Sunday, December 20, 2009

Notice of Full Disclosure

Dear Reader,

This is to inform the readers of the Diliman Diary about the full extent of my involvement with U.P. Diliman, which is a very large and component part of the greater Diliman area. I do so because it is an accepted journalistic practice to duly inform the readers about a topic or organization the writer is writing about within the context of if that writer has had any prior involvement or history with that topic or organization that may affect or compromise his or her fairness in coverage.

In a larger journalistic organization, such as the Philippine STAR (I used to work for this publication) or in other news organizations I have had involvement with (I have interned with United Press International, Mesa (Ariz.) Tribune and the Phoenix (Ariz.) Gazette), a writer such as myself, who was also a former student at the MBA program of the University of the Philippines and had filed a civil case for PhP 5000.00 in civil damages against top officials of the University of the Philippines (U.P.), including Professor Gerardo Agulto and then Chancellor Emerlinda Roman for their collective inability to provide the basis in awarding failing grades in a comprehensive examination; would have been ordered to stand down from covering (U.P.), and that journalistic organization would have assigned another reporter to cover the story. I recognize that ethos in a large news organization and respect it. No contest.

But to begin with, the Diliman Diary is not a news organization. Neither does it have the resources of a news organization to assign other reporters to cover U.P. events or other events in the greater Diliman area. The Diliman Diary is a weblog, and I am its founder, photographer, editor, proofreader and even chief messenger. I am trying to build up the Diliman Diary's long-term capability to field other writers, but that takes time and resources. In the meantime, there's just little ol' me, but I'm grateful for the privilege to be writing again after a sabbatical of so many years. As a weblog, we cannot provide the kind of journalistic scoops or reportage (although we may already have had a few shining moments)that national news organizations such as the Philippine STAR or the Philippine Daily Inquirer can. We cannot provide other writers consistently. If I have to cover U.P. Diliman, its Board of Regents, or even the actions of its President, Emerlinda Roman, my one-time professor whom I also included in the dismissed suit (because of her actions against my case as then U.P. Diliman Chancellor, in support of her colleague at the ), then the buck necessarily stops with me. For the record, however, I drew the line back then at filing suit against the U.P. Board of Regents because I considered them to be part-time bureaucrats dependent on the U.P. President's recommendation who were only involved in policy-making and could not possibly have a proper appreciation of my case and so I left them out of it. For those who may wonder why I did not include former President Francisco Nemenzo in my suit; my chief consideration was that a reading of the pesonalities involved in the BOR at that time indicated that he was highly dependent on the recommendation of his chosen successor, Chancellor Emerlinda Roman for her advice. In other words, one files suit against the dog, and not against its wagging tail.

Because the Diliman Diary has positioned itself as an alternative community weblog that comes out about three times a month (or even more frequently) and is in fact a bilingual tri-monthly online weblog that features trends in the Diliman area in Filipino and English. It features technology, business, the arts, music, literature, theatre, film, politics and other trends which impact the Diliman area and its netizens who may be located anywhere and in any time zone.

I have many happy memories of being a U.P. student. I graduated from U.P. Diliman in 1987 (A.B. Comparative Literature), and was taught by some of the greatest luminaries there were in the field: Anton Juan, Concepcion Dadulfalza, Amelia Lapena Bonifacio, Franz Arcellana, to name a few. I stayed in Kalayaan and Molave Residence Halls and made many friends from all over the country. Though not a student activist per se, I joined several sit-ins and marches to Welcome Rotonda and Mendiola. I participated in the EDSA revolution when I was a junior in U.P. Diliman. One did not have to be an activist in U.P. Diliman during that period to be involved in a growing outcry for change. The whole country was practically clamouring for it back then. Let me be categorical about this: I love U.P., and many of the things it has taught me to value: to dissent, to be independent, to analyze, to question, to be critical - and yes - to have an opinion - and not to be ashamed of it.

But the U.P. of the 1980s (I finished my A.B. in 1987) had changed when I reenrolled in U.P. Diliman in the MBA program in 1999. U.P. had deteriorated, and had become much more politicized. My professor in my comprehensive examination, Gerardo Agulto, invoked Academic Freedom in stating that I had failed a successive three times. Asked for a basis or in other words, how he exercised his Academic Freedom, I was met with a series of administrative stonewalls that resulted in a much-publicized court case that reached the Supreme Court and was dismissed on a pure technicality.

This experience taught me to empathize with other victims of bureaucratic bungling and bad intentions, inside and outside U.P., and for this reason, the Diliman Diary makes no bones about being an advocate and interventionist weblog that just doesn't report the news, but also analyzes it and creates it (at least sometimes). It is for this reason that we have initiated our own inquiries into bureaucratic malfeasance in our community, and are currently cooperating with several administrative authorities to ferret out the truth. We do not believe in apathy, and since we count ourselves as affected members of a larger community, we will continue to make our voice heard.

For those who are interested in knowing the background of my case, please refer to:

1. My supporting affidavit submitted to Philippine courts and dated August 14, 2006 at:

2. The Final Letter I wrote to the U.P. Diliman University Council on December 13, 2009 about my case:

Other documents will follow over time.

In the meantime, I would like to disclose that I have thought through very carefully the ethical implications of having sued the top officials of U.P. (albeit for PhP 5000.00 in damages only) and later covering the actions of these same top officials. As a community weblog, the Diliman Diary is part of the Diliman and including the U.P. community. I categorically reject being excluded from commenting or covering U.P., simply because I was the casualty of an unfortunate affair, and stood up for my rights in a court of law (win or lose). Like everybody else in this great country, I also enjoy freedom of speech. Additionally, we in the Diliman Diary position ourselves as being well-written, opinionated but also going out of our way to include fair coverage by trying to include the other side (if they will comment at all, but that's another story) There is no such thing as objective reporting in a monthly that essentially does features. Objective reporting in an opinionated alternative tri-monthly weblog is an oxymoron. But to those whom we write about, we have one promise: trying our best to give their side of the story will always be part of our permanent ethos. That's a promise.

Thank you.


Chanda R. Shahani

No comments:

Post a Comment