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Reflections

“How shall freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms, by truth when it is attacked by lies, by faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always, in the final act, by determination and faith.”

― Archibald MacLeish

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Coronel Sisters: Amazing Pinoy Sister Act!

The Coronel Sisters: Trailblazers!
Two sisters, Sheila Coronel and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, broke into the news almost simultaneously while they were in opposite parts of the globe.
New York-based Sheila, for being named dean of academic affairs of Columbia University’s School of Journalism. And Philippine-based Miriam, for being the lead negotiator for the Philippine government’s long-running peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that peaked with the signing of a framework agreement that could mean lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao.
The news on Sheila was a burst of sunshine for her colleagues in the Philippines and media mavens who had seen her undisputed dent on Philippine investigative journalism. Meanwhile, University of the Philippines professor Miriam and the government peace panel (under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) were often in the news.
Sheila and Miriam, both in their 50s, are the first and second in the brood of six (they have four younger brothers) of the swashbuckling criminal lawyer, dean Antonio Coronel, and Dorotea Soto, an English teacher and entrepreneur. Dean Coronel died in 1993, and Dorotea several years later. From Inquirer

“The sealing of the comprehensive agreement is important not only for the Bangsamoro, the people of Mindanao and all other Filipino citizens who have all to gain as one country pursuing its unfinished task of nation-building.” Miriam Coronel-Ferrer

GPH chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer stressed that the CAB signing will benefit not only Filipinos.

“The sealing of the comprehensive agreement is important not only for the Bangsamoro, the people of Mindanao and all other Filipino citizens who have all to gain as one country pursuing its unfinished task of nation-building.”

“It is also our global contribution to the pursuit of peace in our immediate neighborhood, the Southeast Asian region, and the rest of the world,” the chief negotiator said during a press briefing on Tuesday in Malacañan.

“Many other countries continue to face similar troubles. Our experience, our mechanisms, our approaches have become a rich source of inspiration to these countries that remain challenged by their respective domestic conflicts,” she added.

Blazing The Peace Trail
Following is the statement of the Makati Business Club on the impending formalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace agreement between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The peace pact hopes to bring peace and development to Mindanao.

The Makati Business Club is one with the Filipino people in hailing the successful signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

MBC believes that the process that led to this final peace accord was conducted with utmost respect for the principles of fairness, transparency, and inclusivity.

We greatly commend the government’s peace panel led by Sec. Teresita Deles and chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, and the MILF panel led by Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and head of the MILF peace panel Mohagher Iqbal, who have seen this process through, amidst all the challenges during the entire stretch of the negotiations.

We also extend our warmest thanks and congratulations to the various local and international organizations, and foreign governments, particularly the government of Malaysia, who have all been instrumental in the forging of the agreement.

With the journey towards lasting peace now entering the halls of Congress as it crafts the Bangsamoro Basic Law, we reiterate our call to our legislators and other stakeholders to continue to ardently pursue this path to peace.

We repeat our shared aspiration that the Basic Law, which the government has committed to certify as urgent legislation, will truly embody the aspirations of the Bangsamoro and usher the region towards greater economic, social, and cultural activity.

Furthermore, we continue to believe that this milestone is a testament to the strength of cooperation and dialogue in bridging seemingly irreconcilable differences.

Thus, as we have previously stated, “it may be high time for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the MILF to come together and identify points of consensus between the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on which a more sustainable and lasting peace in Mindanao can be built.”

We believe that the success of the peace deal hinges largely on genuine economic development, and the improvement in the quality of the lives of the people, both in the Bangsamoro and in Mindanao as a whole.

We are hopeful that the effective implementation of the Agreement will unleash the region’s vast potentials for agriculture and agribusiness investments, tourism, and natural resource development, among others. With this achieved, Mindanao will take its deserving place as a truly vibrant and essential part of the Philippine economic engine.

With the country’s steadily improving investment climate, the peace deal presents a golden opportunity for the Bangsamoro and Mindanao.

In this context, the business community must do its part. Thus, we call on our colleagues in business to be active participants in developing Mindanao’s economy and in providing greater livelihood opportunities for our brothers and sisters in the region.

Indeed, it is only through coming together as a people that the greatest of challenges can be confidently faced and surpassed. Let us build upon this landmark achievement to bring forth a generation of peace and inclusive development in Mindanao and in the other troubled areas of our country.
Blazing A Journalism Trail
From Positively Filipino
By Benjamin Pimentel
Nearly 15 years ago, a small group of journalists helped bring down a Philippine president. The non-profit group Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) broke the story of how President Joseph Estrada had allegedly acquired fancy mansions for his family and his mistresses.

The expose, combined with allegations that Estrada made millions from illegal gambling operations, eventually led to an impeachment trial and an uprising that led to the overthrow of the actor-turned-politician.

It was a high point in the history of the PCIJ and in the career of its executive director, Sheila Coronel.

She would later receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award and be named to head Columbia University's Stabile Center for Investigative Reporting in New York.

In January this year, Coronel was named academic dean of Columbia University School of Journalism, considered one of the best J-Schools in the U.S.

It’s undoubtedly a big, important job. And it was noteworthy that Columbia was turning to a veteran Filipino journalist to help map its strategy for training future American journalists.

In naming Coronel, Columbia J-School Dean Steve Coll called her “a superb journalist, teacher and leader,” and cited her “deep commitment to investigative reporting, data science and global journalism.”

