The free press of the Philippines is a national glory. Yet it is often
troubled. The dictator Marcos suppressed it for years. And, every day, a
variety of insidious pressures undermines its integrity. Newspaper owners
bend the news to serve private interests. Reporters sell their pens. Editors
succumb to market forces that favor sensational stories over sober facts—all
the more so the sorts of sober economic facts Raul L. Locsin specializes in.
In his career of four decades, Locsin has withstood these pressures. In
doing so, he has nurtured business reporting in the Philippines from infancy
to robust maturity.
Raul Locsin received his early schooling at his mother’s knee in wartime
Negros Occidental, where his father published a Spanish-language newspaper.
In a youthful venture with his brother, Locsin also published a local
newspaper. Then, for eleven years, he became a salesman. He hated it, he
says. Taking a huge cut in pay, he joined the Manila Chronicle and
gravitated to the business section.
It was the early 1960s. Economic development was the watchword of the era;
GNP measured a country’s success or failure. Locsin knew that few people
understood what "GNP" meant, not to mention other terms favored by the
region’s rising technocrats: current account, deficit spending, aggregate
demand. Discerning the need to make complex economic information
comprehensible to the public, in 1967 he founded Business Day, Southeast
Asia’s first daily newspaper devoted to business.
Credibility was the key to his success. Locsin made a pact with his readers
that Business Day would be fair and accurate, that it would strive for
balance, that it would report the truth. He recruited bright, young
graduates and molded them into insightful economic reporters and analysts.
He sharpened them in free-wheeling office discussions and formed them into
research teams to undertake exhaustive investigations. He forbade them to
keep the bribes routinely offered by Manila’s influence seekers. Locsin also
warned advertisers that only advertising space was for sale at Business Day,
not "editorial space." And he instructed his editors, on a sign at the
office door, to "remove your biases and leave them here."
Under martial law, Business Day survived as the capital’s sole independent
newspaper. In a climate of disinformation, it became the gold standard for
accuracy. Locsin tested the limits of press freedom and, in 1983, denounced
the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr., in an impassioned editorial.
Afterwards, Business Day contributed importantly to the rising chorus of
dissent leading to the People Power Revolution of 1986. Locsin then led in
reestablishing press freedom. Characteristically, he opposed the seizure of
Marcos-friendly newspapers by the new government and reminded his readers
that gross national inequalities still remained, along with "corrupt
patronage politics thriving on the arrogant exercise of power and public
Following a labor dispute in 1987, Locsin closed Business Day and
contemplated a self-indulgent retirement. But when former employees pressed
him to start up again, he did so—with one crucial change. The employees now
became owners. Enhanced by computerized technology, Business World
flourished from the start. Circulating today to fifty-four thousand
subscribers and also "on line," it remains a benchmark of quality.
Locsin led in rebuilding the Philippine Press Institute after the ravages of
martial law and also the press council. He has devoted himself to
strengthening the country’s hundreds of community newspapers. It matters to
do so, he believes. Although a free press is only one component of
democracy, it is a basic one. "All the freedoms in our Bill of Rights," he
says, "are of no use without the right to speak freely."
In electing Raul L. Locsin to receive the 1999 Ramon Magsaysay Award for
Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts, the board of
trustees recognizes his enlightened commitment to the principle that, above
all, a newspaper is a public trust.