But, today, in 2011, Nocum, is alive and well. Thanks to a successful angioplasty, he is praised as a good man, an advocate, a peacemaker, an educator, a true Filipino, a hero.
But, before today, he was more often praised as a vanguard of media—with no less than a multi-awarded fireball streak in his 20 years of journalism.
It is no surprise he is where he is now. How do you end up solving problems of society out of your own good heart? Of course, by knowing these problems—and getting heaps of awards for reporting them while you’re at it.
Armand Nocum began his career in journalism in 1987 as reporter and columnist of the now-defunct The Morning Times, one of Zamboanga City’s most respected newspapers. In 1992, he joined the Philippine Daily Inquirer as the Mindanao correspondent.
This begins his streak as the 90’s wonder boy of investigative journalism. First, he was declared “banned for life” by then Mayor Vitaliano Agan from covering the local city hall due to his reports of alleged graft in the local government. Second, he became the country’s public enemy by exposing the international 1992 Little League Baseball scam—the same competition the Philippines had proudly won to beat the US at their own game. He meticulously co-wrote the Inquirer series that unveiled the falsified records of the over-aged male players of the local Little League team. For this, Nocum’s name and deed was strewn with hate from national papers to radio and TV stations—so that one local priest even called for Nocum’s public hanging.
To escape the death threats, Nocum had himself flown to Manila. As a result, the Senate’s Committee on Sports under Senator Joey Lina called for his presence in a hearing after which the committee affirmed Nocum’s findings on the case.
Persecution turned to praise as Nocum was nominated for two of the country’s most prestigious journalism awards: the Catholic Mass Media Award and the Jaime Ongpin Award for Investigative Journalism. Furthermore, only two years into working in the Inquirer, Nocum beat its senior reporters by winning the Inquirer’s first ever Luis R. Prieto Award for Investigative Journalism.
Third on the list is Nocum’s work on the hot 1996 payola scam which brought him to yet another hearing by Congress, this time, for his expose involving certain congressmen and the Lopez magnates who own ABS-CBN, Star Cinema, and Meralco; and former Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor. Threats and a whopping P5-million bribe failed to work their magic; Nocum only kept on going.
Once again, Nocum became the subject of investigation of Congress’ various committees for his investigative reports on the pork barrel scam. This news series gave the Filipino public—for the first time—insights on how congressmen steal the people’s money.
Embarrassed and angered by the story, most of the 250 members of Congress threatened to sue the Inquirer for libel in the amount of P1 billion pesos. They also threatened to slap Nocum and the Inquirer with “inciting to sedition”, a law former strongman President Marcos used to go after “enemies of the state” during Martial Law.
For months, Nocum and the Inquirer were the target of attacks in privileged speeches delivered by lawmakers in the halls of Congress, with one Muslim congressman inviting Nocum to his district so that he may bash Nocum's head against a concrete pavement to show that his pork barrel project was not sub-standard. He promised not to kill Nocum, though.
Eventually the lawmakers backed off when political groups, religious organizations, legal unions and local government officials came to the defense of the Inquirer. Elementary students also started sending their allowances to the Inquirer to help it battle lawmakers who were out to bring down the paper with an historic P1 billion libel case.
The grand slam of awards that followed the Pork Barrel series is unprecedented in local media history.
First, the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin conferred on Nocum and his colleagues the Catholic Mass Media Award for investigative reporting saying that the pork barrel series was “what journalism should be”.
He also received the local Jaime Ongpin award; and the first-ever Marshall McLuhan Prize given by the Canadian government to Nocum and the three other Inquirer reporters involved in the series. As a McLuhan Awardee, Nocum was given the honour to become a fellow and lecturer at the University of Toronto, the University of Regina and the University of British Columbia.
Upon his return, Nocum was again embroiled in a new libel charge, this time coming from Marcos crony Lucio Tan, owner of Philippine Airlines and tobacco and alcohol companies. Tan's libel suit of P130 million–considered one of the biggest in Philippine journalism history—stemmed from Nocum's in-depth report on how PAL nearly went bankrupt because Tan's dummy firms were allegedly fleecing the airline company.
In the years 2000 and 2001, Nocum was assigned to cover Malacañang where he reported on the last days in office of Ex-President Estrada and the start of President Macapagal-Arroyo's administration. The high points of his Palace coverage was when he found himself trapped with Erap in the Palace during Edsa 2 and with President Arroyo in the violent Edsa 3.
As part as well of his coverage of GMA’s reign, Nocum covered President Arroyo's visit to Italy and Spain where she met with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican, the President of Italy, and King Juan Carlos I of Spain.
However, in 2007, Nocum decided to move on from the Philippine Daily Inquirer—leaving a trail emblazoned with prestigious media awards, a coveted international fellowship, and outstanding paradigms of the fearless investigative report.
He is now President and CEO of the successful Dean & Kings Public Relations and Marketing Communications Firm. Only five years into the business, Nocum is now a respected PR and communications expert—a press consultant and adviser for several well-known senators and congressmen who want to make a name in politics.
Notwithstanding, Nocum now sets his fiery passions towards public service. Through the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library, he has created an organization bent on solving the problem of conflict and poverty of his hometown of Zamboanga and the rest of Mindanao through education. After each of AFP’s attacks on Abu Sayyaf or MNLF frontiers, Nocum has noticed that nothing changes. Terrorism has now become a business inherited by sons from their fathers that is militarily impenetrable. Disillusioned by poverty, they resort to crime as young as seven or eight years old.
With the same fervour he spent on protecting the boys of the 1992 Little League scam by brandishing the truth, Nocum now envisions to protect these “child warriors” in Mindanao by brandishing books. He envisions a Mindanao where the children see that they have as much cause as any other kid to become doctors, scientists, and lawyers; that there is a life beyond crime and conflict; that the solution they are looking for is undoubtedly their own education.
It started in 2001 when Nocum and his relatives paired book donations with medical missions in public schools in Zamboanga. After seven years of merely donating, Nocum cemented his belief in the saving power of education by establishing the first Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library (KRIS) in Manicahan, Zamboanga.
Thus far, the Kris Library has sponsored the schooling of 101 Christian and Muslim children, clocked some 100,000 visits from kids who read or borrow books; do research, have a free use of the library's eight donated computers; obtain catch-up reading lessons from Kris scholars and volunteers; and undergo basic computer lessons.
KRIS’ big donors include former Senate President Jovito Salonga, Quota International, Diether Ocampo's K.I.D.S. Foundation, AHON Foundation, Napoleon Co, Rep. Irwin Tieng, Seller and Rhuayda Basangan, Cecilia Golez, Alvin Cabato, and Ben Leano. KRIS has also been featured in ABS-CBN’s Salamat Dok, Bandila, GMA, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine Star, Malaya, Manila Standard Today, Manila Bulletin, and the Manila Times.
To top it all off, Nocum had won, in 2010, Smart Communications’ Tipid-Sulit Idol Search, a program that aims to support groups and individuals who take it upon themselves to help their communities. Out of 3000 nominees, Nocum was chosen as one of the ten recipients.
Today, Nocum juggles his award-winning advocacy work with his successful career. From provincial journalist to Public Enemy No. 1 to outstanding reporter to peace and education advocate, Nocum has seen it all.
Somehow, the world should be glad that Nocum is still alive. Somehow, even with the almost-death, even with the angioplasty, he has shown that he has the heart for anything.