Rappler Jealousy List 2019

MANILA, Philippines – At Rappler, when we say we espouse courage, we not only mean fearlessness in pursuing stories; we also mean the braveness to acknowledge that other journalists beat us to a story or approached an issue in a way we would not have thought of. 

So, to wrap up 2019, we asked our reporters and researchers to share which reportage by other journalists they wished they did themselves. We were inspired by what has now become a yearly tradition of Bloomberg Business Week.

This list is an admission that we were scooped – an occurrence that shouldn’t spell the end of the world for any individual reporter or newsroom when the industry is confronting the bigger responsibility of holding power to account.

This list is our love letter to our colleagues, whose excellent reporting is welcome proof that, in an environment where the independent press is under attack, enterprise and investigative reporting is alive. 

Aika Rey, Business Reporter

Screenshot from Inquirer.net

Screenshot from Inquirer.

net

The story: Study on P508-B Sangley airport plan submitted
The journalist behind it: Miguel Camus
The news outlet: Philippine Daily Inquirer

When everyone was busy asking the Department of Transportation about the NAIA Consortium's bid for the main gateway, Miguel Camus shifted his focus to Cavite early in the year. This was the first in the series of stories Miguel did in 2019 to bare proposals for Sangley Airport, seen as the alternative gateway closest to Manila.

The proposal, as submitted to the National Economic and Development Authority, stated that it would be undertaken through a novel government-to-government approach. This means a trust would be created with the Cavite province and the Philippine government as trustors. This proposal showcased a potential model for other local governments – that such arrangements are possible.

Aika’s special mentions: Biggest ride-sharing firm in China eyes PH by Miguel Camus of the Philippine Daily InquirerTeachers press Duterte on pay hike: ‘We are clinging to a knife’s edge’ by Matthew Reysio-Cruz of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Alexa Villano, Entertainment Reporter

Screenshot from ABS-CBN News

The story: The public and private lives of Eddie Garcia
The journalist behind it: Isidra Reyes
The news outlet: ABS-CBN News

When veteran actor and director Eddie Garcia fell into a coma and eventually died, news outlets tried to outdo each other with profiles of and tributes to the man, but almost all of them were about his professional achievements. I would have written about his legacy as an actor as well. And so Isidra Reyes’ article stood out because it told us about Manoy’s private life – the tragedies that befell his first family, and how he was as a father to his only surviving son with his late wife.

Beatrice Go, Sports Reporter

Screenshot from GMA News Online

The story: Inside the NU Bulldogs Dynasty
The journalists behind it: Ceej Tantengco and Mikkel Bolante
The news outlet: GMA News Online

I wish I had time to follow an under-covered story like women’s basketball. It’s the first time someone wrote the beginnings of a team that made history in the UAAP. If it were a male sport, every sportswriter would’ve written about it, but Ceej Tantengco and Mikkel Bolante were the only ones who saw the story and immersed themselves in it.

Janelle Paris, Health Reporter

Screenshot from Inquirer.net

Screenshot from Inquirer.

net

The story: Emergency case: Crowded PGH counting on P500-M renovation
The journalists behind it: Jovic Yee and Mariejo Ramos
The news outlet: The Philippine Daly Inquierer

Amid deliberations on the proposed budget for 2020 of the Department of Health, PDI looked into the operations of the Philippine General Hospital. One of the most important – and therefore, crowded – medical institutions that catered to poor patients, the PGH wasn’t a line item in the health department's budget.

PDI’s report shed light on the problem of hospital congestion and touched on other issues that could potentially be the subjects of future reporting by other journalists on the health beat.

Jasmine Payo, Sports Editor

Screenshot from GMA News Online

The story: Jersey Boys
The journalist behind it: Marisse Panaligan
The news outlet: GMA News Online

It’s a unique take on Jimmy Alapag’s legend. There’s not a single quote from the former Gilas Pilipinas captain, yet it captures his greatness with stories from a foreign fan and a local diehard.

JC Gotinga, Defense Reporter

Screenshot from Inquirer.net

Screenshot from Inquirer.

net

The story: Chinese investors eye 3 PH isles
The journalist behind it: Frances Mangosing
The news outlet: The Philippine Daily Inquirer

This story revealed how China’s strategy in dominating the Asia-Pacific entailed reclaiming reefs in the high seas as well as in the territories of other countries. It showed the Philippines’ vulnerability to China’s political game plan when intertwined with economic incentives. The report started a national conversation that pushed the Philippine government to commit to building structures and even military outposts on the islands in question.

