Stephanie Dychiu, James Putzel, and the ethics of reportage

The primary function of language, being a social fact, is communication, and it remains operative throughout whatever other uses language may be put. The communicative function of language takes on additional weight in journalism, because the currency of that particular trade is information, and the objective is the equal distribution of wealth thereof, as it were. Whether “straight” reportage—for lack of a better term—or opinion and editorial writing, the practice of journalism necessarily involves the use of power—the power to influence the way that people look at themselves, their respective societies, and the world at large, the power to help shape values and attitudes, and the power to combat ignorance and enable everyone to “exercise their sovereign human right to decide their destinies” [1].

Bearing the foregoing in mind, I would now like to begin an examination of the series on Hacienda Luisita that was published on the GMANews.TV web site and authored by Stephanie Dychiu. As of this writing, four out of the five parts of the series, which professes to be a thorough investigation of how Senator Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III and the issue of Hacienda Luisita are intimately linked, have been made publicly available.

What I am particularly concerned with here is how Dychiu has used A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines [2], a book written by Professor James Putzel and published in 1992, in her development of the series, specifically in these articles: “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future” [3] and “Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will” [4], which are the first two parts of the series, as well as “The Garchitorena land scam” [5] and “How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita” [6], which are complementary articles to “Cory’s land reform legacy”. I last retrieved all these articles on March 22, 2010, and I have stored copies of these for reference, given the mutable nature of hypertexts.

My choice of focus is, in some respects, arbitrary, but, as I hope to show, not entirely without merit. A Captive Land seeks to present a historical overview of agrarian reform in the Philippines, and while it contains strong criticism of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that was begun during the administration of the late former President Corazon C. Aquino, it also offers a complex and finely nuanced discussion of agrarian reform.

Allow me to state, in the interest of transparency, that I support the bid of Senator Aquino for president, and that my decision to write this essay is partially motivated by such support. I readily admit that I do not have the necessary background to discuss agrarian reform in general or A Captive Land in particular with any scholarly competence, but that is not the intention here, in any case.

My concerns in this essay, such as they are, do not, in fact, include agrarian reform, Hacienda Luisita, or Senator Aquino and his family per se. Rather, my goal is to critique how Dychiu, herself no agrarian reform expert, as the ostensible writer of—and thus the one ultimately accountable for—the series, used the book in her work, though I do not dismiss her series wholesale.

This critique is animated primarily by the following questions:

  1. Has Dychiu used Putzel, a recognized development expert, responsibly, with due regard and care for what he is actually saying?
  2. Insofar as the Hacienda Luisita series is concerned, can Dychiu be said to have upheld the code of ethics of Philippine journalism that has been formulated by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and the National Press Club (NPC)?

Responsible research?

As previously mentioned, Dychiu cites A Captive Land several times in the series.

In “Hacienda Luisita’s past” [7], she invokes Putzel in discussing the acquisition of Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Hacienda Luisita, as well as the conditions set by the Monetary Board with reference to how the Cojunagco family obtained Central Bank approval for the foreign loan that was secured in order to purchase the hacienda.

In “Cory’s land reform legacy” [8], while going over the stock distribution option (SDO), which is provided for in the CARP law, she quotes Putzel’s comment that the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, who favored the SDO, may not have really understood what it meant, and then refers to him to pinpoint the date for the formation of Hacienda Luisita. Linked to this article are “The Garchitorena land scam” [9] and “How the Cojuangcos got majority control” [10], which finds Dychiu citing Putzel yet again.

It must be conceded that Putzel, as earlier mentioned, is highly critical of how agrarian reform was undertaken during the Aquino administration, especially with regard to the SDO. In fact, Putzel seems to believe strongly in redistributive agrarian reform, and approves of peasant mobilization, saying in his conclusion that it is a key factor in ensuring that agrarian reform will at least remain on the development agenda [11].

Two basic tests that may be applied in order to determine how responsible a researcher has been are as follows: first, how correctly the researcher has quoted or paraphrased his or her source material; and second, how the source material so quoted or paraphrased has been deployed within the researcher’s work. To my mind, Dychiu fails both.

Note that A Captive Land is used as the source in the first article just to establish the bits of historical background for Hacienda Luisita—a version of the background, it must be underscored, that neither Dychiu nor GMANews.TV appears to have asked from Hacienda Luisita itself—while Putzel’s remark is simply repeated in the second article.

The absence of a counterpoint to Putzel, or any of the other authorities she cites, for that matter, in a piece that contrives itself as reportage, rather than opinion, is also curious, especially considering that, in the introduction preceding “After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest” [12], the fourth part of the series, the period over which the research for the series was conducted—three months—and the supervision that Dychiu received from GMANews.TV editor-in-chief Howie Severino are emphasized. Putzel himself, though obviously an advocate of a specific set of directions for agrarian reform, bolstered his position precisely by comparing and contrasting it with those of others.

Moreover, it does not seem unfair to say that Dychiu’s use of Putzel’s statements has less to do with the amplification of her points than with decoration: when she is not (merely) echoing his arguments, her use of Putzel is minimal, tokenistic, and, worst of all, distortive. But perhaps my charge against Dychiu is better illustrated with a few examples.

This is Dychiu explaining how the dictator Ferdinand Marcos dealt with Hacienda Luisita in “Hacienda Luisita’s past”, with key sections emphasized:

The Cojuangcos’ disputed hold over Hacienda Luisita had been tolerated by Marcos even at the height of his dictatorship. However, as Ninoy Aquino and his family were leaving for exile in the US, a case was filed on May 7, 1980 by the Marcos government against the Cojuangco company TADECO for the surrender of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, so land could be distributed to the farmers at cost, in accordance with the terms of the government loans given in 1957-1958 to the late Jose Cojuangco, Sr., who died in 1976. (Republic of the Philippines vs. TADECO, Civil Case No. 131654, Manila Regional Trial Court, Branch XLIII)

The Marcos government filed this case after written follow-ups sent to the Cojuangcos over a period of eleven years did not result in land distribution. (The Cojuangcos always replied that the loan terms were unenforceable because there were no tenants on the hacienda.) The government’s first follow-up letter was written by Conrado Estrella of the Land Authority on March 2, 1967. Another letter was written by Central Bank Governor Gregorio Licaros on May 5, 1977. Another letter was written by Agrarian Reform Deputy Minister Ernesto Valdez on May 23, 1978.

The government’s lawsuit was portrayed by the anti-Marcos bloc as an act of harassment against Ninoy Aquino’s family. Inside Hacienda Luisita, however, the farmers thought the wheels of justice were finally turning and land distribution was coming.

[…]

The government pursued its case against the Cojuangcos, and by December 2, 1985, the Manila Regional Trial Court ordered TADECO to surrender Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. According to Putzel, this decision was rendered with unusual speed and was decried by the Cojuangcos as another act of harassment, because Cory Aquino, now a widow after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, was set to run for President against Marcos in the February 7, 1986 snap elections. The Cojuangcos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (Court of Appeals G.R. 08634).

