LIKE a pack of our favorite menthol smokes—Philip Morris 100s-- the Filipino journalist’s profession comes now with a label. Government warning: Writing is murderous for your health.
Journalists can live with that advice. Or die, which isn’t exactly an acquired habit writers have to adapt to.
Ekeing a decent living as a writer isn’t easy hereabouts. Easier is dying with one’s boots on or preferably a hard-on. The daily grub and strain to churn out news isn’t exactly safe as one Voltaire would have it—“To write is to be at war.”
So our writers trudge through a battleground. Maybe a combat zone in the world’s deadliest patch of earth—next to war-torn Iraq—for pen slingers on a usual tour of duty. We’re here to break the news, bad or worse. And not unlike that runner in the first-ever marathon, we can fall dead peppered with bullets as we deliver.
Local writers celebrated World Press Freedom Day on May 3 with a grim punctuation: Nicolas Cervantes, 65 year-old doting lolo, insurance code author and business writer was felled by four hitmen as he was waiting for a cab outside his apartment in Mandaluyong. Deadball at 1:30 p.m. after moaning “Uuwi na ako… ‘yung apo ko.”
The slain journalist’s family are now deathly afraid it’s their turn in the line of fire.
Family members claim the killers may be after files of classified information that Cervantes had gathered on alleged anomalies involving Bureau of Internal Revenue personnel and tax evaders.
The killing could also have been touched off by the journalist’s claims of up to P100 million in “commission” or reward as BIR informer on big-time tax evaders.
So another writer bit the dust. Another blot of blood on this accursed battleground.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reports that since democracy was restored in the Philippines in 1986, at least 76 journalists have been murdered, including 39 during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term, making her administration the deadliest for Filipino journalists.
"As if the toll in the lives of journalists has not been enough, the Arroyo administration has distinguished itself as the only one since the Marcos dictatorship to have attempted ... a wholesale clampdown on media," the NUJP lamented.
Indeed, to write is to be at war.