The Journalist Orphans of the Philippines

More than a hundred journalists have been killed in the last 10 years.

INDONESIA

Jumat, 12 Des 2014 16:01 WIB

Author

Madonna Virola

The Journalist Orphans of the Philippines

Philippines, Journalist, Orphans, press freedom, Madonna Virola

The Philippines is one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist. More than a hundred journalists have been killed in the last 10 years. They leave behind partners who struggle to send their children to school.
 
Three years ago 17-year-old Katrina Sumera’s mother was gunned down on her way to the radio station where she worked. 
 
“I can’t understand why they had to kill my mother. She didn’t do anything wrong. What they did was too much.”
 
Her neighbor saw the murder.
 
Her father, Juan Medel believes she was killed because of reports she was doing on a land dispute. 

“The case couldn’t be solved because influential people were behind the killing. We had to move houses to protect my children.”
 
They moved and Juan struggled to send Katrina and her two younger brother’s siblings to school.

“Our fathers became a single parent. Education was very important to our mum, she always told us it would help us for life.”
 
The Philippine’s National Union of journalists came to the rescue and paid for her school fees.
 
She is one of 120 journalist orphans who have been helped by the program that was set up 10 years ago. 

The scholarship program was set-up after the 2005 murder of investigative journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat. She was gunned down while eating dinner with her children at home.

Dabet Castaneda-Panelo from the NUJP works on the program.
 
“If there is a killing that happens, it is automatic that she gets the number of the family, and the number of the kids, then it’s turned over to me, then I call the mom, we exchange what do they need to give, of course there’s an application, then they go through the screening process by the trustees, until they are eligible as scholars in the program.”
 
She says the scholarship is not based on merit.
 
“It is not their fault that their father or mother is killed, it’s not their choice. Whether they are doing bad or good in school, they are eligible; at least we require a passing grade. We have to recognize that these children are traumatized. Some of them were witnesses, some of their parents were killed in front of them, so you can’t take away the trauma.”
 
But to help them deal with the trauma, the journalist orphans take part in a summer camp, where they get counseling.
 
Katrina took part when she was 14 and found it very helpful.
 
“It was fun. I made friends with other people who had lost a parent like me. We have common experiences. I realized that I’m still lucky because I still have a father. I don’t feel alone anymore and I know there are other unresolved cases like my mothers.”
 
Katrina is on her first year studying psychology at a private college in St. Joseph’s college.
 
“I want to study the attitude of every person. What was the mental condition of those who killed my mother?  How I should I handle my emotions when I remember what happened? I’m taking up Psychology to understand the perpetrator and myself.”
 
 Ten years after the fund was set up 32 of the journalist orphans have graduated from university.
 
They have gone on to be teachers, nurses, engineers and police officers.
 
While proud of their achievements Dabet Panelo says they hope they can close down the program.
 
“We’re always sad when there are new scholars coming into the program because that means there is a new case and it means that once again, press freedom is being trampled on. We started with around 30 scholars, now we have almost served 120.”

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