Cory Aquino officially announced her candidacy on December 3, 1985. Land reform was one of the pillars of her campaign. [13]

This is Putzel’s account in A Captive Land, again with important parts highlighted:

It became clear fairly early on that although Marcos claimed he would break the oligarchy through martial law, he needed the support of landowners and provincial political clans to enforce his rule throughout the country. Marcos’ refusal to challenge the landowners head-on was clear when he restricted reform to rice and corn lands. Even here he allowed phased implementation, which gave landowners time to take evasive measures.

[…]

What is more, Marcos himself was a large landowner and used martial law to increase his own landholdings as well as those of his extended family.

[…]

Thus, Marcos did not attempt to use the state to undermine the oligarchy as a whole, but to strike out at specific powerful opponents. Marcos’s rejection of the ‘Rules and Regulations’ for the implementation of the reform, which were drawn up by the DAR in 1972, left the programme vague and therefore more easily employed as a means to reward supporters and punish opponents.

[…]

[The Cojuangcos] did not hear from the government again until Aquino was about to leave detention for a by-pass operation in the United States in May 1980. The day before he left, the government filed a case. The plaintiffs evidently included the Central Bank (or Monetary Board), the Government Service Insurance System and the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. The case remained in its preliminary stages until August 1983 when Aquino was assassinated. It was only then that the government began to conduct hearings, but there was still no urgency to the case. However, the government’s attitude changed at the time of the snap elections in February 1986, when the Aquino-Cojuangco clan once more emerged as a major threat to Marcos. On 3 December 1985, one day after Cory Aquino filed her candidacy, Judge Pardo of the Regional Trial Court denied the appeal and ruled that the family had to transfer their lands. The judge made his ruling even before summary arguments were presented, suggesting that Marcos had intervened to ask for a quick decision. [14]

One has to wonder how Dychiu was able to say that the attitude of Marcos toward Hacienda Luisita was one of “tolerance”, considering that she does even not point to any persons or materials that could back up her claim—in sharp contrast to Putzel, who scrupulously cites his sources. It is worth noting that Putzel can hardly be said to belong to the “anti-Marcos bloc” that Dychiu claims portrayed the Marcos-initiated lawsuits as “harassment against Ninoy Aquino’s family”, and yet he himself probably agrees with the assessment of that “anti-Marcos bloc”. Why Dychiu appears to disagree is not clear.

Furthermore, based on the dates, Dychiu provides a different—a reversed—sequence of events, saying that Cory Aquino filed her candidacy after the Regional Trial Court had ordered the transfer of Hacienda Luisita, while Putzel states that Cory had done it before.

It must be admitted that Putzel has the date wrong, as Cory did file her candidacy on December 3. The report that follows below, available on TIME.com, is just one of several identifying the date, although, as can be seen, the release of the order was timed to come after the filing.

[Corazon Aquino] also charged the President with “political harassment,” claiming that for years Marcos has tried to confiscate a sugar plantation owned by her family. Aquino revealed that on Dec. 3, the day she announced her candidacy, a regional court ordered the government to seize the property. [15]

Putzel does also say that the order to transfer “was actually dated 2 December 1985, the same day that General Fabian Ver, Marcos’ chief of staff, was cleared of all charges in connection with the assassination of Benigno Aquino” [16]. Could this be the reason for the disparity between the accounts of Dychiu and Putzel?

In “The Garchitorena land scam”, Dychiu refers to Putzel yet again. I have highlighted an interestingly worded sentence, which indicates another disparity:

In his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, American development studies expert Dr. James Putzel also mentioned that Father Bernas had informed President Aquino about the Garchitorena deal on April 1, 1989. Aquino then met with the DAR and Land Bank heads on April 5, 1989. Then, Sharp petitioned the Supreme Court to enforce the P62.7 million payment. Juico subsequently stopped the payment order, but the scam had already been exposed in Congress. [17]

This is Putzel’s account in A Captive Land, with my emphasis:

The President was informed about the deal on 1 April 1989 by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, and she met with [Land Bank of the Philippines President] Vistan and [Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary] Juico on 5 April. Sharp then had the audacity to petition the Supreme Court to order DAR to pay the P62.7 million for the land. Subsequently, Secretary Juico stopped the payment order and began an investigation of the deal. However, Vistan revealed the overpricing agreemtn to Congress and on 13 May 1989, Rep. Edcel Lagman told a joint House-Senate Committee the details, unleashing a scandal that brought the DAR’s work virtually to a halt. [18]

Observe that Dychiu states the scandal “had already been exposed” even as Juico stopped the payment order, which is very, very different from Putzel’s narration. Where Putzel shows one event following another, Dychiu claims that Putzel points to a confluence. Is this not a misrepresentation of Putzel? Why does Dychiu again change the timing of events—and, in this instance, purport to be simply repeating Putzel?

Let me now move on to how Putzel is used by Dychiu in “Cory’s land reform legacy”. His opinion regarding the SDO is presented toward the middle of the article:

In his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, American development studies expert James Putzel expressed doubt that the farmers understood the choice that was presented to them. “The outcome of the vote was entirely predictable,” he wrote. “The balance of power in the country favored families like the Cojuangcos. The problem was not really that the farm workers were denied the right to choose . . . it was rather that [they] were denied an environment that would allow them to identify what their choices were.” [19]

He is again cited by Dychiu a few paragraphs later in “Cory’s land reform legacy” this way:

In his book A Captive Land, Putzel also noted that Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI), the company formed by the Cojuangcos to operationalize Luisita’s SDO, was incorporated in August 1988—nine months before the farm workers were first asked to choose between stocks or land in May 1989.

This bred suspicion that the SDO was considered a done deal early on, and the two rounds of voting with the farmers were only organized to give an appearance of transparency. [20]

If the early incorporation of HLI indeed “bred suspicion”, the vague phrasing and the passive voice of Dychiu’s last paragraph in the immediately foregoing quotation should breed suspicion in turn: who were the ones doing the suspecting against the SDO, when the farmers concerned voted overwhelmingly in favor of it? Does this not seem to be a passive-aggressive attack on the Cojuangcos?

Such a sentiment is not expressed by Putzel—opining that “the farmworkers, tenants, and the landless rural poor continued to be denied an environment that would allow them to identify what their choices were” [21] is not the same as insinuating that there was a conspiracy within the Cojuangco family “to give an appearance of transparency”, as Dychiu does. In this regard, Dychiu’s stance actually seems closer to that of Assembliya ng mga Manggagawang Bukid ng Hasyenda Luisita (AMBALUS), the peasant organization whose view on the SDO vote Putzel disagrees with [22].

