Monday, November 12, 2007

My Past Life As An Investigative Journalist

It has been about a week now since I first offered my help to you my fellow satti lovers. But until now, there has been no takers. I understand, maybe you are shy, after all, I am a total stranger to all of you.

I don't blame you if at this very moment, this thought is playing on your mind: ``How can he help me when I never heard his name before?''

Don't worry, we newspaper reporters get that a lot. It is just unfortunate that we are not sikat or glamorous as our colleagues in radio and television. However, bragging aside, I can proudly declare that as far as achievements are concerned, I have had my share of fame in my past life as a journalist.

I do hope that after reading my credentials, you will already be bold enough to entrust me with your problems because I can help you solve them.

So, here's a brief history of my very thrilling and exciting life as a former journalist (This is what I give out to those out to introduce me in speaking engagements):

Armand Dean Natividad Nocum
Armand N. Nocum began his career in journalism in 1987 as a reporter and columnist of the now defunct The Morning Times, one of Zamboanga City's respected newspapers.
In 1992, he joined the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a correspondent and quickly became City Hall's ``Public Enemy No. 1.'' For his exposes on alleged graft in government, he incurred the ire of then Mayor Vitaliano Agan who declared Nocum as a person ``banned for life'' from covering City Hall.
In the same year the country won the international Little League Baseball competition by beating the US at their own sport, but was stripped of the title after the Inquirer came out with its series on the large-scale cheating that took place. Once again Nocum found himself in the eye of the storm as a result of co-writing the Inquirer series which gave incisive detail on how local officials falsified records of little boys to enable their over-aged brothers and neighbors to play baseball in international competitions.
Death threats flew fast and thick in Nocum's direction, with one local priest calling for his public hanging. National newspapers, television and radio stations joined in the Nocum-bashing frenzy.
As a result, Nocum had to go into ``exile'' in Manila where he faced a grilling by the Senate Committee on Sports under then Sen. Joey Lina. Subsequently, Nocum was vindicated when the committee upheld his findings on the Little League issue.
The Little League series of articles earned him nominations for the country's most prestigious journalism awards -- the Catholic Mass Media Award (CMMA) and the Jaime Ongpin Awards (JVO) for Investigative Journalism.
Two years into his work as a regular reporter of the Inquirer, Nocum beat the more senior Inquirer journalists in winning the Inquirer's first Luis R. Prieto Award for Investigative Journalism.
In 1996, while covering the House of Representatives, Nocum once again found himself being grilled by the Good Government, Public Works and Ethics Committees of Congress for his in-depth stories on the payola scam involving certain congressmen and the powerful Lopez family, owners of ABS-CBN, Meralco, Star Cinema and other influential firms.
Threats and a P5-million bribe failed to stop Nocum from pursuing his report on the scam which involved, among others, the present Presidential chief of staff Mike Defensor.
Hardly had the payola controversy died down when Nocum again became the subject of investigation by these same three congressional committees for his investigative reports on the pork barrel scam. The news series, which he wrote together with three other Inquirer reporters, gave Filipinos a first-ever detailed account of how congressmen steal people's money.
Embarrassed and angered by the story, most of the 250 members of Congress threatened to sue the Inquirer for libel in the amount of P1 billion pesos. They also threatened to slap Nocum and the Inquirer with ``inciting to sedition''ン, a law former strongman President Marcos used to go after ``enemies of the state''ン during Martial Law.
For months, Nocum and the Inquirer were the target of attacks in privileged speeches delivered by lawmakers in the halls of Congress, with one Muslim congressman inviting Nocum to his district so that he may bash Nocum's head against a concrete pavement to show that his pork barrel project was not sub-standard. He promised not to kill Nocum, though.
Eventually the lawmakers backed off when political groups, religious organizations, legal unions and local government officials came to the defense of the Inquirer. Elementary students also started sending their allowances to the Inquirer to help it battle lawmakers who were out to bring down the paper with a historic P1 billion libel case.
The grand slam of awards that followed the Pork Barrel series is unprecedented in local media history.
First, the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin conferred on Nocum and his colleagues the Catholic Mass Media Award for investigative reporting saying that the pork barrel series was ``what journalism should be''.
Then the Jaime Ongpin Award, the First Inquirer Journalism Award, and the first-ever Marshall McLuhan Prize given by the Canadian government were bestowed on Nocum and the three other Inquirer reporters involved in the series.
As a McLuhan Awardee, Nocum toured the whole of Canada serving as fellow and lecturer at the University of Toronto, the University of Regina and the University of British Columbia.
Upon his return, Nocum was again embroiled in a new libel charge, this time coming from Marcos crony Lucio Tan, owner of Philippine Airlines and tobacco and alcohol companies. Tan's libel suit of P130 million -- considered one of the biggest in Philippine journalism history -- stemmed from Nocum's in-depth report on how PAL nearly went bankrupt because Tan's dummy firms were allegedly fleecing the airline company.
In the years 2000 and 2001, Nocum was assigned to cover Malacañang where he reported on the last days in office of Ex-President Estrada and the start of President Macapagal-Arroyo's administration.
The high points of his Palace coverage was when he found himself trapped with Erap in the Palace during Edsa 2 and with President Arroyo in the violent Edsa 3.
Nocum has just returned from a successful coverage of President Arroyo's visit to Italy and Spain where she met with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican, the President of Italy, and King Juan Carlos I of Spain.
In Spain, Nocum stood out from among the 51-men Philippine delegation after President Arroyo introduced him to both the president of the Congreso de los Diputados and Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardo as a Chavacano-speaking reporter who speaks and understands Spanish.
Today, Nocum covers the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the Department of Justice.
During his student days Nocum served as associate editor of the school organ of the Claret High School in this city. Later he took up philosophy at the University of Sto. Tomas where he studied to become a priest.
Leaving the seminary in 1986, he took up journalism at the Western Mindanao State University and is among its pioneering batch of students. It was at WMSU where he fell in love with journalism. He believes that studying mass communication (journalism) at WMSU under inspiring and effective teachers was a turning point and milestone in life that has brought him to where he is today.
Apart from his WMSU mentors, he considers the late Rene Fernandez, former editor of The Morning Times, as among those who greatly shaped his career.

The photo above was taken at the Palace of Juan Carlos of Spain when I accompanied President Arroyo to her trip to Madrid, Spain and Rome and Tripoli, Libya.

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