Official news agency neglected after EDSA 1

My bosses, Jose L Pavia and Eugenio Ramos, told us to keep our noses clean, not to engage in self-censorship, and to write the news as it is, never mind if the press was muzzled.

Many times, Gene (Ramos) or JLP (Pavia) would get a call from Greg Cendaña or the Palace because my story did not please some of the cronies or the first couple themselves. They put their own jobs on the line fighting for our stories. (READ: Raissa Robles: We never knew extent of repression under Martial Law')

When Channel 4 was attacked by the rebel forces, I saw my early shift editors Severino Samonte and Jake Espino on TV, leaving the premises in what seemed like a mass eviction of all employees from the building.

They were covering their heads with a folder as though shielding themselves from the torrent of insults thrown their way by the mob outside. “Nagpasasa kayo noon, kami naman ngayon!"

(You indulged them, this is ours now!)

Hindi kami nagpasasa (We did not indulge anyone).

We worked hard for a pittance. Wire agencies do not have deadlines because we feed news as it happens 24/7. My contemporaries in Channel 4 such as Jesus S Matubis Jr, Dada Lorenzana, and Ruby Serra, whom I personally know, are among the most respectable of media practitioners.

Back to work

The day after they took over the premises, they refused us entry. I had to call my brother Billy Esposo, who was then director of the Cory media bureau, to ask him to allow PNA to operate.

JLP, who was PNA general manager, was also Billy's old friend in the Ateneo. PNA was green lighted, perhaps the first of Marcos agencies to re-operate.

I was ecstatic then because I thought that PNA was about to realize its dream of independence. I was happy to be rid of the Marcos sycophants who tirelessly tried to sanitize our stories. 

DIVIDED. EDSA I is remembered for uniting the nation, but the aftermath shows divisions borne out of the distrust at the institutions and people from the Marcos regime. Image courtesy of Mara Mercado

DIVIDED. EDSA I is remembered for uniting the nation, but the aftermath shows divisions borne out of the distrust at the institutions and people from the Marcos regime.

Image courtesy of Mara Mercado

From the very beginning, we wanted PNA to operate like BBC – state-owned but accountable to the people, regardless of who took the reins of power.

But 3 adminstrations have passed. None of them wanted to release PNA from the claws of political expediency. Succeeding administrations, including the present one, neglected PNA, viewed its staff with suspicion, and let it deteriorate.

Persistent divide

A lot of people who worked under the Marcos regime were unceremoniously branded as undesirable and cast aside by the conquering heroes and heroines of the yellow revolution.

Rather than listen and win new allies, they discredited the rich experiences and expertise of those whose positions they replaced.

I love my origins and I love the people I've worked with during those trying times. We took our work seriously and cheered each time we stretched the limits of press “freedom." But with the takeover, and with JLP and Gene gone, PNA lost its mooring.

It didn't matter that my brother was well-placed in government and could therefore protect me against witch hunters. I became so frustrated I left PNA and joined Business Day – the one newspaper that remained unblemished and respectable throughout the Marcos years.

People Power may have toppled a dictator, achieved laudable economic gains, and impressed the world, but it did not succeed in forging unity and trust. – Rappler.com

Carolyn Esposo Espiritu is a veteran journalist. In 2010, she was appointed as a board member of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.