Incidentally, Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, himself an advocate of land redistribution, wrote that, with reference to the majority vote for the SDO, “It could be presumptuous of me to tell the farmers what is good for them […] It is not easy for a distant observer to question the wishes of the beneficiaries directly involved” [23]. Bernas, unlike Dychiu, maintained a specific position on the matter but acknowledged its complexity, especially with reference to the choice that over 90% of the farmers made.

As a final example, here are two paragraphs from Dychiu’s “How the Cojuangcos got majority control”:

Those who have studied HLI’s books say the non-land assets seem to have been overvalued to increase the Cojuangcos’ share, while the land assets were undervalued to limit the farm workers’ share.

In his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, American development studies expert Dr. James Putzel showed how the non-land assets were inflated. [24]

Just like the previous example, Dychiu appears to be making a disingenuous move: who, besides Putzel himself, are the parties (“those”) that have independently studied the books of HLI and believe that its non-land assets were inflated? Why are neither these persons nor their studies mentioned by name? Do they exist at all, or is Dychiu making a hasty generalization based on the statement of a single person—an authority, to be sure, but a single person nevertheless?

It could be argued, of course, that Dychiu must use her sources selectively, a fate that befalls any other writer, but, vis-à-vis the aforementioned excerpts, the judiciousness of her selections must be called into question.

Ethical journalism?

It is worth pointing out that, in his introduction to A Captive Land, Putzel acknowledges that there are advantages and disadvantages in writing about CARP so soon after its passage and early stages of implementation—ultimately, Putzel looks at his own book as a contribution to “what must be an on-going process of study about agrarian reform”, believing that it “will need to be amended, or even revised as other information becomes available” (xxiii) [25]. He certainly does not assert that his work is in any way definitive, which is indicative of his integrity as scholar.

A common practice among academicians is to avoid, as much as possible, invisibility—that is, the researcher generally takes it upon himself or herself to reveal his or her his or her interests and investments in a given project so as to establish not only the scope and limitations of the study itself, but also the scope and limitations of the specific subject-position from which the study is shaped. Claims to omniscience or absolute knowledge are recognized as acts of epistemic violence, and ought to be explicitly denounced and avoided.

Such an ethical stance finds equivalents in the realm of Philippine professional journalism. Two provisions from “Journalist’s Code of Ethics“, a code jointly formulated by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and the National Press Club (NPC), seem especially germane: one is, “I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts or to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognise the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly”; and the other is, “I shall not let personal motives or interests influence me in the performance of my duties; nor shall I accept or offer any present, gift or other consideration of a nature which may cast doubt on my professional integrity” [26].

As regards these provisions, of course, an admission must be registered: to the extent that journalism requires arranging data in particular ways, at particular times, for particular purposes, under the auspices of particular actors both within and without the profession—editors and publishers on the one hand, for example, and advertisers and readers on the other—and given that facts themselves are inherently value-laden, non-distortion and the elision of personal motives or interests are, at best, nearly impossible tasks.

Nevertheless, the importance of clarity, completeness, and contextualization in the presentation of information cannot be emphasized enough. While the 1987 Philippine Constitution certainly protects the freedoms of expression, of speech, and of the press from abrogation, laws against obscenity, libel, slander, intellectual theft, and sedition, among others, also exist in order to ensure that such freedoms are exercised with responsibility.

The “Journalist’s Code of Ethics” [27] is but an extension of or complement to such laws, and its very existence indicates a recognition within the field of professional journalism that words, because they are capable of material effect, can be dangerous. This is not a newly discovered or recognized property of words.  Even the most cursory examination of history will show that many reputations, relationships, and regimes have been reared and razed by words.  In Christian theology, the world was brought about with words, and later saved by the Word.  And of course, just waiting to be summoned is the platitudinous comparison between the pen and the sword. Therefore, it behooves anyone who uses words to be ever aware of—and to be equal to—the great burden he or she bears—even the most reclusive diarist must realize that he or she is writing for someone else, if only someone other than his or her present self.

On the GMANews.TV web site, the Hacienda Luisita series by Dychiu is classified under “Special Reports”, a section of the site that contains what appear to be specimens of that could be called straight reportage. The “specialness” of the reports collected under this rubric probably derives largely from their sustained length and relative depth. At the level of categorization alone, Dychiu’s series is already problematic. Consider how the first part of the series, “Hacienda Luisita’s past”, opens:

Senator Noynoy Cojuangco Aquino has said he only owns 1% of Hacienda Luisita. Why is he being dragged into the hacienda’s issues?

This is one of the most common questions asked in the 2010 elections.

To find the answer, GMANews.TV traveled to Tarlac and spoke to Luisita’s farm workers and union leaders. A separate interview and review of court documents was then conducted with the lawyers representing the workers’ union in court. GMANews.TV also examined the Cojuangcos’ court defense and past media and legislative records on the Luisita issue.

The investigation yielded illuminating insights into Senator Noynoy Aquino’s involvement in Hacienda Luisita that have not been openly discussed since his presidential bid. Details are gradually explored in this series of special reports.

A background on the troubled history of Hacienda Luisita is essential to understanding why the issue is forever haunting Senator Noynoy Aquino and his family. [28]

The use of phrases such as “being dragged”, “one of the most common”, “troubled history”, and “forever haunting” [29] would seem to be inappropriate and should have been excised from a piece of straight reportage. Not only are they tonally charged, they also pivot on undisclosed assumptions about how Senator Aquino is bound up with and implicated in the issue of Hacienda Luisita.

The announced intention of discovering why Senator Aquino is “being dragged” into the issue, for instance, is, at bottom, predicated on a spurious hyperbole: because the issue is supposed to be “forever haunting” him, though it was previously stated that this same issue is the root of “one of the most common questions asked in the 2010 elections” [30]. The pentapartite series, then, seems to be based on a question for which the author already had a kind of blueprint or outline of answers before even beginning the research process, which may explain why it is seriously flawed, as I have already shown.

What is most significant about the excerpt above, however, is the third paragraph: GMANews.TV pointedly did not interview anyone from the Cojuangco family or any Hacienda Luisita official, preferring instead to consult old court documents, media reports, and legislative records, despite, as earlier mentioned, the fact that three months’ worth of research was supposedly put into the series.

This is a strange decision for at least two reasons: first, farm workers, union leaders, and union lawyers were directly consulted; and second, Dychiu does not make the conventional statement that the Cojuangcos or the officials of Hacienda Luisita refused to be interviewed, which implies that they may have been willing, had they been asked. Did Dychiu, or anyone from the GMANews.TV team, even attempt to interview these people? If so, how did they respond? Why are their responses not noted?

Moreover, after three months of research—research that was conducted under the supervision of Severino, a veteran journalist, to boot—it is unbelievable that Dychiu could only find one scholarly tome on the subject—a tome, I might add, that is nearly two decades old. Equally unbelievable is her seeming lack of initiative or interest to investigate the extensive list of references at the end of A Captive Land, when the list could have pointed her toward resources with which her study could have been deepened and enriched.

