PHILIPPINES: Who were the massacred journalists? – Part 2 

Joker’ pioneers the news format in local radio

Before writing for community newspapers and national dailies in the recent years, forty-six-year-old Ian ‘Joker’ Subang was a veteran broadcast journalist, having worked in the local broadcast industry for decades.

Starting as a reporter for dxCP, a Catholic-owned local radio station in General Santos City in the 80s, he later joined another local radio, the dxDX. The dxDX is a local branch of the Radio Philippines Network (RPN), a government-owned broadcasting network. It is one of the city’s oldest stations that continue to operate to this day.

In those days dxDX did not have a news and current affairs program. Joker’s contemporaries have said that one of his huge contributions to the local broadcast industry was defining the role of a real broadcast journalist to that of an entertainer; and the distinction between an AM and FM radio channel.

While working in radio, Ian was also studying for an A.B. at the Ramon Magsaysay Memorial College (RMMC), a local college in the city.

Although their radio station was operating with AM (amplitude modulation), their programming format was similar to that of an FM (frequency modulation) system. Their listeners tuned in to their radios expecting to hear music, not news and commentaries. Their radio announcers were more like disc jockeys rather than the broadcast journalists we know of today.

Joker however, did both; by playing music and broadcasting news and commentaries in between. It was his effort to gradually introduce the news and current affairs format into the city’s normally music-based radio. Ian’s broadcasting approach was proven a success in terms of keeping his listeners abreast of what was happening in their community, while at the same time entertaining them with music.

Targeted for his news expose

Joker also was no stranger to election-related violence.

On one occasion, in his radio programme Ian had exposed the ‘secret meeting’ he personally became aware of in which a plot was hatched by the city’s ruling elite, who at the time were unpopular, to sabotage the election rally and campaigns to their advantage. In those days, a popular politician was contesting the election against the party of a ruling-elite.

In the meeting, the political party plotted to disrupt the election by instigating violence to purposely declare a failure of the election in the city, which would allow the incumbent officials to stay in power. Joker’s expose had caught this powerful political clan unprepared. They did not expect that the news and commentaries would come from a radio station they thought only played music.

However, after Joker’s expose, he had to go into hiding after he started receiving threats to his life. He ceased broadcasting for a considerable amount of time and was only able to get back on air and resume his profession after the incident settled down. The ruling party at the time lost the election.

From broadcasting to print journalism

Joker’s professional career in print journalism began in 1985 when the Mindanao Bulletin, a community newspaper in General Santos City, also started its weekly publication. Like Bong Reblando, one of the 30 murdered journalists in Maguindanao massacre, Joker was also in the paper’s pool of writers for many years.

His years of experience with the Mindanao Bulletin gave him the opportunity of writing as a stringer to the national dailies, one of whom was the Pilipino Star Ngayon, a national daily tabloid and an affiliate of the Philippine Star, an English language national daily newspaper.

Joker made headlines for his stories also regarding the decades-old conflict in Mindanao, bloody bomb blasts, high profile kidnappings, local politics and the like.

Before he joined the Socsargen Today, the community newspaper he was writing for at the time of his death, he had already written stories covering the areas of central Mindanao to several community newspapers. Among them were the Dadiangas Times and the Southern Review, all in General Santos City.

Ian Subang was known to his friends and contemporaries as ‘Joker’ for his good sense of humour. He was good at making his friends and fellow journalists laugh with his petty jokes, which both entertained and relaxed his colleagues, as they were covering media events and press conferences. He was one of those usually present at any press conference called by private individuals or public officials.

Joker’s usual partner in media coverage, Jerry Adlaw, was one of his contemporaries and personal friends. In fact, they were more like brothers. There was hardly any media coverage and press conferences that one of them was absent from or not present with the other. The duo was always together.

Like Joker, Jerry is also a veteran local journalist in the same city. He himself has a good sense of humour. However, Jerry was not present when Joker joined the convoy to cover the November 23 filing of the certificate of candidacy of the Mangudadatus in Maguindanao province which resulted in the murder of the 30 journalists. Jerry’s absence from his friend on that day saved his life.

Ian ‘Joker’ Subang is survived by his four children and wife, Malou.


Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-067-2009
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Extrajudicial killings,