PHL STAR (PHILSTAR) NAMES NEW CHIEF-EDITOR / SKETCHES: OPAQUENESS
 

MANILA, JANUARY 16, 2012 (STAR) Philippine STAR president and CEO Miguel G. Belmonte announced the appointment of Ana Marie Pamintuan as editor-in-chief (photo) of the paper effective today.

Pamintuan is one of the pioneers of The STAR, starting as a reporter before being promoted to news editor, associate editor and managing editor. She has been the executive editor since 2002.

She graduated with honors from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, obtaining a bachelorís degree in Journalism from the Institute (now College) of Mass Communication. The CMC named her an Outstanding Alumna for Journalism during UPís Centennial in 2008.

Belmonte also announced the appointment of Romel Lara as managing editor effective last Jan. 1. Lara is also a journalism graduate of the UP College of Mass Communication. He joined The STAR in 1999 as a copyeditor, rising to become Metro editor and associate editor.

Another STAR pioneer, Roman Floresca, was named business editor effective Jan. 1. He was the assistant business editor before his promotion.

Former editor-in-chief Isaac G. Belmonte heads the editorial board.

MORE ON THE NEW CHIEF-EDITOR:

Ana Marie Pamintuan is executive editor at The Philippine Star, a Manila English daily broadsheet circulated nationwide.

She not only directs the operations, but also writes a popular opinion column, Sketches, three times a week, tackling issues such as politics, foreign affairs and the environment.

Pamintuan has been with The Star since it was launched in 1986, starting as a reporter. In the fall of 2001 she became a Jefferson Fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii - a program focusing on the challenges of globalization in the age of terrorism.

In 2007, she won a journalism fellowship from the International Center for Journalists and the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Pamintuan is also the author of The Face of the Enemy, a historical novel about the Philippine-American War.

The Philippine Star is a daily English-language broadsheet newspaper based in Manila and circulated nationwide in the Philippines. Owned and published by PhilSTAR Daily, Inc. It was founded on July 28, 1986 by veteran journalists Max Soliven, Betty Go-Belmonte and Art Borjal. The Philippine STAR has an established circulation in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia.

It is among the top three broadsheets in the country, by circulation, along with the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Manila Bulletin, with other Philippine newspapers trailing far behind.

Data from the Neilsen Media Index for the first quarter of 2008 show that the Philippine Star is the most read broadsheet in the Philippine capital of Metro Manila, with a Monday-to-Saturday readership of 47.4 percent.

As of the last semester of 2007, the Media Index also showed the Star is the number one broadsheet among the ABC1 socio-economic class, with 47.3 percent of the market, up from 35.7 percent the previous year.

A separate survey by the Nielsen Media Research - Print Advertising Information Service, which monitors print advertising placements, shows that in 2007, the STAR received the lion's share of advertising expenditure among all other Philippine broadsheets.

It reports P2.97 billion worth of advertising went to the Philippine Star, followed by P2.68 billion for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and P1.35 billion for the Manila Bulletin.

The Star was described by Chris Rowthorn of the Lonely Planet as a cheerful and feel-good newspaper.

MS. PAMINTUAN'S COLUMN TODAY

Opaqueness

SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) Updated January 16, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)

Regardless of the outcome of the trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, his impeachment should lead to fiscal transparency and, consequently, improved accountability in the judiciary.

Any agency that uses public funds cannot invoke fiscal autonomy in pursuing a policy of opaqueness.

A report released yesterday by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (see full report on www.pcij.org) showed that the Supreme Court (SC) started keeping its membersí asset statements secret after the tribunal exempted itself and all members of the judiciary from compliance with the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, or Republic Act 6713, way back in 1992, when Andres Narvasa was the chief justice.

The PCIJ reported that the exemption, contained in a court ruling, was repeatedly reaffirmed in resolutions issued by all chief justices since Narvasa: Hilario Davide Jr., Artemio Panganiban and Coronaís immediate predecessor, Reynato Puno.

So it can be said that Corona, like the late defense chief Angelo Reyes, simply inherited an opaque fiscal system.

Under fire from MalacaŮang since assuming his post, which President Aquino has repeatedly lambasted as a midnight appointment, Corona has had little time, or perhaps has seen no need, to fix what he considers to be something that ainít broke.

If the justices of the nationís highest tribunal themselves put themselves above laws on transparency and public accountability, lower ranking members of the judiciary will want the same privilege.

The fiscal opaqueness has surely contributed to corruption in the judiciary. Since corruption is a two-way affair, and Pinoys tend to discuss these things openly, word quickly gets around on who among certain magistrates are the most susceptible to bribes in exchange for favorable court orders.

Certain names keep popping up, from different quarters, lending the stories an aura of truth. Verification can be tough, since lawyers in particular know enough not to affix their signatures or thumbprints as proof of receipt of a payoff. And only Joseph Estrada was foolish enough to sign a bank document under an alias in full view of a witness.

Statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of SC justices are kept by the high tribunal itself. In theory, the public can request for a copy, but an application will have to go through the judicial wringer.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council cannot scrutinize the assets of members of the judiciary, the prosecution service and the Office of the Ombudsman unless for cause. The AMLC is still waiting for new laws that will include corruption among those causes.

Last week our reporter was given access to the SALN of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, after promising that the information would not be misused. Iím sure that the ongoing controversy over the assets of Corona and his family facilitated the release of Moralesí SALN.

* * *

Not that SALNs are an accurate gauge of the assets of public officials.

Every year our paperís reporters obtain the SALNs of senators and congressmen plus key officials of the executive branch led by the President. Every year we always have a good laugh or else roll our eyes in disbelief from the asset declarations.

Weíve come to believe that those who emerge as the richest officials are either truly honest or, more likely, such tightwads they wonít hire a topnotch accountant.

Perhaps one day soon, before Kim Henares retires from the Bureau of Internal Revenue and returns to her lucrative private practice, an efficient system of verifying SALNs in coordination with the BIR will be in place.

The judiciary is not the only opaque branch of government. Lawmakers have consistently refused to provide a detailed list of projects they have earmarked for financing through their pork barrel allocations. Iím not sure if new budgeting rules imposed by MalacaŮang will change this.

As a recent report showed, local government executives are also trying to hold on to fiscal opaqueness. With a combination of carrot and stick, the Department of the Interior and Local Government has been trying to bring transparency to the process.

Reports on fund utilization should include suppliers and contractors chosen by the lawmaker. All the reports should be made available on official websites for public scrutiny.

This type of detailed reporting is starting to be implemented in some units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The Philippine National Police, which continues to be rocked by scandals involving fund misuse and the procurement of several big-ticket items during the previous administration, should follow the example of the AFP.

The reforms in the military were intensified following last yearís congressional probe into the system that allowed massive fund diversions in the AFP. The diversions, if the story of whistle-blower Lt. Col. George Rabusa is accurate, also allowed several AFP chiefs of staff to retire from the service with millions in their pockets as pabaon or going-away cash gifts.

Retiring from the AFP recently as chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. assured the public, with a play on his name, that Oban was leaving the service with no baon.

Reyes, facing a Senate probe that eventually drove him to suicide, often looked pained as he argued that he simply inherited a system in the AFP.

People can only hope that the probe, even if over, will continue to result in long-term reforms in that flawed system.

With the Senate trial that starts today, similar reforms are expected in the judiciary, regardless of the fate of the Chief Justice.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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