“Truth is our defense.”
With these words, Mike Navallo reaffirmed the importance of accurate reporting and encapsulated the essence of credible journalism—presenting stories backed by evidence.
Prior to becoming a reporter for ABS-CBN, Navallo worked as a lawyer and a researcher for Amnesty International. However, he has always had an interest in news reporting, and after watching TV Patrol’s coverage of the 2011 Japan Earthquake, he started to consider pursuing journalism as a formal profession. His background has provided him with more nuanced perspectives on different issues, as he began to realize that he wanted to be in the “midst of the action” and witness “history unfold” as a journalist.
Now that his station’s fate hangs in the balance, Navallo shares his uncertainties about the future and his unwavering commitment to deliver and uphold the truth.
On the job
With a track record that includes covering controversial political stories, Navallo has many a time been in confrontation with powerful personalities. His coverages on Solicitor General Jose Calida and Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta regarding the ABS-CBN’s franchise deal drew the ire of these politicians. Nevertheless, Navallo stands by the veracity of his reports—a testament to his credibility as a journalist.
“I think the barometer of any news report is whether or not you are actually telling the truth,” he says on the standards for “good journalism”. “Look at my report and see if I have been unprofessional, if I have peddled lies, and [if] I have made unfounded accusations.”
Navallo is not one to shy away from telling the true story. When Marcoleta claimed the journalist was being biased by not airing his side of the story, Navallo was quick to refute the deputy speaker’s accusations, sharing screenshots of their interaction during a live broadcast at ABS-CBN.
“Just continue reporting, just make sure that you have a basis for your report, and just make sure that you can defend yourself when you are being asked to explain and [when] you are being attacked,” he elaborates.
Signal cut off
However, with recent socio-political developments, it has become harder for Navallo to broadcast his reports. The constant back and forth debate on ABS-CBN’s franchise, Navallo discloses, “created a lot of pressure” and had a “chilling effect” in suppressing certain reports from surfacing. “I [had] several stories I have been working on for months, but I could not air them yet because of [our] situation,” he reveals.
Even in the aftermath of the House of Representatives’ 70-11 vote to deny the franchise renewal, the network has “still [been] trying to move carefully”. Citing the possibility of a company takeover and fines in the trillions, Navallo furthers, “There are stories that we wanted to pursue. [However], for the moment, we are holding back because there is that threat [from the government].”
As much as Navallo “wishes [that they] could have fought back”, he also understands why the media company had to make tough decisions to navigate between publishing potentially sensitive stories and protecting their employees. “I wish we could have a little bit more hard-hitting when it comes to our stories, but the reality is that we are a big corporation and we have so many jobs at stake,” Navallo expresses.
ABS-CBN had begun retrenching its workers and closing its 53 regional stations last August 31 as part of downsizing their operations. As his colleagues are one by one “shown the door”, Navallo admits that he too is uncertain of his future with the media network. “Some of us are just really waiting for us to be called and given the walking papers,” he shares. “We’re preparing ourselves for the worst.”
Leaving a mark
Amid frustrations and challenges that test his commitment as a journalist, Navallo vows to keep fighting to deliver the truth. “It doesn’t matter [who] I’m up against…What you do when you get attacked is hold your ground,” he affirms, adding that it takes a lot of courage and perseverance to remain a journalist in the country.
After all, he believes that the fight to preserve press freedom is not merely a fight to keep his profession or to keep his network afloat, but that “the bigger fight is to be able to fight for our democracy and our country.”
In a time of turmoil, Navallo proves that the most powerful actions are those that are simply guided by one’s principles––and his are rooted in continuing to report and uncover the truth.