The best and the worst in the Tribune’s 38th year
posted 4-Mar-2019  ·  
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The year just passed has seen the best and the worst for the Catanduanes Tribune, which celebrates its 38th anniversary in the service of community journalism with this issue.

On April 12, 2018, retired columnist Rosulo Manlangit and publisher Fernan Gianan were found guilty of cyberlibel by the Regional Trial Court in Legazpi City, on the very last day that the presiding judge was holding office. The judge retired the next day, leaving the two veteran mediamen to prepare for a long battle at the Court of Appeals.

Lesser mortals would have broken down with despair, as the duo had been sentenced to three years in prison and to pay the complainant, Sunwest Water & Electric Co. (SUWECO), more than P9 million in damages.

Those who expected this newspaper and the people behind it to fold, on their gamble that the public would not bother to read it on account of the guilty verdict handed down by the mainland court, have been proven wrong.

You, the reading public, have shown your solidarity with the Tribune and its writers, as shown by the undiminished circulation of this weekly paper and the vital role it continues to play in the daily life on this island.

Despite the unfortunate development, we take courage in the fact that we are among the 12 members of the Philippine media who have been targeted with libel cases during the current administration, part of the 99 cases of attacks and threats against the media all over the country from July 2016 to October 2018 as documented by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR).

When faced with such attacks, it notes, the media either goes timid or it joins the side where political and economic power resides, receiving extra compensation for its efforts. Indeed, corruption is an effective silencer of the news that citizens need to know.

While there is valid observation that some members of the news media has been intimidated into silence on many issues, many continue to report on stories that may put their lives in danger, the CMFR observes.

Through the past 38 years, the men and women behind Tribune have labored to bring to the Catanduanes public the news that matter to their lives and observations to help them decide for themselves and the entire community on crucial issues of the day, especially during elections.

This may sound strange, but the first five years of this paper were spent in relative peace despite the fact that then dictator Ferdinand Marcos was still in power. It was in the post-1986 period, an era supposedly of freedom from fear and intimidation, that libel cases and other incidents of harassment were filed against this paper’s journalists.

The Tribune may have become an institution symbolizing press freedom in this corner of the country, but certainly the string of libel cases and harassment it has endured recently is targeted at bringing down this institution that provides citizens key information on vital issues, without which abuse of power, both political and economic, would reign unchallenged.

Sadly, only a few have commiserated and actually helped the Tribune in its legal battle, with most – including some politicians who have many masters – preferring to stay out of the way.

No matter what, we will continue to persevere in the pursuit of justice and the freedom to report the news and comment on current issues, in honor of Tribune publisher Fredeswindo T. Gianan Sr. and columnists – Benny Bagadiong, Joel Son. Panti, Rodolfo Azanza Sr., and Atty. Romulo Atencia – whose legacy lives in our hearts and minds.

Long live Catanduanes Tribune!

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