COMMENTARY: Corruption kills by Rowena Paraan/NUJP

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 January) – “Corruption kills,” sabi ni Fr. Albert Alejo. Yesterday, a very good man was gunned down by an assassin in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Dr. Gerry Ortega, who hosted a daily prime time radio program, was a broadcast journalist and an environmental activist, a person who dared to question the corruption behind the mining operations in Palawan, a person who dedicated his life to fighting for public accountability.

Reports say the gun found in the possession of the gunman was traced to the provincial administrator of the former governor of Palawan. They also say that the hit cost the masterminds P100,000.  Mahal po ito. In other parts of the country, it only costs around P2,000 or less than $50.

I also just came from a meeting of the families of media victims in General Santos. They expressed their fears over the reports of the Ampatuans paying P200 million to the justices of the Court of Appeals so that Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan can be taken out of the case.

At kahit po ilang beses na naming narinig ang kwento nila, ang hirap hirap pa ring marinig kasi alam mong mahirap sagutin ang tanong nila:  Kaya nga bang makamit ang hustisya?

Corruption kills. Whether it is in a place like Maguindanao, known for private armies and rigged election results, or in places like Palawan, known for being a tourist’s paradise.

Corruption kills. But activities like this will simply be useless talkfests if once we go outside those doors we forget Dr. Gerry Ortega, we forget the 58 victims of the Maguindanao massacre, and we go back to our facebook accounts, to our individual affairs and not hold those accountable, accountable. We don’t just refer to those who pulled the trigger, but most especially those who created or tolerated the conditions that allowed killings to happen, allowed corruption, warlordism to prosper.

General Alcantara (Maj. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, 6th Infantry Division chief – ed) said the Amptuan massacre case is a test case of democracy. I say every case of killing – whether of a journalist or labor leader or student activist, whether it happened in Maguindanao, Palawan or another part of the country, is a test case of democracy.

And right now, the statistics are not in favor of government.

This, my friends, is the true state of public accountability in this country.

Indeed, corruption kills. Corruption kills people, corruption kills democracy. (Closing remarks of Rowena Paraan, secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines at the roundtable forum on “Maguindanao after 11.23: Building public accountability and transparency” held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel, Davao City on January 25)