The Arroyo government may argue until it is blue in the face that a culture of impunity does not exist in the country.
It should tell that to the family of Palawan broadcaster Fernando “Dong” Batul, murdered early this morning on his way to anchor his regular Bastonero program on DYPR in Puerto Princesa.
And to the families of Albert Orsolino, gunned down in Caloocan City on May 16, Iring Maranan, mauled just hours after Orsolino’s murder by San Pablo City, Laguna Councilor Edgardo Adajar in full view of 100 people, including other journalists, and our 40 other colleagues who have lost their lives in the five years since Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power.
With a death toll of journalists that has already far outstripped the 34 claimed by the 14-year dictatorship and the unabated murders of activists in numbers human rights groups say is fast catching up to the Marcos regime’s record, we no longer see how this administration can claim to preside over a society that claims to be the freest in this part of the world.
The murder of Batul happened just three days after UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura warned Friday that, “When violence poses a permanent threat for journalists, it poses a threat to the whole of society.”
“When crimes against journalists remain unpunished, the future of a country is endangered and organized crime or corruption becomes the main beneficiaries of this impunity,” he said.
Indeed, the Philippine National Police itself has acknowledged that, of the 79 killings of journalists since the so-called democratic restoration of 1986, only five cases have been resolved by the courts.
And we stress that, while the killers in these cases may have been convicted, NOT A SINGLE MASTERMIND has ever been brought to justice. Not to mention the fact that, in many cases, the killings may be traced to agents of state security.
We hold Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her administration accountable for the murders of our colleagues under her watch and the increasingly brazen manner in which they have been killed.
For not only has this administration’s inaction emboldened those who would impose on us the ultimate form of censorship – death – it has actually attempted to muzzle the independent Philippine press.
In its obsession with national security and its own survival, this administration has failed to protect the lives and respect the rights of the Filipino people, journalists included, and consequently failed to defend democracy.
To our legitimate demands for justice and security, what we get are empty promises, inutile task forces, and fatuous claims by the likes of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales that “forces out to destabilize” the government are behind our colleagues’ deaths and those of hundreds of activists.
We reject and condemn such facile attempts to trivialize our colleagues’ deaths and make them another pawn in the political games this government plays.
Today, we say enough is enough. We have condemned enough. We have issued statement enough. We have marched in the streets and called government’s attention enough.
Today, we call on all our colleagues to fight back.
Let us cease to be just observers and recorders to the death of democracy.
United, we can fight back the threats to our lives and liberties with the weapon we know best how to use – our profession, our pens, our cameras, our microphones.
We call on the people, the public, the audiences we serve, to stand with us. For the Freedom of the Press we struggle to uphold is not ours alone but the logical extension of the people’s right to free expression and to know from which all other rights emanate.
It is clear that the survival of democracy now rests solely in our hands.
Jose Torres Jr.
Chairman, Commission for the Protection of Journalists
Spokesman/Director, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines