and through this page, we can express our position. If you wish to make your voice heard, just click on the link below, and then click on the “Like” button at the bottom left of the page. We also encourage you to spread the word to your friends to make this movement “viral”.!/pages/Impeach-Merci/114445221960839

The enemy within

After our experience with martial law, the media establishment has always looked at the government as the biggest threat to the freedom of the press. Indeed, the closure of almost all news organizations and the iron-clad censorship with which pro-government outlets were run during martial law leave big scars in the hearts and minds of journalists in the country. We always say, NEVER AGAIN.

But there is a bigger threat to media freedom that is creeping into media organizations, or at least in one radio station in Iloilo City, that is just coming to public notice. This is the clampdown being imposed by executives on the right of anchors and reporters to express their personal sentiments on Facebook. As revealed by Bert Ladera of RMN 774, there is immense pressure for him to stop posting quotations and views on his Facebook wall that certain executives of his station deem critical of their personas. There are no direct orders for Nadera to desist, but even volunteers in the station have been warned not to comment or even click on the “like” button.

A review of Bert Ladera’s postings show that these quotations could not be categorized as personal attacks. The quotations are sayings of famous people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the like. These are common place in Facebook.  But it appears his superiors take offense. They consider it an affront to read these quotations on Bert Ladera’s Facebook wall.

Bert says there are no overt moves yet to use the FB postings to discipline him. Well, I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that point. If it does, this will erupt into a major scandal about censorship in the ranks of media, and how the freedom of expression is violated by the very people who are supposed to protect them.

Clutching for straws (the radio ratings game)

Nothing becomes more contentious over the broadcast airlanes than the release of survey results on listenership for radio stations,’

In an industry that is losing a big share of advertising revenues to television, and even social media, radio networks need to prop up their listenership bases to remain attractive to more discriminating advertisers seeking to get the most value for their peso. In every locality, there is a constant race for the number one position, because the title is a magnet to advertisers.

Hence, it’s not suprising to hear over local radio stations for several days now anchormen firing verbal missiles at their rivals over the results of the latest A.C. Nielsen survey for Iloilo City. The obvious leader, Bombo Radyo DYFM, proudly broadcast its undisputed position in the local market with 6.34%. It was followed by Aksyon Radyo Iloilo DYOK with 2.26% with RMN 774 a distant third with 1.05%. Radyo ng Bayan and RGMA DYSI 1323 rounded up the field with 0.6% and 0.5%.

This drew angry reactions from some “losers”. Novie Guazo of RMN 774, for instance, reportedly started attacking Bombo Radyo and insisted that his station is number one. A verbal slugfest over the airlanes erupted, anchormen trying to rip each other apart as if the exercise will change the equation. It didn’t matter that such angry exchanges don’t speak well of the broadcast industry, not to mention the fact that listeners are not amused at all. The audience wants to listen to solid content, not juvenile brickbats as to who is the toughest kid on the block.

(In fairness to Aksyon Radyo, it came out with a statement accepting the results of the survey. That, I think, is the sober and right attitude. Move on. Accept the truth.)

The results of the survey are unassailable. A.C. Nielsen is the most prestigious among survey groups. Its survey findings serve as a roadmap for advertisers in picking which networks will get their advertising money. And no amount of quarreling will sway the minds of advertisers. Nor will it change the figures on the charts. These networks might as well study the outcomes and learn why they ended up where they are on the charts.

But there is something about the survey results that is very revealing. It’s the fact that the audience share for radio is getting smaller and smaller. Radio is rapidly losing its title as the primary source of information and entertainment. Television has edged out its sister broadcast medium, with social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) emerging on the horizon as potential challengers.

About 20 years ago, Bombo Radyo enjoyed an average of 15-18% of the market share, with the competition fighting over another 5-8%. Based on this recent A.C. Nielsen survey, the market share for radio has shrunk considerably. This puts more pressure on the networks because this means less and less advertising money to keep them afloat. Less income means cutbacks in promos, technology and manpower. The cycle is vicious, with the radio industry a potential victim of death by strangulation.

I’m not about to say, “for whom the bell tolls.” But the warning signals are there. Radio networks should think deep about how to thrive, not just survive, in this hostile environment. A soul-searching into content and delivery should be done, with possible integration into the social media (such as live-streaming on Facebook) to be seriously studied.

The stakeholders in the radio industry should stop quarreling. Their energies can be put to more productive purposes in finding ways to win back audiences.