Dark Clouds over Mindanao: Stop Killing Journalists!

In Culture, Landscapes on November 26, 2009 by ayshey

Mindanao has always been a fascinating travel for me. I have climbed its highest mountains and played in its white beaches. I have also been to some dangerous places (Pikit refugee area)  to co-teach photography to young Muslim teenagers. Davao is a favorite city. Then, last February 2009, I went to Cotabato City with a filmmaker friend to document an urban community that was doing something good for the improvement of their lives. I was happy to see a community that was formerly from a  slum area try their best to get themselves out and set new homes in a better locale outside teh city. When we finished shooting one day and we strolled back to the only decent hotel in the city, we noticed the expensive-looking vehicles parked outside the hotel compound. We saw  the women dressed in their best. It puzzled us that luxurious looking vehicles would be found in a city that was poverty-stricken. It was such a deep contrast to the general landscape. I relayed this observation to a friend who had grown up in Mindanao. She said it could only be two things–drug money or political power. That’s it. You either controlled the movement of illegal drugs or was a member of a strong politically influential clan or both.  The Ampatuans have sat in power for long. What happend on Monday when 100 gunmen killed 57 (as of last count) people –where 2 lawyers and 21 members of the media were also brutally straffed and dumped into ready-made graves seems to point out how  politically-embedded , wealthy, powerful Muslim families and clans like the Ampatuans can easily forget and get so drunk on their seeming “immunity” from the law. They are  the prime suspects in a crime that can only be described as heinous, an atrocity, an inhumanity that is also unparraled in journalists’ history, according to the Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch.

Talking to a friend from an international NGO, she wondered  why  journalists were killed  in this  country when in the West, they would be there to “protect” the people who are being harrassed. They would be feared because they would tell the truth. Ideally, that’s what journalists are taught to do–to uphold the truth. Here, journalists who try to tell the truth are silened forever.

Friends are saying this could be white-washed by Gloria Arroyo’s government. But people are so damn disgusted now. They better not do that. Our Facebook pages, emails, text messages are littered with the outrage of the nation. I dont want to think this will be so easy to forget–as we usually do. On the net, I find that the Philippines just supplanted Iraq as the most dangerous place in the world. How can that be? Its a maddening, saddening event in the country’s history.

But we will not forget. We should not forget.


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