Ninez Cacho-Olivares, Journalist and Critic of Marcos, Dies at 78

Ninez Cacho-Olivares, Journalist and Critic of Marcos, Dies at 78

Ninez Cacho-Olivares, who was one of an extraordinary cadre of newswomen who faced down the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980s when most of their male colleagues allowed themselves to be cowed or co-opted — but who later unexpectedly turned around and supported President Rodrigo Duterte in his crackdown on independent journalists — died on Jan. 3. She was 78.

Her family said the cause was a heart attack, coming after a long struggle with cancer. The family statement did not say where she died.

The emergence of the courageous, mostly young female journalists who criticized Mr. Marcos was a remarkable phenomenon in the history of Philippine journalism and political opposition. Several of those women, including Ms. Cacho-Olivares, were interrogated and warned by the military.

While working as a television newsreader, Ms. Cacho-Olivares telegraphed her skepticism when reading government propaganda by smirking and rolling her eyes, until the palace told her editors that she had to stop.

Later, as a columnist for the newspaper Bulletin Today, she used parables, fairy tales and sly innuendo to poke fun at Mr. Marcos and his flamboyant wife, Imelda. She said she was inspired by the political humorist Art Buchwald of The Washington Post.

The pieces produced by these women were typically published in newspapers’ seemingly innocuous feature sections and in a lifestyle publication, Mr. & Ms. For a time these constituted the primary public opposition to Mr. Marcos.

Ms. Cacho-Olivares said she thought the government’s macho attitude and its belittling of women might have made Mr. Marcos hesitant to come down hard on her and her fellow journalists. Mr. Marcos also liked to point to these publications as proof that he allowed an ostensibly free press to criticize him.

As Mr. Marcos’s opponents went their separate ways, Ms. Cacho-Olivares became a relentless critic of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was plagued by corruption accusations, and President Benigno Aquino III, as well as his mother, Corazon Aquino, who was swept into the presidency on a wave of “people power” after Mr. Marcos fled in 1986. She said Mrs. Aquino’s “reign of absolute dictatorship was worse than Marcos’s, as dictatorships go.”

In a curious shift, Ms. Cacho-Olivares in recent years supported President Duterte’s widely condemned antidrug campaign, which human rights groups say has taken at least 12,000 lives since 2016. She said critics “must be dreaming” if they imagined “a humane and death-free drug war.”

Rather than the puckish humor she used in jabbing at Mr. Marcos, her more recent tone was often sarcastic. She derided human rights groups, including a human rights representative of the United Nations, which she said had “hearts bleeding for the pseudo martyrs.”

She also supported Mr. Duterte’s attempts to muzzle an independent press and even pilloried his most courageous critic, the news website Rappler, which has become a target of arrests and dozens of lawsuits by his backers.

While Rappler received support from organizations including Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, Ms. Cacho-Olivares taunted these groups with sarcastic remarks like “Oh, come on. Cut the dramatics, please” and “Spare us the false indignation.”

Ninez Cacho-Olivares was born on July 19, 1941, in Dumaguete, in the Negros Orientale province on the large island of Negros. She studied medicine before majoring in journalism at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. She began her journalism career in radio, while also writing romance novels as well as freelance feature articles.

She went on to be a feature writer and political columnist for several newspapers, including Bulletin Today, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Business Day and Business World. She was publisher and editor in chief of The Philippine Post before founding Daily Tribune in 1999 and taking the same titles there. While running those newspapers, she weathered repeated libel suits from those she criticized.

Describing her philosophy in a speech in 2006, Ms. Cacho-Olivares said: “I believe that no government can take away my right of freedom of expression. It is like a birthright, which we must exercise to the fullest without fear.”

She is survived by her children, Peter, Bambina, Michael and Pixie; and eight grandchildren. Her husband, Ed, died in 2012.


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