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NUJP statement on the 9th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre

Today, November 23, 2018, is the ninth year since a power-crazed madman and his armed minions, among them members of the police, halted a convoy on the national highway in Barangay Saqlman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao and herded the passengers, along with those of two vehicles that just happened to pass by, to a hilltop in Sitio Masalay and slaughtered them.

In the convoy were relatives and supporters of then Buluan town vice mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu who intended to file his candidacy for governor of Maguindanao against Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., scion of the powerful clan that ruled the province, and 32 journalists who were there to cover the proceedings.

All in all, 58 persons died, making the Ampatuan massacre both the worst case of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded.

One would expect that justice would be swift in coming for a crime that literally shocked the world, so horrendous was it in both cruelty and scale. But no, the Justice department of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo chose to file what legal experts then called as “case designed to fail,” charging more than 190 persons instead of concentrating first on the principal suspects, key members of the Ampatuan clan, thus ensuring that the prosecution would stretch on for years. The most optimistic opinion on when the earliest conviction could be expected was 10 years.

A year short of that prediction, it is but right for the victims’ families, tired of the extremely slow pace of the trial, to shout “Justice Now” and “Convict Ampatuan.”

In fact, signaling their impatience, this year’s observance had the families of both non-media and media victims coming together to remember and honor their loved ones and, together, demand the justice they have long been deprived of.

While we are heartened by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s statement that a conviction may, at last, be forthcoming, we also hope this does not signal any intervention by the executive branch that could lead to a miscarriage of justice.

And while a closure to this tragedy is most welcome, we stress that it should not in any way detract from the State’s continued accountability for its continued failure to bring an end to the threats and attacks against journalists and to give justice to the more than 100 other victims of media killings since 1986.

#JUSTICENOW

#CONVICTAMPATUAN

#ENDTHEKILLINGS

KUNG PAANO MAGDILIG

Sa alaala ng Maguindanao Massacre

 

Nabibitak na ang lupa sa malawak
Na kapatagan ng Maguindanao.
Ngayo’y hindi naman tagtuyot,
Ngunit tigang ang rabaw
At sementadong kalsadang
Dinaraanan nila.

Tirik ang araw. Walang ulan
Na puwedeng maging dahilan
Ng alimuom, ngunit nakapagtataka
Na may ibang singaw
Ang lupa. Maaamoy mo ang sangsang

Na bitbit ng mga sumasayaw na dahon.

Hindi ito ordinaryong hapon. Kailangan nilang magdilig –
Upang hindi mamatay
Ang mga halaman at tanim.
Kaya’t sila ay nagdilig nang nagdilig.

Bitbit ang pag-asang maibabalik

Muli ang dating samyo
Ng probinsya.

Tahimik ang paligid.
Kanta lamang
Ng mga ibon ang maririnig.
Ngunit kung nanaising tumahimik –
Madidinig ang alingawngaw
Ng mga katawang nakatanim,
At kung paano sila itinanim.

Kung susumikaping imulat ang mata –
Makikita sa tintadong lupa
Kung anong likido ang kanilang pinang-igib,
Para gamiting pandilig
Sa bitak-bitak na lupa kung saan
Nagpatong-patong ang iniwang gunita.

11.23.18
Andre Gutierrez

Pahayag ng mga pamilya ng mga biktima ng Ampatuan Massacre tungkol sa panandaliang paglaya ni Zaldy Ampatuan

Agosto 23, 2018

Kaming mga naiwang pamilya ng 32 mamamahayag na kabilang sa 58 kataong walang awang pinaslang sa Ampatuan massacre noong November 23, 2009, ay kinokondena ang naging desisyon ng Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 na payagang makalabas ng kulungan at dumalo sa kasal ng kanyang anak ang isa sa mga akusado na si Zaldy Ampatuan.

Labis na nagdurugo ang aming mga puso at sumasabog sa galit ang aming mga damdamin sa pagsasawalang bahala na ito ng korte sa aming mga asawa, anak, kapatid at kaanak na hanggang ngayo’y nagdadalamhati halos siyam na taon na matapos ang pinakabrutal na insidente ng pamamaslang ng mga mamamahayag sa kasaysayan.

Isang insultong hindi katanggap-tanggap para sa amin na malaman na ang isa sa mga nagplano ng karumal-dumal na krimen ay makalalanghap ng hangin ng kalayaan kahit sa maikling panahon para makasama ang kanyang pamilya, isang bagay na habambuhay na ipinagkait sa amin.

