Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

Cebu media loses veteran journalist Elias Baquero (1959-2023)

January 29, 2023 · No Comments

Official statement, Saturday, January 21, 2023

Cebu just lost a multi-media practitioner whose work in community media had spanned more than three decades. Elias O. Baquero died of cardiac arrest Saturday, January 14. He would’ve turned 64 this July 10.

Elias O. Baquero (EOB) was one of a few Cebu journalists whose work straddled multiple platforms:  radio (Aksyon Radyo Cebu DYRC), television (CCTN 47 TV), print (SunStar, Business Week), and in the last few years, digital media.

Baquero helped the growth of Cebu Federation of Beat Journalists (CFBJ), one of the organizations under the umbrella of Cebu NewsWorkers Foundation (Cenewof).  He served for a number of terms as president of CFBJ and as chairman of   Cebu NewsCoop, steering early growth and stability of the two media-allied organizations.

As program coordinator at 888 News Forum, he had pushed public conversation on major issues.  That forum also led to the birth of Cebu Business Week, which Baquero founded and served as its finance and marketing head.

Even as it grieves over the passing of Mayor Ely – he actually served as OIC mayor of his hometown Balilihan, Bohol in post-Edsa era and his friends loved to call him “Mayor” – the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) recognizes and applauds his invaluable contribution and devoted service to community media.

PACHICO A. SEARES, Executive Director

Elias Baquero – broadcaster, reporter, newsman, friend. Photo: from Elias Baquero’s personal Facebook account.

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CCPC  says Congress definition of ‘fake news’ must exclude specifically honest mistakes in news reporting

January 29, 2023 · No Comments

CCPC statement, Dec. 8, 2022

The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) has condemned and deplored the proliferation of  false and deceptive stories in media platforms.  On proposals in Congress, however,  which seek to criminalize  misinformation and disinformation,  CCPC has repeatedly called for  a clear and specific definition  of  “fake news.”

CCPC believes the definition of Senate Bill #1296 does not shield journalists from prosecution for mistakes in news gathering or editing.  Fake news is defined in the bill as “misinformation or disinformation of stories, facts and news which is presented as a fact, the veracity of which cannot be confirmed, with the purpose of distorting the truth and misleading its audience.”

A Department of Justice lawyer said  it is “very difficult to investigate and prosecute.”  CCPC fears  for something else:  The proposed bill  might  become just another instrument  to hit back at journalists and discourage  active reporting and commentary.

CCPC DEFINITION.  The  proposed Senate definition does not exclude honest journalistic mistake or lapse in judgment in the field or in the newsroom —  or, for many “citizen journalists,”  lack of journalistic training.  The definition  is so broad that it  allows a prosecutor to raise a complaint to court even on shaky ground,  so abundant in faith that it gives police and prosecutors unqualified discretion to judge what is fake news.

On March 6, 2018, CCPC  defined “fake news”  thus:  “Fake news is fabricated content presented as factual information in the guise of news. Mistakes in reporting and editing, made in good faith in the rush of deadline are not fake news but such errors violate journalism standards and shall be avoided or promptly corrected.”

(CCPC offers definition of ‘fake news,’  SunStar, March 6,  2018;  Why CCPC has defined ‘fake news,’  CJJ Magazine,  June 26, 2018)

A media colleague reportedly suggested that Congress refrain from using the phrase “fake news.”   An oxymoron:  if it’s news, it’s not fake; if it’s fake, it’s not news.   The problem is that “fake news” as a term  is already widely used, with legitimate media work as among its victims.

Dictionary.com, Merriam Webster  and  other English dictionaries such as Cambridge, Collin, Mcmillan, and Oxford, and  think groups like the Center for Information Technology and Society.   It was word of the year in 2017.

What media can help is to have it defined clearly and specifically so that the public will be reminded of what it is not.  The reason is more compelling in a  penal law that  could be used to intimidate and harass  media workers. []

Atty. Pachico A. Seares, Executive Director

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F.O.I. ordinance didn’t make it to Mayor Rama’s First 100 Days list. Process of legislation and enforcement mechanism not yet complete.

October 3, 2022 · No Comments

Cebu City Ordinance #2657, also called Freedom of Information Act of 2019, was signed into law last July 28, 2022  by Mayor Michael Rama. Today, 67 days  after the  signing, the ordinance is still inoperative.

              The ordinance is not yet complete, legislatively and administratively. The city’s Legal Office still has to list the exceptions to the ordinance and submit to the City Council for approval. And each department head and office at City Hall still has to designate its FOI officer. All the said officials are needed to complete the process of legislation and mechanism of enforcement. And all, except the Sanggunian members,  work under the mayor. 

City Councilor Francis Esparis, without media’s prodding, called out in a privileged speech last Sept. 21, 2022 – significantly, on Cebu Press Freedom day and during the Press Freedom Week celebration — for the city’s heads  of  office  to appoint their respective FOI officers. Esparis was the lone Cebu City official who publicly worried about the ordinance being incomplete.  

Mayor Rama would finish his first 100 days in office October 3. The mayor’s  accomplishments of the period may well include the FOI ordinance. He didn’t build a road or bridge by that ordinance, it could help make the travel of news and information from government to citizens easier and faster. Applause. Even though Mayor Rama  has yet to complete work on the FOI ordinance, there are still other sets of 100 days ahead. [] 

Pachico A. Seares, Executive Director

Cebu City, October 3, 2022

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CCPC hails signing of FOI ordinance

July 31, 2022 · No Comments

Statement of Cebu Citizens-Press Council on newly signed FOI Ordinance, July 28, 2022

         The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) applauds the signing of the Freedom of Information (FOI) ordinance by Cebu City Mayor Michael “Mike” Rama.

           Last June 1, CCPC appealed to the City Council “to finish its work” on the ordinance before the term of the 15th Sangguniang Panlungsod was to end last June 30.  And the City Council did, with councilor, now Congressman, Eduardo “Edu” Rama Jr. as principal author.  And today, July 28, Mayor Rama signed the ordinance (#2657) into law.

          The new ordinance  is similar to the ordinance  (#3273), authored by then councilor Jose Daluz III, which  the 14th Sanggunian passed but Mayor Rama’s predecessor vetoed in 2017. 

            It is another step toward institutionalizing access to information, started with President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order of July 23, 2016 that “operationalized” access to information in the executive branch.  The City ordinance seeks to provide the local mechanism for Cebu City Government offices “where the people’s right to information is upheld.”

             It has been a painfully slow program for FOI, thus the local media’s applause for each step taken on the road to better access, which the ordinance promises to provide, subject only to valid exceptions or limitations provided by the Constitution and laws and ordinances.

            QUALIFIER. CCPC notes though that that the approved ordinance does not include the qualifier that the Press Council had proposed in its appearance before the City Council and dialogue with then councilor Rama and in published statements, namely:

            That the procedure shall not mean that Cebu City Government offices   and their officials will require release of information, verbally or in a document, to go through the procedure prescribed in the ordinance. The FOI ordinance shall not do away with routine flow of news and information through press briefings, conferences and news releases. The city administration shall even encourage unilateral release of documents in hard copy or through email and digital news sites, as long as they don’t fall under the exceptions listed under the ordinance.

            CCPC hopes to see the FOI ordinance serve its avowed intent and purpose.   We  cannot rule out problems in implementation but the mayor, by executive order, or the City Council, by amendment, will have the option and means to  solve  them. We trust in their genuine wish to make the ordinance work. []

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Statement, June 1, 2022

June 2, 2022 · No Comments

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