VETERAN journalist and two-time National Book Award recipient Jose Torres Jr. has been named the new head of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said Torres’ appointment was approved by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on May 19, 2023. Torres will have the rank of Director VI.
Torres is a former senior editor of ABS-CBN News Online and also worked with GMA News Online.
“I am grateful to President Marcos for the opportunity and the privilege to serve the country in these trying times of misinformation and disinformation,” he said.
Torres will replace Ramon Cualoping III, who said on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, that he resigned from the post on April 4 as a courtesy to Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil and to give her a "a free hand to choose whom she sees best" for the post.
"I have announced to the PIA officials and my staff this development. I ensure a smooth transition to my successor once the Office of the President announces it," Cualoping said in a Facebook post.
"I am grateful for the opportunity, the distinct honor to have served as Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Office from 2016 to 2020 and as the Undersecretary & DG of the PIA since 2020," he added.
Torres, who is known for his exceptional investigative reporting and work in new media, is expected to strengthen PIA’s mission of disseminating information about government programs, projects, and services to the Filipino public.
Torres brings a wealth of experience and expertise to his new role.
PIA serves as the country's primary information arm, with a network spanning 16 regional offices and 78 provincial information centers.
In a statement, Torres said the agency’s mandate is to empower Filipinos by providing them with accurate and timely information, enabling them to actively participate in the nation’s democratic processes.
Torres started his journalism career as a writer for the alternative news service Philippine News and Features in the late 1980s. He has since made significant contributions to the field of journalism.
In the early 1990s, his groundbreaking reporting, later published into the book “Into the Mountain: Hostaged by the Abu Sayyaf,” shed light on the activities of the notorious bandit group in southern Philippines.
Throughout his career, Torres has worked for various media outlets, both in the Philippines and abroad.
He served as a sub-editor for Saudi Gazette, the national newspaper of Saudi Arabia, as an investigative reporter for the now-defunct Isyu newsmagazine, and wrote for The Manila Times, The Philippine Post, and The Sunday Paper.
Recognizing the importance of online journalism, Torres joined ABS-CBN’s online platform in 2001.
He later played a pivotal role in the establishment of GMA News’s online presence in 2005. He also set up the online version of the tabloid Remate in 2009.
In 2010, he joined the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (Ucanews) as its managing editor.
He later became editor-at-large for LiCAS.news, a Church news agency based in Bangkok, and served as member of the editorial board of Radio Veritas Asia in 2018.
Torres's dedication to his craft has earned him numerous awards and recognitions, including a citation in the 2004 International Tolerance Prize for his article on Filipino Muslims titled “Troubled Return of the Faithful.” His piece "The Making of a Mindanao Mafia" was awarded 3rd Prize in the Jaime V Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism in 2004.
Torres has been actively involved in the journalism community, having served as chairman of the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines (PCP), and currently holding a board member position at the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC).
Torres finished Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas. Thereafter, he took up units of Theology at the Ateneo de Manila University.
He honed his journalistic skills by obtaining a diploma in multimedia journalism from the Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism in 2012.
Torres is a member of SIGNIS, a Catholic lay ecclesial movement in 100 countries for professionals in the communication media, including press, radio, television, cinema, video, media education, internet, and new technology.
He was a recipient of the US Embassy’s Fellowships for Professional Development through the International Visitors Program in 2005 and was a fellow at the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993.
Torres has been covering Pope Francis’s trips to Asia in recent years as a member of the Vatican Accredited Media Personnel.
Aside from Torres, the PCO also announced the appointment of Paulino Gutierrez as the new executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security. (SunStar Philippines)