Organization of the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) started in 2001 yet, shortly after three Cebu journalists–Eileen G. Mangubat of the Cebu Daily News, Noel Pangilinan of The Freeman, and Pachico A. Seares of Sun.Star Cebu–talked in Manila with Marvin Tort, then executive director of the Philippine Press Council, about setting up a local press council.
Mangubat, Pangilinan and Seares were joined in Cebu by veteran journalist Juan L. Mercado in laying the groundwork for the organization.
There were a series of briefings and consultations with potential members as well as with Melinda Quintos-de Jesus of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), which was interested in helping set up press councils in Cebu, Palawan and Baguio. CMFR’s agenda jibed with the Cebu journalists’ own plan.
The CCPC with its prospective members last met on Sept. 16, 2002 at the Laguna Garden Cafe. There, Seares presented the proposed basic rules of CCPC, adopted from foreign models and from consultations with other convenors and based on the local experience.
Since then, there had been a hibernation of almost three years, caused mainly by the individual papers’ other pressing concerns.
That lasted until last Sept. 1, 2005 when Jerry Tundag of The Freeman, Marit Remonde of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, Michelle So and Seares of Sun.Star, Joy Tumulak of CFBJ, Mayette Tabada of UP in the Visayas Cebu College, Mercado and Mangubat met at Bo’s Coffee Club in Ayala Center Cebu to take up the matter of reviving CCPC.
Everyone pushed for the council but wasn’t keen about taking the lead. All declined for one reason or another. After Mangubat said her paper is interested in forming its own in-house press council but still supports the CCPC, Seares volunteered for Sun.Star to lead the revival. The group meeting ended with that consensus.
Report to CMFR
Mangubat and Seares reported at a CMFR seminar on local press councils last Sept. 5, 2005 at the AIM Conference Center in Makati about the recent development in Cebu. Seares told the seminar the CCPC can work and the convenors agreed to have Sun.Star as lead unit for the revival.
Sun.Star has been sponsoring an annual pre-general assembly lunch for the Cebu Federation of Beat Journalists or CFBJ, which Sun.Star also initiated in 2000 and whose organization was a major highlight in that year’s celebration.
Thus, in this year’s Cebu Press Freedom Week calendar, today at 11 a.m. will be the Cebu Citizens-Press Council meeting and CFBJ pre-general assembly lunch.
CFBJ officers will be exposed to the basics and workings of CCPC as part of an education campaign for both journalism practitioners and the public on how the citizens-press council will work.
Basic facts about the CCPC
The Cebu Citizens-Press Council, or the Council, shall have fifteen (15) members, of whom:
I. Five (5) shall be the editors-in-chief of the three (3) English-Language dailies and two (2) Bisaya dailies in Cebu or their alternates who shall be senior editors.
II. Two (2) shall be from the broadcast industry, to be nominated by Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, one for radio and one for television;
III. Two (2) shall be mass communication or journalism school deans or professors or former media practitioners or academicians;
IV. Six (6) shall represent the public, chosen not only for their sector but also for their interest in, and appreciation of, the workings of the press.
I and II shall be the Media Members; III, Semi-Media Members; and IV, the Public Members.
The council shall be presided by a President, who shall preferably be a retired judge, lawyer, or any other professional known for probity and integrity.
The other officers shall be Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.
The members of the Council shall elect the officers from among themselves.
The Council may appoint an Executive Director (ED) who shall handle administrative tasks of the Council and initially assess complaints.
The ED shall determine if the complaint shall be (a) dismissed, (b) handled by a mediator or (c) endorsed to the Screening Panel.
Council En Banc
The Council shall have a regular en banc meeting every quarter or oftener depending on the business that needs a full membership meeting.
En banc meetings shall be limited to (a) the quarterly regular meeting or (b) any special meeting convened for a media issue or concern by the President or upon request of at least five (5) members.
The Council has opened a receiving center for complaints at the Marcelo B. Fernan Cebu Press Center in Sudlon, Lahug, Cebu City, which serves as the CCPC’s secretariat.
A Screening Panel shall have two to three members, including the Executive Director (ED). It is formed only when the ED needs help in mediation and/or assessing the case.
To hear a complaint, a Review Board having three to five members shall be formed.
Media Members whose newspapers are involved in or affected by a complaint shall not take part in the proceedings.
The Council membership shall be a pool from which the Review Board members shall be picked, depending on the availability and willingness and absence of conflict of interest.
- Complaint shall be addressed first to the publication. Only when it is not satisfactorily met by the newspaper–by clarification, correction or apology–will the Council entertain it.
- To determine whether the complaint shall go to the Review Board, the Secretariat shall study the complaint and the publication’s response to it, officially and in published comments.
- A member of the Secretariat may be tasked to mediate between the complainant and the publication.
- A hearing by the Review Board shall be a last recourse.
- A waiver of the right to sue shall be a condition for a complaint to be heard by the Review Board.
- No lawyer shall appear before any proceeding of the Review Board. A member who has conflict of interest in the complaint shall be substituted with another member.
- Meetings of the Secretariat and the Review Board shall be in executive sessions closed to the media and the public.
- The filing of the complaint and all proceedings on it shall be confidential until the Review Board renders its decision.
- Decision of the Review Board shall be released for publication to the newspaper that is the subject of the complaint. If the newspaper refuses to publish the decision within two days from receipt of the copy, the Council shall release it to all the other publications.
Newspapers represented in the Council shall be bound by the prescribed timing on the publication of decisions.
- Complaints against any television or radio program shall be endorsed to the KBP, which has its Standards Authority, broadcast industry’s regulation unit.
- When a complaint may be refused by the Secretariat:
1. If the publication has satisfactorily addressed the complaint;
2. If the complaint can be the basis of a legal action against the publication and the complainant has not produced a public document waiving the right to sue;
3. If the complaint does not appear to be a breach of any of the Council’s principles under a Code of Practice to be adopted by the Council;
4. Cases that the council shall list as off-limits:
- Legal or contractual matters or those subject to legal proceedings;
- Parts of the newspaper that are not classified as editorial content;
- Editors’ choice of articles to publish;
- Books, leaflets and pamphlets.
A Code of Practice must be drawn up to cover the subjects of the complaint. Procedures for the Secretariat and the Review Board shall be adopted.
September 21, 2005