Monthly Archives: May 2009

NYTimes writer on AFP “order of battle”

A deeply disturbing development

May 19, 2009

I am Carlos H. Conde, a journalist based in Manila.

I found out yesterday that my name is included in the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s “order of battle,” specifically in a document titled “JCICC `AGILA’ 3rd QTR 2007 OB VALIDATION RESULT” purportedly prepared by the intelligence staff of the armed forces’ 10th Infantry Division in Southern Mindanao.

In this “order of battle,” more than a hundred individuals – mostly leaders and members of progressive and leftist groups like Bayan, Bayan Muna, among others – are listed and classified as “organized,” “dominated,” or “targeted.” As far as I can tell, I am the only journalist on the list, which classifies me as “targeted,” whatever that means.

It would seem that the army considers me an enemy of the state, as the document, which shows the alleged links of these individuals with the communist movement, seems to be implying.

Needless to say, this “order of battle” has caused anxiety and fear in my family because, as we all know, an “order of battle” in the Philippines is a veritable hit list. Indeed, at least one of the individuals in the document – Celso Pojas, a peasant leader in Davao City — has been assassinated and several others have either been attacked or subjected to harassment and intimidation by agents of the armed forces.

Just to be clear, I am a journalist and [have] been so in the past 15 years. Presently, I work as a freelance correspondent for US-based publications, namely The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and I also contribute stories and reports every now and then to other foreign and local publications.

I used to be the coordinator of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in Davao City and Southern Mindanao, where I resided until three years ago. I was the NUJP’s secretary-general from 2004 to 2006. Part of my job at the time was to lead the campaign in the Philippines to stop the killings of journalists. The Philippines, as we all know, is notorious for being the world’s most murderous place for journalists.

Why my name is included in the “order of battle” is a mystery. Unless, that is, the armed forces considers my and NUJP’s advocacy for press freedom, as well as pressuring the government to end the killings, as the work of enemies of the state. Unless the armed forces views my job and my writing as threats to this nation.

Carlos H. Conde
Manila, Philippines
Tel.: (+63) 9189425492


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Column: Big Talk about morality

Thoughts about “moral force,” with Emilio Jacinto as starting point. Published on April 14, 2009

Last month, the Inquirer hosted a score of students from Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic. The college students, many of them media studies majors, asked inexhaustible questions about both specific topics (details about journalist killings in the countryside, for instance) and large, general issues (the role of media in a democracy, the future of print). The lively give-and-take ran a couple of hours, and we had to call an end to it only because they were already late for their next appointment.

The second kind of question was the type my Jesuit classmates in philosophy a generation ago used to call Big Talk—the opposite, naturally enough, of small talk. It is the sort of question working journalists do not really think about on a daily basis; if my experience in five newsrooms is any guide, journalists worry about the day’s stories and the inevitability of deadlines. (The anecdotal evidence about the making of “The Elements of Journalism” says much the same thing. The second kind, to paraphrase Kovach and Rosenstiel’s summing-up, is like asking a journalist whether she believes in God. An important question, but almost impertinent.)

But it is a type of question more journalists must come to terms with—if only to explain and defend the sometimes freewheeling practice of a working press to the future civil servants and private-sector leaders of prim, proper Singapore.

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