LOS BANOS, Philippines—The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) honored the late Philippine Daily Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot Sr. and four others as “Press Freedom Heroes” for their role in advancing press freedom in the Philippines.
It was the first time the media organization gave the posthumous recognition to journalists outside the NUJP membership, according to newly elected NUJP secretary general Rupert Mangilit, in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Also honored during the NUJP’s 8th National Congress were Philippine Press Institute Executive Director Jose Pavia, who died on April 11, 2011; radio commentator and environmentalist Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega, who was murdered on Feb. 24, 2011; Bulacan-based journalist Maria “Nene” Bundoc-Ocampo, who died on Sept. 17, 2012; and human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong, who passed away Sept. 16, 2012.
The five late stalwarts of Philippine journalism were recognized “for serving as instruments in promoting excellence in journalism and in fighting impunity.”
Newly elected NUJP chairperson Rowena Paraan said Yambot, who was Inquirer’s publisher for 18 years before he passed away on March 2, 2012, supported every press freedom campaign the NUJP waged, by making himself available to media forums and gatherings.
“Yambot was so moved by the brutal murder of 58 people, including 32 journalists… that tears fell from his eyes,” Paraan in a statement, recalling an event in front of the Inquirer building following the 2009 Maguindano massacre, which has been described as the worst act of violence against the Philippine press.
Philippine Daily Inquirer photojournalist and former Philippine Center for Photojournalism chair Joan Bondoc accepted the plaque for Yambot.
The NUJP honored Pavia for his work in the PPI and for co-founding with Ocampo the Bulacan-based paper Mabuhay that continued “to set the standards for community journalism and journalism in the vernacular.”
Ocampo was also Pilipino Section editor of the Philippine News Agency during the martial law era and was section editor of Ang Pilipino Ngayon.
Ortega’s murder has been linked to his radio commentaries on the alleged misuse of government funds from the Malampaya oil project in Palawan, while pro-people lawyer Capulong was honored for his work in preparing the petition for the live coverage of the Maguindanao massacre filed by the NUJP and other media groups.
The posthumous awards were given at the end of NUJP congress held here on February 23-24.