What is most difficult to accept about Dychiu’s work is that it presents itself as reportage—a type of journalistic writing that ideally seeks to put forward facts corroborated by reliable primary and secondary sources, as well as a balance of multiple viewpoints—when, upon close examination, it deliberately imparts only one perspective.

That nothing can or should stop Dychiu from taking up and defending a position that is at odds with CARP, with the SDO, with the handling of Hacienda Luisita, or with Senator Aquino and his family should be obvious enough. This, however, does not give her, or GMANews.TV, for that matter, the liberty—at least from a professional, ethical perspective—to declare that her work is reportage when, from the very beginning, it is obvious that she is determined to be one-sided, even at the cost of distorting and misrepresenting her sources, such as Putzel’s book.

What is the purpose behind her insidious insinuations? Why, when she could come clean about her biases instead—a move that would indicate an openness to dialogue, a willingness to be challenged—does Dychiu avoid showing her true face?

While I do not think that this piece will be met with unanimous agreement, I believe that I have given the astute reader enough material such that he or she will at least entertain a healthy skepticism about the work of Dychiu and the standards of GMANews.TV sets for itself as a media organization.

If, as I mentioned earlier, the currency of the trade of journalism is information, dare any critical, ethical reader have faith in and use the information that has Dychiu provided, particularly when she cannot even report the smallest details accurately? How can her larger claims be trusted when she cannot perform the simple act of quotation properly, instead willfully warping data—including data from her chosen expert—to suit her prejudices, which she has conveniently failed to disclose?

I began this essay with two questions, which I will repeat here:

  1. Has Dychiu used Putzel, a recognized development expert, responsibly, with due regard and care for what he is actually saying?
  2. Insofar as the Hacienda Luisita series is concerned, can Dychiu be said to have upheld the code of ethics of Philippine journalism that has been formulated by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and the National Press Club (NPC)?

I am sorry to say that my answer to both questions is a resounding, “No”.

*

Notes

  1. Luis V. Teodoro, ed., “About the Site”, Eye on Ethics, n.d., Center for Media Responsibility and Asia Media Forum, http://www.eyeonethics.org/about, accessed 18 March. 2010.
  2. James Putzel, A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila U P, 1992.
  3. Stephanie Dychiu, “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future”, GMANews.TV, 18 January 2010, GMA Network, Inc., http://www.gmanews.tv/story/181877/hacienda-luisitas-past-haunts-noynoys-future, accessed 22 March 2010.
  4. Stephanie Dychiu, “Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will”, GMANews.TV, 22 January 2010, GMA Network, Inc., http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182195/corys-land-reform-legacy-to-test-noynoys-political-will, accessed 22 March 2010.
  5. Stephanie Dychiu, “The Garchitorena land scam”, GMANews.TV 22 January 2010, GMA Network, Inc, http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182211/the-garchitorena-land-scam, accessed 22 March 2010.
  6. Stephanie Dychiu, “How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita”, GMANews.TV, 22 January 2010, GMA Network, Inc., http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182212/how-the-cojuangcos-got-majority-control-of-hacienda-luisita-under-carp, accessed 22 March 2010.
  7. Dychiu, “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future”, op. cit.
  8. Dychiu, “Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will”, op. cit.
  9. Dychiu, “The Garchitorena land scam”, op. cit.
  10. Dychiu, “How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita”, op. cit.
  11. Putzel, op. cit., p. 382.
  12. Stephanie Dychiu, “After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest”, GMANews.TV, 11 February 2010, GMA Network, Inc., http://www.gmanews.tv/story/183662/after-luisita-massacre-more-killings-linked-to-protest, accessed 22 March 2010.
  13. Dychiu, “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future”, op. cit.
  14. Putzel, op. cit., pp. 146-8.
  15. “World Notes: Jan. 13, 1986”, TIME.com, 21 June 2005, Time Inc., http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1074933,00.html, accessed 18 March 2010.
  16. Putzel, op. cit., p. 148n222.
  17. Dychiu, “The Garchitorena land scam”, op. cit.
  18. Putzel, op. cit., p. 315.
  19. Dychiu, “Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will”, op. cit.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Putzel, op. cit., p. 335.
  22. Ibid., p. 335n119.
  23. Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ, “More on Hacienda Luisita”, A Living Constitution: The Cory Aquino Presidency, Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2000, pp. 215; 218.
  24. Dychiu, “How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita”, op. cit.
  25. Putzel, op. cit., p. xxiii.
  26. Philippine Press Institute and National Press Club, “Journalist’s Code of Ethics”, Eye on Ethics, n.d., Center for Media Responsibility and Asia Media Forum. http://www.eyeonethics.org/journalist-code-of-ethics-in-asia/journalists-code-of-ethics-philippines, accessed 18 March 2010.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Dychiu, “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future”, op. cit.
  29. Ibid., italics original.
  30. Ibid.

Works Cited

Bernas, Joaquin G. “More on Hacienda Luisita”. A Living Constitution: The Cory Aquino Presidency. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2000. 214-9.

Dychiu, Stephanie. “After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest”. GMANews.TV. 11 Feb. 2010, GMA Network, Inc. 22 Mar. 2010. <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/183662/after-luisita-massacre-more-killings-linked-to-protest&gt;.

—. “Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will”. GMANews.TV. 22 Jan. 2010, GMA Network, Inc. 22 Mar. 2010. <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182195/corys-land-reform-legacy-to-test-noynoys-political-will&gt;.

—. “The Garchitorena land scam”. GMANews.TV. 22 Jan. 2010, GMA Network, Inc. 22 Mar. 2010. <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182211/the-garchitorena-land-scam&gt;.

—. “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future”. GMANews.TV. 18 Jan. 2010, GMA Network, Inc. 22 Mar. 2010. <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/181877/hacienda-luisitas-past-haunts-noynoys-future&gt;.

—. “How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita”. GMANews.TV. 22 Jan. 2010, GMA Network, Inc. 22 Mar. 2010. <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182212/how-the-cojuangcos-got-majority-control-of-hacienda-luisita-under-carp&gt;.

Philippine Press Institute and National Press Club. “Journalist’s Code of Ethics”. Eye on Ethics. n.d., Center for Media Responsibility and Asia Media Forum. 18 Mar. 2010. <http://www.eyeonethics.org/journalist-code-of-ethics-in-asia/journalists-code-of-ethics-philippines/&gt;.

Putzel, James. “Agrarian Reform in a Captive Land”. Introduction. A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines. By Putzel. xix-xxiv.

—. A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila U P, 1992.

Teodoro, Luis V., ed. “About the Site”. Eye on Ethics. n.d., Center for Media Responsibility and Asia Media Forum.  18 Mar. 2010. <http://www.eyeonethics.org/about/&gt;.

