The top awards went to stories on press freedom and the effects of the war on drugs.
JOURNALIST and VERA Files trustee Ellen Tordesillas announced on April 12 the launch of a new award to honor the best student work on road safety issues.
The Chit Estella Road Safety Journalism Award, named in honor of journalist Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan, will be given next year as a special category in the Philippine Journalism Research Conference (PJRC).
PJRC is an annual event organized by the Journalism Department of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Mass Communication.
The new special award expands the current Chit Estella Memorial Awards for Journalism Research, given at the PJRC, for the best student work in journalism research, special projects, and investigative journalism.
“It will be given to the most outstanding research paper or in-depth report, multiple formats allowed, on road safety by journalism or communication students,” said Tordesillas, during the closing program of the 2016 PJRC.
“VERA Files is offering to cover the cash prize and the trophy for this award. This is in addition to the yearly support it extends to the [PJRC],” she added.
Estella-Simbulan, a professor at the UP Journalism Department and VERA Files trustee, was killed on May 13, 2011 in a road crash.
Road crashes are among the leading causes of deaths in the Philippines, said Tordesillas, quoting government figures.
“I don’t use the words ‘(road) accident’ as if yun ang tadhana ng buhay (it is due to fate), and there was nothing that could have prevented it,” explained Tordesillas.
“Road crashes are preventable. And media can help create an environment that would make our roads safe. One of that is to come out with good stories based on excellent research,” she said.
Students from the University of the Philippines and the Southern Luzon State University received this year’s Chit Estella Memorial Awards.
- Amiel Jansen Demetrial of the Southern Luzon State University for “Terorista! Terorista? Ideological Construction of the Moro Muslim Identity in the Online Reports of the Mamasapano Clash and the Bangsamoro Basic Law” (journalism research category)
- Regina Aquino, Jon Robin Bustamante, and Janelle Dilao of UP Diliman for “Six Feet Under” (special projects category)
- Ron Bautista and Krixia Subingsubing of UP Diliman for “System Reboot: An Investigative Study on the Implementation of the eUP Project of the University of the Philippines System” (investigative journalism category)
“Chit’s lasting memory is her fierce independence,” said UP Professor Roland Simbulan, Estella-Simbulan’s husband, in his closing remarks.
He said he could trace Estella-Simbulan’s independence and courage “to her stint as student journalist of the Philippine Collegian during the Martial Law years.”
“In those days of martial rule, if you were caught working for the underground press you will not only be arrested but also tortured and even killed or become a ‘desaparecidos’ as many Filipinos experienced,” Simbulan said.
“There are still great risks in a free society, but the risks in a dictatorship are even greater, and graver. The only thing that made the Marcos dictatorship look good was the absence of a free press and the solid walls of a silenced press around it,” he said.