It is embarrassing that the Philippines, Asia’s oldest democracy, has become the second most perilous place for journalists, next only to the war- and terrorists- plagued Iraq.
Since the rise to power of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 57 journalists have been slain, the latest was Marcos Mataro, main host of D’ XMan of UNTV 37, who was shot point-blank on a busy highway in broad daylight. Out of these cases, some of which are alleged extrajudicial killings, only a few were solved. The rest, including Mataro’s, remained stalled because of some mysterious powers emanating from high places.
In addition to this, many, like Philippine Daily Tribune publisher and editor-in-chief Ninez Cacho-Olivarez were charged with libel with outrageous penalties. The six months to two years imprisonment sentence to Olivarez by Judge Winlove Dumayas of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 59 was too much for a Supreme Court’s circular titled “Guidelines in the observance of a rule of preference in the imposition of penalties in libel cases” wherein the country’s highest court urge judges to mete out fines instead of jail time to persons convicted of libel. What made a judge bestow such a decision transcending the highest court in the country? The public can assume that some powers are trying to surpass the Supreme Court’s mandate and to silence the media.
Though Malacanang has recently been active in freeing ABS-CBN anchor and senior reporter Ces Drilon and company, mostly journalists, it has done minimally in respecting Drilon’s obligation to report some realities in some depressed parts of Mindanao. The palace even chided Drilon about using her intrepidity unwisely, causing tension to a nation that has already been fed up with depressing and scary news like food crisis and double digit inflation.
But Drilon was just doing her job in delivering the truth despite risking her life, while the government tried to cover-up the truth–insisting at first that no ransom was shelled out to the notorious Abu Sayyaf, which has a record of killing mercilessly, but later admitted that “livelihood projects” were promised to the bandits in exchange for the release of the captives.
Despite being a colony of the United States, the modern world’s foremost guardian of democracy, in the past our government still has neglected the powers of free press for the progress of our country. Instead of encouraging the culling of information from the press to improve its management of the nation, the present administration is wielding measures to restrict our access to the truth and to cover it up with deceptions and lies.
By silencing the media, it’s no wonder that the Philippines lags behind most democracies in Asia—nations that were relatively new converts to the potentials and promises of freedom, which has turned their countries from annihilated battlegrounds of World War 2 to present-day economic powerhouses.
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