A Filipino journalist wins Pulitzer Prize

A Filipino journalist wins Pulitzer Prize

By Willie Jose

While browsing my Facebook on the afternoon of April 17, I chanced upon Manny Mogato’s surprising message “Praise you Jesus, thank you so much.
I woke up to great news. I found the Holy Grail.” Wow a Pulitzer “Manny has won this year’s prestigious Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the drugs war campaign back home.

Manny and his two other colleagues—Clare Baldwin and Andrew R.C. Marshall– from the Reuters international news agency have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. They’ve bagged the award “for relentless reporting that exposed the brutal killing campaign behind Philippines President Rodrigo Detente’s war on drugs.”

Winning that Pulitzer award is no ordinary thing because aside from working hard doing an assignment, journalists have to persevere and risk some danger and harassment—and be ready to tweak the powerful. Well, all these obstacles come with the territory.

On learning Mogato’s award, I immediately congratulated him; he’s worthy to get all these high praises that have been heaped on him by his friends and media colleagues for the job well done in spite of the risks involved.

And while I was writing this piece, hundreds of Manny’s friends and colleagues in media were burning their Facebook accounts with all their congratulatory remarks.

Honestly speaking, when I read the news of this award for Manny, I had some ambivalent feeling; while I was happy for him, I also had this fear lingering on my mind, thinking about the repercussions that this award might bring to him.

The situation back home is really worrisome if we have to consider the result of the survey of the Reporters Without Borders conducted in 2017, showing that the Philippines was one of the most dangerous countries for media workers; it ranked 127th out of the 180 countries surveyed.

I have been a journalist for four decades and I know the dangers faced by my colleagues in the Philippines and so every time I read some of my friends’ columns, criticizing public officials and various government institutions, I would always have some fears within me, worrying about their safety.

Being an alumnus of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), I’ve sent him this simple message “ Imagine, nagkaroon ng isang Pulitzer awardee ang PLM; we—the Pamantasan community—are all proud of you!

With this noble award, the whole PLM community—alumni, administration, members of the faculty and the student body– should consider holding a modest parade on the university campus to show their appreciation for Manny who has brought big honor and prestige both for the country and the school.

So far, only a handful of Filipinos have received the Pulitzer Prize and the eminent Carlos P. Romulo was the first one to receive it in 1942.

On weighing down the circumstances behind this award– the Reuters’ group relentless reporting on the brutal drug campaign of the gov’t, –the PLM administration might be in a tight squeeze to hold even a testimonial dinner for Mogato. The PLM is a city-funded, free-tuition university and holding the affair could only embarrass the national gov’t.

Manny and I have known each other for many years; we both started writing for the Philippines Journalist Inc. in the early 80s, covering the police beat: Manny covered the police beat for the People’s Journal and me for the Times Journal. Later, he had started hopping from one paper to another and one day, we met again, we were both pounding the defense beat.

Manny is not a serious-looking journalist, the likes of Robert Redford (portraying Bob Woodward of the Washington Post) in the All President’s Men movie, but he’s a stickler to facts and he would go an extra mile, risking everything simply to write the truth.

His colleagues would often see him, smiling and greeting people on his beat; he’s friendly by nature—and from time to time, he would be seen munching something, so when his friends have heard this Pulitzer thing, the joke goes “ it’s crispy pata time “ When he was in Toronto last December to receive the 2017 Marshall McLuhan Fellowship, he had said in one forum when asked why he continues despite the risks, “The attacks [against the journalists] won’t go away. But we do our jobs by practicing good journalism because that’s a responsibility.”

Well, Manny has done his part in bringing honor and glory to our beloved Pamantasan, may this be a challenge for all of us: let’s search for life’s meaning and purpose, look for ways to help the poor people—and most of all, find our own “ Holy Grail.”