year-end stories

Rappler’s best, most impactful stories of 2023

Pia Ranada

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Rappler’s best, most impactful stories of 2023
We present this list of stories to give thanks. This is our thank you to you, and an accomplishment report, if you will, for you, our readers.

Greetings from the newsroom!

We’re smack in the middle of the holiday season and fast approaching the end of 2023. What a crazy year it’s been (all years seem crazy at the tail end, for some reason). It’s that time of the year to look back, take stock, and appreciate all the effort we’ve put in to make this trip around the sun more memorable, more worthwhile, more meaningful.

At Rappler, we measure ourselves by the stories we are able to tell, and the impact our journalism has made for the public good. This year is no different. It’s my honor and pleasure to present to you our list of best and most impactful stories of 2023. 

We present this list of stories, not only to look back, but also to give thanks. This is our thank you to you, and an accomplishment report, if you will, for you, our readers. Your support for our journalism is what motivates us everyday to tell these stories.

Corruption in education

series of investigative reports by Bonz Magsambol and Ryan Macasero exposes the negligence and corruption that led to the fire sale of Department of Education laptops, and how billions worth of learning materials were held hostage by a tiny logistics firm that bagged a big contract from the agency. The series sparked legislative hearings, led to the removal of an official, and pushed the DepEd, helmed by Vice President Sara Duterte, to issue statements.

Oil spill and accountability

In this exclusive, senior editor Isagani de Castro Jr. writes that it was a subsidiary of Ramon Ang’s San Miguel Shipping that chartered the boat that spilled over 800,000 liters of black oil into the waters off Oriental Mindoro. The information was cited in congressional hearings and elicited responses from civil society groups. The oil spill highlighted the gaps in our legal and regulatory framework and the need for a corporate environment liability law that helps ensure polluters pay.

Onion crisis

Soaring food prices was a major issue in 2023. Business reporter Lance Yu’s series of stories about the onion crisis dissects the Marcos administration’s onion importation policies, explains the critical lack of cold-storage facilities for onions, and puts us in the shoes of an onion farmer in Nueva Ecija.

Trouble in Ayungin Shoal

Security reporter Bea Cupin takes us to Ayungin Shoal as she joins a Philippine Coast Guard resupply mission threatened by Chinese ships. Perilous missions have become a concerning new norm, from Bajo de Masinloc to Ayungin Shoal, as the Philippine navigates a more aggressive China and its newfound closeless with the United States. The West Philippine Sea issue is as much about livelihood and safety as it is about sovereign rights in our own exclusive economic zone.

Diplomats abusing domestic workers

A four-part series by journalists Michelle Abad and Ana Santos revealed reports from hundreds of domestic workers abused by their diplomat employers. But these diplomats are shielded from prosecution because of diplomatic immunity and protection from their sending countries. The data-driven, cross-border investigation was picked by the Global Investigative Journalism Network as one of the Best Investigative Stories from Southeast Asia in 2023.

ICC and drug war victims

Jodesz Gavilan’s stories on Duterte drug war victims’ fight for justice at the International Criminal Court reminds the public that there is still a long way to go in exacting accountability. Lian Buan’s video explainer of the ICC case is a must-watch to understand the political shift in support of the probe.

3 teenage boys and murder

Reporter Jairo Bolledo takes readers deep into the murder of three young men in Camanava in this story about possible police abuses. With the help of our production team, we released this special video report that immerses you into this connect-the-dots crime story.

Leila de Lima’s freedom

Lian Buan’s story is an intimate look at the last few days in jail of former senator Leila de Lima before she was granted bail after almost 7 years in detention. It is a culmination of Rappler’s coverage of the trial of Rodrigo Duterte’s most popular political prisoner.

Online attackers’ ace

Tech editor Gelo Gonzales’ stories explains how VPNs and proxy service providers have become crucial infrastructure for DDoS attacks and asked what these services can do better to keep these bad actors out.

‘Filipino-ness’ and ‘female-ness’ in sports

Sports editor Jasmine Payo scrutinizes Filipinos’ attitude towards the country’s mixed-race national teams, which came back to the fore when the Philippine women’s football team became the country’s first squad to reach the FIFA World Cup. In similar fashion, Payo examines the physical gender stereotypes that unfairly taint perceptions of athletes in this opinion piece about the online bashing of rising volleyball Trisha Tubu.

Quiboloy’s online reach

Apollo Quiboloy reached a zenith of influence when his good friend Rodrigo Duterte became president. But he also reached a new level of notoriety when the United States slapped sanctions on him for alleged human trafficking. Digital forensics researcher Gaby Baizas looks at how big social media platforms are dealing with Quiboloy’s accounts.

How disinfo, propaganda are skirting rules

Fact-checker Lorenz Pasion does a deep dive into the various ways disinformation peddlers are skirting regulations on social media platforms – from intentionally misspelling words to moving to platforms with looser rules. Similarly, digital forensics researcher Pauline Macaraeg explores how pro-China propagandists are finding spaces in the civil society and academia space to spread their narratives. Macaraeg’s story was also selected by GIJN as among the best investigative stories from Southeast Asia this year.

Must Read

GIJN hails 2 Rappler stories among SEA’s best investigative pieces in 2023

GIJN hails 2 Rappler stories among SEA’s best investigative pieces in 2023
Romualdez’s businesses

House Speaker Martin Romualdez has made a lot of political moves this year. Rappler business reporter Ralf Rivas’ two-part series takes us beyond what is happening before the public eye by delving into the politician’s businesses and how these links are shaping policies. Awareness of these is just the first step. We invite the public to be on the lookout for possible conflicts of interest.

