“Who Needs a Piece of Paper?”

For Wednesday, Nov. 23/2011
Good Morning Philippines

Today, we remember and honor the victims of the Ampatuan massacre that took place two years ago in Sitio Masalay in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Fifty Eight Filipinos were killed, 32 of whom were journalists. It was a display of murderers killing with impunity and attempting to hide the entire gruesome blood bath underground, literally, with the use of a back hoe. It announced to the world how cheap the lives of people are here in this country for some of us. It was politically motivated yet did not bother to distinguish between the political opponents and those who were there “for the ride,” for one reason or the other. We have become known as “the most dangerous country to live in” for a journalist. This is the same country that was featured in all the media of the world twenty five years ago showing its’ citizens with military support to have kicked out a “detestable dictator” in what has come to be known as “people’s Power.” Yet, the official figures show that more journalists have been killed during each succeeding administration post Marcos than during the entire 20 years of Marcos rule. In other words, it was safer for a journalist to be living here during the reign of Marcos than during Cory’s, Ramos’, and GMA’s time. From the time former President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law until the military-backed “people’s power” of 1986, an average 2.5 journalists were killed each year compared to six a year during Cory’s term, slightly worse during Ramos’ time, and by far the worst during the nine years of GMA. We should think twice now before we revel in having a free press. To the families and friends of the journalists that have been killed since Cory’s administration, “free press” does not mean the same thing to them as it does to us. Unlike the media moguls (the old oligarchs resurrected) that have their own bodyguards and homes tucked away in heavily guarded private affluent subdivisions, the reporters and journalists and rank and file of media take public transport or move around in motorbikes and walk the dark streets at night. It’s all nice and dandy to freely criticize a provincial, city or even a national administration or official on a daily basis if one wishes, but for a journalist, it’s not much fun walking a dark street at night or even during broad day light for that matter knowing how many journalist get killed yearly in this country. Today, as we remember those that were randomly and brutally killed two years ago in that lonely road in Maguindanao, let’s not forget what this country has become for journalists that live and work here. For them, that “nightmare” in Ampatuan and other “bad dreams” of journalists being brutally killed continue to play in their minds, and justifiably so, despite all guarantees of press freedom. There is actually very little assurance that yet another journalist will not be gunned down today, tomorrow or the following week for opinions he or she has been guaranteed to express freely as enshrined in the Constitution no less. The free press we enjoy for now is like a check that keeps on “bouncing,” or a Supreme Court TRO that is not obeyed. Who needs a piece of paper?


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