The pen can be more dangerous than the sword
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - June 24, 2020 - 12:00am

It was Dr. Jose Rizal who proved that the pen is mightier than the sword. It was the Lord, Jesus Christ, who told Peter that he who lives by the sword is bound to die by the sword. The life and career of writers are filled with hazards and travails. If not death, then imprisonment for libel.

Both Rizal and Christ died for telling the truth. Rizal because he told the truth though his Noli and Fili, and Christ because he preached the truth, the way, and the life. Rizal was executed by a firing squad of Guardia Civil, after he earned the anger of the friars and the Spanish officials who exploited, oppressed, and committed all forms of social and economic injustice against the people. Christ was crucified after he exposed the abuses of Roman officials as well as the Jewish scribes and Pharisees. Rizal was a very prolific and effective writer. Jesus was not, but his disciples were writers. And their writings proved to be their undoing.

In today's times and temperament, the friars and the colonizers are replaced by many institutions of oppression and social injustices. The scribes and Pharisees are replaced by modern false prophets who use the Bible to amass wealth, become powerful, enter politics, and help oppress the people. For writers to expose the shenanigans in all institutions would in effect court the ire of the rich and the powerful. Writing is hazardous to one's health and security. Writers can be murdered, kidnapped, tortured, and terrorized. To be charged with libel is nothing compared to being killed in broad daylight. Cases of defamation, slander, and libel are part of the occupational hazards.

At least, a case in court is an opportunity to be heard, a chance to defend one's self. But to be surreptitiously picked up in the dead of the night, to be snatched while walking along the alleys, and to be executed for one's advocacy for truth and justice is quite shocking to the family, and is a serious blow to journalism and the freedom of expression and of the press. These are all equivalent to being executed in Luneta or crucified in Golgotha. It is like drinking the cup of hemlock, which is the price we have to pay as conscientious writers and crusaders for what is true and just.

We hasten to interject a caveat, however, that if we exceed the bounds of ethical journalism, and besmirch the honor of men and women, who are not even in public service, then we stand the risk of going to jail for libel. Our power to write isn’t intended to be used to humiliate others, put them to shame and subject them to undue ridicule and dishonor. Our jobs as writers become doubly hazardous if we step on the rights of others to privacy. Even commentaries on public officials who are normally subject to criticism, should be handled professionally. We should attack the action but spare the person's dignity and honor. We shouldn’t hit below the belt.

Yes, indeed, the pen can be more risky than the sword. With more reason than that, we need to write with caution, prudence, and fairness. It is reckless to taunt a crocodile, as it is plain stupidity to court the ire of a scoundrel among men. Let us instead kill the rascals with the stiletto of charming sarcasm, hidden beneath the scabbard of wit and humor. The pen can kill with grace and dignity.

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