P-pop power

You’ve heard of K-pop powerhouse group BTS’ Army. This video takes you into the growing fandom right here in the Philippines of P-pop fans who go all out for their Pinoy idols.

Flourishing festivals

Rappler goes around the country to cover our best festivals. In this video, our Production team shows how the Panagbenga flower festival has become the most memorable, with its fusion of flowers, arts, and people.

Confidential funds fiasco

We pushed hard on the confidential funds controversy. Disinformation and platforms lead researcher Gemma Mendoza’s stories explains the dangers of Vice President Sara Duterte’s confidential funds and how civilian agencies’ requests for such funds grew. Amid public scrutiny, Duterte eventually abandoned her pursuit of new confidential funds.

Profiles

Rappler’s profiles of key 2023 political personalities offer a close look at shifting political tides. Read Bonz Magsambol’s profile on Senator Risa Hontiveros, the new face of the Philippine political opposition. Dwight de Leon’s revealing story about Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo also lets you wade into the politics of Sara Duterte’s confidential funds.

Marcos, and Manila, in the middle

President Marcos’ stance on Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea has come as a welcome surprise for many. Reporter Bea Cupin takes us into high-level meetings to understand the Chief Executive’s balancing act between Beijing and Washington DC.

A struggle for truth in Hawaii

Before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. landed in Hawaii to visit his family’s former place of exile, Palace reporter Dwight de Leon took time to engage with the island’s Filipino community. His story about local political cartoonists’ anti-Marcos work is a reminder of the importance of preserving the truth, amid the romanticism of the dark Marcos regime and ongoing efforts to whitewash it during the current administration.

Being queer in the Philippines

Life in Catholic-dominated Philippines can be difficult for LGBTQIA. Digital communications specialist Russell Ku brings us good news with his story about Quezon City’s novel “right to care” card, which gives queer couples the legal right to make health-related decisions for each other. Researcher Jezreel Ines shows us the gaps in his story about elderly gay fighting HIV, often alone and in silence.

Revitalizing an iconic Metro Manila spot

Makati Cinema Square had been threatened with demolition in past years, but because of hip new businesses and a new crowd, it’s gotten a second lease in life. This story from our Life and Style section is about reviving urban spots and local economies, after a pandemic that killed so many businesses.

A Philippine Arena concert-goer’s guide

This piece was everyone’s go-to article for prepping for concerts at the Philippine Arena – notoriously one of the most difficult concert venues music fans have encountered in recent years. It highlights how fandom is not just about the idols, but about the community watching out for each other when their safety and well-being are at risk.

Rodrigo Duterte’s guns

Former president Rodrigo Duterte, a gun enthusiast, registered over 300 firearms with the legal backing of a law he enacted, just two weeks before ending his presidential term, revealed this investigative piece by reporters Lian Buan, Jairo Bolledo, and Jodesz Gavilan.

Persons with disabilities and the train system

My report on how inaccessible Metro Manila’s train system is for persons with disabilities was cited in both Senate and House hearings on the transportation department’s budget. It led to an in-person meeting between persons with disability and commuter groups and the train project consultants currently building new train lines. PWD group Kasali Tayo also hailed our documentary as an “ideal example of disability representation in the media” because of how our work involved an early collaboration with PWD and commuter groups in telling the story.

Filipinos in Gaza and Israel

The heroism of Filipinos in the Israel-Palestine war deserves to be told many times. Jezreel Ines tells of overseas Filipino workers in Israel who stayed behind even in the aftermath of Hamas’ surprise attack. On the other side of the war, Filipina nun Sister Elisabeth Ann braves the bombing of Israel forces to care for persons with disability, including 30 Gazan children, in this hair-raising story by Paterno Esmaquel II.

Localizing the climate crisis

Rappler’s commitment to report about climate change in a compelling manner has translated into several stories. Jezreel Ines takes us, by boat and on foot, into the sinking town of Pamarawan. Reporter Iya Gozum and Environment editor Jee Geronimo bring us to another town, San Enrique on Negros Island, a model for mangrove rehabilitation. 

Sardines and sustainability 

Food security and the plight of municipal fishermen go hand-in-hand. By spotlighting sardine fishing in a Northern Samar town, Michelle Abad and Iya Gozum, in their two-part series, show the gaps in sustainable fisheries management and helping Filipino fishermen, among the poorest in the country, make a decent living.

Dissecting the Kusiong tragedy

A Rappler investigative team exposes the alarming negligence and political failures that led to the deaths of Teduray in Maguindanao del Norte during a landslide. This year-long investigation involved the work of our artists in creatively and compellingly retelling the tragedy. The stories led to meetings among journalists, development workers, government officials, and civil society groups about the plight of non-Moro indigenous peoples in the Bangamoro region.

The Yolanda housing backlog

My investigative report on the state of Yolanda housing shows that, though a decade has passed since the strongest Philippine storm in recent history, there remains a 15% backlog in the government’s housing program. Even among houses already built, 30% are unoccupied because of water, power, and access issues.

We want to do more impactful stories next year. Help us do just this by donating to our journalism crowdfunding campaign. Click here to donate.

We send you our gratitude and renew our commitment to bringing you journalism that empowers, moves, and gives voice to the voiceless.

Until next year! – Rappler.com

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  1. ET

    Thanks to Rappler for its accomplishment report to its readers. Your readers will indeed give part of their savings to support Rappler. Life is indeed more difficult under President Marcos Jr. considering the high prices of basic commodities and other politico-economic problems besetting the People. But his Disinformation Machinery would always paint a rosy picture of the People’s politico-economic lives. Without Rappler, how can the Filipino People discern the truth?

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.