Tuesday, May 16, 2006

'Another one bites the dust'

I refuse to write. I have no new ideas. What could I say that would add to the knowledge that we already have.

There are stories. There are many. There’s no shortage for stories. The adventure of discovering one gives me the kick most of the time.

I have plans. I wanted to write another book. I’ve talked to a publisher already.

I wanted to do a follow-up on my PCIJ story on “sex in the kingdom.” Sheila suggested that I could do something on pork and we will title it “Pork in the Kingdom.”

I’ve been busy these past days putting up an office. There’s a lot to worry. There’s a lot to think about. There’s a lot to work on. There’s a lot of angst. But there’s no need to write about them.

Then the news came this morning. Another one bit the dust. Another journalist was killed. A photojournalist was killed right in the middle of the city in broad daylight.

I still have to get details on the incident. The NUJP is still waiting whether the killing was related to the journalist’s work.

Still, it’s sad. What can I say but it’s sad.

There’s too much grief already after 78 colleagues died since 1986. I’m almost 20 years into journalism and almost every year that I spend in this profession someone dies.

People sometimes ask me why I’m into issuing statements, even courting the ire of authorities for challenging them to do something about the killings.

It’s part of the territory as member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. It's our commitment. Somebody just have to do it or nobody will do.

On second thought, I’ve been complaining ever since even when I was just a kid in Mindanao.

I used to complain why we are poor and others are rich. I used to complain why I could not spend late nights with friends. I used to ask my father why I have to join my uncles in the sea in the middle of the night to fish while friends enjoy their vacation or why I have to gather firewood every weekend while my friends go to the movies or go to the beach.

I wrote "poems" then. I wrote about love, injustice and the quest for equality and peace.

Later in Manila, I met other probinsyanos. I found out that most of them have the same questions, the same angst as me.

Why are people killing each other? Why the hate in our hearts. It was during the time of Marcos.

Then the nineties came - Ramos, Erap, Gloria - and the same situation goes on. People are still killed. There are still rebels. Hunger continues to worsen, etc.

There seems to be no end to the complaints.

I don't want to complain anymore. I've done it a thousand times. But I have to speak. I have to. Not because I'm with the NUJP but because somethings is wrong in all these killings of my colleagues.

I was with Malou this afternoon. I asked her if we would use a story on the passage of the juvenile offenders law.

One of our editors said the story is old. Congress passed it a few weeks ago and President Arroyo just signed it Tuesday. There’s nothing new in the story, the editor said.

Malou said we run the story “for the record.”

Indeed we do some things for the record.

Nothing would happen despite all the statements that we issue about the killings of journalists. The killers might be arrested and jailed but the masterminds will go scot-free.

I will do the talking just “for the record.”

But let me also be clear, I am also doing this because I don't want history to remember us, journalists of our generation, that we just stood by silently as the threats and the killings continue.

Someday, somehow, the threats will be on us. My prayer is that someone will dare make a stand for us.

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