Ang mas nakalulungkot dito ay hindi namin ito inasahan at walang nagpaabot sa amin ng impormasyon na dumulog sa korte si Zaldy Ampatuan para umapela na bigyan siya ng permisong dumalo sa isang kasalan. Kung nalaman agad namin ito, hinding-hindi namin ito palalampasin at mahigpit itong tututulan.

Kaya ang tanong namin sa aming tagapagtanggol: Sino ba ang inyong kinakatawan sa kasong ito?

Tanong din namin sa korte: Patas at makatarungan ba na bigyan si Zaldy Ampatuan ng pribilehiyong hindi makamit ng ibang presong may mas magagaang na kaso? Makaaasa pa ba kami ng katarungan para sa aming mga mahal sa buhay?

Sana ay maunawaan kami sakaling may nasaling sa paglabas ng aming nga hinanaing tungkol sa tinatakbo ng kaso. Pero matapos ang siyam na taon at wala pang naparurusahan isa man sa mga maysala, aaminin namin na ang aming tiwala sa sistema ng hustisya ay lubos na nasusubok.

Pagkatapos ng masaker, tinaya ng mga eksperto na aabutin ng sampung taon o isang dekada bago may maparusahan sa krimen na ito. Nalalapit na ang panahon na iyon pero ang pagkamit ng hustisya ay nananatiling mailap.

Sa halos isang dekadang inaasam-asam namin ang katarungan ang bubungad sa amin ay ang pribilehiyong tinamasa niya. Ano ang dapat naming maramdaman?

Sa mga humahawak ng kaso, huwag naman po ninyo paglaruan ang kaso dahil hindi po nakakatuwa.

Reference:

Grace Morales
Asawa ni Rosell Morales ng News Focus 6
Tagapagsalita, Justice Now!

 

LODI denounces killing of Albay journo: Under Duterte, one journalist is slain every two months

The media and arts alliance LODI (Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity) condemns the murder of Albay broadcaster Joey Llana in Daraga town today.

Reports reaching LODI say that unidentified persons waylaid the 38-year old broadcaster’s vehicle on P6 road, Brgy. Penafrancia around 4:00. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead by emergency rescue staff around 6:00 am.

LODI demands a swift and transparent investigation into this latest murder of a journalist, the 12th under President Duterte.

Since assuming power, Duterte has practically presided over the killing of a journalist once every two months.

In between killings, Duterte orders harassment cases, closures, delays in franchise renewals, verbal attacks, and denial of access to journalists in Malacañang and Mindanao.

LODI also deplores the Philippine Army, for blocking Mindanao journalists from covering the evacuation of more than 1,000 Lumad in Brgy Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

The military claims its blockades are for the evacuees security. Journalists are not security threats. Their presence and their documentation of conflict-related incidents actually promote protection for civilians trapped or dislocated by war.

The pending anti-terrorism measure pushed by Duterte allies in Congress also directly attacks press freedom and free expression by considering coverage of dissenters and rebels as crimes.

Journalists serve the community best if they are free to present the many voices in society, including those involved in civil or armed conflict. To equate coverage with “glorification” is to nothing but censorship at the level of tyranny.

The bill also allows the freezing of funds without giving “suspects” a chance to challenge charges. This provision represents a possible weapon to paralize critical media.

We call on the Filipino people to campaign for a halt to killings of media workers — and all citizens. We also invite our fellow citizens to fight efforts to legislate dictatorship.

This fight should also target Duterte’s planned charter change that would leave professional and citizen journalists to the mercy of a small cabal with powers to legislate and execute policies and, likewise, act as judges.

We will bring the calls for justice for Llana and other slain journalists at the United People’s SONA on Monday. Duterte must be held accountable for his failure to protect them, and more accurately for inciting or justifying violence against them. #

NUJP, AIJC launch books on journalism

By April Burce

“Are we really a democracy when we kill journalists?” asked National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chairperson Nonoy Espina as he welcomed partners and guests to the launch of two journalism books “Defending Journalism” and the “Impact of the Reporting of the Mamasapano Incident on the Peace Process” in the Philippines in Quezon City Wednesday.

“These are trying times because we have already lost 11, which according to our records, is the worst ever in the first two years of any president,” Espina said, referring to the number of journalists killed under the Rodrigo Duterte presidency.

“We are afraid it might get worse before it gets better,” he added.

The first book, “Defending Journalism”, is a comparative analysis of how national mechanisms can protect journalists and address the issue of impunity in seven countries.

“Impact of Reporting of the Mamasapano Incident on the Peace Process in the Philippines,” is a review of how the Philippine mass media affected the national discourse after the incident that plunged former President Benigno Aquino to unprecedented lows during the last years of his term.

