POSTSCRIPT / November 18, 2004 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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3 newsmen killed last week, raising toll to 59

GIFT OF SIGHT: Baby Leigh marked his first birthday last Nov. 3. But save for the warm cuddling of his parents and the party chatter of his cousins, he was enclosed in his own dark world.

The boy cannot see. He lost his eyesight at the tender age of six months when he was stricken with bacterial meningitis that led to hydrocephalus.

His parents, Joel and Madel Basco Consina of Rosario, La Union, confess they cannot afford the cost of hospitalization and treatment that would bring back his vision.

But hope flickers in their hearts that some kind benefactors may materialize soon like the Three Kings bearing gifts to the Child Jesus. They pray for the gift of sight for their son.

Upon representation of then Press Secretary Milton Alingod, the Philippine General Hospital through its director Dr. Carmelo A. Alfiler has offered to help with a diagnostic procedure that could lead to the restoration of the boy’s eyesight.

However, the surgery involved called shant is an expensive procedure that requires the professional services of neurosurgeons specially trained for it.

The parents are hoping for a breakthrough in their search for a neurosurgeon who could operate on the boy with minimal expense, if not for free. This is the Christmas gift they wish for Baby Leigh.

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ENDANGERED SPECIES: Journalists are a hardy lot. They love to boast that they can survive anything. (Actually, they don’t, as statistics show.)

The current spree of assassinations targeting media practitioners — which has claimed three lives in just the past week and 11 this year! — is something that even the most hardened newsmen can no longer ignore.

Although the comparative time-frames used are not the same, it appears that the Philippines has captured the unenviable world record of having the second most number of journalists murdered, next only to war-ravaged Iraq.

Since the toppling in 1986 of the Marcos dictatorship, 59 journalists have been killed in the country with hundreds of their colleagues wounded or disabled in assassination attempts on them.

In Iraq, about 62 journalists have died on coverage since the US invasion of that Middle East country in March last year. The figure comes from the records of the International Federation of Journalists.

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LATEST VICTIMS: Last Friday (Nov. 12) Gene Boyd Lumawag, a young and promising photojournalist of MindaNews, became the 58th fatality when he was felled by a single shot while working on a story in Jolo, Sulu.

The next day, Herson “Boy” Hinolan, station manager of dyIN Radio Bombo in Kalibo, Aklan, was shot in the stomach by five gunmen in Kalibo.

He died after an 11-hour operation at the Rafael Tumbokon hospital in Aklan, making him the 59th murder victim from the ranks of media.

In Quezon City, an unidentified gunman also shot and killed freelance photojournalist Michael Llorin last Saturday.

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11 KILLED THIS YEAR: Saturday night, gunmen shot at the car owned by Eric Tenerife, a news presentor of cable television station Progress Channel in Bacolod City, shortly after his daughters alighted.

Tenerife happened to be in his house and was not wounded. His car was damaged. He said his commentaries against the owner of a recruitment agency that has been closed by authorities might be the reason for the attack.

Broadcaster Hinolan of Aklan was shot while covering a story on corruption with Carol Arguelles, a writer of a Mindanao news agency. He had been receiving threats for his denunciations on radio of illegal gambling, drug trafficking and corruption in government.

Known for his hard-hitting commentaries, Hinolan was clearly the target of the attack because the gunmen did not shoot at his companions. He became the 11th journalist murdered this year in the country and the third in just one week.

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CHILLING EFFECTS: The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemned the attacks as a direct assault on press freedom. The spate of killings has a chilling effect on media.

The government, particularly police and investigative agencies, has not made headway in solving the murders and other violence inflicted on newsmen. The impression of most media men is that the authorities either do not care or are simply incompetent.

It has been observed also that in past instances of violence against media men, it is usually the members of the working press themselves — not their employers — who speak up and mobilize against the threat to their lives.

We look forward to the day when media owners themselves move in unison to protect their staff and protest every threat to their welfare and lives. After all, media moguls are nothing without the working press.

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PINOY RECOGNIZED: Breaking the cloud of bad news, we have this item on an overseas Filipino who has made good and is recognized for it.

Last Saturday, the Asian Leaders Association installed Victor S. Barrios in the Asian Academy Hall of Fame as an economic, political and social reformer and modernizer. The installation was made at the association’s annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

An investment banker based in San Francisco, Barrios is well-known among multilateral financial institutions for his work on transition economies, including those that were formerly socialist. His work included “banking reform, financial sector development and private sector development in environments that were difficult and which later proved supportive of development goals.”

In the Philippines, he introduced a number of practices and standards that helped develop and strengthen the country’s economy.

He founded Global Filipinos in collaboration with other organizations of Filipino expatriates, successfully lobbied for the passage of the overseas absentee voting law and the amendment on dual citizenship, both of which impact on about 10 million Filipinos in different parts of the world.

In California, Barrios has led high-level and grass-roots activities for the political empowerment of Asians, particularly Filipino Americans.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the Ateneo de Manila University, obtained his post-graduate degrees in economics and business at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he was a teaching fellow and scholar.

He spent time as a management trainee with a number of major Wall Street firms. Rather than pursue a career in the developed world, he opted to return to the Philippines as a professional with financial institutions with a developmental mission.

He was chosen Outstanding Young Man of the Philippines in 1976, and was an inner-circle member of the executive committee of the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 18, 2004)

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