“World Notes: Jan. 13, 1986”. TIME.com. 21 Jun. 2005, Time Inc.  18 Mar. 2010. <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1074933,00.html&gt;.

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51 thoughts on “Stephanie Dychiu, James Putzel, and the ethics of reportage

  1. Pingback: Stephanie Dychiu, James Putzel, and the ethics of reportage | Filipino Voices

  2. good work, random salt. i knew something was fishy with this dychiu person from the beginning.

    my sister reads her stuff on that girl magazine cosmo something.

    a lifestyle writer should not be dabbling in serious business like this.

    i’m surprised her editor let her do this.

  3. Thank you for taking time to rip Dychiu’s, and GMA7’s, objective veneer to shreds. Now I realize what a friend meant when he told me that one of Gloria’s daughters in law was a close relative of one of the owners of GMA7.

  4. I am surprised how Howie Severino allowed so much editorializing in the article. I noticed that none of the farmer beneficiaries were interviewed nor any member of the Cojuangco family.

    I was interviewed by Howie Severino only for the purpose of verifying some personalities on the killings and the intention of Senator Aquino regarding land distribution.

    Apparently, Dychiu and by extension, Howie Severino relied on secondary sources which Dychiu invoked numerously in her article but not only being happy with that, editorialize as Random Salt, aptly described the series.

    This is not investigative journalism which Howie claims to be doing. This is black propaganda, pure and simple. So many statements in the series could have been easily debunked by the farmer beneficiaries and Hacienda Luisita themselves had Mr. Severino or Ms. Dychiu even bother to ask them.

    For instance, the statement that there was no compliance on the part of HLI and were thus refused a Certificate by DAR is simply not true. Time and again, the HLI lawyers submitted written compliance with the DAR and they have ample documents showing proper receipt by DAR. Did Mr. Severino ask me regarding that and other statements in order for us to respond? Never! We had all the documents to show Mr. Severino and Ms. Dychiu and yet in their haste to present what purports to be an objective view of Hacienda Luisita, they never even bothered to ask HLI. So, where is the balanced view of this series and consequently, of GMA-7?

    Mr. Severino and Ms. Dychiu, quoting secondary sources does not a winning piece of investigating journalism make!

    Incidentally, I learned to speak Fookienese studying in St. Jude Catholic School. And in Fookienese, Dychiu means “second hand”. Clearly, Stephanie Dychiu is living up to her surname.

    • It is indeed disappointing that a journalist of Howie Severeino’s caliber would allow this to happen.

      On another note, that’s a wonderful bit of trivia re Dychiu’s surname.

  5. To Jay, Thank you for taking the time to analyze our Luisita series. Believe it or not, we had no hidden agenda in doing the reports. I will respond to some of your specific points in a comment later.

    Since Edwin Lacierda, candidate Noynoy Aquino’s spokesman, weighed in and made references to me and to a specific fact in the series, allow me to respond to him first. (I assume that is really Edwin, since there is no way for me to verify)

    Hi Edwin,

    Thank you for entertaining my calls. You made many allegations in your comment above, but cited only one example. You state above:

    “For instance, the statement that there was no compliance on the part of HLI and were thus refused a Certificate by DAR is simply not true.”

    We can cite two sources: The DAR Terminal Report on the Luisita investigation issued in Sept 2005, and the petition to the Supreme Court by Hacienda Luisita’s own lawyers in Feb 2006 (pages 32 and 34) both said that DAR had not issued a certificate of compliance with regards to the implementation of the Stock Distribution Option.

    As far as I know, court documents and government reports are primary sources, and not secondary sources as you allege.

    Edwin, surely if what you say is true, that the DAR really did issue such a certificate, then you can produce that document? Kindly fax it to our office so we can issue a correction. And you might as well furnish HLI’s lawyers a copy as well, because then you would know and have something that they do not.

    Also, you may want to brush up on your Chinese languages. If you ask your former Chinese-speaking classmates at St. Jude Catholic School, they will tell you that the Chinese character “Lee” on which the surname “Dy” is based means “plum”, not “second hand”.

    I must say that making fun of the name of someone you happen to disagree with is not becoming of the spokesman of a leading candidate for the presidency.

    Howie Severino
    Editor-in-Chief
    GMANews.TV

    • With all due respect, sir, the fact that your series on Luisita distorts the authority it cites (i.e., Putzel) can only register as suspicious. But I certainly look forward to your comment on the points that I have raised.

    • Dear Howie,

      The fact that you relied on government statements and did not even bother to inquire with us regarding why DAR did not issue their Compliance Certificate is already telling enough. We have documents showing compliance and our lawyers submitted documents to DAR. Did you bother to ask me or the lawyers why DAR claimed there was no DAR compliance? A simple email to me would have sufficed.

      In another instance, your series claimed that Pres. Aquino participated in the PARC hearings when the issue of HLI was discussed. What was your basis for saying so? Did you bother to ask me or HLI lawyers whether or not she did? Did you interview Philip Juico if she participated? Did you also know that then Justice Secretary Sedfrey Ordonez inhibited himself from the PARC hearings because he was former counsel to the Cojuangco corporation. A simple query would have sufficed. We have minutes that President Aquino and Justice Secretary inhibited themselves. Did you or Ms. Dychiu verify this?

      The fact is you heavily relied on Putzel’s book and DAR documents when it was convenient to point an accusing finger on HLI. The people are still alive, you could have at least inquire from them but you chose not to. What does it speak of the quality of your investigative journalism?

      After publishing your article without even bothering to inquire from the parties concerned, you now ask me or HLI to submit documents to you? What is this? Shoot now and ask later? I would have understand if the primary sources are no longer around but hey, they are still here, alive and kicking. Shouldn’t you have at least interviewed them?

      And with respect to Ms. Dychiu’s surname, i dont know who your chinese friends are but please tell them, I emphatically stated Fookienese. And in Fookienese, DyChiu, when said, also means “second hand”. The surname of Dychiu is simply indicative of the kind of research you allowed in your online news, invoking second hand sources when primary sources abound.

      I would be more than glad to sit down with you and discuss HLI substantively, and not merely being asked queries regarding alleged killers. Surely, if you sincerely want to go to the bottom of the HLI issue, a sit down with you or Ms. Dychiu would be much appreciated.

      And I am sorry Howie, your article is unbecoming of the trust awareness that people reposed in you, myself included.

      Best,

      Edwin

  6. Dear Jay,

    Thank you again for the effort you took to analyze the GMANews.TV reports on Hacienda Luisita. Please allow me to respond to some of the points that you raised.

    I will only respond to the points that relate to factual content, as these are more relevant to understanding the Hacienda Luisita issue. Your opinion on semantics and style is yours and you are entitled to it.

    But first, a few general comments.

