Twenty years ago, we set up the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in a small office borrowed from friends. All we had were a second-hand electric typewriter, a battered DOS-based computer, and desks and chairs bought from a thrift shop. We didn’t even have a telephone or a fax machine. We had no salaries either – that came later.
In 1989, we were young and foolish. We didn’t know how long we would last or whether we would succeed. Twenty years later I can say that we lasted and that we succeeded in many of our efforts.
That is why today there is much to celebrate: We have produced hundreds of articles and dozens of books. We have spread the gospel of investigative reporting to journalists here and overseas, especially Southeast Asia. Our investigations have led to the resignation or ouster of corrupt officials, including a president and a Supreme Court justice. They have brought attention to neglected issues like child labor and abuse of women. They have shone the light on wrongdoing and abuse of power in both government and the private sector.
We did not do this alone. Over the years, we have been fortunate to have a professional and committed staff, a dedicated board that has helped the center from its early days up to now, and generous donors who believed in our work.
Setting up PCIJ was an act of faith. It was born out of a belief that democracy needs a watchdog press and that watchdog journalism is a public good that will find support. Indeed, the support that we got from the media, especially the newspapers and networks that use our work, from NGOs and the business community, from schools and churches, and from citizens and friends who value what we do reaffirmed our faith. PCIJ would not have been possible without them.
The PCIJ has been so far the greatest and most rewarding adventure of my professional life. I regret that I cannot be there to celebrate its 20th birthday. But I am happy that the Center thrives. Under the leadership of Malou Mangahas, it is ready to meet the challenges of the digital world.
More than ever, we need a watchdog press. I am certain that in the next 20 years, PCIJ will remain a pillar of watchdog journalism in the Philippines. It will continue exposing wrongdoing and abuse of power and through its reporting help our citizens steer our troubled democracy to safer waters.
Maraming salamat at mabuhay kayong lahat!