Let thy glory be hailed, thy justice be done
As the nation pauses to re-trace the path and re-examine the circumstances that led to the massacre of 57 persons, including 32 journalists, on November 23 two years ago in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, town of Ampatuan, Province of Maguindanao, and discern the events that followed until today, the National Press Club is overwhelmed by the compelling reason to confer on these martyrs the highest honor the Club can give.
Thus, the NPC erects a monument that will not only perpetuate the memory of their martyrdom. This memorial also serves as a proud and substantive symbol to inspire the present and future journalists to love, dedicate, and value press freedom, and to educate them that death is not to be feared but to be accepted gloriously if it comes in the line of journalism service as a rare chance of becoming heroes of the cause of the liberty of expression.
Many nations did not become free without shedding of the blood and in all those occasions journalists penned inspirations for the patriots to rise to freedom over and above lives that may be lost. That was the same story for journalists Jose P. Rizal, Marcelo H. Del Pilar and Graciano Lopez Jaena that Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, La Solidaridad and other literatures drove Andres Bonifacio to light up the flame of revolution against Spain.
Similarly, the deaths of these 32 men and women of pen and microphone have given pain but it will not go in vain. Their murders that came because of their faith in press freedom has lit up the strongest ever passion among the Filipino press. It has awakened the nation that has long been naïve to the cause of the liberty of the press to learn the indispensable need for it. Even the past administration despised by the people was compelled to clip the wings of the murderers for fear of backlash from the passion of the nation ignited by the impunity that was the most unbelievable, most unacceptable, and most despicable.
As demonstrated once more, the deaths of these journalists paved the way for press freedom to beget other freedoms for the people and the community they serve. Their martyrdom has given birth to other freedoms long been denied of the people of Maguindanao. The gates of freedom were opened for the living journalists to thrive in that land long been benighted and bewildered by fear and rebellion. Vultures were shot down for democratic politics to take over. The people there have now more freedoms. The vivid proof of these statements is the fact the deaths of these journalists crushed in one fell swoop the dynasty of tyranny that reigned for a decade and this insurmountable barrier to liberty was removed overnight.
The NPC knows these slain journalists knew dangers were lurking ahead. Having covered the province and its officials for years they knew the incumbents were outraged to have opponents in elections. With more reason they knew the threats to life were clear and present considering that the challenger was serious and one who had the command of votes. These reporters and editors knew of the warnings to kill Toto Mangudadatu if he pushed through with the announced plan to file a certificate of candidacy for governor of Maguindanao. Yet, despite all those warnings more than enough for ordinary mortals to cower in fear, these martyrs proceeded with covering the event of the filing of candidacy putting all faith in the name of the press that it would be respected and leaving everything else to God. In the end, it was written they were destined to die for the people of Maguindanao and for the present and future journalists.
Yes, no matter the amount and substance of the words of accolades the NPC can give, these will not assuage the pain the grieving families feel. Yes, the NPC cries with the parents, spouses and children of the journalists who perished in that most brutal impunity ever done against the media in the book of time. Yes, the Club feels the extreme pain caused by these deaths and the added insults caused by the slow grind of the Maguindanao Massacre Trial. Yes, the NPC feels extremely sad the relatives cannot expect justice in five or more years although it is assured of the determination of the government prosecutors to move the wheels of justice at their will.
But the NPC believes that behind these tears, the relatives understand that the country’s system simply does not provide the speed they desire, like those demonstrated by the laymen’s adjudicatory mechanism that produced judgment in five weeks in the jury trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor, acquittal in six weeks of jury trial for a young mother accused of drowning own daughter, acquittal of the most celebrated American college girl in a couple of weeks of appeal jury trial in Italy, outright entry of the guilty plea by a Filipino congressman afraid of the jury trial in Hong Kong for bringing in drugs to that island, or conviction for a man who killed a neighbor after only five days of jury trial in Japan.
The NPC believes that patience is the twin brother of understanding. The NPC believes that the relatives and the rest of the journalism world know that even if the road to justness is long, winding and seemingly never- ending, the journey is certain to end. And if it ends, the NPC is very sure justice waits for the bold who pursueth. And if it will come, justice will be the sweetest. The bigger or the more the sacrifices given, the sweeter the victory will be.
Despite these extremely depressing circumstances, the NPC assures the grieving families of its total commitment to justice for the martyrs. It will never stop until justice is served and the guilty are punished. The NPC will never sleep at every turn and twist. It will do its best to do things it can to eliminate obstacles on the way as it did in petitioning the Supreme Court to constitute the present Maguindanao Massacre Trial court into a special court handling only this case.
The only medicine for injustice is justice. The only reward acceptable for the martyrs is when the blood they spilled makes the flowers of their faith bloom beautifully and dance freely with the wind like the flag when not put down the pole.
On behalf of the journalism community, the NPC expresses the profoundest gratitude to these martyrs and their relatives. For sure, their lives were offered to the altar of the goddess of the Press, like what the forefathers did in shedding blood to fight for freedom from the hands of colonizers and invaders.
Let thy glory be hailed, thy justice be done!