Jodesz Gavilan, Senior Researcher Covering Human Rights

Screenshot from Philstar.com

Screenshot from Philstar.

com

The story: People on the Periphery series
The journalists behind it: Jonathan de Santos, Gaea Cabico and Efigenio Toledo
The news outlet: Philstar.com

A Rappler editor has always reminded us young journalists that whenever the government has a proposal or a plan, we should ask: Who will be affected? How will they be affected?

The Philstar.com team took these questions to heart and answered them through a series of stories that chronicled the human costs of the Duterte administration’s Build Build Build program. In the “People in the Periphery” series published in October 2019, we got to know the people from communities directly affected by what the government marketed as the “golden age of infrastructure.”

The stories drowned out the soundbites of economists that we had heard day in and day out, pulled apart the curtains of numbers, and took us to the homes of Filipinos whose concerns were often an afterthought in massive government projects.

Lian Buan, Justice Reporter

Screenshot from ABS-CBN News

The story: Office of the Solicitor General involved in drafting Bikoy affidavit?
The journalist behind it: Mike Navallo
The news outlet: ABS-CBN News

Larry Gadon, counsel for alleged whistle-blower Joemel “Bikoy” Advincula, sent to the media the original Microsoft Word file of his client’s affidavit that the Philippine National Policeused as basis for filing a sedition complaint against opposition figures.

Examining the digital file, Mike Navallo discovered it was authored by a lawyer and a secretary working at the Office of the Solicitor General. The involvement of the OSG in preparing a private complaint raised both legal and ethical questions. His story prompted even the most veteran of lawyers to finally question the OSG’s role in preparing a formal legal pleading.

Screenshot from GMA News Online

The story: A Crisis of Trust
The journalist behind it: Nicole-Anne Lagrimas, Anna Felicia Bajo and Jessica Bartolome
The news outlet: GMA News Online

The story’s title and subhead put it succinctly: the measles outbreak was a crisis of trust, the result of public confidence in vaccines taking a dive – no thanks to how the Public Attorney’s Office misrepresented the issue about the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. The authors gave a human face to the issue, showing how victims and their grieving families suffered while top-level government officials bickered.

Screenshot from PCIJ

The story: Big payout, bagful of treats for short-term CJs
The journalist behind it: Malou Mangahas
The news outlet: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

That chief justices receive a hefty retirement package is widely known in the legal circle, but had remained an underreported issue until Malou Mangahas bared that it could run up to a lump sum of P30 million. The judiciary is notoriously secretive and protective of the privacy of justices, but the story quotes unnamed retired justices to confirm the long-running practice, which has called for closer scrutiny since President Duterte started appointing justices who would only serve for a brief period. Newly-appointed Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said generous retirement pay is provided for in the law to encourage lawyers to join government. Indeed, it is legal, but Mangahas’ piece forces us to ask: Is it right?

Loreben Tuquero, Transportation Reporter

Screenshot from Inquirer.net

Screenshot from Inquirer.

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The story: Traffic mess breeds ‘habal-habal’ rides
The journalist behind it: Krixia Subingsubing
The news outlet: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Before the current debacle surrounding the extension of the pilot run of motorcycle taxi services, Krixia Subingsubing delved into the other, overlooked side of the business: unregulated motorcycles-for-hire getting bookings through Facebook groups. The piece outlined the risks that passengers faced in dealing with these illegal service providers while the government failed to hold them accountable.

Mara Cepeda, OVP and House of Representatives Reporter

Screenshot from GMA News Online

The story: Robredo’s 19-day stint as ICAD co-chair: The search for real drug war numbers
The journalist behind it: Llanesca T. Panti
The news outlet: GMA News Online

As chaos erupted after President Rodrigo Duterte fired Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, Llanesca Panti was quick to list every single thing Robredo did in her two-week stint in the anti-drugs body. It was the quickest fast facts response to the misinformation that the Vice President did nothing in the ICAD.

Screenshot from ABS-CBN News

The story: Political clans take House seats in tandems and trios
The journalists behind it: Dave Abuel and the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group
The news outlet: ABS-CBN News

We had always known that the House of Representatives is dominated by members of political dynasties, but just how entrenched are they? Gone were the days that up to only two family members served at the same time. This data story showed that having as many as 3 members from a family was becoming a norm. 

Michael Bueza, Data Curator Covering Elections and Local Governments

Screenshot from PCIJ

The story: 16M failed to vote for party-list, missed names on back of ballot
The journalist behind it: Karol Ilagan
The news outlet: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

This was an underreported side of the elections, often overlooked even by those who had reported on the issue undervoting. The PCIJ story showed that ballot layouts are as important as counting the voters' choices on the ballots. As if the party list system didn’t already badly need reforms, the 2019 elections made us realize this additional problem: many voters failing to cast their votes because they were not aware that there was a list of candidate parties on the back of their ballots.  

Michelle Abad, Researcher Covering Women’s Issues

Screenshot from ZORA. Art by Kate Wong.

