Silencing the Pen

Posted: March 17, 2007 in All and Sundry, Musings, Rants


*l to r: alex, me, luz and gemma

i was enjoying my dinner at antonio’s grill here in davao last week when i saw on tv a news report on gemma bagauaya showing her being surrounded by policemen while she was signing her fingerprints on papers inside what looked like a police station. because the tv was located far away from the table where i was eating, i couldn’t hear the audio and was left to make meanings out of what the visuals were telling me. it was clear to me that gemma was arrested for something. my companions tried to assure me by surmising that perhaps she was in the police station to report a theft or something. but i knew right then and there, that THAT something was something else. just by reading the visuals, i knew that gemma got arrested. and judging from the way the trend is moving, it was probably because some high and mighty public official filed a libel case against her.

my hair stood on ends. anxiety started creeping in. it was very uncomfortable to see a familiar face being arrested on tv. i couldn’t imagine all these happening to gemma, whom i just met last year in kuala lumpur, and even slept in the same hotel room with. she loved talking about her son, and of course, she had so much passion for her work as journalist.

later, i learned that gemma was indeed “arrested over a 100million libel suit filed by senatorial candidate Chavit Singson.” to add insult to injury, she was arrested on the day of her wedding anniversary. for a full report click here. fortunately, newsbreak editor marites vitug and their lawyer were able to post bail the next day.

asked if jailtime will silence her, gemma in an interview with replied: “I’ll continue to write. We expected this as part of the hazards of the trade. So long as there are stories to be told, I’ll write them.”

gemma’s case is just one among several arrests of journalists in the past months, that are according to nujp, part of the continuous attempts to silence and threaten journalists in the country. gemma’s case became a special one for me because i can say, i knew her, talked with her, spent nights with her. and her arrest has spurred a lot of questionings in me for the past days. in the kind of environment i’m in, politics is not always a welcomed topic. if not, scoffed at, dismissed as leftist. this is unfortunate since being socially, politically aware is not a clear sign of being leftist. it is a sign that you are a highly evolved individual. *guffaw* it is also understandable though if some people don’t want to engage in discussions about these topics because sometimes, (even me) they don’t want to be remind of such realities that haven’t changed in the past years. it is depressing.

as a writer, i am more often than not, confronted with such issues always in vicarious ways.

writers write for different reasons. we aren’t here to save the human race. but sometimes, we owe to it ourselves to be aware of what the human race has done to itself. it is not enough to just be fence sitters and allow the players to go amok. because if that’s the case then we hold ourselves responsible for where we as human beings would end up.

it is the politics of location as adrienne rich writes that we have to always confront every time we write. we cannot be removed from such locations.
journalists are writers too. they have particular, specific purposes, and one of the basic responsibilities is to be vanguards of “truth” in the name of course of balanced reporting. the “truth” they offer adds to the entire playing ground of different truths so that we as individuals can form our own truths and decide which to believe or not.

if they are silenced, then what else is there to see or read? what becomes of democracy? what becomes of that four estate of journalism in our country? i can’t imagine a world with just one truth being propounded over and over, where the monopoly of truth lies in the powerful state. if this will happen, then only journalists will be silenced, even other writers’ voices will be muffled too. such cases has happened in countries around the asean region and i don’t have to mention the names of these countries. we don’t even have to go far to be reminded of this. our country’s past will give us such painful reminders.

i am thankful that blogger friends like germie who writes about her own experience under the hands of police (they were asked to strip before policemen when they visited their journalist friend in jail), are around to remind me of such realities. read who is afraid of the naked truth. and to gemma: i hope the pen will never ran out of ink. padayon!

history tells us that state paranoia is oftentimes anchored on the fear of the pen. why it is so, is another topic to write about altogether.

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