The books are a collaboration of the NUJP and the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication with support from International Media Support (IMS).

In their messages, Lidasan and Ocampo stressed the importance of providing context in the reportage of vital issues, including conflict and human rights.

Journalist Satur Ocampo said, “the coverage of the investigations on countries with experiences of killings of journalists are mostly characterized by long-term social, economic, political and military conflicts. There’s always a connection between the way a state deals with armed conflicts and coverage of armed conflicts and how governments regarded journalists in accordance with the content of what they write.”

Commission on Human Rights chairperson Chito Gascon lauded journalists as human rights defenders, saying freedom of expression and freedom to information are non-derogable rights and cannot be exempted, excused or set aside even in cases of national emergency.

“That is how fundamental these rights are. And our journalists are at the forefront of upholding these rights. Unfortunately, these reports and our experience and history will show that there remains much to be done,” Gascon said.

Gascon pledged the CHR’s support for the campaign to defend freedom of the press and of expression, and to keep journalists safe in a country long described as one of the deadliest places for the profession.

IMS’s Lars Bestle pointed out that the launching of the books is crucial because freedom of expression is under threat in the Philippines.

In his message, IMS’s Lars Bestle pointed out that the launching of the books is crucial because freedom of expression is under threat in the Philippines.

Bestle added that a journalist is killed every five days around the world.

“Our key finding is that all media stakeholders –from government to media, police, and civil society—have to take responsibility and work together to ensure the media’s ability to report freely, safely and accurately without fear of retribution,” he added.

AIJC President Ramon Tuazon said that “Defending Journalism” is not just a book title but a constant reminder to continuously protect freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

“We often encounter publications that examine, ad infinitum, the root causes of impunity in the killing of journalists. ‘Defending Journalism’ provides a fresh approach by choosing to highlight what various stakeholders have successfully done and can do to address the issue and not to be hostaged by the problem,” Tuazon said.

The event was participated in by representatives from major journalism and news organizations including NUJP, IMS, AIJC, UNESCO, Philippine Press Institute (PPI), Center for Community Journalism and Development, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Moro-Christian People’s Alliance, as well as representatives from the Royal Danish Embassy, and Sri Lankan ambassador to the Philippines Aruni Ranaraja. #

The NUJP on the number of media killings

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) stands by its findings that nine (9) journalists have been killed under the Duterte administration. NUJP bases its stand on independent investigations done by its Media Safety Office and chapters nationwide.

NUJP considers all cases of media killings as work-related, unless duly proven otherwise.

This is the Union’s response to the article by Vera Files that media groups erred on figures on media killings (VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Media groups err on figures on media killings; Roque claim on press freedom wrong, May 9, 2018).

The names reported to the media during a press conference on World Press Freedom Day last May 3 was a consolidation of reports from the NUJP and the Center For Media and Resposibility. NUJP is surprised that Vera Files came up with its story without verifying with our Media Safety Office.

Below are the case profiles of the nine journalists killed under the Duterte administration:

  1. Surigao broadcaster first killed under Duterte administration

Just two weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, newly-elected Surigao provincial board member and broadcaster Apolinario Suan Jr., became the first journalist to be murdered under the new administration.

Suan, a radio anchor at Real FM station in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur, was on his way home from the radio station when attacked by men aboard a van along the national highway in Sitio Tandawan, Barangay San Vicente, Bislig City on July 14, 2016 at around 2 in the afternoon.

He was critically wounded during the attack, while his brother and escort, Dodong Suan, died on the spot. The broadcaster’s two other escorts were injured.

Suan slipped into a coma and died two weeks later on July 28.

In a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Bislig City police director Supt. Rainier Diaz said Suan’s killing may be connected to his work as a broadcaster.

 *A friend of Suan told the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines the broadcaster threw hard-hitting commentaries against Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro even before he was elected as board member of the province. Suan had also received death threats before he was killed, the source said. ###

  1. Catanduanes newspaper publisher slain

Larry Que, publisher and columnist of the community paper Catanduanes News Now, was the second journalist killed under the Duterte administration. Que was assassinated by motorcycle-riding killers as he was entering his office in Virac around 9:30 a.m. on December 19, 2016.

Shortly before he died, Que had written a column accusing local officials of negligence following the discovery of a major drug manufacturing facility in the province.

On May 2, 2017, Que’s partner Edralyn Pangilinan filed a murder complaint with the Department of Justice in Manila against Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua, police officer Vincent Tacorda, Cua’s aide Prince Lim Subion and several “John Does”.

