PARIS-BASED International News Safety Institute (INSI) recently ranked the Philippines tied with India for second place in the list of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists in 2013.

The finding is not anymore a surprise, especially in this country marred with the culture of impunity owing to its incurably corrupt political system.

Who could forget the Maguindanao Massacre, considered the single deadliest event for journalists in history?

Almost five years after the sad tragedy, only a handful of the accused have been arrested. The rest remain at large while families of the victims struggle to fight for justice which may never even come. What’s worse is that some of them are almost willing to settle with the murderers just so they can end their agony and long wait for justice.

As though an insult to injury, the government encourages professionals to carry guns “to protect them.”

Republic Act No. 10591, signed by President Aquino III last year, allows people who are employed such as journalists, lawyers, physicians, nurses, accountants and even priests to carry guns outside their residence and into their field of work.

With the Philippines ranking as the second most dangerous country for media practitioners, it is high time that our justice system provide a lifeline for those who are innocent. But surely, giving them guns are far from the solution.

Allowing the use of firearms may prove to be counter-productive. Government, especially the President, assumes that everyone is crazy in love with guns as he is. Giving guns to journalists or to anyone may only lead to more crimes.

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Our justice system rots, but it rots even more when it comes to providing justice for those who died for the sake of public service. Journalists cannot be left unarmed in a country where a faulty justice system and criminality mix.

Even worse, priests are also encouraged to keep firearms under the new law.

Considering the fact that the Philippines prides itself as the biggest Catholic country in Asia, it is a little ironic to see our priests carrying guns while promoting love and peace. Would there come a time when devout Catholics would receive communion from a priest with a gun stashed underneath his robes? Must a man of the cloth hold a cross on one hand and a gun on the other?

Although this new law provides at least a minimal protection for journalists to defend themselves against killings, provisions allowing priests to do the same must be removed. Journalists direly need a sense of security in a country where more than half of media killing cases have left those accused unpunished. Priests, however, would defy the very essence of their evangelical mission if they were to carry guns while preaching that violence does not beget violence.


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