Profiles of Courage

luis beltran

Media repression during the Marcos regime was blatant. Networks were accused of engaging with the rebels and plotting to overthrow the government. These were the reasons cited by Marcos in his Letter of Instruction 1 issued five days after the declaration of martial law. Moreover, he ordered the military to seize the assets of major media outlets including broadcast giants such as ABS-CBN and Channel 5 (now ESPN 5), and some radio stations across the country.[1]

Apart from this, columnists, broadcast journalists, artists were all victims of Marcos’ excessive use of power. In his General Order No. 2, Marcos authorized Juan Ponce Enrile, the Secretary of National Defense, to take into custody the individuals named in the attached list.[2] This is to prevent them from further committing acts that pose danger to the welfare of the general public. Included in the list was progressive broadcast journalist and newspaper columnist Luis “Ka Louie” Diaz Beltran. At that time he was working as a staff member of the Evening News. Known for being outspoken and as a hard-hitting investigative journalist[3], Ka Louie was an easy target for the police and was imprisoned at Camp Crame.

Six months later, he was released and decided to study communications at the University of the Philippines. He graduated in 1975 and pursued teaching journalism at the College of Mass Communication (then called IMC) and eventually served as dean of students and acting chancellor for student affairs.[4] Right before Marcos was ousted, he returned to writing columns for newspapers such as The Philippine Star and later The Manila Standard.[5] He also hosted a radio public affairs show called “Straight from the Shoulder” broadcasted by GMA Network[6] and was often the venue for political confrontations.[7]

Beltran continued to be a fearless journalist during Cory Aquino’s term. During the attempted 1987 coup, he wrote an article for The Philippine Star saying that the late president was “hiding under her bed.” Subsequently, Mrs. Aquino filed an unprecedented libel suit against Luis Beltran and publisher Maximo Soliven. She then explained to a reporter that it is physically impossible to hide under her bed because it sits on a platform.[8] Later on, a court ruling convicting Beltran and Soliven was released. Judge Ramon Makasiar ordered them to be imprisoned for up to two years and to jointly pay $76,000 in damages to late president Cory Aquino.[9] Unfortunately, Beltran died of a heart attack during the appeal period. Nevertheless, the ruling was reversed by the Court of Appeals.

Ka Louie is now considered a media icon that represents truth-telling and bravery. He may have died in 1994 but his legacy of fearless sharp-witted reportage[10], inspired media practitioners, students, and readers from different eras.

 

[1] “Press freedom during and after Martial Law,” The Manila Times, September 26, 2019, https://www.manilatimes.net/2019/09/26/campus-press/press-freedom-during-and-after-martial-law/621731/.

[2] “General Order No. 2, s. 1972: GOVPH,” Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, September 22, 1972, https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1972/09/22/general-order-no-2-s-1972/.

[3] Maan D’Asis Pamaran. “Heralds of Truth, Voices of Reason,” Manilastandard.net, February 10, 2017, https://www.manilastandard.net/spotlight/ms-30th-anniversary-issue/228972/heralds-of-truth-voices-of-reason.html.

[4] “Luis Beltran, Prominent Philippine Journalist,” Associated Press News, September 6, 1994, https://apnews.com/article/1955b2686fc4ef781e1ae31adce69e17.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Maan D’Asis Pamaran. “Heralds of Truth, Voices of Reason,” Manilastandard.net, February 10, 2017, https://www.manilastandard.net/spotlight/ms-30th-anniversary-issue/228972/heralds-of-truth-voices-of-reason.html.

[8] Keith B. Richburg. “Aquino Sues Philippine Journalist for Libel,” The Washington Post, October 13, 1987, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1987/10/13/aquino-sues-philippine-journalist-for-libel/d6977cd8-5452-4a1b-a843-d70f351579f5/.

[9] “Former President Aquino Loses Libel Suit Against Two Journalists,” Associated Press News, November 14, 1995, https://apnews.com/article/9c94437f43bc51aa06b8863bef09523a.

[10] Maan D’Asis Pamaran. “Heralds of Truth, Voices of Reason,” Manilastandard.net, February 10, 2017, https://www.manilastandard.net/spotlight/ms-30th-anniversary-issue/228972/heralds-of-truth-voices-of-reason.html

Luis “Ka Louie” Diaz Beltran. Image from Malacanang: Presidential Museum and Library at http://malacanang.gov.ph/4590-louie-beltran-on-ninoy-aquino/

Luis “Ka Louie” Diaz Beltran

Birthday: N/A

Parents: N/A

Spouse: N/A

Children: N/A

That is one sad development I keep hearing about [the youth today]. No consciousness about [Martial Law], how it was during those dark years,” laments Rene Saguisag about the perception of Martial Law today. “For one to take part in an electoral process in a dictatorship is to help forge the links in your own chains,” he also warns of the dangers of complicity of the citizenry amid tyranny.

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