By Dexter Cabalza
Sabihin mo ang totoo, / sagad-buto, tagos-apdo.
Ang totoo ay mabuti / kahit nakakasama sa iyo.
Ang totoo ay maganda / kahit pangit sa reyna.
-Jose “Pete” Lacaba
Poet, screenplay writer and journalist Jose “Pete” Lacaba told media students to continue upholding press freedom by reporting the truth in his Gawad Plaridel lecture Wednesday.
“Ang pagsasabi ng totoo, masakit man sa tenga ng ilan, ay magbibigay ng matibay na pundasyon sa malaya at maunlad na bansang gusto nating itatag (Truth-telling, although it hurts the ears of others, will provide the foundation of the free and developed nation we are building),” said Lacaba, the 2013 Gawad Plaridel recipient.
Addressing a packed audience at the University of the Philippines Cine Adarna, Lacaba said that it is a journalist’s responsibility to put freedom of expression and freedom of the press into practice.
Lacaba narrated how difficult it was to remain a journalist after the declaration of Martial Law by former President Ferdinand Marcos.
“Noon ang peryodismo ay may piring sa mata, may busal sa bibig, may tanikala sa buong katawan (Journalism before was blindfolded, gagged and shackled),” he said.
The former political prisoner compared the state of journalism during Martial Law to the restraining harness put around the mouth, neck and body of different beasts of burden to keep them in place.
“Ang mga peryodistang tumututol, kumakalaban sa naghaharing rehimen ay pinapasok sa kulungan (Journalists who oppose the regime were put in prison),” added Lacaba.
He said that developmental journalism—which mandated journalists to support the society envisioned by Marcos, the Bagong Lipunan—gave birth to a tiyanak (a monstrous baby): envelopmental journalism.
Envelopmental journalism refers to the practice of giving cash-packed envelopes in exchange of writing stories favorable to the financier.
Lacaba is the eight recipient of the annual Gawad Plaridel. Named after propagandist Marcelo H. del Pilar, the award is given to media practitioners who have excelled in their field and have performed with the highest level of professional integrity in the interest of public service.
According to the citation, he was awarded for his contribution in “chronicling and interpreting for succeeding generations the third stage of the Filipino struggle for social transformation, independence and progress during the 1960s and 1970s” through his Philippines Free Press articles in Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage.
Lacaba also wrote and co-wrote the screenplays of critically acclaimed films that exposed concealed realities during the Marcos regime such as Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim, Sister Stella L. and Orapronopbis, among others. #
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