TAKE A BOW, Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo.
In most ‘shabulized’ Iloilo, one community radio station can stand tall.
Now that everyone is jumping on the anti-drug bandwagon, including Mayor Jed Mabilog, who was included in the list of alleged drug protectors by President Duterte, how the alleged druglord, Melvin Odicta alias Dragon, was exposed seems to have been forgotten.
Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo led by its station manager, John Paul Tia and news director May Ortega started it all several years ago, long before Duterte became president, in fact, even before Duterte declared that he wanted to become president.
It was Aksyon Radyo that first exposed the severity of the drug problem in Iloilo City.
It was, to me, largely a lonely journey for Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo.
Its anchors, including Jun Capulot who I worked with in Aksyon Radyo-Bacolod, were threatened and Jun was forced to live a hermit-like life, away from his family, living in the station amid grave threats to his safety and security.
The station was even raided by the tactical unit, the SWAT, of the Iloilo Police under questionable circumstances on August 25, 2013 while on November 19, 2015, armed men believed to be under orders from Odicta, entered the building where the station is located, and attempted to siege it.
Sadly, however, city officials, Mabilog especially, were lackadaisical despite the exposes of Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, based on reports and commentaries, especially of Tia, I have heard over the radio station.
It was only recently that Mabilog became active in the anti-drug campaign, Tia said this week in his radio program, especially after President Duterte won the elections.
Mabilog even had a full page advertisement of the city’s campaign on the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Recently, allies of Mabilog in the city council passed a resolution to hold an inquiry ‘to clear’ the name of Mabilog after he was named by Duterte, a rather vigorous move for the councilors who, Tia observed, seemed to have done nothing about the worsening drug menace when it was first exposed years ago by Aksyon Radyo Iloilo.
In fact, when the Senate conducted an inquiry into the alleged harassments against Aksyon Radyo, it was ONLY Sen. Grace Poe who came.
Then Senate President Franklin Drilon, an Iloilo native, did not show up at the hearing and even dismissed the drug problem as a ‘local police matter,’ Tia recounted on Aksyon Hotline.
Worse, even competing radio stations accused Tia and company as being paid hacks of Odicta’s rival drug syndicates.
As expected national media organizations based in the Metro condemned the harassment against Aksyon Radyo but offered little more than that.
I remember telling at least two officials of a major media organization in Manila that the staff of Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo need psycho-social support, among others, after I talked to their news director, May Ortega, and Jun Capulot, in December 2013 while I and several other journalists were doing a fact-finding on the effects of Typhoon Yolanda on journalists in Panay island.
No Manila-based media organization or groups of fund-rich media and press freedom advocates sent a team to Iloilo to at least talk to the Aksyon Radyo people.
Looking back, I ask: are media organizations good only in condemning and making eulogies?
As I am now recovering after a stroke, I have realized that provincial journalists or any journalist cannot rely on any organization to fight for them or look after their welfare as these organizations are 1. busy finding ways to make money; 2. busy coming up with supposed projects or illusions of a project to make money, or 3. busy fighting each other over money.
Journalism in the Philippines is a dangerous job as it is but is also deceiving. It seduces the young and useful, romances them, and spits out those who are no longer healthy and useful.
But this is not about that. This is about a small radio station that could, AND DID.
So, take a bow, John Paul and Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo people. You make me proud that I, once upon a time, was also a broadcaster, too.
See you tomorrow on your show, John.