“Rock stars” of a running story that is “better than a telenovela.”
This was how some participants of the Million People March at Luneta Park described the Inquirer and its reporters for a series of articles on bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that allegedly cornered P10 billion in pork barrel funds.
For law student Peter Adier, the Inquirer series showed how the decades-old system of disbursing state funds had been abused by the same individuals voted into office to protect the people’s money.
Adier thanked the newspaper for its “world-class and trailblazing reporting” and likened two of its reporters to celebrities.
“For many of us, the Inquirer and your reporters Nancy C. Carvajal and Gil Cabacungan are rock stars,” Adier said. “Your coverage of the pork barrel scam changed the history of our nation,” he said.
Carvajal covers the National Bureau of Investigation and Manila police beats. She broke the story on businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles’ alleged role in the scam based on the affidavits of the whistle-blowers, former employees of Napoles.
Cabacungan, the paper’s senior reporter, wrote related stories, including the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the pork barrel funds released by lawmakers to Napoles’ NGOs.
Melchor Magdamo, a member of the Whistleblowers’ Association, said the newspaper’s investigative reports piqued the people’s interest in systemic corruption in the government.
“This is a product of your work,” Magdamo told Inquirer chair Marixi Rufino Prieto, pointing to the large crowd in front of Manila’s Quirino Grandstand during Monday’s rally.
“No. This is the work of the people themselves,” said Prieto, who attended the rally with her husband, Alex, and several Inquirer employees.
Magdamo, who blew the whistle on the printing of May 13 election paraphernalia allegedly by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in July, lamented that while the Inquirer had been leading the “blow,” the government had failed to hear the “whistle.”
“The whistle and the blower should be the same person. That’s why we should have a Whistle-blowers Act and pass the Freedom of Information bill,” Magdamo said.
Sister Gertrude added: “I saw the power that media provided for truth to be seen and our people to act. God bless and continue to make you and your team of reporters courageous and steadfast… Prayers for you always in your mission of ‘transformative media.’”
Artemio Panopio, 57, a grocery owner from Pasig City, said the Inquirer “woke up a nation too tired of hearing the same issues of corruption.”
“This is not the first [time] we witnessed such greedy acts of our lawmakers. What is different now is that it was sustained by a fearless media company like the Inquirer,” Panopio said.
A real estate agent who only identified herself as Armi thanked the newspaper for rekindling the sense of patriotism in Filipinos.
She said she had been waking up as early as 5 a.m. to buy a copy of the newspaper.
“The stories in the Inquirer were better than a telenovela,” she said.
“While other media companies seemed to ignore the issue, the Inquirer continued to drop bombshell after bombshell even against the allies of [President Aquino],” Armi said.
Series of bombshells
She said she would bring her collection of Inquirer newspapers from Day One of the scam to her children living in Chicago.
Virgilio Paman, a retired judge from Kalibo, Aklan province, urged the newspaper to publish more stories on corruption.
“Don’t stop with what you’re doing, even if you’re threatened with lawsuits,” he said. “If you want, you can include me on your defense panel.”
The Inquirer stories were also commended on the Internet.
“Just a refresher: The Inquirer was the original underground and best-selling anti-Marcos newspaper… exposing Marcos cronies and their corruption,” said user Music Lover on the comments thread.
“Thanks to the Inquirer for the great investigative report. You deserve at least a Pulitzer for that,” said Mon Mayuga.—With a report from Denison Rey Dalupang
Inquirer joins ‘Million People March’