Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Do as I say, not as I do?

Article III Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution states:
Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
In recent days, there have been rallies and similar types organized by different groups to protest the killing of more than 60 people in Maguindanao last week. Many of the rallies were organized or led by media groups, rightly so, as about half of those killed were media persons.

The funny thing, yes, in some sense, at least one rally showed that "freedom of speech, of expression" seems to apply only when media wants to exercise these rights. Do as I say, not as I do? For why would they not want a government representative (called him what they wanted) to even "be given the chance to address the public"? Story here: Inquirer

I thought to ask: would the news be as extensive as what we have seen the past days if there were no media persons involved? Even in this communications age, some things can still be kept secret, although a lot more difficult. Unless there are witnesses. Still, if all the witnesses are silenced, then the secret remains. The fact that half of the group were media persons was irrelevant. They are witnesses, they had to be eliminated as well. They were probably in more danger because they were from the press. Not that I believe that if they were not, they probably would have been sent off. They would have been dead no matter what.

Someone I had a conversation with on the Saturday before the Massacre Monday told me that Maguindanao was relatively peaceful and that big agricultural businesses there were doing well. It did not seem strange to me that that was the case as the powerful families there had effectively kept the MILF at bay. This friend said that in the past when he would be in the area of Buluan, he would feel uneasy. In recent years, when he gets to Buluan, he would heave a sigh of relief (Hay, salamat, Buluan na -- Thank God, I am now in Buluan). That can account for something. I would not know now.

Last year I travelled that area and I did not feel threatened at all. In the 70's and 80's, when vacation time came around, I remember that my Dad would ask his brother in Cotabato City if it was safe to take the road trip from South Cotabato. My uncle would consent to a trip depending primarily on the time that elapsed since the last ambuscade of military personnel by the MNLF. A recent ambush meant that the military stepped up their checkpoints. The trip will take us about 8 hours. But we were safer on the road.

Now would be the safest time to make a road trip in and around Maguindanao. I would not know if my dear Mom would consent that I make a trip. Maybe she will. She's Maguindanaoan. We find common ancestry with both the Ampatuans and Mangudadatus.

Update 12/7:
Pres. Arroyo declared martial law in Maguindanao two days ago. I don't know how this situation changes things on the ground, but as always, we pray everything works out for the good.

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