Thursday, May 19, 2005

Assassinations - the enraging realities in the homeland

The more we follow the socioeconomic and political issues/events in the homeland, the more we feel disgust and rage at the government and the ruling elite: aristocrats, politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, businessmen and military. It seems that all our institutions have turned against the impoverished majority.

And those few, brave, uncorrupted and concerned individuals and journalists who try to inform the citizenry are harassed, intimidated and murdered as in Ms.Esperat case and many others. Not to forget the countless activists: peasants and farm workers, laborers, and supportive priests (Aglipayan) victimized by military/paramilitary forces. If priests are being murdered, then no one is truly safe in the presently worsening Arroyo government (as it was from all post-Marcos administrations).

We all know how essential it is for the people in a true democracy to have as much knowledge, of different opinions and/or dissensions as possible so that they can think, decide and act to preserve their freedom and to ensure that their government performs its main function, i.e. to serve the “common good”, that is, to at least satisfy the basic human needs and human dignity of the majority.

We can only hope that despite all the unsolved assassinations and murders, we will continue to have more of the same uncorrupted and courageous “people informers”. I hope the Catholic Church -through its hierarchy, priests and laymen- being the last influential institution in our homeland will involve itself more in strongly supporting these brave but endangered species and do its part in actively implementing its social encyclicals/teachings: “love your neighbors” = looking out, teaching and fighting for the impoverished majority; and awakening the consciences of the presumably Christian politicians or businessmen and their henchmen, military or civilian.

"To oppose the policies of a government does not mean you are against the country or the people that the government supposedly represents. Such opposition should be called what it really is: democracy, or democratic dissent, or having a critical perspective about what your leaders are doing. Either we have the right to democratic dissent and criticism of these policies or we all lie down and let the leader, the Fuhrer, do what is best, while we follow uncritically, and obey whatever he commands. That's just what the Germans did with Hitler, and look where it got them." - Michael Parenti

"In all institutions from which the cold wind of open criticism is excluded, an innocent corruption begins to grow like a mushroom - for example, in senates and learned societies." - Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900

“If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them”. – Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992

"We shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to enquire, than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in seeking to know what we do not know..." - SOCRATES

"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo na sa panloob!" --Apolinario Mabini La Revolucion Filipina (1898)


Never Again!

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemns in strongest terms the proposal by Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff, Lt. General Edilberto Adan, to penalize journalists and media organizations that interview suspected terrorists.

Adan engages in typical double-speak when he says the military distinguishes between legitimate dissenters and terrorists. His proposal is pure and simple censorship and an imposition of prior restraint on the press. Adan's statements only serve to intensify media opposition to an anti-Terrorism bill that threatens drastic curtailment of civil liberties in the country.

The NUJP will not accept this curtailment of press freedom. The NUJP calls on all media groups to challenge Adan's preposterous proposal. The Constitution lists freedom of the press and freedom of expression among the basic rights. It is not for the AFP or any other government agency to curtail a right granted by the Constitution on the basis of its often times flawed logic.Adan's proposal opens up an entire society to the dangerous situation of having a few people dictate what the public should read or listen to. That does not serve national interest at all.

An ignorant society is often at the mercy of abusive officials; curtailment of the freedoms of expression and the press strips a people of their right to hold states and governments accountable for their actions and lack thereof. The NUJP must also point out the spotty record of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) on human rights. We do not have to dig through history. The AFP and the PNP, for example, have engaged in a spree of raids recently, arresting dozens of men and women for being suspected terrorists.

Both agencies have a penchant for presenting suspects to media, on the one hand, and for detaining some beyond the legally mandated period, on the other. Yet we have seen the courts order the release of so many suspected terrorists for lack of evidence. In at least one case, of a woman allegedly raped by her military interrogators, the release order came too late to spare her from torture. Journalists have also first-hand experience of state officials playing loose with the word "terrorist," conferring this – and all its dangerous consequences – on legal personalities.

Giving access to Abu Sulaiman's claim of responsibility for the Valentine's Day blasts was not a crime. Exploding bombs is a crime. Airing a claim of responsibility, on the other hand, served the public's interest to know of details behind the event. The NUJP believes that the various media codes of ethics, properly disseminated to reporters and editors, anchors and commentators, suffice to ensure both the safety of troops on the field and respect for basic constitutional rights.

But granting the AFP powers to determine what media can cover shall soon lead to journalists being banned from conflict areas, depriving Filipinos of in-depth and multi-sided coverage of tensions in a multi-ethnic society. Adan prescribes penalties for the airing of "anti-people, anti-state sentiments," and inciting to rebellion. He must be reminded that the press does not belong to the government and its allies. Certainly, media cannot give the government blanket authority to define what is anti-people or anti-state, considering that it has often come under fire for being just that, anti-people.

Curtailment of press freedom is a guarantee for heightened socio-political tensions; driving this freedom underground only encourages people into taking drastic action to seek redress for their grievances. Adan only needs to review his martial law experience to realize this.Adan claims the country has a weak legal system that hampers the fight against terror. While certain provisions in existing laws may be strengthened, attacking press freedom -- or any basic freedom – is not the answer. If history has taught us anything, it is that assaults on basic freedoms, often perpetrated by the very agencies tasked to protect citizens, were largely responsible for fuelling the cycles of rebellion in this country.

Media cannot stand silent as government chokes off our national democratic space. To Adan and his ilk, the NUJP says, "never again!"

Chair, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Press Statement, March 5, 2005

Posted by Bulatlat© 2004 Bulatlat ■ Alipato PublicationsPermission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited

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