Are you a killer for hire? Interested in working in a sunny, tropical country? The Philippines offers plenty of opportunities for aspiring assassins. Assignments are easy, the risks are minimal, and you do not have to worry about being caught. All you have to do is shoot journalists dead. Since 1986, at least 67 have been murdered in this country, possibly making it second only to Iraq as the deadliest place in the world to be a member of the press. None of the cases has been solved. In the last five months, five journalists have been killed; the latest victim was a 53-year-old publisher in Dingalan town, killed by an unknown gunman at home on Tuesday. All the victims were provincial journalists; most of them were broadcasters. Many were working hard exposing the corruption of local government officials. If a movie like Erin Brokovich - where the protagonist unearths a hazardous waste cover-up - were set in the Philippines, it would end in about 10 minutes, with the heroine murdered and the criminals unpunished. Perhaps in the US, the killing of one or two reporters would ignite a firestorm of public outrage. Here, though, people are largely indifferent. One reason is that the media is seen as loud, unscrupulous and venal. Another is that violence is so engrained in the culture that people take it for granted. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but it is still trumped by semi-automatic pistols. The government has barely lifted a finger to find the assassins. In fact, it is hard to find a trace of sadness or even indignation. Mike Arroyo, husband of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, recently said that some journalists do not deserve to be in the media. He was reacting to stinging reports about his alleged corruption. He forgets two things: first, it was the hard-hitting press that helped drive Joseph Estrada from office and install Mrs Arroyo as his successor. Second, a government that cannot find a single murderer does not look like a 'strong republic', Mrs Arroyo's favourite phrase. The director of the National Bureau of Investigation, an Arroyo appointee, gave out this piece of advice to journalists: 'It is better for them to lessen the ferocity of their attacks against officials.' It is helpful because he indicates not only the possible reason for the murders, but also suggests who the killers might be. Investigators claim difficulty in cracking just one of the killings. But last month, when a visiting member of the European Parliament was mugged, police solved the case in a couple of days. Perhaps law enforcement would improve if the killers were to target government leaders. But who could possibly want to shoot a Filipino politician?