Earlier this week a radio journalist earned the dubious distinction of becoming the 42nd media worker to be killed under President Arroyo's tenure at Malacanang, the 79th since 1986, the fifth in the first five months of this year.
It has also won the Philippines the equally dubious distinction of being the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, second only to strife-torn Iraq. And how does Malacanang react to this appalling genocide in its constituency? Urging journalists to carry firearms to defend themselves. Hello?
Even Northern Mindanao regional police director, Chief Superintendent Florante Baguio admits this is no guarantee for the safety of journalists'. He cited the case of the radio commentator who managed to fire back at his assailants but still died from his wounds.
The Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) concurs. We thank the PNP's PRO-10 for their assurance of support and protection but again, this is no assurance of safety for the members of the fourth estate.
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement both police and the military should ensure the safety of journalists because arming journalists is an admission of failure from the authorities to protect not only media but anybody from armed assault and perpetrates what NUJP spokesperson Joe Torres calls "the culture of impunity."
The body count of murdered journalists under the GMA presidency already exceeds that of the 14 year Marcos dictatorship and similarly unabated attacks on human rights activists will soon make the record for that death count history also.
The PNP has admitted that, of the 79 journalists killed since the so-called democratic restoration of 1986, only five cases have been resolved by the courts, and in none of those instances was the mastermind ever brought to justice, perhaps because many of those responsible are themselves persons in authority.
The failure of this administration to protect the Filipino people, journalists among them, is its failure to defend democracy. On top of that, it has the gall to continue trying to censor media, adding insult to the injury already heaped on the "free" Philippine press for this conspiracy to bury the truth from its constituents.
Now, the deaths of our colleagues has become fair game in the name of political survival and gamesmanship. Enough is indeed enough. Let this insult on journalists to protect themselves with guns be our battle cry and call to arms.
The NUJP is right in saying let us fight this battle with the weapons we know best -- our profession, our pens, our cameras, our microphones.
Over and above that, may I also humbly exhort our colleagues o continue doing with fervor their excellent record of reportage which has unveiled the graft and corruption in our society responsible for this genocide of those who dare bring their lies, deceit and thievery into the light of day. Tama na! Sobra na! (Columnist Mike Banos is based in Cagayan de Oro City)