BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Negrense veteran journalist Jaime “Nonoy” Espina, a former chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, succumbed to liver cancer Wednesday night, after he survived the Covid-19.
His sister, Inday Espina–Varona, also a veteran journalist, said Nonoy passed away peacefully, being surrounded by his family at 9:20 p.m. of July 7.
He was 59 years old.
The NUJP described Nonoy as a press freedom hero worthy of admiration and emulation. From the Marcos dictatorship to the Duterte administration, he consistently served the Filipino people by upholding the truth, it added.
The Negros Press Club and the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines also issued statements expressing their condolences to the Espina family.
The NPC said Nonoy was known for being a “tireless champion for the freedom of the press and the welfare of media workers”.
FOCAP said he fought tirelessly for press freedom, and for independent and courageous journalism.
The NUJP also said that Nonoy was among the loudest voices at rallies in support of the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN, leading a march in Quezon City in March 2020, and later joining similar activities in Bacolod City, where he was based.
He was among the first responders at the Ampatuan Massacre in Maguindanao in 2009. He was vocal in the campaign for justice for the victims, that included 32 media workers, and was present at commemorations and in activities leading up to the verdict in 2019, the NUJP also said.
Nonoy was among the founding members of the union and a member of the directorate for multiple terms. He led the NUJP through waves of attacks and harassment by the government. For his defense of colleagues, he was red-tagged himself, and, alongside other members of the union, was made a target of government propagandists.
Nonoy Espina was a former senior editor for news website InterAksyon and the online news site Inquirer.Net, and a reporter of then Today newspaper, among others.
A journalist since high school, he was later an editor of Pagbutlak, the official student publication of UP Visayas in Iloilo City. He was also part of community media group Correspondents, Broadcasters and Reporters Association—Action News Service, or Cobra-Ans, that was part of the “mosquito press” during the Marcos dictatorship.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines, who honored Espina with the Marcelo H. Del Pilar Award, the highest honor that the organization gives its alumni, described him a “a leading force in the defense of press freedom and freedom of expression in the country today”.
The NUJP, who honored Espina for his long years of service to the union, said “Nonoy leaves us with lessons and fond memories, as well as the words he often used in statements: “That the press is not free because it is allowed to be. It is free because it insists on being”.*