There is a monument for press freedom in Cagayan de Oro with names of fallen journalists on one side. There are empty spaces around the names that are already there. My father-in-law thinks the structure is a horrible idea. Nobody wants to have his name there, even if it means having a name etched on a plate of gold and making strangers remember who you are after the worms have had their fill, and yet the empty spaces are a reminder that more gold plates may be ordered soon.
It’s been more than a week since the recent Maguindanao massacre and the official headcount is 52 dead people, 27 of who are members of the print and broadcast media. Yesterday’s news revealed that some of the female victims were raped before being gunned down. Gruesome descriptions of the dead bodies include shots through the genitals and slashed breasts. For this brutal desecration and felling of the agents of truth, our country has earned the reputation of being the worst country for journalists. We are believed to be worse than Iraq or Afghanistan.
The primary suspect, Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. is already under police custody and has been slapped with 25 counts of murder. If he really did it, I wonder how he could have thought he would get away with it. Whatever possessed him or whoever did it to murder 52 people in broad daylight in the open.
Even if they get to the bottom of this, nothing will erase this horrific smear on our beleaguered country’s collective memory.
*Photo by Dark Knight Detective