DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 January) — Over a year after the massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them from the media, corruption continues to kill people, not only journalists, participants to an anti-corruption forum on Tuesday, agreed.
“Corruption is violence. Corruption kills,” said Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, the project leader of Ehem Anti-Corruption Movement.
”Corruption kills and there’s no graphic representation of this than the Ampatuan Massacre,” he said.
”If corruption is violent, then people who are fighting corruption are working for peace and those working for peace should include fighting corruption in their agenda,” Alejo said in a forum, ”Maguindanao after 11.23: Building Accoutability and Transparency,” joined in by journalists, students, government officials and NGO leaders from Maguindanao and Davao City.
Alejo said the government loses P35 million a month to smuggling in the Davao port alone. “Ilang paracetamol na yan” (How many paracetamols is the worth) for the poor, he asked.
Rowena Paraan, secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said the Ampatuan massacre and the continued killing of journalists in the country continue to cast an unflattering picture of the country’s democracy.
”Not only the Ampatuan massacre but also every journalist’s killing in the country is a test case for democracy,” Paraan said. ”The recent killing of journalist and anti mining activist Gerry Ortega in Palawan gives a picture of democracy in the country that is not so good.”
Paraan said that Ortega’s killing was traced to the provincial administrator of the former governor of Palawan whose hitman was allegedly paid P100,000.
“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,” she said.
“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,” Paraan added.
She said journalists should hold accountable those who are accountable for the killing of journalists like Ortega so that they will not be forgotten.
Lawyer Karlos Isagani Zarate, convenor of the Alliance Against Impunity in Mindanao and secretary general of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, said the culture of impunity continues to rule in the country over a year after the Ampatuan massacre. This has earned for the country the reputation as the world’s most dangerous place for journalists.
”As we speak now, there are still so many people being killed for exposing corruption, so many communities continue to be displaced because of corruption,” Zarate said. He said that it was this state of impunity that gave rise to the Ampatuan Massacre and all killings in the country.
”Since the state of impunity is still with us now, it’s important that in seeking justice, we also have to find a way to stop the state of impunity and to make those responsible for the killings accountable for what they did,” he said. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)