EDITORIAL: Beyond grief

Four years spent on mourning is a period too long. Four years of government inaction is deplorable.

Four years spent on mourning is a period too long. Four years of government inaction is deplorable.

Today, we commemorate yet again the Maguindanao Massacre, where 58 people, including 32 journalists, were killed in the line of duty. It has been four years since the mass killing in Ampatuan town, yet it seems as if it was only yesterday – nothing has changed since.

Up to now, we see our fellow mediamen being harassed, intimidated and even killed for exposing truth that would otherwise rattle those in power. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility recorded 205 media killings since 1986. Of these, 19 occurred since President Aquino assumed his post three years ago.

We hear about extrajudicial killings and desaparecidos who are silenced for disturbing the status quo. Human rights violations remain even after the Martial Law. But above all, we see our government taking no concrete steps in eliminating the culture of impunity.

Four years was more than enough time for two presidents to flex their political muscles and set up mechanisms to give due punishment to masterminds of these killings and to recompense the orphaned families of the 58.

Government inaction tells us one thing: either they dismiss the killings as plain collateral damage, or they take part in the culture of impunity themselves.

Their lack of substantive response has pushed the families of the victims to try and settle the injustice by themselves. In February, relatives of 14 of those killed have actually signed an agreement for an agent to negotiate a P50-million settlement from the Ampatuan clan, who were the alleged perpetrators of the massacre. However, the settlement did not push through as the Ampatuan emissary was shot dead on March 25, himself falling prey to the unjust bloodshed.

Various groups tagged President Aquino as “Impunity King” earlier this week, and with good measure. Halfway through his term, it seems Aquino is far too distracted with other national issues for him to sympathize with the 58 killed years ago – it didn’t happen under his watch, anyway. After all, what is 58 lives to him compared to the thousands killed due to the wrath of supertyphoon Yolanda? For the president, resolving the massacre can wait; it appears that defending the anomalous funds given to the Disbursement Acceleration Program and the President’s Social Fund is definitely more important.

What the President does not see is how these issues, along with many others plaguing the Philippines today, are manifestations of the very same culture of impunity, which was vividly demonstrated in the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre. That the wrongdoers behind the country’s problems remain unaccountable shows how the entire Aquino administration affirms such culture which has effectively corrupted the practice of democracy in the country. We are given the illusion that the media is free to report the truth and expose wrongdoing, but those in seats of power are just as free to silence them once they become a nuisance to the latter’s self-serving deeds.

Four years without justice is far too slow. We should stop wallowing in grief, but we must never forget what we all cried for. Instead, let us go past the tears and criticize the government with profound rage for their heedlessness. We must hold them accountable for the culture of impunity that prevails in our country, and for their disregard for justice.

We should grow even more furious every time the government turns a blind eye on each innocent life taken away to serve the interests of the powerful. Let us demand for the speedy delivery of justice with fervor and rage. Unlike Aquino, let us not be distracted from our call: end impunity now.

Author: TNP

The Official Student Publication of the UP College of Mass Communication.