Present at creation: Hysterical, historical
( 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.
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.