File photo by Lito Boras/Rappler
Since he, along with two other Reuters colleagues, won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Duterte administration's bloody campaign against illegal drugs, everybody has been congratulating veteran journalist Manny Mogato.
Many of Mogato's friends and sources expressed their admiration on Facebook, where they took turns hailing him, rightly so, as an inspiration for Filipino journalists in these times.
Former president Fidel V. Ramos took one step farther by formally congratulating Mogato with an FVR-style congratulatory note.
The elder statesman is known to hand out personal letters. When he was president, he used to give letter-greetings to members of the Malacañang Press Corps who celebrated their birthday.
In his letter, Ramos, who has not hidden his disappointment with some of the policies of President Rodrigo Duterte, even took a swipe at the administration's vaunted campaign against illegal drugs, which has drawn condemnation at home and especially abroad.
"We and our children/grandchildren extend our warmest felicitations and sincere congratulations to you and – through you – to Clare Baldwin, Andrew RC Marshall, and your Reuters team for winning the prestigious 'Pultizer Prize for International Reporting' category for your series of investigations about the bloody illegal drug crackdown in the Philippines," Ramos said.
"This is, indeed, an outstanding achievement for any respected journalist – a reflection of the dedication, personal discipline, and hard work you put in your chosen vocation," he added.
These words may sound almost generic to some, but those who have known Mogato for a long time, especially his fellow former defense reporters, would know that FVR's note is earnest and heartfelt, beaming with pride.
Ramos and Mogato have known each other from way back, when Ramos was still defense chief and Mogato was a young reporter covering the defense-military establishment for the now-defunct Manila Chronicle under the Cory Aquino government.
They would have tussles, as is normal in any journalist-public official relationship, especially since those were complex times for the military, as it faced at least 7 coup attempts by its rebellious officers.
Ramos had to deal with a critical defense press corps, and he and his generals would call out Mogato and his colleagues for their coverage of their mutinous troops.
Not a few times did Ramos also call the attention of Mogato during his press conferences, because Mogato tended to doze off as soon as the then defense chief began his opening statement.
Yet, he was visibly fond of him. In his provincial trips, Ramos would often make special mention of the jolly reporter, warning soldiers he might eat all of their day's ration.
Mogato covered Ramos' successful bid for the presidency in 1992 and was then assigned to cover him in Malacañang.
So perhaps more than other former sources, Ramos can truly claim that he had tracked Mogato's journalistic career and growth, and can rightly beam with pride over Mogato's latest feat.
"You have ably honed your skills since we first saw you spending long hours shuttling for breaking news at the then ‘interconnected’ PC/INP-AFP-DND-NDCC press beat, during our troop visits and inspections of disaster areas in the countryside as Defense Secretary, which became more frequent for the Malacañang Press Corps during my Presidency," Ramos said.
"May the Almighty’s bountiful blessings be always with you, your family and colleagues as you continue to perform your duties in the service of God, country, and people," he closed his letter, which was also signed by former first lady Ming Ramos.
Ramos has a special bond with reporters who covered him when he was the defense chief of then President Corazon Aquino. He shared rides with them on so-called "flying coffins" – Philippine Air Force Fokkers and vintage Huey helicopters – and many other adventures and misadventures that his defense press corps can only laugh about now. – Rappler.com