THE vacuousness of President B. S. Aquino 3rd’s answer to Ed Henry of Fox News—during his joint press conference with US President Barack Obama on Monday April 28—confirms what we have long suspected: he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the killing of Filipino journalists. And it doesn’t matter to him if the killing is an individual assassination or a massacre.
The question from the American reporter caught President Aquino off guard. Which has turned out to be good for us who wanted to know the truth about how he thinks and what he feels about this issue.
Ed Henry asked, with President Obama and a live global TV audience of at least 20 million watching and more millions witnessing it in the news and talk show replays, “President Aquino, as a journalist, I’d like to ask you why 26 journalists have been killed since you took office? And I understand that there have been suspects arrested in only six of those cases. What are you doing to fix that?”
Mr. Aquino fumbled in making his reply. International press freedom and press welfare watchdogs have berated him about it and his administration’s failure to protect journalists and catch, try and jail the killers of press workers.
He said he has formed an inter-agency committee to investigate the journalists’ killing and other human rights violations. When he touched on the world-record breaking Maguindanao (Ampatuan) Massacre, in which 32 out of a total of 58 persons were murdered, he manifested that he did not quite know what he was talking about. He said 52 journalists were killed in the massacre, which is so far the world’s deadliest attack on press people.
He also used words that betrayed his attitude to these journalist murders. That anyway some of them deserved to die and some of the killings were not related to the work of the victims as reporters.
No wonder why, per the Committee for Media Freedom and Responsibility, “Excluding the Ampatuan Massacre, Aquino’s presidency has the highest average number of journalists killed per year compared to past presidencies since 1986.” CMFR also says that as per its count, “22 [journalists]have been killed for their work since Aquino became President in 2010.”
Secretary Leila de Lima’s committee
In 2013, Malacañang announced that President Aquino had signed Administrative Order No. 35 that created the “Inter-agency committee on extra-legal killing, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and the security of persons.” The chairperson of this inter-agency committee is Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Since that committee was created last year some more journalists have been killed. The last one, on April 6, was tabloid reporter Robelita Garcia. As she was dying, she said the perpetrator could have been a police officer she had criticized.
Because of these killings our country continues to hold third place in the 2014 Impunity Index of the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists. We are only behind Iraq and Somalia. “Impunity” refers to the ability of the killers to evade punishment and to continue committing the crime.
Mr. Aquino, trying to exculpate himself and his administration for their ineffective and slow work, has blamed the judicial system. We can accept that excuse in respect of the painfully slow resolution of the Maguindanao Ampatuan Massacre. For the “judicial system” as we understand it refers to the courts, the Judicial branch of government, the Judiciary.
But in the matter of finding the killers and arresting them, of having them indicted so that they can be tried by the courts, it is not the judicial system that is responsible. It is the
President’s Executive branch of government, one of whose departments is Justice, which has the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) under it. Also under the President’s Executive branch is whole Law Enforcement superstructure under the Department of Interior and Local Government, including the National Police Commission and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The arrest and prosecution of the journalists’ killers must be suffering the same slow work –of Secretary de Lima and the NBI–that we are now witnessing in the completion and release of the Napoles affidavit that names all those involved in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
God help us Filipino journalists! For our President just doesn’t care about our protection and the arrest and prosecution of those who are murdering us.