Screenshot from ZORA. Art by Kate Wong.

The story: Inside the Underground Baby Trade in the Philippines
The journalist behind it: Lynzy Billing
The news outlet: ZORA Magazine

Lynzy Billing shed light on a disturbing practice in one of the poorest areas of Manila. The underground baby trade was the result of a combination of factors: the inadequate implementation of the Reproductive Health Law, abortion being illegal, the tedious process of adoption offered by the social welfare department, and human trafficking. While the thought of selling babies – some on social media at that – sounded detached and inhumane, the investigative piece showed how some poor women were compelled to resort to these almost paper trail-less deals so they could put food on the table, at great cost to their psychological well-being. 

Pauline Macaraeg, Researcher

Screenshot from the South China Morning Post

The story: No country for unicorns: Why Philippine start-ups are struggling
The journalist behind it: Elyssa Lopez
The news outlet: South China Morning Post

The piece is a must-read on the state of the startup industry in the Philippines. Although there were a lot of stories written on different startups and their successes here, this one by Elyssa Lopez gave us a reality check and explained why we’re still not at par with our neighbors.

Ralf Rivas, Business Reporter

Screenshot from Business Mirror

The story: From condoms to false teeth: PHL trade in quirky goods bites wide into global market
The journalists behind it: Jasper Arcalas, Samuel Medenilla, Cai Ordinario, and Elijah Rosales
The news outlet: Business Mirror

This fascinating data-driven story by the Business Mirror team explained how the country’s “quirky” exports – like human hair, catheters, and false teeth – had grown due to low tariffs and other global developments.


They also discovered that the Philippines, a country surrounded by water, imported seawater from Australia. The article also explained how new laws resulted in more imported playing cards and motorcycle helmets.

Screenshot from Asian Nikkei Review

The story: China's island builder has US embassy in Manila surrounded
The journalist behind it: Cliff Venzon
The news outlet: Nikkei Asian Review

Much had been reported on the economic impact of the proposed reclamation projects in Manila Bay, but Cliff Venzon pointed out the most obvious that no one seemed to have noticed: Should proposed projects by Chinese firms get the green light, the land they would reclaim would surround the United States embassy.
 This article reminded readers how business ventures might affect foreign relations and the environment.

Ralf's special mentionsIt Takes Five Minutes to Drive a Kilometer in Metro Manila by Claire Jiao of Bloomberg. Billionaire family feud worsens by Iris Gonzales of the Philippine Star. PSEi refuses to play victim, gains strength at 7,900 by Doris Dumlao-Abadilla of the Philippine Daily InquirerChina’s fintechs see rural bank gateway to Philippine e-payments by Mikhail Flores for the Asian Nikkei Review

Rambo Talabong, Police reporter

Screenshot from CNN Philippines

The story: 13 ‘drug recycling’ policemen spared from dismissal
The journalist behind it: Gerg Cahiles
The news outlet: CNN Philippines

Gerg Cahiles’ exclusive report set the tone for the coverage of a Senate hearing that led to the grilling of then-Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde and other top officials. The report raised the central question even before the hearing began: Why had 13 cops, believed to have recycled confiscated drugs, remained in service? The PNP top brass couldn’t sufficiently explain; Albayalde’s response was to resign as PNP chief shortly before his retirement.

Ryan Macasero, Cebu Reporter

Screenshot from Asian Nikkei Review

The story: Crony capital: How Duterte embraced the oligarchs
The journalist behind it: Aurora Almendral
The news outlet: Asian Nikkei Review

Although this story was not directly about the Visayas, breaking “the oligarchy” was a talking point of Rodrigo Duterte in his campaign sorties in the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, and Leyte that made him sweep the votes in 2016. The mood in the Visayas at the time was that people were getting fed up with liberal rule that left behind the regions in economic development.

Duterte blamed the concentration of wealth on Manila’s oligarchs and on their alleged hold on government. He said their days would be numbered if he were elected. This story showed people, who voted for him based on the promise of ending the oligarchy, that they may have been duped.

Sofia Tomacruz, Foreign Affairs and Elections Reporter

Screenshot from PCIJ

The story: Money and the May 2019 elections: P2.4-B pre-campaign ads: Bong Go, Marcos, Roxas, Roque top spenders
The journalist behind it: Malou Mangahas
The news outlet: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

By comparing candidates’ campaign expenses with their net worth, the story painted a clear picture of how much money it takes to win an election, and raised the question of how the winners would recoup their expenses given how little their positions pay. The story prompted readers to ask questions about our outdated, sometimes conflicting, election laws, and how these laws could be improved. – Rappler.com

TOP GRAPHIC by Ernest Fiestan/Rappler