Tacorda has reportedly admitted having been ordered, alleged by Cua as relayed by Subion,  to kill Que in the guise of the police’s anti-drug “Operation Tokhang.” Subion had reportedly been sending death threats to Que before his murder.

A colleague and close friend of Que, Marlon Suplig, said aside from the murder charge, Tacorda is also robbery and extortion charges because he allegedly asked the slain publisher’s family for P10 million in exchange for evidence in the case.

Despite the charges, Tacorda remained in active service a year after the killing.

A year since the complaint against Cua and the other suspects was filed, Que’s family is still waiting for the Department of Justice’s resolution. ###

  1. Broadcaster-university professor killed in Ilocos Sur

Northern Luzon lost its first journalist under the Duterte administration when Mario Cantaoi was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen on the national highway in Barangay San Ramon, Magsingal town, Ilocos Sur the night of January 7, 2017.

Aside from working at Catholic church-owned radio station dzNS, Cantaoi was also a professor at University of Northern Philippines.

Provincial police director Senior Superintendent Rey de Peralta was quoted in a news report as saying Cantaoi’s work as a journalist was not likely a reason for the broadcaster’s murder, although to date authorities have yet to determine the motive. The victim’s wife also said her husband had no known enemies.

But the environmental advocacy group KALIKASAN PNE believes Cantaoi’s commentaries against the destruction of the environment and the militarization of communities opposed to mining led to his killing. ###

  1. Blocktime radio anchor shot dead in Kidapawan City

Marlon Muyco, who hosted a blocktime program over dxND Radyo Bida in Kidapawan City, Cotabato province, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding killers in Barangay La Suerte, M’lang town the afternoon of February 2, 2017.

His daughter, who was with him, was wounded in the attack.

Police investigators said the killers had been tailing the host of the program “Abyan sa Kalambuansa Banwa Sang M’lang (Your Friend in the Development of M’lang Town)” and struck when the victims reached a secluded area.

Authorities identified one of the suspects as Boyet Patubo, who they described as a “gun-for-hire.” They said Patubo was seen fleeing toward Antipas town where his brother is a barangay chairman.

Police have yet to ascertain the motive for Muyco’s murder. ###

  1. Hard-hitting Masbate columnist gunned down

Remate columnist Joaquin Briones, a former commentator of station dyME, was gunned down as he was heading home around 8:45 a.m. of March 13, 2017 by motorcycle-riding killers on Bombom Bridge, sitio Feeder Road, Barangay Bacolod, Milagros town.

A news report quoted Inspector Anselmo Prima of the Milagros police as saying the likely motive for the murder was either local politics or personal grudges.

But the same story quoted Remate managing editor Lydia Buena as saying the killing was likely triggered by Briones’ hard-hitting reports on sensitive topics like illegal fishing, illegal gambling and the drug trade. Briones had been receiving death threats before he was killed.

In the meantime, Leonardo del Rosario, aka Pandoy, a suspect in the Briones murder was himself killed along with his father and another companion when police tried to arrest them. Del Rosario allegedly led a crime gang in Masbate.

Journalists in Masbate described their colleague’s fate as an extrajudicial killing. However, the Briones family has yet to file charges against the suspects.

On the other hand, Briones’ daughter* says her father might have survived his injuries if responding police had immediately taken him to a hospital. The listed cause of death were not the gunshots but massive blood loss.

She claims her father was taken around the town plaza and allegedly shown to townsfolk by the police before he was brought to the hospital. ###

  1. Broadcaster shot dead in Zamboanga del Sur

On August 6, 2017, Rudy Alicaway, 47, was on his way home after hosting his weekly community affairs program “Tigmo-tigmo” over radio station dxPB in Sitio Lopez, Barangay Culo, Molave town in Zamboanga del Sur, when motorcycle-riding gunmen shot him dead.

Station manager Rocel Navarro said Alicaway never tackled controversial issues.

Aside from hosting his program, Alicaway was a councilor of Barangay Miligan in Molave.

The motive for his murder remains undetermined to date. ###

  1. Sultan Kudarat native first Mindanao journalist slain since martial law

On August 7, 2017, Leodoro Diaz, 60, of President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat province became the first Mindanao journalist to be murdered since President Rodrigo Duterte declared the southern island under martial law on May 23, 2017.

The reporter of RMN’s Cotabato City station dxMY and columnist of the tabloid Sapol, Diaz was heading to Tacurong City from his home when ambushed by motorcycle-riding gunmen.

