The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) bagged three finalist spots in this year’s Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) Awards and in various U.S.-based award-giving bodies.

The four-part series “Digital Sex Crimes in Asia” by PCIJ fellow and Philippine Star reporter Neil Jayson Servallos, which explored how the pandemic and poverty exacerbated the sexual exploitation of children online, is a finalist for the Excellence in Human Rights Reporting category for regional news outlets. The series of reports was supported by the Judith Nielson Institute, and included a podcast series by PCIJ reporter Cherry Salazar and a television documentary in collaboration with ABS-CBN News.

PCIJ’s report on the Supreme Court, “The Shrinking Gods of Padre Faura”, was also recognized in the Excellence in Explanatory Reporting category (Regional). The story — written by PCIJ executive director Carmela Fonbuena, former project manager Stanley Gajete, and researcher Martha Teodoro — discussed how the judiciary, a co-equal branch of government with the executive and legislative, had been losing its insulation from influence due to impeachment complaints and playing politics. It was produced with support from the Court Appointment Watch, of which PCIJ is a member.

Poultry Plants, Dead Rivers,” a four-part investigation on how wastewater from chicken dressing plants led to the biological death of a river in Bulacan, also earned a finalist spot in the Excellence in Reporting on the Environment category (Regional). The series was written by PCIJ fellows Annie Ruth Sabangan, Robert JA Basilio Jr., Bernard Testa, and Ric Puod with support from Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines.

The Pandora Papers, a collaborative project which PCIJ took part in, is also a nominee for the Carlos Tejada Award for Excellence in Investigative Reporting. The global collaborative project led by the The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists exposed the secret offshore dealings of world leaders and the elite. Other partners include The Washington Post, The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka, and Rappler.

PCIJ reporter Elyssa Lopez found that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade did not declare his offshore firm in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth or SALN.

SOPA was founded in Hong Kong in 1982 to acknowledge the best works in journalism in the Asia-Pacific. It will livestream and announce the winners on YouTube on June 16, 2022.

In 2021, the prison coverage of PCIJ fellow Aie Balagtas See was awarded Honourable Mention in the Excellence in Human Rights Reporting. The judges said it was a "timely examination of the shocking conditions in overcrowded Philippine jails as Covid-19 spreads."

It added: "This in-depth investigation does a great job putting the spotlight on the abhorrent conditions in the jails and detention centers across the Philippines — they’re increasingly overcrowded, and they’re poorly equipped to protect the detained from the pandemic. In the April story, the reporter presented a clear case on how high the health risks were in the detention centers, and followed up with detailed anecdotes by people in the detention cells. The timeline also made clear how Covid-19 cases rapidly spread in different facilities. Overall a very impressive package."

Meanwhile, PCIJ’s story on deforestation and the supply chain won in the Energy/Natural Resources category of the Arizona-based Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) Awards. 

It was a collaborative project produced with NBC News under the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network. The same story bagged the first place in the environment category at the Atlantic City-based 88th Headliner Awards.

The report is also shortlisted in two other awards:

  • Sigma Awards, which recognizes the best in data-driven reporting
  • New York-based Deadline Club Awards under the categories Business Investigative Reporting and Daniel Pearl Prize for Investigative Reporting. It is shortlisted alongside the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ “Pandora Papers” series

SOPA will announce the winners in June. END


Top collage by Luigi Almuena

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