Although corruption in the media is rampant in Eastern Visayas (EV), there are still journalists here who believe that it is never justifiable to engage in any form of corruption just because of poor economic condition of journalists.
BY MAUREEN JAPZON
TACLOBAN CITY – Although corruption in the media is rampant in Eastern Visayas (EV), there are still journalists here who believe that it is never justifiable to engage in any form of corruption just because of poor economic condition of journalists.
“Media people will not like (discussing media corruption) because you can make them uncomfortable, but it has to come out, it will be like a bitter medicine…nevertheless it is a warning that it is happening because we had allowed it to be…so freedom of speech or of the press is distorted,” said Rollie Montilla, Eastern Times editor and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Leyte chapter president.
According to National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), P513.42 ($9.96, based on an exchange rate of P51.52 per US dollar) is needed every day for a family of six in the region to meet basic needs. However, broadcast journalists in the region are only paid P1,500 to P8,000 ($29.11 to $155.28) monthly, while print journalists receive P50 to P350 ($0.97 to $6.79) for every published article or P2, 400 ($46.58) monthly on the average.
The government-owned Radyo Natin (Our Radio) stations have monthly salary rates ranging from P13,000 to P18,000 ($252.33 to $349.38) for their reporters. The three Radyo Natin stations in EV are DYOG in Calbayog, Samar, DYES in Borongan, Eastern Samar and DYSL in Sogod, Southern Leyte. Data from the Philippine Information Agency Region VIII show that there are 25 newspapers operating in the region. Of this number, only one newspaper, the Leyte Samar Daily Express, operates daily and regularly pays their reporters.
According to several journalists here, the salary that they receive is not enough to provide for the needs of their families.
“I need to tighten my belt just to make my salary sufficient for my needs. My passion or love for media work is the only reason that holds me back from accepting other jobs,” said a single, female broadcast journalist. She also added that her salary could not even buy all her personal needs, much less save money at the end of the month.
The story is much worse for a married broadcaster with one child. Even though he earns additional income from block-time programs, his average income of almost P8,000 ($155.28) monthly is still not enough. The pre-school education alone of his child already costs more than P2,000 ($38.82) a month. “I just enjoy my work (even if) the salary I receive is barely enough for my family to survive.”
Even the highest paid Radyo Natin senior reporter who receives almost P18,000 ($349.38) monthly also complained about inadequate income to support his five children. He said that he resorts to borrowing money to augment what he described as his “meager income.”
Print journalists who earn less salary are forced to look for part-time jobs. It has become common practice for newspaper writers to engage also in the sale of advertisements where they can receive a 15-percent to 30-percent commission. Most of the time, the commission they receive from advertisements is much higher than the pay for their published articles.
To improve the working condition of the former Bombo Radyo Tacloban Station employees, a union was organized and the workers there applied for voluntary recognition from the management. The latter, however, opted to declare bankruptcy and permanently close the station without giving just compensation to all employees.
“After the closure of the Bombo Radyo station here in Tacloban last March 2003, almost all of our colleagues still have no jobs. Some are employed as casual workers in government agencies, others tried to set up their own newspaper and others left for Manila to look for jobs. Only Allan Amistoso (union president) is better off because he ran and got elected to a government post. Just a few of us remain in the media industry,” lamented Mark Morallos, a former Bombo Radyo announcer and union officer.
For almost three years now, the case of the employees union against the management is still pending final in the 2nd Division of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in Cebu.