HIGHLIGHTS

  • Radio Veritas’ coverage of the Benigno Aquino assassination created a great impact in Philippine society.
  • Listeners to the station, which was broadcasting live from the airport, heard the immediate news of the shooting of Aquino on the ramp, and listened to an on-the-scene interview with his brother-in-law, an experienced broadcaster, who had been accompanying him.
  • Coverage by Radio Veritas during and after the presidential election on February 7, 1986, provided much of the public exposure which enabled the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections to challenge the tabulations of the government’s Commission on Elections.
  • It motivated the hundreds of thousands of citizens who marched the streets and blocked the movement of army tanks.
  • The RMAF Board of Trustees recognizes “its crucial role in using truth to depose an oppressive and corrupt regime and restore Filipino faith in the electoral process.”

 CITATION

History does not teach fatalism. It teaches that there are moments when the will and work of a handful of free men and women can break through and shape a new society. Between 1983 and 1986 those in charge of RADIO VERITAS played a key role in mobilizing the people’s power for a remarkably peaceful transition in authority. This performance encourages the Foundation to recognize a collective effort in a category normally restricted to individuals.

The Philippines is heir to the great tradition of freedom of the press and airwaves. Although frequently abused, this freedom remains the ultimate guardian of human liberty. During both Japan’s military occupation in World War II and the harsh era of President Ferdinand Marcos’ authoritarianism, expectations of free expression shaped the actions of writers and their audiences. Many suffered for this, either through incarceration or self-chosen banishment. Some merely endured with frustration or anger.

The beginnings of RADIO VERITAS were not auspicious. Other religious groups were active in broadcasting when in 1962 the University of Santo Tomas with the approval of the Philippine Congress transferred its license and equipment to the Philippine Radio Educational and Information Center, under the chairmanship of Rufino Cardinal Santos, to establish a Catholic Asian broadcasting system. The Federal Republic of Germany provided for three-fourths of the initial cost (short-wave equipment and installation) and later gave additional assistance, as did Australian bishops and others. Customs delays, loss of equipment and materials enroute, and bad weather slowed construction, but RADIO VERITAS was finally inaugurated in 1969. It pledged to broadcast “everything true, noble, good and pure or worthy of praise.”

In 1973 its overseas short-wave transmitters broke down and were officially closed. The previous year martial law had been declared in the Philippines, which inhibited free expression, by the media.

There was a new beginning for RADIO VERITAS in 1974-75 under the leadership of then archbishop and now cardinal, Jaime Sin. He was financed by the German Catholic Social Aid Fund and the Pontifical Society for Propagation of the Faith and by a large number of Asian and Philippine bishops. By 1979 the overseas sector was broadcasting in six languages and receiving 45,000 letters annually from listeners. Today it broadcasts in 14 languages. RADIO VER11AS in the Philippines, however, continued to struggle with programming and budgetary constraints.

It was the coverage of the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino when he was landing at the Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983-that made the reputation of RADIO VERITAS. Listeners to the station, which was broadcasting live from the airport, heard the immediate news of the shooting of Aquino on the ramp, and listened to an on-the-scene interview with his brother-in-law, an experienced broadcaster, who had been accompanying him. VER1TAS continued to report on the public revulsion that grew over the ensuing days and years. Other radio and television stations for the most part controlled by the administration or presidential “cronies,” failed or feared to match this bold candor.

Coverage by RADIO VERITAS during and after the presidential election on February 7,1986, provided much of the public exposure which enabled the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections to challenge the tabulations of the government’s Commission on Elections. It also aroused the anger of Filipinos who learned how they were being cheated of their franchise. Most of the other media outlets remained captive of the administration.

As the drama of the people’s revolt unfolded over the next 18 days, it was RADIO VERlTAS, with its dedicated editorial staff, broadcasters and technicians, which kept the public informed. It motivated the hundreds of thousands of citizens who marched the streets and blocked the movement of army tanks. After its powerful transmitters were wrecked, it used a backup facility to relay the message “that the people would triumph.” And so they did.

