Aries Rufo: An inspiration, a journalist to the core
MANILA, Philippines – Aries Rufo's face lit up when he saw me in the newsroom after my first libel case was filed against me.
I had been nervous about the case, wondering what strings Janet Napoles would pull to make sure I paid the price for not keeping my mouth shut. But Aries was thrilled about my legal case. “You’ve arrived!” he said. (READ: Rappler senior investigative reporter Aries Rufo dies)
His reaction helped give me the courage I needed to continue investigating the Napoles family. Aries was no stranger to legal cases, but he remained relentless in exposing injustice in every facet of society – from the Church to politics to the courts. No one was spared from his pursuit for truth. He was one of the bravest people I knew.
I loved his work, and I loved his guts.
He made leaders tremble. He made them livid. One of my favorite memories of him was when he was so stubborn, so incessant about pursuing a story, he tried in vain to get the side of a politician who refused to talk to him. He asked for my help, but I could not get through to the senator either.
Aries took the matter into his own hands. He attended a media event by the politician, and afterwards, on the senator's turf, cornered him and bombarded him with questions. Caught off guard, the politician, after avoiding him for weeks, blew up and yelled at Aries’ face.
While most journalists would’ve been scared off, Aries told me that story with amusement. “I guess he really was hiding from me!” he said.
I loved Aries’ brain.
He was smart, probing, and precise. When I was investigating properties of politicians and the Napoleses, and I could not understand financial statements and documents, he was my go-to. Aries explained to me what every line in the statements meant, what important numbers to pay attention to. He was eternally patient, and so generous with his knowledge. (READ: A collection of Aries Rufo's stories)
And I loved watching him at work.
Our last interview together was in December, with former Ambassador Marciano Paynor, who was leading government's preparations for the Pope’s visit. Aries asked questions in a way that was critical but not offensive. He was a good listener. He processed and diced information so quickly and intricately. As a journalist, he could do no wrong in my eyes.
I also loved Aries’ spirit.
He was a journalist to the core. One time, when a competitor beat us to a story, and our editor called us out on it, I sulked. Aries however, replied to the email thread: “Oh my goodness... painful nga.... Don't worry, Glends. Hanap ng counter-punch (We will find a counter-punch).”
He ended up owning that coverage, dominating it with substance. That was his personality – determined, and never discouraged.
It was a privilege to work with him. As an aspiring investigative journalist, I was inspired by him. His work was so impactful, so significant, but his ego was non-existent. He was self-effacing, modest, never one to call attention to himself. And Aries, he had a wonderful sense of humor. Even having known all the dirty little secrets of the corrupt, of the powerful, he was often smiling, and always cracking jokes.
I expected my libel case even before it came, because a source told me the Napoleses weren’t happy with me. They weren’t happy with Aries either.
I unearthed the email he sent me after I told him there was a possibility we both were going to get sued:
Natashya... it would be an honor to stand beside you, raise our sweaty right hand and admit to our crime…
Scene 1: Stern but hopefully objective Judge: How do you plead?
Us: No contest, your honor. Guilty beyond reasonable doubt, for being beautiful, even without trying.
Judge: Guilty as charged!!!
You were beautiful in so many ways, Aries. Without even trying. – Rappler.com