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20 years of GMA Public Affairs: The humble beginnings

October 4, 2007 4:39pm
Episode on October 28, 2007
Sunday, 10:30 p.m.


It was the year 1987 when Tina Monzon-Palma, then head of GMA News, decided to set up a Public Affairs department.

This was manned by only five people, fresh graduates all, who first held office in the tiny locker room of news cameramen.

Marissa Flores, now Senior Vice-President for GMA News and Public Affairs, was one of the first Public Affairs employees Tina Monzon-Palma hired in 1987. She says, "We had no experience and no equipment, no camera even to call our own. On our first sets we just glued gold letters to black backing announcing the name of the program. But we had the passion to work."

Who could imagine that from this passion would grow a department of more than 500 staffers, now producing 16 of the most awarded programs on Philippine television?

Tina Monzon-Palma says the year public affairs began, there was a hunger for in-depth discussion of issues. After decades of media repression she explains, "Filipino viewers wanted to find out what was happening in their new government, the changes that were taking place as well as what befell former leaders who had been removed via People Power. The half-hour daily newscast was simply not enough to discuss all this."

GMA Public Affairs began by producing special reports. Their first long form production was "Inside Congress" which back then won the Catholic Mass Media Award for Best Documentary.

Weekly talkshows soon followed. Jose Mari Velez, the leading broadcaster at the time, hosted GMA Public Affairs' first station produced talk program, Weekend with Velez, later renamed Velez this Week.

Velez's program was joined by block-timers and co-productions such as Viewpoint with Dong Puno, Firing Line with Teddy Benigno, Issues and Answers with Art Borjal and The Probe Team with Cheche Lazaro

Now, twenty years later, GMA Public Affairs produces the award-winning late night block I-Witness, Reporter's Notebook, Palaban, 100% Pinoy and Emergency. It also counts the leading morning program Unang Hirit and primetime programs Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho and Imbestigador among its shows -- along with magazine programs, children's shows, travel documentaries and reality programs.

The department is proud to have won the George Foster Peabody Award for investigative reports and two Gold Medals from the New York Festivals for its shows . something no other local network can claim.

Flores credits the success of the department to the values already long implanted in the news organization, "It was never an option to not be balanced, to not get both sides of story, there were standards already in place. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. "

Monzon-Palma agrees, "Public affairs has not changed its basic principles - to put issues in the proper perspective, to be objective and balanced, to put together a good story be it in documentary, magazine or debate format. I think these principles have kept it not just where it was 20 years ago. It has grown to an even higher level of professionalism."

This year, GMA Public Affairs celebrates twenty years of public service. To mark this milestone, GMA will be airing a very special retrospective documentary, entitled "20: Dalawampung Taon ng Public Affairs" on Sunday, October 28 at 10:30 p.m.




Sinong mag-aakalang sa isang maliit na locker room lang nagsimula ang isa sa pinakarespetadong organisasyon sa media ngayon?

Isang taon matapos ang makasaysayang EDSA Revolution, binuo ng GMA Network ang Public Affairs Department sa pangunguna ni Tina Monzon-Palma.

Ayon kay Monzon-Palma, nung panahong iyon, "Nagkaroon ng napakalakas na pangangailangan ang mga tao na marinig ang lahat ng nangyayari sa bagong gobyerno, anong nangyayari dun sa mga taong napatalsik as a result of people power at nakita rin namin na hindi sapat ang kalahating oras ng balita. Doon nabuo ang departamento noong 1987."

Limang tao lang ang production staff ng Public Affairs noon, at pawang mga fresh graduates pa. Kasama sa lima ang ngayo'y Senior Vice President ng GMA News and Public Affairs na si Marissa Flores. Bagamat wala pa silang gamit, kahit kamera, at wala lalong karanasan sa paggawa ng programa, pilit nilang itinaguyod ang departamento noon. At sa maniwala kayo o hindi, sa locker room nga ng mga cameraman sila unang nag-opisina!

"Unique yung kuwarto na iyon kasi labas masok ang mga cameraman 'dun. So limang tao kami nun nasa isang maliit na kuwarto na may labas masok na cameraman na nagbibihis na pawisan na binabati-bati kami every so often. We were really encroaching sa space nila, ganun kaliit na kuwarto" ani ni Flores.

Sa mga special reports nagsimula ang Public Affairs. Ang unang pagsabak ng departamento sa paggawa ng malalimang ulat ay ang "Inside Congress." Ginawaran ito ng Best Documentary ng Catholic Mass Media Awards.

Sumunod na ang paggawa ng Public Affairs ng mga talk show. Ang Weekend with Velez ang kauna-unahang station-produced public affairs program, na kalauna'y naging Velez this Week. Sinabayan ito ng mga co-production gaya ng Firing Line ni Teddy Benigno, Issues and Answers kasama ni Art Borjal, Viewpoint ni Dong Puno at The Probe Team ni Cheche Lazaro.

Tumatak sa publiko ang mga dekalibreng programa ng departamento at umani sila ng parangal. Sa Pilipinas, GMA Public Affairs pa lamang ang nagwagi ng dalawang Gold World Medal mula sa New York Festivals at ang George Foster Peabody Award, ang pinakaprestihiyosong award para sa larangan ng investigative journalism.

Sa ngayon, mayroon nang labing-anim na programa ang departamento, at binubuo na ito ng mahigit sa 500 production staff at crew, malayong-malayo na ang narating, kumpara sa dating Public Affairs noon. Ang lahat ng ito, ahil sa pagpupursigi ng mga taong bumubuo sa departamento at sa mga prinsipyong itinaguyod nila.

Ayon kay Monzon-Palma, "Hindi lumilihis ang grupo sa basic na prinsipyo ng paggawa ng isang magandang kuwento in a story form, in a magazine form, in a talk show form, in a debate form. Kailangan makuha nila yung isyu, ilagay sa tamang perspektibo, maging objective at maging balanced sa pagpapahayag nito. I think that has kept it not just where it was 20 yrs ago but it has grown and elevated itself to an even higher level of professionalism."

Bilang pagdiriwang sa dalawampung taon ng paghahatid ng Serbisyong Totoo, ihahatid ng GMA Public Affairs ang pinaka-hindi malilimutang istorya ng departamento sa nakalipas na dalawampung taon. Muling balikan ang mga eksena at kuwentong gumulantang sa publiko at gumising sa gobyerno, at sariwain ang pinagmulan ng departamentong pinagkakatiwalaan ninyo ngayon.

Ang "20: Dalawampung Taon ng GMA Public Affairs," espesyal na handog ng GMA Network ngayong Oktubre 28, Linggo, 10:30 ng gabi.