Before this, he had been receiving death threats and had been harassed by armed men at his home in Barangay Katiku, President Quirino.

Diaz’s daughter* believes he was killed because of his hard-hitting columns on corruption, illegal gambling and drugs in his hometown even if, as she pointed out, he seldom, if ever, identified the subjects of his criticism.

Before his death, Diaz had reportedly informed colleagues he was writing about illegal drugs.

His daughter dismisses observations he might have been killed because he planned to enter politics. She said that was just a “joke.”

Murder charges have since been filed against a suspect, “Toto” Tamano, remains at large.  ###

  1. Radioman shot dead day after Ombudsman ousts Bislig Mayor

Christopher Lozada, 29, a program host at station dxBF of Prime Broadcasting Network, was involved in the filing of charges against Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro over the questionable purchase of a P14.7-million hydraulic excavator in 2012.

On October 23, 2017, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered Navarro and 11 others dismissed from the service over the alleged anomaly.

Around 9 p.m. the next day, Lozada was driving home when gunmen in a van opened fire, killing him. His common-law wife, Honey Faith Indog, was wounded in the attack.

According to his sister*, before his murder, Lozada had been receiving a series of death threats sent from an unknown number. One of the texts said: “95 days ka nalang, umalis ka nadito sa Bislig kundi papatayin kita (You have 95 days left. Leave Bislig or I will kill you).”

She said they have not been able to file charges against the suspected killers, Rolly Mahilum and Felixberto Villocino, and Navarro, who the family has accused of ordering Lozada’s death, because the former mayor is monitoring them.

The principal witness, Lozada’s partner Honey Faith, has been enrolled in the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice but her family reportedly lives in fear because Navarro is keeping an eye on them.

Before the Ombudsman resolution dismissing him, Navarro allegedly offered a car and a P50,000 monthly allowance to Lozada to make him withdraw the case but the broadcaster refused, saying: “Kahit mahirap po kami, ayaw kong magkaroon ng ganyang kalaking pera kung galing naman sa masama (Even if we are poor, I do not want to earn that much money from wrongdoing).”

Lozada was insistent about filing charges against Navarro. “Kahit ikamatay ko pa, gagawin ko ang dapat (Even if it costs my life, I will do what is right).” ###

  1. Dumaguete broadcaster declared dead after gun attack

Broadcaster Edmund Sestoso, former chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chapter in Dumaguete City, was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen late in the morning of April 30, 2018 and died the afternoon of the next day, May 1.

Sestoso was on his way home to Barangay Daro after hosting his daily program “Tug-anan” over dyGB 91.7 FM when he was attacked.

Hit five times, Sestoso was rushed to the Siliman University Medical Center where he underwent surgery.

A friend* who had been assisting the journalist’s family said Sestoso had texted a relative hours before the incident saying someone was out to kill him.

Sestoso’s wife Lourdes also told his colleagues he had been receiving death threats but had refused to discuss these with her.

Authorities have yet to determine the motive behind Sestoso’s murder. ###

*Names withheld for security purposes

SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER, KEEP POWER IN CHECK!

World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2018
Manila, Philippines

 A Report by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR),
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP),
Philippine Press Institute (PPI), and
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)

RODRIGO R. Duterte’s presidency has altered and controlled the public discourse so radically in its favor in ways rude and bold. Its tragic result: it has restricted and narrowed the celebrated freedom of the Philippine press and the people’s cherished right to know.

In his first 22 months in power, Mr. Duterte has earned the dubious honor of logging 85 various cases of attacks and threats on these dual values that the Constitution upholds as inalienable rights of the citizens. The number far exceeds those recorded under four presidents before him.

Separately and together, these 85 cases — murders, death threats, slay attempts, libel, online harassment, website attacks, revoked registration or denied franchise renewal, verbal abuse, strafing, and police surveillance of journalists and media agencies from June 30, 2016 to May 1, 2018 — have made the practice of journalism an even more dangerous endeavor under Duterte.

These cases project the force of presidential power dominating the political sphere, with zealous support from Duterte allies and appointees, and their sponsored misinformation army online and off. They have hurled at members of the press insults and unfair labels, and allegations of corruption and misconduct without firm basis in fact or in law.

These cases linger amid effete efforts at solution by state agencies, and in the context of the hostile and vicious discourse against the administration’s critics and the critical media.

The President, Cabinet members, and the House of Representatives have imposed and proposed unprecedented restrictions on journalist access to official news events. Congress and executive agencies have denied or delayed the corporate registration or franchises required for operation of media companies.

Some journalists and media groups have also reported police surveillance of their movement and their places of work.

