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PIA Press Release
2008/08/29

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Speech during the 100th Anniversary of the Philippines Free Press Magazine

Captain's bar, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Makati City, 28 August

Thank you. Thank you very much, Teddy. That was such a beautiful introduction. And to all the other members of the Locsin family; to the Philippines Free Press publishers, personnel, readers, fans; to everyone, Happy Centennial! (applause) No one can do justice to such a venerable institution as the Philippines Free Press in quantifying its one century of contribution to national life.

To begin with, any privately-owned publication who reaches a hundred years deserves congratulations enough for surviving in one of the most competitive industries anywhere in the world.

What more if in its long and remarkable history, the publication can boast, not only of producing so many great Filipino writers, but also of reflecting in its own life the saga of the Philippines itself.

The struggles of our nation are interwoven with the work of the Philippines Free Press' people: the publisher who steered it over decades, ensuring its survival against economic and political threats; the editors and writers who made sure it not only gave people the news accurately and in timely fashion each week, but also helped cast the information and analysis in a manner that, as you've said earlier, inspires and illuminates in a manner that encourages discernment and inspired action.

And, of course, as we celebrate the centennial of the Philippines Free Press, we cannot do it without paying tribute to the man who did the most in shaping the Philippines Free Press into a magazine that has become so irresistible as a fountain of truth and knowledge -- Teodoro Locsin, Sr. (applause)

He was a tireless worker, a brilliant writer, but beyond that, he was a social advocate. He was in the newsroom, but he was beyond the newsroom. He lived as he believed; he advocated, as Teddy said, the noble causes of social justice, democracy and freedom in every possible way, disregarding the consequences to his own self.

He staked his fortune, liberty and life for causes. He opposed the Japanese invaders. He opposed Martial Law. In fact, he refused to open his paper, reopen his magazine until the snap elections were announced.

My own personal favorite part of his career, of course, was the one in between these two great historic events -- that moment of his career when his life, his mission, as Teddy recounted so eloquently, was intertwined with the life mission of my father, President Diosdado Macapagal.

Because Teodoro Locsin, next only to freedom, was most concerned with social justice. And among the most important social causes that he advocated was the cause of land reform. And, indeed, Teddy recounts the great difficulties of my father in enacting land reform.

My father knew that in abolishing tenancy, he would encounter the traditional and formidable opposition of the landlords and powerful interests, and so he was so fortunate to have the support of Teodoro Locsin -- the man in the Philippines Free Press who was the most advocate champion of land reform.

So, realizing that the Senate was in control of the opposition, my father could only count on the most important, most effective countervailing force then, and that was the support of Teodoro Locsin, Sr. (applause)

And so, it's propitious for me now to be present at this most important milestone to represent my late father because had he been here, he would even be more profuse than I in paying tribute to Teodoro Locsin, one of the finest personifications of Philippine journalism. Why is it propitious today? Not only because of the intertwining of the mission of Teodoro Locsin, Sr. and my father but also because this year, the life of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law will lapse in December.

And once again, I count on a Locsin, a Locsin in Congress and the Locsins in the Free Press to champion its extension. (applause) And I hope that we can work together, the way your father and my father did to have an extension of land reform with reforms that will truly emancipate and empower the farmer to be an agri-businessperson. Indeed, tonight, what we are saying is that history repeats itself.

In this mission to extend land reform, I count not only on the Philippines Free Press but on other media advocates for social justice.

Journalists are critical to maintaining our strong democracy. We need not overstress that. On the other hand, as Teddy says, it can reveal, it can conceal. In the words of Joseph Pulitzer: "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself."

These are words of great precautionary value to those who seek shelter under the freedoms advanced by such as Pulitzer and Locsin, but disdain the concurrent responsibilities on their part to be disinterested and public spirited.

Freedom in the hands of such as these who want the freedom without the responsibility degenerates into a callous license to aspire to little more than gossipy headlines and inflated circulation numbers, no matter what cost must be paid in the debasement of public discourse. That's why, in times like this, we need institutions like the Philippines Free Press to stand like pillars of our most important freedoms and our most important responsibilities.

I deplore the killings, be they from left or right, against journalists. We aim to break this sad historical cycle. We are focused on bringing perpetrators to justice, working with Congress to pass new laws to protect victims and jail criminals, and exhort the nation to leave behind its terrible legacy of political violence and clan vendettas.

We've been making progress in stopping the tragic killings of journalists. Our law enforcement agencies have been achieving success in bringing to justice those who carry out these crimes. That has been the case in the tragic killings of the broadcasters: Dennis Cuesta, Martin Roxas and Bert Sison.

I established a task force to especially pursue the cases of the killings of journalists with Administrative Order 211. That's why the task force is called Task Force 211. It is a body established specifically to address these terrible crimes against journalists, and the head of this right now is the Undersecretary of Justice Ric Buenaflor.

A few days ago, and a few minutes ago when I talked to him on the phone, he said that the cooperation of the families of the broadcasters, of these three broadcasters, contributed greatly to the solution of these cases. The cases were solved in an average of nine working days after the perpetration. And in the case of the killing of Roxas, the suspected killers have already been arrested.

It only shows that crimes such as these cannot be resolved by the government alone. Task Force 211 and our various law enforcement agencies need the support and cooperation of all stakeholders if we are to end these killings once and for all. Individuals who provide vital information against criminals who prey on journalists will be placed, if they choose, in the Department of Justice's Witness Protection Program for their security and protection. What I would like to say this evening, in this tribute to 100 years of the Philippines Free Press, in this tribute to the great proponent of freedom, Teodoro Locsin, Sr., is that we will stop at nothing to protect the lives of our nation's media men and women.

We welcome all the cooperation that media can provide, especially we welcome the cooperation from such a fine paper as the Philippines Free Press. The lifelong cause of the Philippines Free Press has been, not just to chronicle the most important moments of the republic, but to articulate the sharpest insights and deepest aspirations of its people. In having done these tasks so well, the Philippines Free Press itself is worthy of being chronicled.

The Philippines Free Press has lived for a hundred years, but worthy as it is to be chronicled we cannot even begin to quantify the debt that the Filipinos owe the Philippines Free Press for all the triumphs over evil, over ignorance, over despair. And, certainly, I will not even try. As Teddy says, all we have to do is to look at the treasure trove of the Philippines Free Press. And we can see that each story will live forever as the flame that burns in the hearts of all good and free peoples in the Philippines and all over the world.

Once again, Congratulations and Happy Centennial to the Philippines Free Press! Thank you. (applause) (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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