Monday, August 22, 2011

Pinoy Freelance Writers’ First Organizational Meeting

The group of Filipino freelance writers tagged itself (temporarily as of August 2011) as the Freelance Writers of the Philippines (FWP). It held its first organizational meeting last 21 August 2011 at the 4F A-Z Building, 723 Sgt. Bumatay St., Plainview, Mandaluyong City.

Despite the heavy rain and unexpected flood in the area, the meeting was attended by more than sixty writers from the cities of Las Pinas, Makati, Marikina, Manila, Mandaluyong, Paranaque, Pasig and Quezon and the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Batangas, Pampanga and Davao.

The meeting started at 2: 30 p.m. The members of the FWP Steering Committee namely Dino Manrique, Jofti Villena, Rom Factolerin, Teena Estrada, and Lorna Israel introduced themselves and welcomed everyone.

It was followed by a short presentation from the Executive Director of Filipinas Copyright and Licensing Society, Inc. (FILCOLS), Mr. Alvin Buenaventura. He talked about the writer as a worker and copyright as human right.

Then, Imelda Morales, a writer since early 1990’s, delivered an introduction that narrated the background and objectives of the organization. A copy of the excerpt of Imelda Morales’ speech is posted below. The initiative to form an organization of Filipino freelance writers came from Ms. Morales. She consulted FILCOLS and a number of fellow freelance writers (through internet) and the initial meeting was held last 29 June 2011 at the Faculty Lounge, Faculty Center, UP Diliman, QC.

The second presentation came from Camille Dianne Mendoza of the National Book Development Board. She introduced the said government agency and its relationship with the writers, content-providers and the publishing industry. She also invited everyone to check their website ( to get updates about the agency’s latest events for writers such as the application for Book-Writing Grants under the “Filipino Authors’ Trust Fund.”

Next was the presentation of the discussion paper written by Jofti Villena. It contained the various options that the body/audience can choose from. These options and suggestions came from the members of the freelance writers Facebook Group. They were narrowed down by the Steering Committee for the organizational meeting.

The discussion paper included the vision, mission and purpose of the group. Ms. Villena also presented the definitions of freelance writer so that everybody can have a say on the qualification of the future members. She enumerated different kinds of organizations and their structures to solicit response from the audience on what is best suited for the group. She showed everyone the proposed names for the organization. Details about the membership of the core group/steering committee were also discussed. She invited those who are interested to join the core group/steering committee. The discussion paper also contained some issues and concerns that were aired by freelance writers through the FB group, a list of the future committees and websites for reference in improving their craft.

(If you wish to have a copy of the discussion paper, please contact Ms. Jofti Villena. She has a Facebook account.)

While the discussion paper was being presented, there were some writers who pushed for the open forum part of the program.

These were some of the highlights during the discussion/open forum:

1. The group needs to determine the differences among:
- single proprietorship
- cooperative (through the Cooperative Development Authority)
- corporation
and find out which would be the best fit for our group.

2. It was suggested that FWP should be networking with the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) (?) or companies and organizations that give writers income and livelihood.

3. Comment: Our name should be neutral. "Union" has negative connotations and may rub people off the wrong way.

4. A participant said that setting a standard may be too idealistic. Filipinos are known to be independent, he said, and this is a sure fire "seed for implosion." In coming up with rates, we need to use unit metrics per output. FWP can possibly come up with a Code of Ethics.

5. Another suggestion: FWP needs to set realistic goals, what we can begin. The keyword is "initiate". We need to begin the engagement and do it consistently.

6. Comment: Writers are treated as the ultimate doormat, ignored and sidetracked. FWP's legacy can be to help make clients treat writers fairly and as business partners.

7. Comment: It would be good if FWP can help writers take advantage of tax privileges. Note: BIR treats writers as professionals, even freelance writers. So they need to pay 10% tax.

8. Comment: Another area where FWP can help freelance writers - give writers information on taxes, how to file and where, etc. It would also be good if the organization can get a ruling that states that professional writers are not paid as high as singers, dancers, artists, etc., and should therefore be taxed lower than other freelancers.

9. Comment: An entertainment writer spoke up to thank FWP for welcoming writers from the entertainment industry.

The next part was the listing of the steps that will be taken by the group such as:

- Look into Professional Regulation Commission rulings
- Invite accounting/taxation professionals to a meeting/dialogue
- Clarify: Are we considered "professionals" both legally and with regards to taxation
- Standards: Explore having "levels" for writer members (can be based on skills, number of years writing professionally, etc.) There could also be an incentive for writers to do something to upgrade one's skills in writing.
- Stay with the name FWP for now.
- Create interim or priority committees: Legal, Education, Media and Website, Registration, and Membership
- Define the term "freelance writer"

The last part of the meeting was the breakout session per committee. After meryenda, the writers got to choose their own committee. Some went to Membership, some went to the Media and Website and other committees. Everyone went home with the date of the meeting of his/her own committee.

The first organizational meeting of Pinoy freelance writers was made possible through the support of FILCOLS and A-Z Direct Marketing. FILCOLS is funded by NORCODE, Kopinor and IFRRO.

Here is the copy of the excerpt from the introduction by Ime Morales.

"At this point I would like to state my most urgent wishes for this organization and for all of us, would-be members of this group.

First, for freelance writers to be treated with the respect that they deserve and considered not as a supplier but as a true partner by their clients.

Second, for freelance writers to receive fair and prompt compensation for their hard work so they can live with dignity and be able to support themselves and their dependents. I don’t understand the absurd gap between local rates and rates in other countries. I don’t understand why expat writers are being paid higher fees in dollars while Pinoy writers who are sometimes even more skilled than their foreign counterparts have to scrape the bottom of the proverbial barrel in terms of assignments and even actual wages. I don’t understand why rates have stagnated at the same level as from 10, 15 years ago when I started writing professionally. And this, while companies continued to expand and glossies continued to grow thicker with advertisements, and generally reap all the rewards of the writers’ wit and hard work.

Third, for this organization to serve as the freelance writer’s voice that will, hopefully, resonate and call the attention of all the sectors involved in our work: the publishers, the editors, the clients. The organization will seek to champion the rights and the welfare of Filipino freelance writers.

Fourth, for the members of this organization to continue to improve their skills (writing, interviewing, research, editing, collecting skills, etcetera) and to show their professionalism, ethics, responsibility, truthfulness and humanity in every piece that they will come out with. I believe it’s high time that we don’t simply accept projects for economic reasons. I think we should start showing more discretion and start consulting our conscience and not just our bank accounts before we accept a writing project.

And finally, for our clients who give us income, I sincerely hope that this organization will also give them the opportunity to connect and build mutually beneficial relationships with some of the best freelance writers in the industry today. This group is also for them. Clients can also come to us with complaints about erring members. What we are trying to do here will eventually benefit not only the writers but also the institutions they are working with. Clients will get what they pay for."

Copyright of the article belongs to Beverly W. Siy of FILCOLS. You may repost or publish this anywhere anytime (for free!) as long as you get a written permission from the author ( Copyright of the excerpt of Imelda Morales’ speech belongs to Ms. Morales. Contact her if you wish to repost the excerpt. She has an FB account.

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