What PNoy didn’t say on the state of free expression

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nujp-logoBy the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)

President Benigno Aquino III has again betrayed himself as enamored of his own propaganda, of valuing the form over the substance, of a glaring inability to keep what he claims is most precious to him – his word.

In his more than hour-long State of the Nation Address — a chock-full of details about what he claims to have accomplished, and rhetoric about the path he would take us down — not once, did he mention that which truly matters most, that which differentiates true democracy from the governance of wealth and power that continues to be foisted on us: our individual and collective rights and liberties as a people.

No mention was made of human rights and the impunity with which these continue to be violated under his watch, as the bloody list of journalists, activists, environmentalists, religious, lawyers, indigenous people and many others whose lives have been snuffed out for simply deigning to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms continues to grow.

Oh yes, he did mention the high profile Atimonan massacre and the rub-out of the Ozamis gang leaders, but spared not even a breath for the almost daily harvest of blood that continues to decimate the ranks of those whose only crime has been to speak the truth as they see it.

And, for all his lofty vows to weed out corruption, never did he mention that which would truly arm and empower the people to join the battle for genuinely good governance – the freedom of information, that which he, time and again promised when he sought our votes, and then so conveniently forgot once he came to power.

In a television interview last night, one of his cabinet members, former newsman and Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, was asked why, despite his promise, a freedom of information bill has never been in place. Carandang only has this token reply: “FOI will happen. Our president is looking to this.”

This, we believe, forebodes the course he has charted for his remaining three years: one laden with more broken promises and, consequently, more bloodshed.

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