Present at cre­ation: Hys­ter­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Eugenia Du­ran-Apos­tol Found­ing Chair, Philip­pine Daily Inquirer

( First of two parts)

DID YOU SAY his­tor­i­cal or hys­ter­i­cal?

Both de­scribe the be­gin­ning of the Philip­pine Daily Inquirer.

It dates back to Pres­i­dent Fer­di­nand Mar­cos’ dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law in Septem­ber 1972.

He en­joyed be­ing Pres­i­dent in 1965 and be­ing re­elected in 1969, and on the pre­text that the coun­try needed to be­come a New So­ci­ety un­der his guid­ance, he all but made him­self Pres­i­dent for life.

He ar­rested all the dis­senters, es­pe­cially in­flu­en­tial me­dia own­ers and writ­ers, and his most vo­cal op­po­si­tion­ist, Sen. Benigno “ Ni­noy” Aquino Jr.

Mar­cos closed all the news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines not par­tial to him and al­lowed his friendly Times Jour­nal, Daily Ex­press and later Bul­letin To­day to con­tinue to sing his praises.

Women’s mag­a­zines he al­lowed to open upon ap­pli­ca­tion to the sec­re­tary of na­tional de­fense, Juan Ponce En­rile.

My hus­band be­ing the fa--

vorite civil en­gi­neer builder of Mrs. Cristina Ponce En­rile, was my route to the ap­proval of the very first mar­tial law women’s mag­a­zine: Woman’s Home Com­pan­ion.

This was re­quested through me by sev­eral of the Manila Chron­i­cle’s top ex­ec­u­tives who had found them­selves job­less: Rod Reyes, Choy Es­cano, Johnny Or­doveza and Vergel Santos.

And they asked me to be edi­tor.

Cristina Ponce En­rile

Be­ing the first, we flour­ished—so well that the ini­tial cap­i­tal­iza­tion needed to be upped in two years. The money of the Chron­i­cle ex­ec­u­tives was not enough— so we sold to the printer, the Guer­reros, for three times the orig­i­nal in­vest­ments.

The Chron­i­cle guys went their in­di­vid­ual ways, leav­ing me to con­tinue as edi­tor.

But the artis­tic Morita Guer­rero and daugh­ter had their own ideas about how to han­dle the mag­a­zine. And I had mine.

So I quit, but with­out warn­ing, the whole staff quit, too!

What to do? Start a new one called Mr & Ms. This was in 1975 and same friends vol­un­teered to join as stock­hold­ers.

When Cristina Ponce En­rile heard about it she said: I want 20 per­cent, too.

The women’s mag­a­zine mar­ket now be­ing crowded, it took some do­ing to break even. And this we ac­com­plished by spe­cial pub­li­ca­tions for United Co­conut Planters Bank’s an­nual give­aways: Menu guide for the year 1977 and 1978 with Nick Joaquin’s 10 chil­dren’s sto­ries for 1979. The Co­conut Cook­book etcetera.

We were on our eighth year of Mr & Ms in 1983 when Ni­noy Aquino was shot to death while in the hands of the mil­i­tary.

Ou­trage in the streets

Im­me­di­ately we planned a re­port on Ni­noy’s life and work. That it sold very well is an un­der­state­ment. The ou­trage of the Filipinos was con­cretized in the 2 mil­lion peo­ple who showed up at his 7 a. m. to 9 p. m. fu­neral.

The next day, hardly a word about the fu­neral was in the Mar­cos news­pa­pers.

This made me mad—and, gath­er­ing the Mr & Ms staff, I an­nounced a spe­cial fu­neral is­sue the very next day.

It was a 16-page, black and white P2-edi­tion which sold 150,000 copies in the first run, then an­other 150,000 copies and with the clamor of the news deal­ers—460,000 more!

And the demon­stra­tions con­tin­ued. How to doc­u­ment all these? I ran to the house of Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc who was job­less since Hans Menzi fired her from the Bul­letin be­cause of an un­sym­pa­thetic ( to Mar­cos) story she wrote in Philip­pine Panorama ( Bul­letin’s Sun­day mag­a­zine) two years ear­lier.

I asked her to edit a Mr & Ms Spe­cial Edi­tion to record the daily demon­stra­tions. (“ But you can’t use my name,” she ad­mon­ished, or we ran the risk of be­ing closed down.)