Attacks on press freedom diminish not just the news media. These weaken the capacity of the news media to sustain the people’s unfettered exchange of ideas about public issues. Presidential intolerance of criticism is now a well-established aspect of Duterte’s leadership. While he is not the only chief executive who has become sensitive to press criticism, Duterte has made sure that everyone understands that misfortunes could hound and befall his critics.

And yet Duterte has promised change; his government should wish to tell the people when and where change has come to fruition, and whether it has triggered better or worse results. By keeping citizens and voters fully informed, the media empowers the public to check whether those they elected to power are doing right or wrong.  A free press sustains and strengthens democracy.

So far, that is not quite the situation under Duterte. Intimidated, restrained, and threatened with consequences, the news media have been significantly restricted to report well and fully on the war on drugs, the siege of Marawi, cases of alleged corruption in high office, questions about the wealth of the Duterte family, the public debate on Charter change and federalism, the shutdown of Boracay, and not the least significant, the incursions of China in the West Philippine Sea.

To be sure, the state of press freedom in the Philippines reflects long standing problems that beset the practice of the press, taking into account the economic inequalities among media organizations, the poor pay for many working in the provinces, and the opportunities for corruption for those vulnerable to political manipulation.

The phrase “attacks and threats” has been used by media watch organizations to sum up the many ways in which a free press is weakened, leading to the failure of its function as well as to its own dysfunctional operations.

Attacks and Threats: 22 Months, 85 Cases

By the diligent and independent monitoring of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), from June 30, 2016 to May 1, 2018, the following cases of attacks of press freedom have been recorded under the Duterte administration:

  • 9 journalists had been killed in the line of duty, with their last reports focusing separately on the drug trade, and local crime and corruption.
  • 16 libel cases with mostly by state officials/agencies as complainants, including three that had been filed before June 30, 2016. The courts have dismissed two of these three and acquitted the respondent in the third case.
  • 14 cases of online harassment, perpetrated mostly by Duterte supporters;
  • 11 death threats, after delivering reports critical of public officials, including Duterte;
  • 6 cases of slay attempts, mostly by gunmen riding in motorcycles;
  • 6 cases of harassment, mostly by state officials/agencies;
  • 5 cases of intimidation, mostly by local officials;
  • 4 cases of website attack;
  • 4 cases of physical assault, mostly by local officials;
  • 3 cases of cyber libel;
  • 3 instances of reporters barred from coverage, by the Office of the President;
  • 2 cases of registration revoked or franchise denial;
  • 1 strafing incident that occurred in Region XII; and
  • 1 case of verbal assault in Metro Manila, excluding multiple instances when the President himself took verbal broadsides, cursed, and scolded journalists, and threatened certain media agencies with closure.

Nearly all media platforms had been bruised and battered. The 85 cases have affected journalists and media agencies from radio, 30 cases; online, 22 cases; print, 19 cases; television, 12 cases; and online print/radio/TV and photojournalism, 1 case each.

By gender, nearly a third or 53 of the cases involved male journalists, while 16 female journalists and 16 media organizations make up the balance.

By location, nearly half or 40 of the 85 cases occurred in the National Capital Region or Metro Manila. One case of denial of access imposed by Philippine officials occurred in Singapore, to the prejudice of foreign correspondents working in Manila.

No cases were recorded during the period in four regions: Cagayan Valley (Region II), the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, MIMAROPA (Region IV-B, Southwestern Tagalog) and Northern Mindanao (Region X).

The other regions and their case breakdown follow:

  • Region XIII CARAGA, 7 cases;
  • Region IV-A, CALABARZON, 5;
  • Region V, Bicol Region, 5;
  • Region I, Ilocos Region, 4;
  • Region VIII, Eastern Visayas, 4;
  • Region XI, Davao Region, 4;
  • Region IX, Zamboanga Peninsula, 3;
  • Region VII, Central Visayas, 4;
  • Region XII SOCCSKSARGEN, 3;
  • Region III, Central Luzon, 2;
  • Region VI, Western Visayas, 2; and
  • Cordillera Administrative Region, 1.

Journalist killings

The killing of journalists whether or not in the line of duty is not a new problem. It is linked to other institutional flaws and weaknesses in the government system, not the least of which is the failure to punish, aligned with other conditions described as “a culture of impunity.” Such violence grows as it feeds on the indifference of many, including some working in the media who also believe, as some government officials have claimed, that those who are killed are corrupt. CMFR analysis has shown that corruption has figured only in a small number of cases of journalists killed.

