“With great power comes great responsibility,” Uncle Ben once told his nephew Spiderman.
Like the famous Peter Parker, journalists in the Philippines must also understand this mantra when they tackle certain aspects of news — particularly politics. The country of 7,107 islands has developed a dubious reputation in the last decade for its culture of impunity, preventing the carrying-out of justice in cases like the 2009 Maguindinao Massacre on the Philippines’ island of Mindanao. On 23 November, 58 people were gunned down on the way to file a certificate of candidacy for a challenger to the incumbent governor, a member of one of Mindanao’s leading political clans.
At least 34 journalists died in the massacre. There has been no justice for the victims or their families. In recent years, witnesses have been harassed or even killed before giving testimony against one of the almost 200-defendants named in the ongoing trial.
“I talk to my family, I talk to my wife… ‘you be good, because this might be my last assignment’. It comes as a joke, but it might happen,” explains Jiggy Manicad, a Filipino television newscaster and reporter.
But journalism in the Philippines isn’t all guns and gore, according to journalists Jason Baguia and Dale Israel. Much of the violence, they say, is in the southern part of the country, away from major cities like Manila and Cebu. Journalists in the Philippines are well-respected as arbiters of revolution in the face of corruption, and the public does not turn a blind eye when their reporters are threatened.