    Regarding the lack of interviews with the Cojuangco family, Sen. Aquino’s staff referred our queries about Luisita to Atty. Edwin Lacierda his spokesman who, in addition to the quotes included in the reports, also conveyed to us the sentiments of certain members of the Cojuangco family which he asked be off the record.

    But the New York Times has already published its own on-the-record quotes of Luisita top executive Fernando Cojuangco, Sen. Aquino’s cousin, whose position is opposite of what Sen. Aquino has been saying publicly. Sen. Aquino has tried to cast doubt on the accuracy of Fernando’s quotes despite a tape recording of the interview.

    As for the insinuation by one of your blog’s readers that we are somehow doing our reporting about Luisita on behalf of Pres. Arroyo, can others now say that our numerous reports on Arroyo scandals and alleged hidden wealth were produced on behalf of Sen. Aquino?

    As for primary author Stephanie Dychiu, she is a prize-winning writer on a wide range of subjects. Just search her name. For GMANews.TV, she has produced excellent reportage on abortion, the Ondoy flood, and Carlo Caparas. From a previous career, she also has a keen understanding of corporate finance, thus her ability to process complex information on the stock distribution option.

    A few specific points in response to your fascinating but disputable post:

    1. Regarding your contention that the portions of the GMANews.TV report attributed to the book A Captive Land by Dr. James Putzel are inconsistent with what Putzel actually wrote, we prepared our own comparison below between what Putzel wrote and what appeared in the GMANews.TV report.

    a) GMANews.TV: The Cojuangcos’ disputed hold over Hacienda Luisita had been tolerated by Marcos even at the height of his dictatorship. However, as Ninoy Aquino and his family were leaving for exile in the US, a case was filed on May 7, 1980 by the Marcos government against the Cojuangco company TADECO for the surrender of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, so land could be distributed to the farmers at cost, in accordance with the terms of the government loans given in 1957-1958 to the late Jose Cojuangco, Sr., who died in 1976. (Republic of the Philippines vs. TADECO, Civil Case No. 131654, Manila Regional Trial Court, Branch XLIII)

    Dr. James Putzel: The [Cojuangcos] did not hear from the government again until Aquino was about to leave detention for a by-pass operation in the United States in May 1980. The day before he left, the government filed a case. The plaintiffs evidently included the Central Bank (or Monetary Board), the Government Service Insurance System and the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. The case remained in its preliminary stages until August 1983 when Aquino was assassinated. It was only then that the government began to conduct hearings, but there was still no urgency to the case.

    Remarks: Both the GMANews.TV and Putzel versions state that the government under Marcos did not take decisive action on the Hacienda Luisita case until May 1980 when Ninoy Aquino and his family were leaving for the US.

    b) GMANews.TV: The government pursued its case against the Cojuangcos, and by December 2, 1985, the Manila Regional Trial Court ordered TADECO to surrender Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. According to Putzel, this decision was rendered with unusual speed and was decried by the Cojuangcos as another act of harassment, because Cory Aquino, now a widow after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, was set to run for President against Marcos in the February 7, 1986 snap elections. The Cojuangcos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (Court of Appeals G.R. 08634).

    Cory Aquino officially announced her candidacy on December 3, 1985. Land reform was one of the pillars of her campaign.

    Putzel: However, the government’s attitude changed at the time of the snap elections in February 1986, when the Aquino-Cojuangco clan once more emerged as a major threat to Marcos. On 3 December 1985, one day after Cory Aquino filed her candidacy, Judge Pardo of the Regional Trial Court denied the appeal and ruled that the family had to transfer their lands. The judge made his ruling even before summary arguments were presented, suggesting that Marcos had intervened to ask for a quick decision.

    Remarks: Both the GMANews.TV and Putzel versions state that the decision on the Hacienda Luisita case was issued hurriedly around the same time Cory Aquino filed her candidacy, and was therefore seen as a politically motivated act.

    (Politically motivated or not, the bigger issue was determining whether or not the facts of the case and the basis for the decision were valid. Hence, the case was elevated to the Court of Appeals. However, before the Court of Appeals could render a decision, the situation was overtaken by events. EDSA 1 occurred, Cory Aquino became President, then the Aquino government withdrew the case at the Court of Appeals under the condition that Hacienda Luisita would be distributed to farmers under CARP.)

    c) GMANews.TV: In his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, American development studies expert Dr. James Putzel also mentioned that Father Bernas had informed President Aquino about the Garchitorena deal on April 1, 1989. Aquino then met with the DAR and Land Bank heads on April 5, 1989. Then, Sharp petitioned the Supreme Court to enforce the P62.7 million payment. Juico subsequently stopped the payment order, but the scam had already been exposed in Congress.

    Putzel: The President was informed about the deal on 1 April 1989 by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, and she met with [Land Bank of the Philippines President] Vistan and [Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary] Juico on 5 April. Sharp then had the audacity to petition the Supreme Court to order DAR to pay the P62.7 million for the land. Subsequently, Secretary Juico stopped the payment order and began an investigation of the deal. However, Vistan revealed the overpricing agreement to Congress and on 13 May 1989, Rep. Edcel Lagman told a joint House-Senate Committee the details, unleashing a scandal that brought the DAR’s work virtually to a halt.

    Remarks: Both the GMANews.TV and Putzel versions state the following in the same sequence:

    *Father Joaquin Bernas informed President Aquino of the Garchitorena land deal on April 1, 1989.

    *Aquino met with the DAR and Land Bank heads on April 5, 1989 (Juico and Vistan).

    *Sharp then petitioned the Supreme Court to order DAR to pay the P62.7 million.

    *Subsequently, Juico stopped the payment order.

    *But the transaction was exposed in Congress.

    Admittedly, the wording in our version may have given the impression that the exposure of the scam in Congress occurred before Juico stopped the payment order. But even in the Putzel version it is not stated when exactly Juico acted and whether this was before or after the scam’s exposure in Congress. However, even if we had the sequence mixed up, I’m not sure it’s fair to jump to the conclusion that we deliberately distorted that fact. For what would that have proven?

    Something else Putzel also wrote, which was not included in the GMANews.TV report:

    “Throughout 1988 and early 1989, LBP president, Deogracias Vistan, had been sparring with Juico over the orientation of CARP implementation and the division of power between the LBP and the DAR within the government. Vistan used the controversy to bring down the DAR secretary and to secure LBP dominance over the land valuation procedure. Subsequently, the bank was given full responsibility over land valuation, weakening DAR’s position still further.”

    2. You said that “based on the dates, Dychiu provides a different —a reversed— sequence of events, saying that Cory Aquino filed her candidacy after the Regional Trial Court had ordered the transfer of Hacienda Luisita, while Putzel states that Cory had done it before”.

    You then follow this with a statement saying that, “Putzel has the date wrong, as Cory did file her candidacy on December 3.”