In electing RADIO VER1TAS to receive the 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts, the Board of Trustees recognizes its crucial role in using truth to depose an oppressive and corrupt regime and restore Filipino faith in the electoral process.

 RESPONSE

In the early 1970s RADIO VERITAS started identifying itself as “the station that cares” implying that its programs were intended to uplift listeners socially, intellectually, psychologically and spiritually. Through the years, the station tried to show it cared by providing information that gave all sides of an event, in contrast to the one-sided coverage the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos wanted the media to present. It tried to show it cared by providing listeners a forum to air their opinions, while other radio stations kept away from comments that might anger the government. It tried to show it cared by presenting Christian reflections on the events and the situations faced by the nation.

While our listeners saw us as the station that cares, the Marcos government looked on VERITAS as the “station that scares.” There were countless instances when we received warnings from the government telling us to tone down our broadcasts or suffer being sabotaged or even closed. But despite these threats the announcers and the staff braved the odds and took the risk that the station might be closed and they themselves arrested. Like other ordinary human beings, we were on many occasions torn between toning down the broadcasts because of fear, and presenting the facts as we saw them because of conscience. But we always ended up by deciding to go on with our coverage, often with our knees shaking and our “stomachs full of butterflies.” The Christian values of truth and justice gave us the courage to proceed.

In 1983, after the assassination of Marcos’ opponent Benigno Aquino, VERITAS identified its radio band number (846) as “the number of truth.” Only a few doubted its claim. As it kept the people informed, however, its existence became increasingly endangered, but we on the staff knew that the people were solidly behind us. We knew that, through the strength of the people, there was hope for the nation to grow stronger. This was evident during the hotly disputed election of February7, 1986 and the events that followed. When the Marcos government saw how RADIO VERITAS rallied the people to support the post election coup of February 22, it decided the time had come for its voice to be silenced. In the dark dawn of February 23 the regime carried out its threat of many years and destroyed our five transmitters.

But there exists a fraternity between radio stations, and when other stations heard what happened to our transmitters they allowed us to use theirs to broadcast our call for the people to support the coup leaders.

Thousands of individuals expressed appreciation for our efforts to report the events as we saw them happen. Many more expressed their appreciation by sharing with us their meager earnings so that we could continue with our mission. Many groups expressed their appreciation by giving us awards.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts is for us an affirmation that a station that cares can really help uplift and give courage to the Filipinos. The life of President Magsaysay shows that he was a man who cared for the people; he also believed in their dignity and importance. With this Award RADIO VER1TAS is further encouraged to serve the common man whom Magsaysay defended in his day. This Award also inspires us to continue working for the building of a free nation, as Magsaysay worked for the building of a nation in which freedom could be enjoyed and in which man could live with man in honor and peace.

On behalf of Jaime Cardinal Sin, President and Chairman of the Board of RADIO VERITAS, other members of the board, and especially on behalf of my fellow employees, I gratefully accept this Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts. It will be an inspiration to us to continue living up to our call sign: RADIO VERITAS, RADIO TRUTH.

 BIOGRAPHY

Without RADIO VERITAS it is very unlikely that we would have succeeded [in overthrowing the government of Ferdinand Marcos because it was through RADIO VERITAS that we were able to summon our courage and unity.

General Fidel Ramos
Chief of Staff
New Armed Forces of the Philippines

Politicians from left to right, foreign observers and ordinary Philippine citizens have echoed General Ramos’ assessment of RADIO VERITAS’ decisive role in the February 1986 revolution that overturned a fraudulent election and toppled the 20-year rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. The story is one of courage and faithful reporting in the face of a rapacious and scandalous government, desperate to retain power, and now discredited throughout the world. But the modest beginnings of RADIO VER1TAS did not lead one to expect it to topple governments.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)