It’s not surprising that, in the era of global journalism, a top American J-School would turn to a journalist from Southeast Asia.

Under Sheila Coronel, the PCIJ’s influence extended beyond the Philippines, helping inspire other independent journalism organizations in neighboring ASEAN countries. One veteran American journalist based in the region described the PCIJ’s work as “revolutionary.”

What made the group’s work even more extraordinary were the challenges the PCIJ faced in embarking on ambitious investigations, many of which led to meaningful political and social reforms, and even the ouster of a head of state accused of corruption and abuse of power.

The PCIJ is a small organization that relied mainly on foundation grants and donations, and it did not have a huge staff.

“It’s undoubtedly a big, important job. And it was noteworthy that Columbia was turning to a veteran Filipino journalist to help map its strategy for training future American journalists.”

Then there are the hurdles faced by investigative journalists in the Philippines who have to wrestle with threats of harassment and even violence and with corrupt bureaucracies with antiquated record-keeping systems that make chasing paper trails a long, arduous process.

The fact that the PCIJ overcame these obstacles apparently was what made Columbia turn to Coronel to lead the Stabile Center which was set up in the mid-2000s as a way of boosting investigative reporting as a core component of the J-School’s curriculum.

She’s taking on a bigger role at a time of when Columbia and American J-Schools in general are facing major challenges.

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, the tool that dramatically changed the way information and news are published and distributed.

For American journalism, the rise of the Web marked a major disruption.

By the mid-2000s, only a decade after the Web revolution began, the business model that had sustained the U.S. media for nearly a century was gasping for air.  Ad revenues that made it possible for news organizations to run robust, well-financed newsrooms steadily dried up.

Suddenly, embarking on a journalism career meant embracing a life of uncertainty.

I witnessed and lived through this change. When I was a student at the UC Berkeley J-School, the paths to a meaningful career were fairly well defined.

You start with internships in order to gain experience and “clips,” samples of work. The internships could turn to full-time jobs usually at small newspapers or TV stations, and you then work your way up to the bigger news organizations.

That’s no longer true today. Newsrooms have been decimated by job cuts and many longtime news organizations, including some longtime newspapers, have been shut down.

There are now more, dynamic, rich ways to tell stories and publish news, but the career paths for young journalists are not as clear and well-defined as 20 years ago.

The journalism landscape is still being transformed in the United States. At Columbia J-School one of the Philippines’ most respected journalists is about to help shape it.

From PCIJ
An embarrassment of houses

by Yvonne T. Chua, Sheila S. Coronel, and Vinia M. Datinguinoo
COMPANIES AND business executives linked to San Miguel Corp. (SMC) chairman Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco have been involved in the acquisition and construction of mansions allegedly intended for two of President Estrada’s mistresses.

The trail to Cojuangco is via Ramon S. Ang, vice chair, chief financial officer and treasurer of San Miguel, who is better known as The Boss’s right hand man. As Cojuangco’s chief political and business operator, Ang’s actions were likely at the Boss’s behest, SMC insiders say.

Apart from Ang, Raul de Mesa, president of the Bank of Commerce, controlled by Antonio Cojuangco Jr., was instrumental in the purchase by presidential daughter Jacqueline Ejercito and her husband Manuel Lopez of a 3,000-square-meter lot at 518 Buendia Street in Makati’s swanky Forbes Park. The property was transferred through the use of forged documents in an attempt to evade payment of P9 million in taxes.

If former First Lady Imelda Marcos left behind a trail of shoes, President Joseph Estrada is leaving behind a trail of palatial homes and pricey lots that, unlike footwear, cannot be hidden away in some dark closet in Malacañang.

Our investigation shows that in the last three years, Estrada, his family members, or corporations otherwise associated with the President have acquired at least 17 pieces of choice property in Metro Manila, Baguio and Tagaytay.

Among those who have helped in the acquisition of land or construction of houses through corporate layering and the formation of shell companies are Dante Tan, the chief of BW Resources who has been accused of insider trading and stock price manipulation; Jaime Dichaves, a long-time Estrada friend who has been accused of intervening in the telecommunications industry; and Mark Jimenez, former presidential assistant for Latin American affairs who is facing an extradition case filed by the U.S. government.

It is also not a random coincidence that two of the houses—one in South Forbes Park supposedly for Guia Gomez, Estrada’s second wife, and the other in Wack Wack for Wife No. 3 Laarni Enriquez—are being constructed by Centech International, a company closely associated with Ang and Cojuangco.

When Cojuangco regained control of San Miguel and the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) in 1998, Centech was hired as consultant to perform third-party reviews of purchases, for which it gets a five-percent handling fee. Centech, as far as can be ascertained, has not constructed any houses until now.

Enriquez’s Wack Wack mansion, several contractors and suppliers interviewed for this story said, is “regalo ni Boss (the Boss’s gift),” referring to Cojuangco, who is called Boss by his subordinates.

“We were told by Centech that it was Laarni’s—regalo ni ‘Boss,’” said a contractor. “That’s why they (Centech) were getting the best people for the project.”

The houses appear to be part of that wheeling-dealing. After all, in 1992, Estrada gave up his bid for the presidency to become Cojuangco’s running mate under the Nationalist People’s Coalition. In 1998, Cojuangco was one of Estrada’s biggest supporters. A day after Estrada’s election to the presidency, Cojuangco wrested control of SMC.