We didn’t un­til 1986. But that’s get­ting ahead of the story.

Fear of white­wash

For three straight years, the Filipinos— not only in Metro Manila—but in other pro­vin­cial cap­i­tals— kept up their daily protests.

Late 1984 the Sandi­gan­bayan ruled that Gen. Fabian Ver and 26 oth­ers would be tried for the Ni­noy murder. Sus­pect­ing this would be a white­wash, we nev­er­the­less deemed it nec­es­sary to fol­low the trial for the record.

We de­cided to set up an­other weekly to record the trial. Letty sug­gested the name “ Philip­pine Inquirer” ( af­ter the Philadel­phia Inquirer, her fa­vored paper while she lived there for six years.) So we used that name, and she edited that, too.

Aside from the de­tailed re­ports on the trial, we asked the big but si­lenced guns of Philip­pine jour­nal­ism at that time— Max So­liven and Louie Bel­tran—to write col­umns for it. Art Bor­jal was also a colum­nist.

So­liven and Bel­tran had been thrown into jail by Mar­cos at the out­set of mar­tial law. Af­ter their re­lease, no one dared hire them un­til the Philip­pine Inquirer did.

Birth of weekly Inquirer

The weekly Inquirer was launched in Fe­bru­ary 1985 with a monthly P100,000 in­vest­ment. When the trial ended in Oc­to­ber, we had lost P900,000. I thought we should stop the INQUIRER.

But Mar­cos an­nounced a snap elec­tion for the pres­i­dency ( to prove to the world the Filipinos still loved him).

And our re­ac­tion was: The poor op­po­si­tion had only Malaya to de­pend on for sup­port. Didn’t they need an­other daily?

Break­fast with his­tory

Right af­ter Ni­noy was shot, I was in a po­si­tion to do some­thing about pub­lic events. Mr & Ms had enough funds and the right staff to be able to re­act in­stantly in a way that met the needs of the read­ers.

When no Mala­cañang reprisal came, we be­came bolder. I even had the nerve to ask the al­ter­na­tive me­dia own­ers to re­act to my idea of a co­op­er­a­tive news­pa­per.

I called to break­fast one morn­ing Chino Ro­ces, the Loc­sins fa­ther and son, Joe Bur­gos of Malaya, Raul Loc­sin of Busi­nessDay, and Betty Go-Bel­monte of the Fook­ien Times ( Geny Lopez of the Manila Chron­i­cle had es­caped from Mar­cos’ prison and was then in the United States).

I asked them if it would be a good idea to start a news­pa­per, all of us to­gether. With the strength of num­bers, hope­fully, we could do some­thing about what was done to Ni­noy and what was be­ing done to our coun­try.

All of them said no, no way. They said they all had suf­fered from the Mar­cos dic­ta­tor­ship. They were not about to start any news­pa­per at that time.

Al­though Raul Loc­sin had his busi­ness paper with news, real news about what was go­ing on in the coun­try was not em­pha­sized. Joe Bur­gos had Malaya but had just suf­fered from the clo­sure of We Fo­rum. So they were not about to start an­other news­pa­per.

Later, the new Philip­pine Daily Inquirer held of­fice for the first five months in the Port Area build­ing which the fam­ily of Betty owned. I held of­fice in her of­fice, so I asked her to be vice chair to me. She had ac­cepted my pro­posal for a co-op news­pa­per.

‘ Noble idea’

So, we re­grouped for a daily, or­ga­niz­ing a co­op­er­a­tive news­pa­per so that all those work­ing for it could share the re­spon­si­bil­ity and hope­fully, the re­wards.

I told Cristina and Johnny Ponce En­rile, who had shares in Mr & Ms, about the plan. Johnny said it was a “ noble idea.” I em­pha­sized to them that no politician could be part of the new paper.

When the weekly INQUIRER be­came a daily, I formed a sep­a­rate cor­po­ra­tion.

The new group bought the name The Philip­pine Inquirer from Mr & Ms, and paid P900,000 for it. The group also bor­rowed a mil­lion pe­sos in cash, paper and equip­ment from Mr & Ms and paid it back ( with in­ter­est) in twom­onths.

In three months, the Philip­pine Daily Inquirer had not only helped oust Mar­cos, it was also mak­ing money!