    I believe you have answered your own question. The dates indicated in the GMANews.TV report are correct.

    3. Regarding your contention that the statement in the GMANews.TV report saying that there was suspicion surrounding the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) is a mere passive-aggressive attack of the author against the Cojuangcos, kindly note that this is a factual statement, not a statement of opinion. There were suspicions surrounding the SDO, and this is why it has been the subject of controversy since the time of its inception in 1989. There would be no investigations and no court cases if no doubts existed.

    4. Regarding your contention that the GMANews.TV report did not name who “those” were who examined HLI’s books and claimed there was an overvaluation and undervaluation of assets, kindly read the report again. The sources are identified. Here’s one link: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182195/corys-land-reform-legacy-to-test-noynoys-political-will

    At the beginning of your essay, you said that you support the bid of Senator Noynoy Aquino for president, and your decision to write your critique is partially motivated by that support.

    Is a pre-existing favorable bias for a presidential candidate the correct motivation?

    Perhaps it would be better to be motivated by a sincere desire to know the truth. Then there would be no need to attack authors, because the facts, favorable and unfavorable, will be seen for what they are.

    Howie Severino
    Editor-in-Chief
    GMANews.TV

    • Thank you for your response. Let me offer the following in answer:

      Specific comments

      Your remarks: “Both the GMANews.TV and Putzel versions state that the government under Marcos did not take decisive action on the Hacienda Luisita case until May 1980 when Ninoy Aquino and his family were leaving for the US.”

      My response: This is beside the point. You do not address Dychiu’s attribution of an attitude of “tolerance” to Marcos, which has important consequences for the overall tone of the article.

      Your remarks: “Both the GMANews.TV and Putzel versions state that the decision on the Hacienda Luisita case was issued hurriedly around the same time Cory Aquino filed her candidacy, and was therefore seen as a politically motivated act.”

      My response: Dychiu’s version makes it appear that only the Cojuangcos decried the Hacienda Luisita case as an act of harassment. Does she know this for a fact?

      Your remarks: “Admittedly, the wording in our version may have given the impression that the exposure of the scam in Congress occurred before Juico stopped the payment order. But even in the Putzel version it is not stated when exactly Juico acted and whether this was before or after the scam’s exposure in Congress. However, even if we had the sequence mixed up, I’m not sure it’s fair to jump to the conclusion that we deliberately distorted that fact. For what would that have proven?”

      My response: This proves that the vetting process of GMANews.TV requires more rigor, whether the disparity is an example of distortion or incompetence.

      Your remarks: “I believe you have answered your own question. The dates indicated in the GMANews.TV report are correct.”

      My response: I did not question the dates per se. I questioned the sequence of events as they were presented. Let me repeat myself: Dychiu makes it appear that Cory Aquino filed her candidacy after the Regional Trial Court had ordered the transfer of Hacienda Luisita, while Putzel states that Cory had done it before. If Dychiu based her narrative on the date written upon the order to transfer, rather than the date on which such order was released, then that should been clearly stated in her presentation. It is not.

      Your remarks: “…kindly read the report again. The sources are identified.”

      My response: The relevant sidebar in your link only discusses land assets. My question pertained to the alleged inflation of non-land assets based on a study of the financial documents of HLI.

      General comments

      (1) Your consignment of the issues of semantics and style to the realm of opinion would seem to indicate an unfortunate attitude toward language—but surely you are neither ignorant of nor indifferent to nuance? Data are not merely gathered, but constructed, and semantics, style, and even sequence of presentation are crucial in such construction. Consider: the root of the word “fact” is the Latin facere, which means “to make”.

      (2) GMANews.TV is not the New York Times. In any case, John Nery has already offered an interesting assessment of the NYT piece you refer to, and Atty. Lacierda has made good points regarding Dychiu’s choice of sources as well.

      (3) That there are disparities at all, however minor, between Putzel and Dychiu should be disturbing to you, as the editor-in-chief of GMANews.TV. As I said earlier, if these are not deliberate distortions, then these are instances of incompetence. Either way, their existence proves that your organization needs to make its vetting process more rigorous. Awards, as I am sure you know, only recognize past achievements. As this situation shows, they are not lifetime guarantees against failure.

      (4) It is journalists like you and Dychiu who bear the onus of objectivity in the process of seeking the truth, as very clearly laid out in the Journalist’s Code of Ethics. Considering Dychiu’s choice of sources (and use thereof), not to mention manner of presentation, I am not convinced that this series, which professes to be news rather than opinion, proves that you are equal to such an onus. But out of curiosity, let me ask: do you fully believe that the series meets the ethical standards of your profession?

      • I don’t know man, it still reeks of bias. Why only interview one farmer, and Lito Bais at that? Bais is a mouthpiece for the Left.

        Can you at least please amend your reports to include statements from other farmers?

        Preferable someone Bais doesn’t know so we know for sure he’s not “influenced” by Bais.

      • Hi Jay,

        If anyone should be complaining about a distortion of James Putzel’s book, it is Putzel himself. I actually wrote him a while back to inform him that we were reading his book and sent him links to the Luisita series. This is what he replied:

        It is great when one sees that the value of research stands over time (of course, it is highly unfortunate that despite revealing all this about the origins of Luisita two decades ago, there has been no change!). But of course my book argues why there has been no change and that receives less attention!

        All best wishes,

        James

        Professor James Putzel
        Director, Crisis States Research Centre
        Development Studies Institute
        London School of Economics and Political Science
        Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE UK

        Perhaps you can write him directly to try to convince him that he has been distorted?

        I’m sorry if the series failed to meet your standards. We’ll do better next time. But just so it’s clearer to all what your own standards are, can you furnish the readers of your blog links to reportage on Hacienda Luisita that do meet your standards? Just so it’s clear to everyone, especially to all the substandard journalists out there, that you are really talking about journalistic standards and not simply partisan ones.

        By the way, I only cited the New York Times but never said that GMANews.TV is the New York Times. Please don’t distort what I write.

        Thanks.

        howie

        • As regards your statement, “If anyone should be complaining about a distortion of James Putzel’s book, it is Putzel himself”, I find this disingenuous in the extreme. I have as much a right to state my views as anyone else. Surely someone who works in the media can appreciate that.

          The standards that I have appealed to in my original post are: (a) generally agreed upon standards of research that are taught in high school and college; and (b) ethical standards set by the National Press Club and the Philippine Press Institute. Journalist Felicity Tan provides an extended discussion of journalistic standards here and here. So again, let me ask: Do you fully believe that the series meets the ethical standards of your profession?

          You were the one who brought up the New York Times in the first place, in connection with the lack of Dychiu’s interviews with the Aquinos. But just to clarify: I never said that you claimed GMANews.TV was the NYT, so please don’t distort what I write, either.

