MANILA, Philippines - For breaking the story on the plunder of the pork barrel "by a conspiracy of unscrupulous individuals", Inquirer reporter Nancy C. Carvajal has been named the Most Outstanding Journalist of 2013.
The new annual prize, the first to be granted by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), was awarded during the Jaime V. Ongpin (JVO) Journalism Seminar held Thursday at the Asian Institute of Management.
CMFR executive director Melinda Quintos de Jesus emphasised the "relevance, significance and impact" of Carvajal's series of stories before an audience of journalism students and practicing journalists.
The citation praised the reporter "for providing the information the citizenry needs to hold government officials and other individuals accountable through her investigative series on the diversion of the Priority Development Assistant Fund (PDAF)."
It also noted that the "conspiracy of unscrupulous individuals" came from "both the private and public sector."
The stories on the so-called pork barrel scam, which the Inquirer began publishing in July last year, have led to the abolition of the PDAF and the indictment of three incumbent senators, among many others, for plunder and graft.
The CMFR also named veteran broadcast journalist Cheche Lazaro of Probe Productions the 2014 Marshall McLuhan Fellow. The award, named after the influential Canadian media theorist, is sponsored by the Canadian Embassy.
As the 18th McLuhan Fellow from the Philippines, Lazaro will embark on a lecture tour in Canada and a second lecture tour in the Philippines. Last year's awardee was Eileen Mangubat, publisher of Cebu Daily News, an Inquirer affiliate.
Carvajal and Lazaro were part of a panel of six journalists convened by the CMFR to discuss issues related to "media and accountability."
The other panelists included Joey Gabieta, Tacloban City correspondent of the Inquirer; Steve Dailisan of GMA Network; Miriam Grace Go of Rappler; and Jake Soriano, a freelance journalist formerly with GMA News Research.
De Jesus noted that Gabieta was both journalist and victim; he survived Super Typhoon Yolanda, and continued to report for the Inquirer.
The panelists, officially called JVO Journalism Fellows, each received a P20,000 prize. Since 2010, the year the format of the JVO awards was changed from contest to annual seminar, 30 journalists have been recognised with a fellowship.
The CMFR instituted the new journalist of the year award in part to mark its 25th anniversary. The new award carries an additional prize of P30,000.
The selection process is virtually year-round, because the CMFR's continuing "Cheers and Jeers" monitoring project for "PJR Reports" is the first stage of selection. Other names are recommended by the CMFR staff.
CMFR managing editor Kathryn Raymundo explained to the Inquirer that the first list of "over a hundred" names was then reduced to 40 for the consideration of the selection committee.
This was further reduced to about a dozen, until a final round of deliberations ends up with the names of the six or seven JVO Journalism Fellows.
Five members of the CMFR board of trustees made up this year's selection committee: Carlos Conde, a researcher with Human Rights Watch and a former Philippine correspondent for The New York Times; Lorna Kalaw-Tirol, noted editor and once Readers' Advocate of the Inquirer; Vergel Santos, until recently publisher of BusinessWorld; Luis Teodoro, a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication; and De Jesus as CMFR executive director.
The CMFR, a media watchdog, promotes press freedom and media responsibility; it also administers the Philippine search for Sandra Burton grantees of a Nieman Fellowship in Harvard University.