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[OPINION] The dark clouds over the Luminare Awards

By ERIC CABAHUG Published Nov 04, 2023 2:07 pm

It’s not on the level of the infamous Take it! Take it! envelope switching of the 1994 Metro Manila Film Festival but it will definitely go down as another anomaly in the history of local awards.

We’re talking about the just-announced win of SMNI News Channel for Outstanding Broadcast Company in Ethical Journalism in the 8th Asia Pacific LUMINARE Awards

Ethical? Journalism? In a station that doesn’t even pretend to be fair and balanced and even takes pride in being a mouthpiece for its owner’s very high-profile friends?! This is the part where we say Saan banda?

That owner is Apollo Quiboloy, the Filipino pastor and church leader of the Philippines-based Restorationist church called the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. He is also currently on the Most Wanted list of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for the following crimes for which he has been indicted: Conspiracy to Engage in Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud and Coercion, and Sex Trafficking of Children; Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud, and Coercion; Conspiracy; and, Bulk Cash Smuggling. 

The highest of those high-profile friends are former President Duterte and his daughter, current Vice President Duterte. It was only during the older Duterte’s term that SMNI rose to national prominence despite being in operation since 1987. The station has since functioned like a megaphone for government propaganda, including red-tagging, against critics and political adversaries. 

What kind of an award-giving body bestows honors for Ethical Journalism on the likes of SMNI? Apparently one that’s not governed by strict criteria for judging. Or any criteria for that matter. As veteran photojournalist Jimmy Domingo reveals in a Facebook post, anyone may be given a Luminare award from this “organization that search (sic) for the best of the best individuals” after paying a registration fee. 

The November 2 post reads:

Nag-PM ako dati sa Asia Pacific Luminare Awards kung ano ang criteria nila. After ko pinadala ang hiningi nila na resume, ito sagot nila:

Thank you po, based sa info mo qualified naman po kayo to be given a recognition in our Asia Pacific Luminare Awards Night on May 26 at the Grandballroom, Okada Manila..however, inform ko lang po kayo na meron po tayong registration fee na P15,000.00. 

Sponsorship Inclusion 

    • Dinner
    • Elegant Lei
    • Glass Plaque
    • Framed Certificate
    • Photo and video Coverage SMNI and Other Media
    • Okada VIP Card
    • Lifetime Advertisement of your profile in our page
    • The rest for the chosen charity

If you wish to proceed please send us a high resolution picture for your poster thank you. May 5 ang deadline ng payment,..let us know if you wish to proceed.

It’s that easy to win. No wonder there’s a very long list of awardees with all sorts of titles. Here are just some of the more notably colorful among the 80 or so unveiled so far for this year:

  • Asia Pacific Most Inspiring, Outstanding Educator, and Exemplary Computer Wizard
  • Asia’s Most Creative and Elegant Brand and International Fashion Designer of the Year
  • Asia Pacific Most Trusted Brand and Best Quality Kitchenwares and Home Appliances
  • Top Most Reliable Reporter of the Year
  • Asia’s Woman of Substance, Most Exceptional, Trusted Businesswoman and Empowered Leadership Award
  • Asia's Most Promising Catwalk Princess and Multi-talented Star in Asia Pacific
  • Asia's Multi-awarded Exceptional Model and Fashion Icon in Asia Pacific
  • Jury Award for Most Exceptional Achievements in the Field of Leadership Award. Outstanding Educator, Empowered Advocate of Nurses Association of the Year
  • Most Remarkable Community Leader in Filipino Community in US ,Outstanding Multi-Awarded CEO Entrepreneur  of the Year, Asia’s  Worldwide International Fashion Designer Producer

Is your head already spinning from all these head-scratching kilometric titles that are drowning in superlatives? Here’s more.

  • Asia's Talented Kid Artist  & Excellent Performer of the Year A Certified Masterpiece Talent
  • Asia's Promising Chef, Outstanding Tesda Assessor and Exemplary Hospitality Management Consultant of the Year
  • Asia's Breakthrough Artist/Performer & Best Cosplayer of the Year A Certified Masterpiece Talent
  • Asia’s Woman of Inspiring Achievements in the Field of Entrepreneurship, Master Trader, Noble Founder/CEO and Business Leader of the Year
  • Asia’s Man of Versatility in the Field of Education and Most Outstanding International Educator of the Year
  • Asia Pacific Multi-Awarded Deputy President, Empowered Young Public Servant and Leadership Award
  • Asia’s Man Compassion, Most Inspiring Entrepreneur, Innovative CEO and Most Empowered Humanitarian Advocate Hero of the Year
  • Asia’s Most Exceptional, Reliable, Trusted of Cleaning and Maintaining Solution of the Year
  • Asia's Angelic Voice Runway Princess & Face of the New Millenium A Certified Masterpiece Talent

This next one has to be the kicker.

Asia’s Outstanding, Remarkable, Trusted, Affordable All in Events Management and Catering Services of the Year

This list of “icons,” “masterpiece talents,” and “most exceptional/inspiring/trusted” isn’t a Who’s Who of celebrities and popular personalities from different countries across the Asia Pacific region. Rather it’s a list of "The Who" whose credentials, as stated in their resumès, became the basis for the award titles that were coined specifically for them, if we go by Domingo’s post.

And they’re all Filipinos based mostly in the Philippines. Luminare sure does have a lot of chutzpah to declare them the best of the best across the Asia Pacific region. 

In its defense, the company behind the Luminare Awards, Royal Creative Events Management, noted in a public statement that “the Corporate entity has been in the Awards business for the past so many years and that it has already gained the utmost trust and confidence of its Awardees as can be learned (sic) from the many testimonials that its Awardees have imparted and shared with many others.” 

Domingo’s revelation does cast a big shadow of doubt on the credibility of this awards body, especially considering it has not made public any details of its selection process.

Directly addressing the issue of the registration fee, the organization said, “For every Event that is held, there will always be costs involved such as the Registration Fees, payment for the Dinner for the Awardee and the other amenities (sic) that go with the Award itself. No Award-Giving body or event would not be able to exist or operate (sic) without having to entail any corresponding costs at all.”

While that’s true, legit award-giving bodies like the Palanca Awards for Literature, for example, absorb all the costs for the event, mainly through corporate sponsors. The awardees don’t have to pay a single centavo to attend except for their outfits, grooming, and transportation, if any. While there are indeed awards shows that involve fees (mostly for meals), these are optional: winners will still get their awards whether or not they attend. The fees are not a requirement for getting an award. 

Why are there people who willingly take part in these affairs? Because getting an award, no matter how dubious the circumstances and how flimsy the foundation it’s standing on, is still highly prized and is seen as a boost to one’s public image and social standing. Because it may potentially lead to more opportunities for personal and/or career advancement. Because many don’t really care for the details beyond the award itself.

An award is an award, no matter what others might say: the decision to Take It! Take It! may be a no-brainer for some even if they have to shell out some cash to get it.

Part of it has to do with the Filipinos’ constant desire, even hunger, for validation. It’s a toxic culture that some organizations have turned into a business. 

This is not to say the winners of the Luminare Awards actually paid to get an award. We’re not privy to that information. But Domingo’s revelation does cast a big shadow of doubt on the credibility of this awards body, especially considering it has not made public any details of its selection process such as the criteria for judging and the selection committee or jury. 

Absent that, declaring SMNI a paragon of ethical journalism is in itself already highly questionable.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of PhilSTAR L!fe, its parent company and affiliates, or its staff.