VETERAN journalist, journalism educator and VERA Files trustee Yvonne Chua was named 2010 Ninoy and Cory Aquino Fellowship Awardee for journalism.

In a simple ceremony held Monday, Chua was cited for the “depth and breadth of her work” as journalist.

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Flora May M.Cerna, head of the Department of Research and Project Development at the Transparency and Accountability Network, is the awardee for the 2010 Aquino Fellowship for Public Service.

The awards are given annually by the United States Embassy and the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation to individuals who excel in journalism and public service.

“Her award-winning articles helped expose discrepancies in textbook procurement in public schools, lack of accountability and transparency in government institutions, and unexplained wealth of former senior officials. She co-coauthored and edited several books related to investigative journalism. She is now training a new generation of journalists in advancing government accountability, working as a part-time assistant professor at the University of the Philippines,” the US embassy citation read.

Cerra, the US embassy said,” has a track record of successful advocacy.”

“Under her leadership, TAN created new methods of challenging traditional government procedures and encouraged several government organizations to adopt new processes that made them more transparent and accountable,” the citation read.

US Ambassador Harry K.Thomas Jr. said, “Today, we all take inspiration from the hope that a new Aquino in Malacañang brings to the Philippines and to the world. But hope requires many friends to become reality, and much hard work. As this fellowship program indicates, kasama tayo sa pagbabago.

[We are partners in working for change.] These two honorees remind us that passionate dedication brings success and the capacity to inspire others as we are inspired by the Aquino legacy.”

Maria Elena “Ballsy” A. Cruz, who represented the Aquino family, congratulated the two awardees saying,”By your persistence -- through your writing, teaching, organizing, advocacy -- you have trained the spotlight on the realities of our society and showed us how an active citizenry can make a difference in the drive against the abuse of power and privilege and the misuse of government resources. Indeed, the truth that you have uncovered thus far, has already begun to set us free.”

This is the Fellowship’s first award ceremony since former President Aquino’s death.

Chua, who started her journalism career in 1981, under Marcos’ Martial Law, recalled that it was then difficult to imagine “journalism in a democracy.”

Today, she said, “Freedom of the press is in no better shape. Cases of libel, a crime in this country, have been brought against members of the profession, many of these unjustifiably. Our work as watchdogs has been hindered by increasing restrictions placed on the flow of information. And we mourn the deaths of far too many journalists murdered in the course of their work.”

Amidst all these, she said, journalists must continue performing their role well. “Let not our commitment to truth, a free press, good governance, and democracy ever waver,” she said.

Established in 1998 by the US Embassy in Manila as the Benigno Aquino S. Aquino, Jr. Fellowships for Professional Development, it was renamed in 2009 the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Fellowships for Professional Development to commemorate President Aquino’s significant contribution to strengthening Philippine democratic institutions.

The Aquino fellows will participate in an exchange program in to meet and share views with American and international counterparts.

(VERA Files is the work of veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)