JOURNALIST Jose “Joe” Torres, Jr. has been named as director general of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the government’s public information arm, according to Malacañang.
The appointment of Mr. Torres was dated May 19, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said in a statement.
He replaced Ramon Cualoping III, who announced late Monday his April 4 resignation supposedly to give PCO Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil “a free hand to choose whom she sees best.”
Mr. Cualoping was a former campaign staff of then-senator and now President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.
“Torres brings a wealth of experience and expertise to his new role,” the PCO said.
Mr. Torres, who has worked for both local and international media outlets, began his career as a writer for the alternative news service Philippine News and Features in the late 1980s.
He worked as a sub-editor for Saudi Gazette, the national newspaper of Saudi Arabia, as an investigative reporter for the now-defunct Isyu newsmagazine, and wrote for The Manila Times, The Philippine Post, and The Sunday Paper.
“The challenge for the new PIA director-general is to have a clear program for the agency’s editorial independence,” Danilo A. Arao, a journalism professor, said via Messenger chat.
“He should prove his mettle not as a pro-government propagandist but as a real journalist given an opportunity to prove his worth,” he added.
Mr. Arao urged new PIA chief to help make the agency, which has 15 regional offices and 78 provincial centers, a model for “state-funded responsible journalism,” and not an enabler of “fake news.”
Mr. Torres also has an extensive experience in online journalism — joining ABS-CBN’s online platform in 2001, playing a key role in the establishment of GMA News’ online platform in 2005, and leading the creation of the online version of the tabloid Remate in 2009.
He also joined news outlets that serve Catholic readers — becoming the managing editor of Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News in 2010 and later joining LiCAS.news, which is also based in Bangkok, as its editor-at-large. He also served as member of the editorial board of Radio Veritas Asia in 2018.
Mr. Torres was cited in the 2004 International Tolerance Prize for his article on Filipino Muslims titled “Troubled Return of the Faithful”. His piece “The Making of a Mindanao Mafia” bagged the third place in the Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism in 2004.
“Torres has been actively involved in the journalism community, having served as chairman of the Philippine Center for Photojournalism and currently holding a board member position at the National Press Club of the Philippines,” the PCO said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza