CANA News and Events

CANA leader lauded for work in journalism, anti-corruption

Abner Francisco - Titus Brandsma Awardee


QUEZON CITY, Philippines— One of the citizen action group founders of CANA was recently handed both a national and an international award related to his work on public accountability and community journalism.

Abner Francisco, president of the Watchful Advocate for Transparent, Clean, and Honest Governance in North Cotabato (WATCH North Cotabato) and program director of DXCA Charm Radio in Kidapawan City, has been selected in early October as a fellow of the United States Government’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on “Accountability in Government” for 2016. Two weeks later, he has been chosen as the recipient of the 2015 Titus Brandsma Award Philippines for Leadership in Community Communication.

The Titus Brandsma Award Philippines, held every two years, is the country’s version of the international Titus Brandsma Award given by the International Christian Organization of the Media (ICOM) - the world association of religious and secular media. Leaders of CANA’s implementing partners have been previous recipients of this award – MindaNews Editor-in-Chief Carol Arguillas and Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) Executive Director Red Batario.

Francisco is set to receive the award on November 27 at the Titus Brandsma Center in Quezon City.

The IVLP, on the other hand, is an annual gathering of people from different countries where the US government works, to meet and confer with like-minded individuals and institutions in the US. Key leaders in media and civil society in the Philippines – including CANA Program Manager and IWPR Asia Programmes Coordinator Rorie Fajardo -- list as its alumni. This year, fellows will learn about the critical role of citizens in encouraging public transparency – an issue where Francisco and his organization are well-immersed in. The program will run for three weeks in five US states next year, from August 8 to August 26, 2016.

Francisco, 40, is one of the founding members of WATCH North Cotabato, one of CANA’s pioneer citizen action groups. Throughout the years, he has led successful campaigns for transparency and accountability, including the abolition of the Kidapawan City’s version of the pork barrel funds amounting to PhP 13 million and allocation to more important basic social services, and the improvement in quality control of public works, among these was the repair of a defective bridge in the city following WATCH North Cotabato’s campaign.

Aside from leading several citizen-media engagement programs, Francisco is known for consistently advocating for responsible journalism and press freedom. He is the host of Charm Radio’s 18-year old show, Pulso ng Bayan (Pulso of the People), the longest running public affairs program in North Cotabato. He is also known as a staunch advocate of freedom of speech and of the press, campaigning for the release of activists and anti-corruption advocates jailed and charged with libel by helping them raise money for their bail bond.

Francisco is also a correspondent for CNN Philippines and since 1997, a columnist for The Southern Voice Journal, a local weekly newspaper.

Many of his colleagues in the anti-corruption movement and community media say that despite his accomplishments, Francisco remains humble and grounded. And the man himself chooses simplicity: After grueling days of coverage and reporting, he spends his free time living simply in his five-hectare farm far from the city’s noise.