Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I couldn't help but shake my head in disbelief as I read the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer today, Wednesday, November 25, 2009. The whole page was about the massacre of innocent civilians and journalists in Maguindanao: seven news items, one editorial, and almost a half page photo showing the bodies of some of the victims sprawled like dead pigs on a grassy lot.

Even though I first heard the news two days ago on TV Patrol, I am still aghast at the barbaric way the people were killed. A hundred armed men, said to be followers of of the political Ampatuan family, blocked their convoy, which was on the way to the local Commission on Election office to file the certificate of candidacy of Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu for governor of Maguindanao. It was a political massacre, and the killers spared no one, be he/she a Mangudadatu, a journalist, a man, or a woman. To date, 46 bodies were retrieved, and some more people are reported missing.

I can understand why members of the Mangudadatu family were killed: to the perpetrators of the crime, they belonged to a rival clan, plain and simple. But I cannot understand why even journalists, who numbered more than 20, were killed. They were just doing their job.

Journalists are just plain simple people who live with a passion to hunt for stories and write them so people will be informed. They churn out two stories a day, maybe even more, and make deadlines a part of their daily lives. We journalists talk to people of all walks of life, and will go places just to get the facts for a story. Truth is our mission, but despite the nobility of that, our wages are still a pittance.

My friend Rina asked me why journalists are paid so low—call center employees earn more than editorial assistants, and bank managers earn more than feature editors, for instance—and I said it has always been that way. But we still keep at it because, well, we just want to do so.

As Aquiles Z. Zonio of Inquirer Mindanao bureau wrote in one of the front page stories in today's Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Underpaid and under threat, be that as it may, we will continue answering the call of our beloved profession.”

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Reading Comfort Food, a compilation of personal essays on what makes one's comfort food, edited by Erlinda Panlilio, has brought me warmth, happy thoughts, and yes, comfort. A perfect foil to news items that make me aghast.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. Psalm 54:4

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