By Pet Melliza/The Beekeeper
Pres. Corazon Aquino (RIP) in 1990 regretted having restored our freedoms, particularly, the press which did nothing but fault-finding.
If she was referring to the upheaval that toppled the dictator Marcos and the subsequent widening of the democratic space for Filipinos, she missed it badly.
First off, freedom, democracy in general, is not a thing that pops up overnight and from nowhere. It is not conferred upon by any diety. It is a process, the result of an arduous struggle, a conscious, collective upheaval.
During the dark years of the Marcos military rule, freedom continued to flicker in men and women who braved State terror through street protests and armed resistance. It was their selfless struggle which spread the contagion and the hope that tyrants won’t last a day before a united people.
While the elite opposition, including Cory Aquino’s circle, opted for silence or exile in the onset of the Marcos dictatorship, young Filipinos in their hundreds and thousands resisted the dictatorship, whether armed or unarmed.
The Marcos regime, severely weakened and isolated in 1986, pulled off a last ditch effort to survive but its master, the United States plucked him out in time, to avert a full-blown armed revolution that can sweep away its own interests as well.
Cory Aquino in the aftermath of the February 1986 elections, holed up in Cebu. She was flown to Manila only when the coast was clear.
Cory restored neither democracy nor freedom of the press. The people’s struggle did. Even before Marcos toppled, Philippine journalism was alive because of men and women who refused to be cowed down by state repression, nor fold under the blandishment of pelf and power by the establishment press, media outlets owned by government and Marcos cronies. In other words, it was our gallant press people who kept the press freedom burning amid state terror.
When yours truly ran an opinion piece supporting the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) and calling the United States a bully and aggressor, some friends were miffed. North Korea, they said, is communist, its people are enslaved and starving. The US must kill the tyrant (Kim Jung-Un). Two of them told me, if you lived in North Korea and you write as you do now, you would either be jailed or killed because there is no democracy there.
Be that as it may, let’s define democracy. The idea, as I write above, is not a thing to either be taken away or restored in one instance. It is a process, a collective struggle and that struggle takes on many forms, one of which, is the “spoken word.”
We can see how nations uphold democracy by taking a peek at one major barometer, the health of the press, which to sum up, is communication process, whose goal is an informed citizenry.
We don’t have to look far beyond our border. We only need look within the country before our baseless fear prompts us to parrot Washington and the Wall Street calling North Korea and Kim the devil.
North Korea has never been black listed by any international press body unlike the Philippine. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), tags the Philippines not only a dangerous, but the deadliest in the world for journalists, after Iraq.
73 journalists were murdered in the Philippines in 1992-2012. That’s 7.3 reporters killed yearly (CPJ report <http://cpj.org/killed/asia/philippines/#>).
The category is unflattering considering that Iraq, an occupied country, is torn apart by war and has no functioning government.
Attacks on journalists is assault on democracy. A country that calls itself “democratic” but is complicit with murderers by nurturing a culture of impunity through either participation or inaction, has a flawed democracy.
The continuing death toll with murderers enjoying impunity bespeaks of a farce democracy, that is ours.