‘Special people’

THERE is a proposal in the Senate to impose harsher penalties for killers of journalists. Reports said senators agreed that “reclusion perpetua” is the appropriate punishment for those who kill media people.

While we appreciate the concern of lawmakers, the proposal makes us uneasy. Why would there be special legislation for members of the press? Are we elevating journalists to a level above others? Are journalists a special breed of human beings?

Indeed there is so much violence committed against Filipino journalists. After the Maguindanao massacre, and with the series of attacks against media practitioners, the Philippines has indeed become a most dangerous place for media.

But does the situation justify a passage of a law that will give harsher punishment for those who attack journalists? Do the killers of activists, who are killed because they fight for what they believe is right, deserve less? How about human rights violators who trample the rights of men, women and children who assert their right to a decent living condition?

Aside from the seemingly endless quest for the answer to the question “Who is a journalist?” we also ask what makes media practitioners “special” to merit such a special consideration from our lawmakers?

We’ve always called for justice for the killing of journalists, but we also call for justice for the murder of teachers, lawyers, priests, human rights workers, and ordinary folks who face much worse situations, especially in the provinces, but whose plight are under reported because they have no access to media.

Reports said deliberation on the proposed measure in the Senate will soon be over. Again, even as we appreciate the efforts of our senators, we believe that harsher penalties are not the solution to the murder of media practitioners. What will solve the killings is the implementation of laws, serious investigation into cases and the resolve of law enforcers to bring the culprits to justice.

“Reclusion perpetua” for the killers of journalists? How about for the killers of botanist Leonardo Co? How about for the killers of innocent civilians who are caught in the daily grind of our violent society? How about for those who steal from public coffers and cause poverty that kills more Filipinos than assassins’ bullets.

A thorough study should be done before a legislation that favors an already “powerful” group of people is passed. Definitions and clarifications have to be made. We should not rush into something just because another broadcaster is killed. We demand justice, but we demand justice that will apply to everybody, to people who are as vulnerable as we are.

Journalists are not special people. We are ordinary folks who are more fortunate than others because we wield the power of the pen that, according to Jose Rizal, is mightier than the sword. So why pass special legislation for us?

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