Stand­ing by Cory, Doy

In sev­eral coup at­tempts in­spired by En­rile, the INQUIRER stood firmly by the duly elected Pres­i­dent Co­ra­zon “ Cory” Aquino and Vice Pres­i­dent Sal­vador “ Doy” Lau­rel.

En­rile must have felt be­trayed be­cause in 1989, he ( through his ac­coun­tant Nora Bi­tong) filed a suit against Apos­tol, Magsanoc and Doris Nuyda ( of Mr & Ms) for “ breach of fidu­ciary duty, mis­man­age­ment,” etc.

For five years we went up and down the el­e­va­tors of the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion ( SEC) to at­tend hear­ing af­ter hear­ing. In Au­gust 1993, the lower court ruled in our fa­vor and lifted the in­junc­tion on our PDI shares.

Keep­ing pols out

I de­cided to sell my shares im­me­di­ately so that En­rile would not be able to touch them in the fu­ture. My lawyer, the late En­rique Bello, was not in fa­vor of the sale, know­ing we had a good chance of win­ning the case. But I was not will­ing to take the chance with the un­pre­dictable ju­di­ciary.

If En­rile or any other politician were to end up own­ing even a sin­gle share in the INQUIRER, I would never for­give my­self. I had a ready buyer, Edgardo Espiritu. I quickly ne­go­ti­ated the sale be­fore the En­rile group could file an ap­peal with the SEC.

Pri­etos come in

At the first board meet­ing in Jan­uary 1994, I re­signed as chair be­cause I had no more shares. In the mean­time, the Pri­etos had come in and Espiritu gave them his vote. Mar­ixi Rufino-Pri­eto be­came the new board chair.

Sure enough, Nora Bi­tong, on En­rile’s be­half, went to the SEC en banc, only to find out that the Apos­tol shares had been “ Espir­ited away.”

But com­pli­ca­tions had arisen in En­rile’s fa­vor. In three months, the SEC re­versed the lower court’s de­ci­sion.

Al­though my shares had been safely spir­ited away, we still had to go to the Court of Ap­peals. Espiritu was named in a sep­a­rate plead­ing.

In mid-1996, Jus­tice Pe­dro Ramirez ruled in our fa­vor, say­ing Bi­tong was not the real party in in­ter­est. This part of the INQUIRER’s his­tory brings me to the sub­ject of me­dia own­er­ship in the Philip­pines.

Co­op­er­a­tive struc­ture

In Au­gust 1985, at a Na­tional Press Club sem­i­nar on me­dia haz­ards, Dr. Flo­r­angel Braid sug­gested that one so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of me­dia in­de­pen­dence was the adop­tion of the co­op­er­a­tive struc­ture in the news­pa­pers.

If only peo­ple owned their news­pa­per or TV sta­tion, there would be less pres­sure from in­ter­est groups and, there­fore, it would be­more in­de­pen­dent.

So in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber 1985, we had two sem­i­nars on co­op­er­a­tive own­er­ship of me­dia. There were go­ing to be more but the Novem­ber an­nounce­ment by Mar­cos of a snap elec­tion made it im­per­a­tive to act right away.

So I sug­gested to Flo­r­angel Braid, Betty Bel­monte, Eli Alam­pay, Letty Magsanoc, Doris Nuyda, SP Lopez, Louie Bel­tran and Max So­liven that it was time for such a co­op­er­a­tive news­pa­per.

They all agreed, and the INQUIRER was born as a daily. Be­cause of the dif­fi­cult re­quire­ments in­volved in reg­is­ter­ing as a co­op­er­a­tive and be­cause we needed a le­gal per­son­al­ity as soon as pos­si­ble, we reg­is­tered as a cor­po­ra­tion, which had an un­usual clause in the by­laws: only those per­ma­nently em­ployed by the Inquirer could own stocks in it.

This demon­strated the board’s in­ten­tion to go co­op­er­a­tive plus the fact that all the board mem­bers were is­sued equal num­ber of shares. ( To be con­tin­ued.)

MA­JOR PLAY­ERS Pres­i­dent Cory Aquino ( left) knew Eg­gie Apos­tol was a power player be­hind Peo­ple Power I.

AWARDS GA­LORE Eg­gieA­pos­tol poses with James F. Hodge Jr., vice chair of the In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Jour­nal­ists, af­ter re­ceiv­ing the Knight In­ter­na­tional Fel­low­shipAchiev­e­men­tAward in­Wash­ing­ton, in 2001.

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