Tina Monzon-Palma (left) started GMA Public Affairs 20 years ago, along with then associate producer and now Senior Vice-President of News and Public Affairs Marissa Flores (right). Photo: Courtesy of GMA Public Affairs

Jessica Soho and Arnold Clavio will count down GMA Public Affairs' biggest, most unforgettable stories in 20: Dalawampung Taon ng GMA Public Affairs this Sunday, October 28 at 10:30 p.m.

This retrospective TV special will feature stories that opened the eyes of viewers to shocking realities, stories that touched hearts, stories that helped change the nation's history, stories that now define GMA's Public Affairs department.

THE BEGINNING. It was the year 1987 when Tina Monzon-Palma, then head of GMA News, decided to set up a Public Affairs department.

This was manned by only five people, fresh graduates all, who first held office in the tiny locker room of news cameramen.

Marissa Flores, now Senior Vice-President for GMA News and Public Affairs, was one of the first Public Affairs employees Tina Monzon-Palma hired in 1987. Ms. Flores recalls, "We had no experience and no equipment, no camera even to call our own. On our first sets we just glued gold letters to black backing announcing the name of the program. But we had the passion to work."

Who could imagine then that from this passion would grow a department of more than 500 staffers, now producing 16 of the most awarded programs on Philippine television?

Tina Monzon-Palma says the year public affairs began, there was a hunger for in-depth discussion of issues. After decades of media repression she explains, "Filipino viewers wanted to find out what was happening in their new government, the changes that were taking place as well as what befell former leaders who had been removed via People Power. The half-hour daily newscast was simply not enough to discuss all this."

GMA Public Affairs began by producing special reports. Their first long form production was Inside Congress which back then won the Catholic Mass Media Award for Best Documentary.

Weekly talk shows soon followed. Jose Mari Velez, a well-known broadcaster at the time, hosted GMA Public Affairs' first station-produced talk program, Weekend with Velez, later renamed Velez this Week.

Velez's program was joined by block timers and co-productions such as Viewpoint with Dong Puno, Firing Line with Teddy Benigno, Issues and Answers with Art Borjal, and The Probe Team with Cheche Lazaro.

Now, 20 years later, GMA Public Affairs produces the late night block composed of shows such as I-Witness, Reporter's Notebook, Palaban, 100% Pinoy, and Emergency. It also counts the morning program Unang Hirit and primetime programs Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho and Imbestigador among its shows—along with magazine programs, children's shows, travel documentaries, and reality programs.

The department is proud to have won the George Foster Peabody Award for investigative reports and two Gold Medals from the New York Festivals for its shows.

Marissa Flores credits the success of the department to the values already long implanted in the news organization. "It was never an option to not be balanced, to not get both sides of story, there were standards already in place. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. "

Tina Monzon-Palma agrees: "Public affairs has not changed its basic principles—to put issues in the proper perspective, to be objective and balanced, to put together a good story, be it in documentary, magazine or debate format. I think these principles have kept it not just where it was 20 years ago. It has grown to an even higher level of professionalism."

This year, GMA Public Affairs celebrates 20 years of public service. To mark this milestone, GMA will be airing a very special retrospective documentary, 20: Dalawampung Taon ng Public Affairs, this Sunday, October 28, at 10:30 pm.