The school year 2014-15 is the tenth since the NUJP launched its scholarship program for the children of slain journalists.
It began in 2005 with 34 children of 15 journalists murdered since 1986 as beneficiaries. By the end of the 2013-2014 school year, the program has supported 113 scholars, including 32 children of 17 of the 32 journalists who lost their lives in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre. As of April 2014, a total of 32 children have graduated from college with the help of the scholarship program.
The scholarship program was conceived following the murders in 2005 of Mindanao journalists Marlene Garcia-Esperat, an investigative journalist who was gunned down as she sat down to dinner with her children in her home, and broadcaster Edgar Amoro of Pagadian City, who was a key witness in the 2002 murder of his colleague and friend Edgar Damalerio, as well as the killings of 13 other media practitioners the previous year.
Initially funded by Kasangga at Gabay Foundation, Inc. and Bevil Mabey Foundation, a British construction firm, the program’s first beneficiaries included the four children of Esperate and the five of Amoro. Some of them, such as Esperat’s younger son, remain beneficiaries. Her eldest daughter finished college in 2008, while Amoro’s youngest daughter graduated last year and is now a registered nurse.
Parallel to the scholarships, the children and surviving spouses of murdered journalists are also brought together every summer for a three-day psycho-social activity called the Saranggola (literally, kite) summer camp. Aside from counseling, they also get to bond with each other as they embark on activities such as museum and park tours, swimming, and theater and art classes.
The scholarship program was expected to run only until 2010.
However, the Ampatuan massacre, which claimed a total of 58 lives, clearly made this out of the question.
Fortunately, new partners pitched in generously – Media Safety and Solidarity Fund, Australia’s Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the Philippine Daily Inquirer Foundation, the Philippine Ad Congress, and Senators Chiz Escudero and Santanina Rasul.
Since its inception, the NUJP has fervently wished for nothing more than to see the day when there will be no more need to take in any more scholars, for that would mean media murders have ended.
Sadly, this wish is not yet to be and so this school year, as the program turns ten, 17 more children of four of the journalists murdered under the Aquino administration will be joining the beneficiaries.