Covering or seeking cover?: The curious cases of blocktimers in Negros Occidental
By Julius D. Mariveles
Segundino “Ding” Taladico was celebrating his 53rd birthday last March 2 when news came that officials of the town of Hinobaan had closed down RadyoNatin-Hinobaan 103.5 FM, the one-kilowatt radio station that he ran in the sleepy southern Negros Occidental. Town officials said the station did not have a business permit.
“It was the present I got,” Taladico, also known by his radio name Dino Bryan, said in the vernacular as he fought back tears while recounting the event to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR). Taladico has since gone back to Victorias City in northern Negros where he lives with his family, saying that he “does not feel safe anymore” in what was once his second home.
Five days later, in Bacolod City, broadcaster Ray Carmona was hosting his noontime program Banwa Binag-binaga (Think About It, People) when two city councilors, Em Ang and Cesar Distrito, allegedly barged into the announcer’s booth of Church-owned radio station dyAF Radio Veritas-Bacolod, and harangued him for taking up an issue against Ang.
Carmona, one of the most senior anchormen in Bacolod, had already filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for city councilor under the Magbinuligay Kita Sa Kauswagan (Let’s Help Each Other for Progress), the local coalition headed by former representative Monico Puentevella who is now running for city mayor.
Ang and Distrito are members of the ruling Grupo Progreso, the congressional candidate of which, Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, was Puentevella’s former ally but current political arch-nemesis.
Meanwhile, also at dyAF Radio-Veritas, blocktime broadcasters Donard Nojas and Ramon Viva complained before policemen last March that three civilians who identified themselves as agents of the Bacolod City Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) had tried to serve arrest warrants against them for a libel case that they claim had already been resolved by the court.
The three called the incident a “cheap manipulation” by City Hall using the CIDG to “shame and embarrass them.”
Nojas, Viva, and Monit Lasima, also a member of Puentevella’s staff, were charged with libel last year when they were broadcasting over Smile TV Channel 10. Both posted bail before Judge Edgar Garvilles and Judge Eliseo Geolingo in Bacolod City.
Viva is the chief of staff of Puentevella and was named by Bong Tano, former station manager of dyAF, as the one signing the contracts and paying the blocktime programs for the former congressman in a previous report by CMFR about blocktiming in Negros Occidental.
Blurring the line between politics and broadcasting
There is in the Philippines a season when politicians cross over to broadcast journalism, blurring the line between the Fourth Estate and the establishment that its members are supposed to fiscalize, and erasing the traditional tension that is supposed to exist between the Press and the powers-that-be.
That season is the election season, when politics, the news media, and entertainment are thrown into one merry, colorful, noisy, and moneyed mix. It is also the time when some broadcasters and journalists become candidates, running for various elective positions and becoming members of traditional political parties.
There are plenty of the latter in the province. Some have moved on to become full-time politicians, most of them controversial. Others have gone back to radio as the hired anchors of politicians, venting their ire on their political opponents after failing in their bids for public office.
Some continue to anchor their programs while running for office, claiming that they cannot take a leave of absence even after they have filed their certificates of candidacy. They continue with their radio broadcasts, most of which are paid for by politicians who use dummies to sign contracts with AM stations.