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Tribune gets second wind

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The Daily Tribune has been in the thick of the battle in the newspaper business for the past 19 years, with several upswings and some serious downswings.

It has been considered by many of its readers as the ultimate political paper that at times in previous administrations was being smuggled by government employees into their offices for fear of reprisals from a paranoid government.

During the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, it was the alternative paper as its hard-hitting columnists and incisive stories were always the bane of corrupt officials.
The Daily Tribune took on the role as an unrelenting and uncompromising fiscalizer of government.

Through all those years, the newspaper has been associated with hard-hitting stories that are consistent with the newspaper’s motto of “without fear, without favor.”

The newspaper often crossed swords with the Palace during the nine years of the Arroyo administration to the point of government ordering the closure of the newspaper in 2006 after a state of national emergency through Presidential Proclamation 1017 on 24 February 2006 was declared.

On the night of that fateful day, elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) swooped down on the Tribune offices on T.M. Kalaw Street.

Several vehicles bearing PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group troopers encircled building in which the newspaper rented offices and took mock-up copies of the newspaper’s Saturday edition, which bannered Arroyo’s declaration of the state of emergency, as well as several story drafts and photos, all properties of the newspaper which were never returned.

Then Inspector Jonathan Pablito of the Police Community Relations Group based at the PNP’s headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City said the police were “tasked” to secure the Tribune’s offices “because it was a possible source of destabilization materials.”

At the printing press, the police raiders managed to confiscate a few hundred copies of the paper’s Saturday issue.

A government raid of a newspaper office never happened after the crackdown at the start of the declaration of martial rule in 1972.

The Tribune, despite the police presence, continued with the normal printing of stories, including those critical of the Arroyo administration.

For several weeks, policemen remained stationed inside the editorial and business offices of the newspaper, while operatives from the Manila Police District were posted outside the building.

Then Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor said the government had not taken over the paper, but added that the strong presence of the police in its editorial offices was ordered to caution other media organizations “not to aid those who want to overthrow the government.”

In meetings with police officials, Defensor said it was agreed that the government would not interfere with the stories that the paper would put out.

Prior to the raid, the publication released stories about several disgruntled military officers and leftists gathering to mount a coup that clearly ticked off some Cabinet officials of Arroyo.

Sedition raps

Later on, after Arroyo lifted the state of national emergency, the government charged the Tribune’s editor-publisher Niñez Cacho Olivares and two of the newspaper’s columnists with inciting to sedition, supposedly in support of a coup that was nipped in the bud, that would have been launched during the Edsa revolt anniversary in 2006.

By then, Arroyo’s hold on power had become tenuous as a result of the “Hello Garci” tape scandal, which supposedly detailed a conspiracy to steal the 2004 elections.

Olivares said she was expecting the charges as international and local media issued statements of support while protesting the Arroyo administration’s suppression of the freedom of the press.

Olivares said the raid was a “very clear attempt to close us down.”

“There were no calls or warrants. They can intimidate me all they like, but I will fight them every inch of the way. If they close us down, I will go to the Supreme Court,” Olivares added.

The raid came on the 20th anniversary of the fall of strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

The media groups branded the crackdown as a violation of press freedom and an attempt to wind the clock back to the “dark days” of Marcos, who ruled for 20 years until a civilian-backed military mutiny dubbed Edsa I People Power revolt forced him into exile on 25 February 1986.

Olivares arrived for work and asked a policeman: “What are you doing here?”
She quoted him as saying: “I am here to secure the area as it is a possible source of destablization.”

Olivares snapped back: “Really… then arrest me.”

“No one has explained what will happen. There was no warrant. The search was illegal. For now, I intend to try and get the paper out,” Olivares told a press conference.

“I don’t know what all this means. Will it mean they (the government) will censor us?
Because if they do, I will fight it. Or will they just close us down? If they do, I will fight that, too,” she said.

DAP lid blown

During the term of former President Benigno Aquino, the story that irritated government the most was one that Daily Tribune broke on 23 September 2013. The paper came out with the story on the use of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to assure the conviction of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona during the Senate impeachment trial.

The DAP was later proven as a Palace slush fund for legislators, and the acts creating it were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2014.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told Daily Tribune then about the use of the supposed stimulus fund of the Aquino administration under a so-called DAP to bribe six senators who sat as judges in the Senate impeachment court to get the conviction of Corona.

Marcos said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P475 million in lump sum allocations to six senators through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) that was made to appear as intended for livelihood projects nationwide, but were actually meant to “induce” them to convict Corona.

The DBM had said in a statement in January 2012 that P72.11 million of funds reallocated from the budget went to the DAP and the bulk of it was released to agencies and government-owned or -controlled corporations in 2011.

Fresh change

On 1 June 2018, the newspaper made the radical shift to fend off imminent closure as a result of the devastating effect of new-age technology, primarily social media.

The management of the publication changed hands and a merger with technology-strong Concept and Information Group Inc. allowed the newspaper’s evolution into a complete package of traditional print and new-age online news outfit.

The newspaper fast transformed into one of the most visible and widely read broadsheets in the country.

The rejuvenation turned it into one of the most formidable publications in the country. We were unwavering, determined and resolved.

Among the more notable distinctions of Daily Tribune in its 19 years was its being awarded the Most Innovative Broadsheet for 2018 in the 44th Philippine Business Exposition. It is also the nation’s only signatory to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Global Media Compact.

In 2017, the newspaper also received the honor of being named newspaper of the year in June during the annual Rotary Club of Manila (RCM) journalism awards.

The prestigious plum has been handed out since 1967 to recognize the outstanding contributions of individuals in tri-media, which are print, television and radio.

The Tribune clinched the award because it has been “the eternal thorn on the side of the powers-that-be,” according to RCM.

RCM said the “Tribune espouses a populist, not popular, stand that makes it a refreshing read.”

Not resting on its laurels, the newspaper revamped its content and introduced new sections to expand readership. Among the new sections introduced were Quips, NextGen, TechTalks, Embassy Row, Top Form, Living Spaces and Snaps. Much more are soon to be offered.

By introducing more content and the marriage of existing and emerging technologies in the newsroom, the broadsheet hopes the digital change will profoundly transform its organizational structure and the way it delivers news stories.

The innovations had made Daily Tribune living proof that print media still has a long way to go in terms of being a credible source of news as against the unfiltered social media where fake news mostly thrives.

With Komfie Manalo

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