The nine journalists killed during the first 22 months of Duterte’s presidency are a perfect match to the number recorded during the same covered period under Benigno S. Aquino III.

Duterte’s record, however, exceeds those in the first 22 months of Fidel V. Ramos, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and Joseph Ejercito Estrada. In the first 22 months in office of Ramos, five journalists were killed, as would be the case during Arroyo’s term. Three journalists were felled during the same period in Estrada’s tenure.  Arroyo’s total number during her nine years tops the roster, though, as it included the Ampatuan Massacre of Nov. 23, 2009 where 58 persons, including 32 journalists and media workers, were killed.

While cases have been filed against suspects in some of these killings, most have barely received police investigation. Only the hired gunmen have been arrested and tried, with the masterminds escaping arrest and prosecution.

Of the 156 cases of journalists killed in the line of duty since 1986, only 17 have been partly resolved, with the conviction only of the gunmen while the masterminds remain free. In the case of Bombo Radyo-Kalibobroadcaster Herson Hinolan who was killed on Nov. 13, 2004, the murder case filed against convicted mastermind former Mayor Alfredo Arsenio of Lezo town in Aklan province, has been downgraded to homicide.

The trial of the 188 men charged in the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre entered its eighth year in 2017. The alleged masterminds in the killing of 58 people including 32 journalists are among those charged, together with policemen and paramilitaries in the pay of the Ampatuan clan. So far, only 112 have been arraigned. Not one of the accused has been convicted.

A strongman president could go far, if he chooses, to improve the capacity of police for forensic investigation as well as strengthen the prosecutorial skills of lawyers working in the Department of Justice. Such efforts would redound to the benefit of all Filipinos, especially those without the means to hire their own lawyers, and not just the besieged workers of media.

State-sponsored anti-media propaganda

President Duterte has recklessly accused the news media of inaccuracy and bias, of deliberately spreading “fake news” supposedly to discredit his administration. These accusations are echoed mostly online by Duterte supporters, some of whom have even incited others to commit violence against journalists.

Over social media, journalists and media organizations continue to be attacked by regime-sponsored trolls. Hate speech and threats are perennial and rampant occurrences in the comment sections of reports critical of the administration.

The phenomenon can be traced to 2016 when in an obviously orchestrated campaign, some bloggers and social media pages trumpeted Mr. Duterte’s candidacy for his promise of change. When he won the presidency, these same bloggers and pages continued to function as disseminators of his every word and even of false information. This they do while demonizing, along with the political opposition, his critics, dissenters, including journalists doing their mandated duty of reporting the truth.

Attacks on media organizations now include surveillance of journalists by state security forces. A journalist has reported that his news organization had been subjected to an unwanted police visit.  At least two other news organizations have noted plainclothes men around the location of their offices but these organizations decided not to make any attempt to identify who the policemen were and did not report the incident to authorities.

Also reminiscent of martial law, background checks have become a part of Philippine National Police (PNP) protocol for journalists covering the police beat. Members of the PNP Press Corps reported police visits and interrogations. Some of the questions were personal. In January this year, the PNP Chief denied that the checks were going on. But in February, media reported the PNP’s admission that it was indeed doing background checks on reporters newly assigned to cover the PNP.

Controlling the Media

At the center of this shrinking space for press freedom and the people’s right to know stands a leader who has used his power against the press with such hostility and with utter disregard for the constitutional protection of the press from such incursions on press freedom.

Mr. Duterte seems ready to do just as he pleases — heap personal insult at his perceived enemies and proclaim damning charges without evidence to discredit and intimidate the press, from the presidential podium.

Verbal abuse by itself would make the practice of independent journalism more difficult and problematic. But Duterte has unleashed much more violence against the autonomy of the press than has been seen since the overthrow of the Marcos regime in 1986.  Indeed, even without the legal instruments used during the period of Marcos-era martial law, the press has been placed effectively under government control.

All the President has had to do is show how he handles his critics and demonstrate what he is capable of doing to anyone who dares to stand up and oppose him.

It can be a missionary sister who is declared persona non grata and ordered deported with haste. It can be a sitting senator detained for imprecise charges. It can be an individual journalist asking an annoying question in a press conference, who is then shamed by his angry outburst complete with expletives. It can be media organizations whose reporters and photojournalists have tracked the deaths of thousands of men, women, and children, that some have described as extra-judicial killings or EJKs.

Rodrigo R. Duterte has brandished the power of fear. His threats and attacks bear the full weight of his office, the highest in the land. No need to test constitutional limits. All he seems to want to do is to make enough journalists understand that they should be very afraid.

