(An open letter to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte)
DEAR President-elect Duterte,
That was quite a mouthful you unleashed on media. We do appreciate your reminder that, yes, we journalists are not a uniformly lily-white breed, in fact none of us are, although we would not go so far as to consider ourselves in the same line of work as publicists for theirs is a totally different field as you yourself pointed out.
It is true that what you describe as the “vultures” among us are, indeed, a major dilemma for our profession, and it is something that we have always acknowledged, even if there are those who conveniently overlook this. And yes, hard as it is for many people to believe, we–as an organization–do take efforts to convince colleagues, whether our members or not, that the side of right is, well, always right. Sadly, too, we cannot claim to have been totally successful in this score although this has not stopped us from trying.
We also agree, as we have pointed out time and again, that corruption could be the reason why some journalists are murdered just as you also correctly pointed out that even the “righteous” get bumped off anyway for doing their jobs right, the acknowledgment of which we truly appreciate.
And yes, we wholeheartedly agree that even doing this job properly does not make us exempt from those who would seek to silence the truth.
Having cleared the air about that, we would like to say this:
We do and will always take exception to your sweeping generalization that “karamihan” of the fallen were done in because they were corrupt, for the simple reason that this is just not so. But even if it were, we maintain that nothing, not corruption, and certainly not truth-telling, can ever justify murder.
That, we presume, is why we have laws and a government to ensure these laws are obeyed and, most importantly, to ensure the protection of each and every citizen. We are sure you agree that journalists, both the good and the bad, are citizens entitled to equal protection of the law.
This, Sir, is why we raise such a ruckus whenever a journalist is murdered. Because, again, we stress, nothing can ever justify murder.
We agree that it is not within your powers to provide each and every one of us security, nor did it ever occur to us to ask you to.
But what we do expect, and what each and every Filipino deserves, is that government care enough to ensure that murder does not go unpunished. Yes, Sir, we do and will demand this of you as well, in the name of all 174 of our colleagues who have been murdered since 1986 for it is part of your duty to ensure justice for them, as well as for the legions whose murders remain unaddressed, thus perpetuating the impunity with which those who do not value life continue to snatch it at whim.
This was something past administrations failed or simply did not care to do and we took them to task for it. We sincerely hope you will break this chain of apathy and that our fallen colleagues and all other victims of the culture of impunity will finally begin to get justice. It is with this hope that we will ask you again and again over the next six years about murdered journalists, regardless of what they were and why they were killed.
Having said that, we do hope you will be willing to help us and other media organizations address the often onerous working conditions faced by so many of our colleagues in the frontlines, the long hours for meager pay and, at times, deliberate orders to violate ethics at the risk of losing their jobs, that can push the desperate and the weak towards becoming, as you say, “vultures.” And yes, lest we forget, also make good on your pledge to end contractualization, which victimizes so many of our colleagues in major outfits, both in the national capital and the provinces.
In this way, we hope we can, together, help improve conditions for those among us whose realities make them most prone to corruption.
As for your dare to boycott you, we are very sorry but we will not, cannot, indulge you. Besides, it was not a call made by the Philippine media, for while we may have our differences, as we have had with past presidents, it has never occurred to us to abdicate our duty, which is to keep watch on government and help ensure it does right by the governed and to scrutinize and ask the hard questions.
For serving the people is as much the mandate of each and every independent Filipino journalist as it is yours. —The National Directorate, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, 3 June 2016 (Executive Committee: Ryan Rosauro, chairperson; Alwyn Alburo, vice-chairperson; Dabet Panelo, secretary general; Che delos Reyes, treasurer; Kim Quitasol, Auditor; Directors: Julie Alipala, Angel Ayala, Nestor Burgos, Jo Clemente, Ver Cuizon, Nonoy Espina, Melvin Gascon, Len Olea, Raymund Villanueva, and Fred Villareal)
AS proven, the Aquino administration has been tactlessly unreasonable in hearing its people. The government will indeed implement the Enhanced Basic Education Program (EBEC or K to 12) with pure mule, given the country’s haphazard state to pursue with this curriculum haul.
Even under the newly faceted regime of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte, the country faces the same old problems in the education sector, but this time it has worsened. As expected, the Aquino administration has failed early responses to the conventional shortages–teachers employed, classrooms, facilities, and others making the condition of the present SHS students severely unattended.
In the Division of Manila alone, over 8,883 students out of the total 16,887 finishers of Junior High School (JHS) are untracked and will possibly drop-out of SHS. Out of this, only 2,066 out of 8,004 SHS tracked students are enrolled in public SHS, with 5,612 students to enroll in private SHSs. To further mortify the conditions, only 12 public schools of all 33 planned SHS will continue its operation due to barren number of SHS students. In Region 6, only 57.6% are enrolled in SHS as of June 11, 2016. While only 58% of entire Region 3’s completers on the hand. We have received reports also that students who earlier enrolled in the private SHS and availed the vouchers are now returning to public SHS due to additional fees charged to them by the private schools. The data is clear, half of the completers are to be seen as dropouts.
In other regions on the other hand, teachers are to be overloaded due to lack of teachers in the SHS. They will be teaching in the JHS and SHS at the same without any additional numeration. This will further aggravate the overworked status of our public tutors.
This is the last straw for the incoming Duterte administration to reconsider its decision in the openness and acceptance of K to 12. It has already been proven how unprepared the country is for SHS, and it will indeed damage the people due to K to 12’s destructive effects to the citizens. – Benjamin Valbuena, National Chairman of Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines (ACT)