        • pagpasensyahan nyo na mga yan. kayo na ang pinagtutulungan ng mga yan kasi hindi nila ma-dispute ung article at credibility ng NY Times. bully boys.

          nakakatawa naman yung felicity tan article. pag-pinagtabi ang credentials niya at kay howie severino, parang lupa at langit. what more kung sa NY Times pa.

          “muddying the waters” fail!

    • Pardon me, I missed a specific comment:

      Your remarks: “Regarding your contention that the statement in the GMANews.TV report saying that there was suspicion surrounding the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) is a mere passive-aggressive attack of the author against the Cojuangcos, kindly note that this is a factual statement, not a statement of opinion. There were suspicions surrounding the SDO, and this is why it has been the subject of controversy since the time of its inception in 1989. There would be no investigations and no court cases if no doubts existed.”

      My response: Based on the wording of her statement, Dychiu attributes the suspicion as having been directly produced by the early incorporation of HLI. Do the court cases that have been filed allege the same thing? Who is/are alleging that the SDO was a set-up all along? Why are they not named?

      Thank you.

  7. Pingback: uberVU - social comments

  8. Can we also have an investigative report on the wealth of Manny Villar, including the controversies hunting him?
    Since you have already accomodated a Special Report on an issue involving a major candidate, it is also appropriate that you also publish a Special Report on the next major candidate to “level the playing field”

    Thank you.

  9. To: Mr. Howie Severino,

    Can we also have an investigative report on the wealth of Manny Villar, including the controversies hunting him?
    Since you have already accomodated a Special Report on an issue involving a major candidate, it is also appropriate that you also publish a Special Report on the next major candidate to “level the playing field”

    Thank you.

  10. Pingback: Where GMA News went wrong | Barrio Siete

  11. Funny how quickly you pounce on the writer’s and the editor’s perceived bias yet never showing even the slightest of interest if any of the issues raised re the hacienda are valid or not, or if there is truth in them at all. The issues of the Hacienda too small viz the bias of Severino or Dychiu? Where’s your sense of proportion, people? It may have been written by Villar’s PR men or anyone who dislikes Noynoy’s bald pate, for all we care, but surely there are questions needing answers. You feel so aggrieved, then someone here could interview Noynoy and the clan on the issue, devote a whole 10 series maybe, get to the core of the issue from their point of view, and get abs-cbn to publish it too, a good way to maybe start a network war.

    To people we like, we offer the whole wide mouth of the Mississippi river, to those we dont like, the eye of the needle.

    Peace.

    • It is precisely the distortions in the series that make the task of determining the truth and validity of certain claims above others more complicated than it has to be, which is why I believe they are worth paying attention to.

      In any case, it is not your place to tell me what I should be interested in.

    • Hahaha, I can’t help it, but ain’t that like Severino or Dychiu telling you: In any case, it is not your place to tell me how I would do my job!”

      Promise, I won’t show up here again.

      Thanks for the space. Peace, man.

      • It is not the same at all. I do not object to any discussion of Hacienda Luisita. It is a legitimate campaign issue. And as I said in my original post, “nothing can or should stop Dychiu from taking up and defending a position that is at odds with CARP, with the SDO, with the handling of Hacienda Luisita, or with Senator Aquino and his family”.

        What I take issue with is not what was discussed, but how it was discussed, particularly vis-à-vis the Journalist’s Code of Ethics.

        • you are very disingenuous here, jay. by trying to rip apart dychiu’s report, you not only tried to discredit dychiu and HOW she presented her report but also WHAT she presented. killing the messenger is an age-old tactic, we know that. the least you can do is be honest about it.

          i know you are not a journalist but, given your superb talent and keen intellect, it would serve the public best if you can do a report yourself on luisita and let us in on it. i think you owe it to yourself and your audience to find out what exactly happened in hacienda luisita and why noynoy’s family is bent on NOT distributing the land to farmers.

          sige na. such a report from you will definitely contribute to a better understanding of this issue. and i say this with all sincerity.

          • Jonas,

            Your claim that I am being disingenuous is baseless. I have been very transparent about my intentions and objectives for this post, and the standards that I have used to evaluate Dychiu’s series are in no way random, arbitrary, idiosyncratic, or purely personal. As I told Mr. Severino, these are: (a) generally agreed upon standards of research that are taught in high school and college; and (b) ethical standards set by the National Press Club and the Philippine Press Institute.

            In establishing my position, readers are given a clear and concrete chance to agree or disagree with me. Dychiu, on the other hand, denied readers that same chance in packaging her articles as news. If she had labeled her series “opinion”, “editorial”, or even “advocacy journalism”—a genre of journalism that is actually transparent about its partisan viewpoint—then I would not have written this post at all.

            The job of investigating and bringing to light issues of public interest rightfully belongs to media organizations like GMANews.TV. My role, as I see it, consists not of taking on the work of journalists, but of demanding that journalists live up to the standards they have set for themselves, so that they can better serve members of the news-consuming public like myself.

  12. Not supporting Mr. Aquino’s bid for the presidency, but a very insightful analysis on that TV report, Mr. Salazar. The report did seem biased. Kudos!

  13. Pingback: Where GMA News went wrong | felicity tan

  14. Pingback: Land reform remains an unresolved national issue Aquino can't lie about | Asian Correspondent

  15. This lengthy article is just plain killing the messenger, nothing more. Maybe you can make your own report, or analyze the bias of the other network towards your yellow president?

    The report can be proven to be misleading, but that doesn’t increase the level of competence of Noynoy. He’s just another illusion of hope to many Filipinos. His only advantage over Erap and FPJ is his parents.

    I have no doubt Noynoy can win this election, and I’m embarrassed about that. I also believe it’s not too late to vote for the right president.

    • That GMANews.TV has failed to be fair in its coverage is easy enough to illustrate. Consider, for example, what Felicity Tan was able to find during her visit to Hacienda Luisita: “What the farmers told me in Hacienda Luisita“.

      If you don’t believe that journalists should be made to answer for their unprofessional, unethical conduct, then you should not be complaining about the bias of ABS-CBN—which, per the Center of Media Freedom and Responsibility, is a baseless charge against the network, anyway. Your claim that Senator Aquino is incompetent is equally baseless.

      And of course it is not too late to vote for the right president—elections are still about 20 days away.

  16. The GMA News report special/series on Hacienda Luisita written by Stephanie D. is one of the best investigative journalism pieces I have read over the last two decades. Objective, sharp and critical based on facts and true series of events, authenticated documents and interviews on the people in actual struggle. Mahirap pasinungalingan ang totoo, mahirap dayain ang tunay. Kailangan tanggapin ang katotohanan and Ms Stephanie’s in-depth write up on Hacienda Luisita further gave us the opportunity to further discover Hacienda Luisita. Kaya pala walang pinag-iba si Noynoy kay Gloria and they belong to the same league of extraordinary exploiters, serial killers and opportunists, low life political animals

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