Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a Church-run continental media network based in Manila, will continue its operations “following Philippine regulations” even after the head of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) ordered the suspension of “all activities and programs” on Wednesday, March 29.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said RVA operations will continue “following Philippine regulations.”
Earlier in the day, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, FABC president, released a statement suspending all programs and activities of RVA effective March 29, 2023.
In a statement obtained by LiCAS News, the cardinal noted “some kind of disorder and anomaly happening” in the media network’s office in Manila.
Cardinal Bo cited the reported removal of Father Bernard Dashi Tang, RVA’s program director, and the reported appointment of a replacement by the Philippine Radio Educational and Information Center, Inc. (PREIC), an entity that has been managing RVA for years.
Bishop David, however, said in a statement sent to LiCAS News that the announcement of Cardinal Bo “will be taken by the CBCP as a proposal that is to be decided by the … PREIC Board, which is the proper legal entity that is in a position to make such a decision.”
The bishop said “clarifications about Cardinal Bo’s statement are currently being made by both the [CBCP] and PREIC.”
In his statement released earlier in the day, Cardinal Bo asserted that RVA is a project of the FABC, “and as such it is the prerogative of the FABC to decide on the major policies, programs, personnel and administration of RVA.”
“This has been the practice so far, and I am surprised to see a virtual takeover of these by the PREIC, which has been established to provide legal safeguard for RVA in the Philippines,” the cardinal said in a statement.
He said that as FABC has entrusted the responsibility of RVA to FABC OSC, “I wish to uphold its right over the RVA.”
He said the FABC Central Committee has already constituted a four-member committee “to study the future plans and proposals” for the Church-run media network.
“In the light of the recent developments, I am compelled to declare and announce that the RVA in Manila shall suspend all activities and programs with effect from March 29, 2023, until further decision by the FABC,” said the cardinal.
Radio Veritas Asia traces its roots back to 1958 when more than 100 bishops from all over Asia and Australia met in the Central Seminary of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila under the presidency of the special Papal delegate, Cardinal Gregory Peter XV Agagianian, and resolved to establish a radio station for the Catholic Church in Asia.
The bishops decided to establish the radio station in the Philippines because it was then the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia.
The late Cardinal Rufino Santos of Manila contacted Konrad Adenauer, chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and obtained assurances for financial assistance. The German government committed to pay 75 percent of the expenses to put up the radio station.
Vatican’s Propaganda Fide and various mission organizations of the German Church — the Bishops’ Conference of Germany, the Archdiocese of Cologne, Aid to the Church in Need, Misereor, the Holy Childhood Association under the umbrella of Missio — joined to support the project.
RVA would become the first and the only “Catholic Continental Radio Station” of the Catholic Church.
In 1961, Cardinal Santos set up PREIC as the legal body for planning and construction of the project.
In 1964, the radio franchise of the University of Santo Tomas was purchased, and the Archdiocese of Manila allocated a property donated by the family of Jose Yulo in Fairview, Quezon City, for the project.
Tests broadcasts started in 1967 and on April 11, 1969, the first overseas broadcast via shortwave technology began with two 100 KW transmitters.
CBCP’s role in RVA
In 1974, FABC sought the help of the archbishop of Manila to establish what later became RVA by riding on Radio Veritas Philippines (RVP), which was the one established in 1961.
RVP was registered under the name Philippine Radio Educational and Information Center, Inc., also known as PREIC, in the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission
The Archdiocese of Manila later decided to involve the CBCP in the project, resulting in an agreement between the FABC and CBCP in 1974.
The agreement defined the participation of FABC in the “overseas service” of RVA while acknowledging PREIC’ as the “legal owner of Radio Veritas.”
“No less than a majority of PREIC’s membership shall at all times consist of bishops,” read the agreement.
It said that FABC shall only have the maximum membership in the company as permitted by Philippine laws, that is three bishops “based on total membership of twenty.”
The same agreement specified that “in the event that the law should completely prevent the membership in PREIC of non-Filipinos, FABC shall have the right to appoint at least three Philippine bishops of their choice, to represent FABC.”
Both RVP and RVA operate under PREIC through a board that consists of seven members. The agreement specified that “as required by Philippine civil law, the board of directors will be made up of all Filipino members” who “shall also elect their own chairman.”
The board takes responsibility over RVA’s “administration, appointment, and discontinuance of personnel.”
PREIC, under CBCP, taking charge
The decision in 1991 of the Archdiocese of Manila to separate RVP from RVA allowed PREIC to focus its attention on RVA’s operations.
The archdiocese created a new corporation — Radio Veritas Global Broadcasting System, Inc. — separate from PREIC for the administration of RVP, later known as Veritas 846.
With the creation of the new corporation, the Archdiocese of Manila in effect left its resources, including land and buildings, with PREIC, benefitting RVA, and made it accountable to the Philippine bishops’ conference based on the 1974 agreement with FABC.
RVA became a “symbol of the Asian people’s hope and trust” and tried its best to respond to the challenge laid down at Vatican II to use media to reach out to Catholics in their own language.
With 22 language services, RVA became the Catholic Church’s tool to reach out to people across the region.
In 1986, the station played a crucial role in the most critical period of Philippine history during the “people power revolution” that returned democracy to the country.
In 2018, it stopped its shortwave broadcast and migrated to online and social media.
In a statement during its 50th anniversary celebration, RVA said it is “challenged to change and to convert ourselves as we listen to the Lord talking to us through the signs of the times.”
It said that it will continue to fulfill its mission through the internet “to enliven millions in Asia and Asians around the world.”