By Chanda Shahani
Last August 23, 2013, Cyd Godinez and I went ot to the College of Mass Communication at U.P. Diliman to attend the commemoration of the November 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao where some 32 journalists died, out of a total of 58 victims.
On hand were the faculty and students of the College of Mass Communication, headed by CMC Dean Roland Tolentino. There were some talks, and then candles were lit to commemorate the victims.
Coming before the August 26, 2013 million person march to Quirino Grandstand to protest the existence of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel resulting in losses of at least PhP 10 billion to the Filipino people; Dean Tolentino and fellow CMC professor, Danilo Arao, collectively made the point that PDAF was an egregious instance of the misuse of government resources towards unethical ends. On the other hand, the machinery of the local government: local police, personnel, even a backhoe were used to massacre 32 journalists and other people. These assets employed were paid for with the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of the local government units (LGUs).
In other words, even IRAs are subject to abuse, and even IRAs, PDAFs should be looked into and be subjected to oversight and inspection so that abuses of such horrendous proportions can never be repeated again.
In both instances - that of the PDAF and that of the Maguindanao massacre - presidential patronage allowed actors to act with impunity. In the case of the Ampatuans, who delivered valuable votes to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Maguindanao, and are still seen as political assets to the President benigno S. Aquino III, the trial seems to drag on with an ever elusive sense of justice for the families and friends of those who died in Maguindanao.
Dean Tolentino called for the abolition of the Presidential and Congressional pork barrel.He urged those who attended the commemoration of the murder of 58 people, to attend the million person march towards Quirino Grandstand and other points of Metro Manila and throughout the Philippines to march with the PDAF in mind, and the Maguindanao massacre in mind.
"Makibaka tayo at huwag tayong matakot," Dean Tolentino reminded his audience.
At issue regarding the IRAs, it turns out is that the IRAs reflect the same kind of greed for resources and power that are reflected in the presidential and congressional pork barrels, said Danilo Arao, a professor of journalism at the CMC.
Arao also urged journalism students to stick to the time honored University of the Philippines ideals of honor and excellence as part of their public service as working journalists; which included letting concealed information come out to be scrutinized by the public.
He also said that other issues that need to be kept on the front burner through activism were:
- Justice for the Maguindanao massacre victims and other victims of extra judicial killings.
- The retention of freedom of speech.
- Stop the killing of journalists