In findings that surprise no one who has ever lived or done business in the country, reports from Transparency International show the Philippines is perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
An indignant Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo replied that these perceptions of corruption were not caused by, you know, actual corruption. Instead, she blamed “the freest media in Asia,” saying
A lot of their (Transparency International) basis is what they read in the papers. It’s a whole layering of perception indexes. And if you compare the Philippines with the rest of the region, we have to remember that the Philippines has the freest media in the region. . .
What would be on page 10 in some other countries would be a banner headline in the Philippines. Even rumors and innuendos become fact when they’re in the banner headline. That’s part of what we have to live with.*
It would probably have been possible to live with the stupidity of this argument, to add it to the pile of her other vapid pronouncements. But to say that media in the Philippines is free is a horrendous lie. At least 60 journalists have been murdered since Arroyo assumed office in 2001. This figure, which does not even include desaparecidos, has already surpassed the record of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The Centre for Media Freedom and Responsibility reports that most of the journalists killed were working on exposes of government corruption, especially in regions outside Manila. Another report from the Committee to Protect Journalists states that in the Philippines,
politicians and police have been implicated in a number of slayings, but corruption in the local court system has stymied efforts to prosecute. No convictions have been obtained in 24 cases.
As one of the “deadliest countries in the world for journalists,” the Philippines is one of two initial target countries (the other is Russia) in the Global Campaign Against Impunity. Check them out for more in-depth reports on murdered journalists and info on how to get involved in their campaigns.
The CMFR and CPJ reports point to the Philippine government’s disregard of and collusion in the murder of journalists, especially those who work to root out corruption in their home provinces. This makes President Arroyo’s words, her willingness to blame the consequences of corruption on journalists, even more shameful.
*Link is acting up. Source for this quote is (TJ Burgonio, “Economist tags corruption for low FDIs,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 11, 2008. Cache of article is here)