Reporters on the Job

Bandits and Banter: Correspondent Don Kirk isn't exactly a rookie on the Philippines beat. The first time he visited there, the Beatles were all the rage (back home in the US, at least). It was 1965, and Ferdinand Marcos - the president-turned-dictator who ruled the island nation for more than two decades - had just come to power. When Marcos was brought down by popular revolt in 1986, Don witnessed firsthand the optimism that event unleashed.

But in his regular visits since then - including his latest trip to report on a rise in political killings - he's seen that optimism fade while the country's endemic poverty and corruption seem to roll along unchecked.

It can be kind of depressing to cover the place, says Don. But one nice thing about reporting in the Philippines, he explains, is that officials, experts, and other sources are really willing to talk, so you can get a level of access you wouldn't get in other countries. Unfortunately though, all the good explanations never seem to lead to effective action.

"You have a lot of perceptive people, but you don't get a sense that they're getting anywhere in solving these problems," explains Don. "They'll blame the entrenched elite that dominates society; the network of family connections that have so much to do with controlling the society; and the tremendous gap between rich and poor.

"You just don't get a sense of real progress there," he concludes.

Christa Case
Europe editor

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