JVOAEJ 2007: Biggest audience turnout marks event

Biggest audience turnout marks event
By Melanie Y. Pinlac

THIS YEAR’S  Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism (JVOAEJ) was marked by several firsts in the history of the awards.
Held on June 28 at the Asian Institute of Management Conference Center, the awards ceremony  was attended by almost 700 participants, including students from journalism and mass communication schools in Metro Manila. It was the biggest audience to have attended the awards.
Although she is a past  JVOAEJ finalist, it was the first time for veteran journalist Inday Espina Varona and the Philippine Graphic to bag the top prize. Varona took the first prize for the non-daily division of the investigative category for her piece “Leyte sea roils from rape of WW2 ships.” In consultation with the Canadian Embassy, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility decided to give  Varona this year’s Marshall McLuhan Prize. The prize, a travel-study tour of Canada, is on its 11th year.
Varona’s article explored the growing industry of scrap metal salvors in the country. It identified sites where the salvaging of World War II ship and aircraft wrecks allegedly occurs. The story also reveals the problems arising from conflicting laws  salvaging companies and even governing agencies do not know about.

First-time nominees
It was also the first time for The Philippine Star’s Mary Ann Ll. Reyes to be a finalist—and  first place winner—in the explanatory reporting category (daily division). Reyes’s story, “RP detergent industry struggles to stay afloat,” presented the problems faced by manufacturers of detergents. It gave readers little-known information such as how increases in the price of sodium tripolyphosphate— a key ingredient in the manufacture of detergent—has cut down the production of Filipino companies and led to the factory workers’ lay off.
Reyes received the other special award—a travel-study grant sponsored by the Australian Embassy.
Newbreak’s Carmela Fonbuena, 24, was the top winner in the non-daily division of the explanatory reporting category. Her first time to be nominated for any journalism award, Fonbuena, who has been in the industry for only three years, bagged the first prize for her article, “Seeing Red,” which was published on July 3 last year.
Fonbuena received the award for her “timely report on the troubling killing of political activists that through careful research and dispassionate analysis reinforces the possibility of military complicity as the biggest factor in the making of the culture of impunity that has left a trail of blood across the country.”
All first-prize winners received a cash prize of P70,000 and a plaque.

Back-to-back win
Unlike the other top prize winners, this was not the first time that the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Fe Zamora won the first place award. With colleague Gerry Lirio, she also bagged the top award for the daily division of the investigative category last year for their investigative report on the “Hello, Garci” controversy.
This year, Zamora’s story, “Untangling the RSBS mess,” discussed the problems caused by the non-functioning Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retirement and Separation Benefits System (RSBS). She also uncovered the loss of about P3.3 billion in unprofitable investments by the RSBS. Her work  was cited for being “the first and so far the only one on the subject to make sense of the complex story of a  military pension system that, while meant to benefit rank-and-file soldiers, instead became a losing investment house.”
Meanwhile, another Inquirer reporter, Nueva Vizcaya correspondent Melvin Gascon, took  the second place for the daily division of the investigative reporting category. Gascon was the only community journalist among this year’s JVOAEJ finalists. His article, published March 15 last year, was cited for being “a veritable case study on the impact of large-scale and uncontrolled mining on Filipino lives, communities, and the environment.”
There was no third place winner in the daily division.
The awards were launched in 1990 to honor the late Jaime V. Ongpin, former secretary of finance during the Aquino administration. A press freedom advocate, Ongpin was involved in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship and helped harness public support for the restoration of democracy.
This year, the JVOAEJ was sponsored by the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, the Asia Foundation with the United States Agency for International Development, and the Ateneo de Manila University.

Other winners
Newsbreak took home the second and third prizes for the non-daily division of the investigative category. Aries Rufo’s report, “Making money from making peace,” on the corruption in the Philippine military placed second.  The article described how peacekeeping operations have turned into money-making ventures for the military.
Meanwhile, the report , “The Romualdezes and Equitable Bank,” written by Lala Rimando with research by Evelyn Katigbak, bagged the third place for guiding readers “through the labyrinthine ways with which a family associated with the Marcos period still casts a long shadow on Philippine affairs.”
The second and third prizes for the non-daily division of the explanatory category were bagged by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). Vinia Datinguinoo’s “Preparing for disaster,” published in i Report’s March-April and May-June issues, took the second prize for documenting the country’s unpreparedness in handling disaster.  Datinguinoo’s story, “Tempest in a (feeding) bottle,” was also a finalist in the same category.
Meanwhile, “Incentives for the rich harm the poor,” written by PCIJ’s Roel Landingin, won third prize. Landingin’s article described how the country’s social services are affected by tax exemptions and incentives given to big corporations.
In the daily division of the same category, the Inquirer bagged the second and third prizes: “Guimaras oil spill” by the newspaper’s  i-Team (Fernando del Mundo-chief, Leila B. Salaverria and Tina Arceo Dumlao with Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Carla P. Gomez, Margaux C. Ortiz, Tetch Torres and Nestor P. Burgos Jr.) and “Doing good in bad times” (Daxim L. Lucas and Clarissa S. Batino).

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