A few months after she was brutally murdered, Beng Hernandez was declared unofficially as the “official landlady of the Atenews office”. Her portrait painted by her colleague was hung on the wall of the office where she first decided to sketch her life’s destination.
Each year, as a new batch of student journalists is admitted to Atenews, it has become part of the trade to introduce Ate Beng to the new staff. The senior staffers, including the editors, would say as they point to the portrait, “This is Ate Beng, the former features editor of Atenews. She was killed in 2002 by the military in North Cotabato for being accused as an NPA.” The new staffers would just reply with “Oh!” or “Really?” And the seniors would add, “Yes. And her soul would always be here, watching us as we perform our duties as campus journalists.”
The Atenews seniors were wrong in introducing Ate Beng as a mere campus journalist. She was not just a student writer. Rather, she was a people’s writer, a human rights worker. The Atenews seniors were wrong in saying that her soul is in Atenews, watching the performance of the staff. Rather, her spirit, the essence of her life, hovers with the continuing struggles of the Filipino masses who are in an even depressed condition than during her time.
Ate Beng was described by her batchmates and friends as a typical kikay Atenista. She was once a kolehiyala who loved to shop, to gimik, to listen to music, to write poems, to love, and to do other usual things of the youth.
But she was a youth who did not define her being within the bounds of the “usual”. She took the road less traveled, the road that led her to ask why majority of the Filipinos have the least, while only a few have the most. She volunteered to do a research on the impact of militarization to the people in war zones. She risked asking why there is so much suffering for the people in this bountiful land. She risked saying that peace is not simply the absence of war, but above all, the presence of justice. She lost her old passive self, then she lost her fears, and then she lost her life. No. They took her young life. They murdered her.
Today marks the 9th year of her brutal death. Ate Beng was killed under the Oplan Bantay Laya program of the Arroyo regime because she chose to live up to the meaning of a true Atenista, a true woman for others. And her killers remain unpunished. Last year, the UN Human Rights Committee resolved that the Philippine Government has to be held liable for Ate Beng’s death. The human rights community, including the campus journalists, jubilated. But it was a temporary relief because until now, there is not a single letter of the word JUSTICE that prevailed.
Should this be the picture of what is called the “Daang Matuwid,” I wonder what future awaits this country. If this culture continues, it is possible that a question mark will lose its essence. Journalism will become an archaic word. Citizenry will become a relic. Humanity will die.
Atenews is proud of producing a brave woman martyred by the people and by history. In memory and in honor of our martyr in the house, Atenews assures that the search for genuine social justice in and beyond campus journalism did not end with her death.
Oplan Bantay Laya liquidated people who dared to use question marks. Now, the people learned to demand! The people learned to continue the fight for justice! With PNoy’s Oplan Bayanihan, will we allow the same murderers to liquidate the people who dare to use exclamation points???!!!
Justice for Beng Hernandez!
Justice for all victims of political killings in the Philippines!
Implement UN Resolutions now!
Prosecute all human rights violators!
Official Student Publication of Ateneo de Davao University