[Statement] Apathy and alibis -NUJP

Apathy and alibis

It says much when the president of a country that time and again boasts of being a democracy insists that one of, if not the, worst wave of media murders does not constitute a national catastrophe.

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No, we don’t believe President Benigno Aquino III is in a state of denial about the three latest killings, which happened in all of two weeks’ time, bringing the death toll for media since he came to office in 2010 to at least 21.

We believe he is clearly aware of how serious the problem is. The problem is, he keeps on looking for excuses to play down what the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has called the worst annual incidence rate under any president.

In short, he just doesn’t care.

In a meeting with Filipino journalists in Tokyo, Aquino, as reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said he would not treat media killings as a national trend unless “somebody can say that there is some sort of an established policy to kill a journalist of this particular position, mentality.”

According to the PDI report, Aquino said a “’correlation’ must first be established: ‘What’s common among (the killings) besides (the reality) that somehow they are connected to media’.”

“’Now if you don’t identify the problem correctly, you will not come up with a solution. The point is … we are 95 million Filipinos. It’s difficult to see the intent, especially for those … some might really be wanton and merciless and totally wrong,’ he said.”

Evidently, Mr. Aquino has not been listening, if he ever did in the first place.

Mr. Aquino, in case you missed it, we have never claimed the murders of our colleagues were the result of any “established policy” unlike, say, the extrajudicial killings of activists, environmentalists, indigenous people and other dissenters that human rights experts both here and abroad have rightly linked to a murderous counterinsurgency program that deliberately targets members of legal organizations.

What we HAVE said is that these killings are the inevitable offshoot of governance by expediency, which has seen administration after administration, bar none, allowing the corrupt, the warlords, the crime lords to reign supreme in their respective personal fiefdoms in the regions and provinces in exchange for their support.

It is a system of governance that has allowed local tyrants to keep their populations cowed and silence any attempt to unmask them while the national government turns a blind eye for fear of losing their loyalty.

But of course, no self-respecting president, especially one who has staked his name on “tuwid na daan,” would ever admit to that.

Thus the search for alibis, like Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma’s describing some of the victims as “not legitimate” to justify describing the problem as “not so serious,” or the attempt by an investigator to explain the recent killings as the offshoot of the victims’ less than impeccable ethics.

Admittedly, Philippine media have their work cut out to improving ethical and professional standards. But before sanctimoniously dumping the blame on the individual practitioner, especially the grossly overworked and underpaid variety that populate our provinces, shouldn’t we look first to those who keep them so overworked and underpaid that not a few succumb to the blandishments of those would have the news slanted in their favor? And if corruption were to justify murder, shouldn’t we be wondering, given the surfeit of evidence, why our corridors of power continue to be populated by the foremost purveyors of graft and who, by all indications, are the most likely brains in the murders of our colleagues?

So there, Mr. Aquino, is the “correlation” you claim to seek, the problem identified to which you must now find a solution.

That is, if you even care a whit to.

For reference
Rowena Paraan
Chairperson

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