Justice for Joash

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

Straight from Carolinas

Saturday, December 7, 2013


WHETHER he was a block timer or broadcast employee, the fact is Joash Dignos is dead.

It is nauseating to read that Joash Dignos was a block timer at the time of his death. I hope his being one won't be used as an excuse for not solving the crime.

It seems government officials are numb when they learned that a radio or program block timer was killed. A block timer for those unfamiliar is a person who buys time broadcast time in both TV and radio.

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In the province and even in parts of Manila and Luzon, a block timer either works for a public personality or they promote a product. Buying airtime is permitted and allowed under the broadcast code because broadcast stations need revenue.

I knew before I left that a study done by media groups showed that most media practitioners who were killed were block timers. There are a very few salaried broadcasters who were killed – most survived or had no problems at all.

That's because block timers tend to be more aggressive in their broadcasts and earn the ire of those who felt alluded to in their verbal tirades. Discussions about the deaths of media practitioners eventually lose steam and die a natural death, pardon the pun.

Of course news about Joash's death placed memories of the past in front of me or what's now known on Facebook lingo as “throwback.”

Joash was born in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon province and started his broadcast career in the 1998 elections when he was with the group of spokespersons of then Cagayan de Oro City mayor Pablo Magtajas.

He joined dxCO as a block timer and his program was paid for by some people. Joash started to make a name for himself with his forceful radio commentaries that were spiced with jabs on his targets.

Joash didn't sound like a professional broadcaster and he made up for this inadequacy with his assault on local officials whom he deemed corrupt, abusive and inutile.

Who can forget Joash mentioning “unsa gikunsad sa Ispirito Santo” or calling names on officials that would make the conservative blush with embarrassment.

Of course, I thought that he was following the trend set by Jonas Bustamante and myself. Come on, people in the early 2000 or late 90’s didn't dare fight or ask the occupants at City Hall what they were doing.

Unfortunately followers of City Hall's then ruling administration would brush Joash aside as being crazy, “lone voices” in the wilderness. He would imitate then mayor Vicente Emano's deep bass voice to comic effect and many would laugh and others would either curse him. But Joash still continued.

Then when Cagayan de Oro College (COC-TV39/dxJR) opened he was taken in as one of the reporters/anchors along with the likes of Maricel Casiño, Nitz Arancon and other reporters.

Joash's program was dubbed Bombardeo and he used as background music the opening theme of the 60s drama Diego Salvador.

Then broadcaster Zaldy Ocon had yet to be awakened from the ills besetting Cagayan de Oro City Hall under the Emano administration. Joash would berate anyone he felt was doing wrong and debate any rival station that questioned dxJR's programming.

As the station's operations manager time and again I reminded him about observing broadcast ethics but he won’t budge. He was a loose cannon, so to speak, totally out of control.

I think his attention was called by the station general manager, former congressman Erasmo Damasing who warned him to be careful with his commentaries.

There were those who predicted back then that if Joash didn't change his style he would end up dead. He left COC because he filed his candidacy in a barangay election.

The next thing I knew he was already in Bukidnon province and started a trend of aggressive commentaries. Bukidnon residents who used to listen to drama or health and agricultural programs became his avid listeners.

He was employed then as a regular broadcaster, not as block timer. I wrote this piece out of respect for Joash's death. He may not be perfect but his was a voice that dared to ask the uncomfortable questions.

Now I am sad reading news about his death. Truth be told before he became a block timer he was with the press. In fact he passed the Kapisan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) accreditation exam.

While his status as a block timer may be questioned and even looked down, Joash's death is no different from the many media practitioners whose murders remain unresolved.

Block timer or not I join other media practitioners in Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon province and the rest of Mindanao in condemning his murder. I hope those responsible be brought to justice.

In the words of his high school classmate, the former Miss Cagayan de Oro Happy Ballesteros Raagas, Joash was a man of strong conviction; words were his most effective weapon and exposes were his way of life.

Another friend is retired SPO4 Ben Rada who said Joash's death was untimely.

Joash's friends like Kimboy Sabanal, Dodong Baloncio, Jonathan Robosa, Rey Cabaraban, Randy Makiputen and Happy Raagas all sent their condolences in text messages.

It's sad that while Joash strove to expose the truth of the shenanigans of officials in the end, he had to pay for his commitment with his life.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 07, 2013.

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