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The newsroom that Erap shut down


I have much respect for reunions that I do make time for them. They’re good for the soul, and my most memorable ones have led to renewed friendships and yearly rituals of great conversations.

But I must say that the reunion of the “unwitting” former staff and employees of the then Gokongwei-owned Manila Times is one for the books. It was a Facebook-organized event—no emails, no phone calls—and much to the surprise of everyone who attended, it was huge!

“Unwitting” is a word that resonates with all ex-Timers, thus we all agreed, again on Facebook, that this was going to appear in our commemorative reunion shirts. After all, it was what angered then President Joseph Estrada, when the Times on Feb 16, 1999 bannered a story saying he was the “unwitting ninong” to a power contract between an generic viagra online Argentine firm and the state-owned National Power Corp.

On March 9 of the same year, Estrada slapped the Manila Times owners and editors with a P101-million libel suit. On April 8, 1999, Manila Times publisher and owner Robina Gokongwei-Pe issued a front-page apology, leading to the resignation of key Times editors and reporters. The following day, April 9, Estrada withdrew his libel case.

Estrada by this time was at war with the media. He likewise

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instigated an ad boycott of the Inquirer.

The months that followed were difficult, because both Times management and the newsroom knew it would be tough to bring back credibility. So it was just a matter of time before the Gokongweis sold out. Majority of the editors and managers chose to stay to see the transition through. By July 22, 1999, the family sold The Times to lawyer Katrina Legarda and businessman Reghis Romero for P20 million. Everyone knew, however, that the real new owner was Estrada crony Mark Jimenez (Manila Times is now owned by Dante Ang, former PR of ex-president Gloria Macagapagal-Arroyo).

On July 23, 1999, as I celebrated my 34th birthday in London where I was on sabbatical, the newspaper of which I was news editor closed shop. Its last banner story screamed, “Closed.”

It took us 12 years—now that we’re settled in our own worlds, now that we have better perspective, now that we’ve learned from, or at least absorbed, the lessons, now that we’re over the hurts and recriminations, and now that we have Facebook—to organize one big get-together.

Unknown to most Times staff who attended last Friday’s (April 8 ) reunion, including myself, we did gather together exactly 12 years to the day when Robina wrote the paper’s public apology to Estrada.

And as she entered the packed and noisy venue last Friday, Robina was greeted with cheers, a gesture that she herself was probably not expecting.

“I was telling the [organizers], reunion ito ha, hindi unyon!,” Robina said in a speech she gave after much prodding from the crowd. During those years, the Times union and management had their usual battles, but all that didn’t matter that night as the ever-unassuming Robina hopped from one table to another for endless picture taking. “There’s a rumor that we are going to start a new newspaper…but I prefer the rumor that I have a snake for a twin,” she said in jest, to the laughter of those old enough to have heard of that tale.

Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng (right) with Glenda Gloria and Yes! executive editor Jo-An Maglipon (middle).

Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng (right) with Glenda Gloria and Yes! executive editor Jo-An Maglipon (middle).

For what is there to be bitter about?

While Estrada succeeded in closing down an independent newsroom, he failed to realize that

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by doing so he merely “scattered” the “troublemakers” to the rest of the industry.

Today, the Times staff who lost their jobs that day or had previously worked under the Gokongwei management now man the senior desks and reportorial teams of major media organizations: Inquirer (John Nery, Noel Velasco, Rolly Fernandez, Edwin Bacasmas, Cenon Bibe), ABS-CBN (Chi Almario, Lynda Jumilla, Joey Caburnida, Danny Lucas, and Andy Lizardo, The Times’ former layout artist who is now with ABS-CBN publishing), GMA-7 (Sandra Aguinaldo, Raffy Jimenez, Alcuin Papa, Weng Parungao, Dolly Mose, and Mike Sadim), Newsbreak (me, Chay Florentino Hofilena, Miriam Grace Go, Aries Rufo, and Marites Vitug, who wrote a column for The Times), PCIJ (Malou Mangahas and Ed Lingao), Vera Files (Chit Estella and Booma Cruz), and Rey Enano of the Manila Standard Today.

