FACLA President Address to the 4th Anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, November 23, 2013

November 26, 2013

FFACLA President Address to the 4th Anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, November 23, 2013

( Delivered at the Commemorative Rites by the NUJP in Carson Library, Carson, California on November 23, 2013 )

The Maguindanao Massacre stands out as the symbol of human rights violations in the Philippines and the injustice and impunity in our country.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called the Maguindanao Massacre the most dangerous event for journalists in history. There were 58 people killed in the Maguindanao Massacre, 32 of whom are journalists. Today we memorialize that tragic event.

We are met today to memorialize also the courageous reporters who perished on the line of duty during typhoon Yolanda in Leyte.

We honor all these journalists who gave their last full measure of devotion to the cause of journalism. They knew full well that their missions were fraught with peril, yet, in pursuit of their cause and their duty to the people to gather and directly provide them facts about the important issues of the time, they fearlessly covered their missions, only to lose their lives.

But they did not die in vain. They have shown the world what fearless journalism is. And you who are assembled here are the torch bearers of that noble cause that they died for and I’m proud to be with you today and thankful for allowing me to share my thoughts with you once again.

We had high hopes when Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ C. Aquino III came to power on June 30, 2010,. Expectations were high that he would act with dispatch and resolve on the unsolved murders of activists, lawyers, church workers, and journalists. But until now we have not seen a semblance that justice will prevail in the light of the slow trial of the suspects and even in the justice system of the Philippines slow drag of the PDAF scandal in the Ombudsman and the Sandigan Bayan.

What is left for us is to hope. As the saying goes, hope springs eternal, but how long shall we be hoping against hope that justice will prevail in the Philippines?

What made me sad is that Aquino himself promised as much — and more. In his first State of the Nation Address or SONA, he vowed that his administration would work to end the reign of impunity and extrajudicial killings. In its stead, Aquino said, his administration would usher in an era of “swift justice.”

But Aquino did busy himself trying to address the country’s economic woes in the first half of his term. Thus three years under Aquino, the Philippines has scored steadily dipping ratings in recent years from international groups monitoring the state of human rights, media freedom, and freedom of expression such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House, Human Rights Asia, and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance.

In fact, during Aquino’s first 40 months in office, from July 2010 to October 2013, at least 23 journalists were killed, among them 16 radio broadcasters and seven print journalists. It is a trail of blood redder, thicker, and worse compared to the number of work-related media murders per year under four other presidents before him, including his late mother Corazon ‘Cory’ C. Aquino and his immediate predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

To quote the NUJP President Ms. Paraan:

“ What is disappointing is that we were hoping (for better) under President Aquino, son of the two icons of democracy,” says Rowena Paraan, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. Two months into his presidency, in August 2010, Aquino agreed to meet with FFFJ and NUJP to discuss the groups’ concerns about the spate of media killings, which had peaked during the time of his predecessor and nemesis, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.”

But Aquino skipped the scheduled meeting with the NUJP in 2010 on account supposedly of more pressing matters. It was to be a portent of the President’s apparent lukewarm attitude toward the cases. Today, we still suffer the impunity of the Philippine military.

For us in the Filipino American community in Los Angeles, we still reserve the right to judge the Aquino III regime on his performance. Again, before we consign him to the dustbin of history like his predecessors, we will still give him the benefit of the doubt because we still perceive him to be honest and good hearted unlike his predecessor who was iron-hearted and who caused so much pain to our people for her “reign of impunity.”

We still commend him for performing his job especially during the time of this great crisis caused by Superthypoon YOLANDA/HAIYAN . We understand the rabid criticism and the calls of the opposition for him to resign to the point that it becomes personal attacks, making look like an inutile. This does not help but it only undermines our nation and ourselves as Filipinos.

We understand that he is still doing his best for our tragedy stricken people. We just hope that his administration learn the tragic lessons of the past and learn it fast.

Yet, we are heartened that the Aquino government by the pronouncement of his spokesman Hermie Coloma ” sees the need for judicial reform.” The recent Supreme Court decision on the PDAF restored in us some semblance of trust in the reforms in the system. To quote Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago- the Supreme Court Decision “proved that here is still GOD.”

Thus we still hope for the best and Aquino has still three years to prove himself and change our country for the better.

So, as we remember your fellow journalists who died during the Maguindanao Massacre and those who perished on the line of duty during the typhoon Yolanda in Leyte, I can borrow the words of President Lincoln in 1863……..

” It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

Thank you very much.


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