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MANILA, Philippines – Some employees of the Inquirer Group of Companies were heavy-hearted over the announcement that the Prieto family is selling its majority shares to San Miguel Corporation president Ramon Ang.
Employees were told of the owners’ talks with Ang in a general assembly on Monday, July 17, where everyone was required to attend.
“Karamihan talaga nalungkot (Many were saddened). Marixi [Prieto] was also emotional when she read the statement,” one of the employees who spoke to Rappler said.
The news came as a shock to both the rank and file and the senior managers, said the employees we talked to, and who requested not to be named.
One of the employees said no rumors about the negotiations leaked within the company, even to those covering the business beats.
“We had a number of meetings where we were told to be brave, to soldier on. Never did we think we’d be sold off to a Duterte campaign donor at that. Just imagine our disbelief,” another employee said.
What worries employees – at least those in the editorial units – is maintaining their independence.
Inquirer has been the subject of threats from President Rodrigo Duterte, whose ire the newspaper earned for its critical coverage of the administration’s war on drugs. This also sparked online vitriol against the media outfit by supporters of the President.
Duterte recently threatened to drop a bomb on the Prietos through an exposé.
“There is worry that the new management would affect our editorial independence – something that the Prietos have valued and people from the editorial department live and strive by,” said an employee.
They can only be hopeful their editors would be “strong enough, brave enough” to resist pressure from the management, if the latter tries to interfere later on.
Some employees also worry about losing their jobs if some units of the media group are dissolved or merged with Ang’s other properties.
The company, however, assured them in Monday’s statement that Ang committed to pursue “the highest standards of journalism.”
“At the very least, employees hope that this change won’t be tantamount to censorship and the muzzling of the free, fierce and fair journalism that we stand by,” said one of the workers.
A silver lining, one of them pointed out, would be better treatment of employees – something Ang is known for.
One source said Inquirer workers have struggled with “meager increases in pay despite the increasing workload that goes with an ever competitive industry.” They could only hope the new management would provide better compensation for them.
In the end, these workers, and even the labor union, said they will be open to what’s in store for them under Ang’s leadership.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer Employees Union (PDIE) said its members expect the new owner to honor existing employment contracts, collective bargaining agreement, job security, and editorial independence.
While they look forward to the coming changes, they urged their members to continue defending their rights and interests.
The company said that their negotiations with the businessman started in 2014.
They explained it was a “strategic business decision” to “maximize growth opportunities” for the company.
Ang had previously sought to buy majority shares of media giant GMA Network Incorporated, but talks collapsed in 2015.
He heads the San Miguel conglomerate, which has a wide range of business interests from food and beverage to telecommunications. (READ: Ramon Ang and his media interests) – Rappler.com