Margie Holmes and Danton Remoto with former Times' layout artist Leanne Jazul (left)

Margie Holmes and Danton Remoto with former Times' layout artist Leanne Jazul (left)

Some are with the foreign news media, like Manny Mogato of Reuters, Roel Landingin of the Financial Times of London, and Ignacio Dee of Manila Shimbun, while others are now in the PR and marketing industry, such as Gaborni, who’s now with First Gen, Didet Danguilan of Philip Morris, Anne Ruth Panes-de la Cruz of Medical City, Chris Cahilig, and Eric Garafil. (Due to space constraints, I can’t mention everyone; my apologies!)

Some of the Times’ former columnists also graced the occasion—the irrepressible Dr. Margie Holmes and Ang Ladlad’s Danton Remoto.

Winchell Campos, one of they key members of Team Pacquiao who’s based in the US, was our sports writer at the Times. Jo-an Maglipon, former editor of Sunday Times magazine, is the editor of Yes! and a key editorial mind at Summit Media publishing, owned and managed by Lisa Gokongwei, who was Robina’s deputy at The Times. Pete Lacaba, also with Yes!, was The Times’ grammar police.

Lisa said in her short speech at the reunion that “without Manila Times, there would be no Summit.” The successful fleet of glossy magazines that canada top 10 universities for pharmacy she now runs was indeed born from the ashes of the Times.

As I left the party, I realized that the Times crisis has somehow influenced the key decisions I have made in my career as a journalist and newsroom manager—where to draw the line, what values to cherish, how to take responsibility for one’s actions, when to fight and stay, when to leave, and when to dream again.

Indeed, the Times’ lesson is what presidents, leaders, and managers must all learn from: You can’t kill an independent newsroom. It will always find its way in other forms and at other times. – Newsbreak

CATEGORY: Glenda M. Gloria, Media
  1. I was part ofThe Manila as deskmen from Paril 1988 to November 1988. A long time ago.

  2. 5 stars for this article. :) super “like”

  3. glenda gloria says:

    thanks, joey! keep on reading newsbreak :)

  4. In a way, I was “part” of the Manila Times during those years before “the weighty, and witty but unwitting ninong” threw his tantrum.

    Those were the years when I was under “house arrest” from my back injury and I had “nothing better to do” than read all the major dailies and fax-away my letters to the Op Ed. :)

    I still have some of my yellowing clippings attesting to the lessons of “where to draw the line, what values to cherish, how to take responsibility for one’s actions, when to fight and stay, when to leave, and when to dream again…”

    And if I might add, why, no matter how one tries to be cynical, judging how corruption of the system lingers, nay, progresses, one simply cannot throw in the towel because there is the younger generation that will inherit everything we are “fighting for,” or abandoned, which ever the case may be.

    Newsbreak, there is much work to do. And it’s nice to know, you are very much at it. More power to your group!!

  5. glenda gloria says:

    thanks so much, mon! more power to you too.

  6. ROSE RAMOS says:


  7. Miss Gloria, I love your perspective on this. “when he closed down…he scattered the troublemakers” bravo!

    p.s please unblock me on twitter, i want to start following you again.

  8. Tomas "Buddy" Gomez III says:

    Very interesting, informative and nostalgic read….wish I were there…..except that I am a fossil from late 50′s…why don’t ya’ll get re-organized…kahit sa email.. a regular getting together in cyberspace! I was union steward for Manila Times radio–DZMT. (I covered the hunt for Nardong Putik) Tesoro de Guzman was union President. I am certain none of the attendees would even know who “Tes” was. Nardong Putik, maybe. Greetings from the Alamo! where “the stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas”, once known a “Las Nuevas Filipinas.”

  9. Great quote and very true Ms. Glenda:

    You can’t kill an independent newsroom. It will always find its way in other forms and at other times.

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