But, like fear, courage could be contagious. And unlike fear that disempowers, courage built on the power of truth and the unity of all in media is a force that empowers.

To stand firm and to stand united for press freedom and democracy, to speak truth to power and to keep power in check — this much the press owes the people. Whoever is president, the paramount duty of a free press in a democracy is to defend and uphold the people’s right to know, in courage and in unity. — CMFR, NUJP, PPI, PCIJ, World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2018

 

Speak Truth to Power, Keep Power in Check

RODRIGO R. Duterte’s presidency has altered and controlled the public discourse so radically in its favor in ways rude and bold. One tragic result: it has restricted and narrowed the celebrated freedom of the Philippine press and the people’s cherished right to know.

In his first 22 months in power, Mr. Duterte has earned the dubious honor of logging 85 various cases of attacks and threats on these dual values that the Constitution upholds as inalienable rights of the citizens. The number far exceeds those recorded under four presidents before him.

Separately and together, these 85 cases have made the practice of journalism an even more dangerous endeavor under Duterte.

From June 30, 2016 to May 1, 2018, these cases include the killing of 9 journalists, 16 libel cases, 14 cases of online harassment, 11 death threats, 6 slay attempts, 6 cases of harassment, 5 cases of intimidation, 4 cases of website attack, revoked registration or denied franchise renewal, verbal abuse, strafing, and police surveillance of journalists and media agencies.

These cases project the force of presidential power dominating the political sphere, with zealous support from Duterte allies and appointees, and their sponsored misinformation army online and off. They have hurled at members of the press insults and unfair labels, and allegations of corruption and misconduct without firm basis in fact or in law.

These cases linger amid effete efforts at solution by state agencies, and in the context of the hostile and vicious discourse against the administration’s critics and the critical media.

The President, Cabinet members, and the House of Representatives have imposed and proposed unprecedented restrictions on journalist access to official news events. Congress and executive agencies have denied or delayed the corporate registration or franchises required for operation of media companies.

Some journalists and media groups have also reported police surveillance of their movement and their places of work.

Attacks on press freedom diminish not just the news media. These weaken the capacity of the news media to sustain the people’s unfettered exchange of ideas about public issues. Presidential intolerance of criticism is now a well established aspect of Duterte’s leadership. While he is not the only chief executive who has become sensitive to press criticism, Duterte has made sure that everyone understands that misfortunes could hound and befall his critics.

And yet Duterte had promised change; his government should thus tell the people when and where change has come to fruition, and whether it has triggered better or worse results. By keeping citizens and voters fully informed about what and how those they have raised to power are doing right or wrong, a free press sustains and strengthens democracy.

That is not quite the situation under Duterte as yet. Intimidated, restrained, and threatened with consequences, the news media have been significantly constrained to report well and fully on the war on drugs, the siege of Marawi, cases of alleged corruption in high office, questions about the wealth of the Duterte family, the public debate on Charter change and federalism, the shutdown of Boracay, and not the least significant, the incursions of China in the West Philippine Sea.

Rodrigo R. Duterte has brandished the power of fear. His threats and attacks bear the full weight of his office, the highest in the land. No need to test constitutional limits. All he seems to want to do is to make enough journalists understand that they should be very afraid.

But, like fear, courage could be contagious. And unlike fear that disempowers, courage built on the power of truth and the unity of all in media is a force that empowers.

To stand firm and to stand united for press freedom and democracy, to speak truth to power and to keep power in check — this much the press owes the people. And whoever is president, the paramount duty of a free press in a democracy is to defend and uphold the people’s right to know, with unqualified courage and unity. #

(This is a pooled editorial issued by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippine Press Institute, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2018 today.

Kodao is an NUJP chapter)

Bislig mayor eyed in broadcaster’s slay

A mayor may face investigations for the killing of a broadcaster and the wounding of his companion in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur Tuesday night.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) said slain broadcaster Christopher Lozada has formally notified them of death threats he received from Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro before his death.

According to PTFoMs, Lozada informed them the mayor texted him “to leave Bislig if you do not want to die” and that “he would step down with Lozada who will go to the cemetery since his days are numbered.”

“As a matter of policy, PTFoMS presumes Lozada’s death as a media killing and falls under its mandate in relation to Administrative Order No. 1 (AO1) of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to protect the life, liberty, and security of media workers,” its statement on the killing yesterday said.

PTFoMS issued a red-flag letter warning Navarro but Lozada was killed on the night the letter was sent to the mayor.

Aside from informing the PTFoMS his life was being threatened by the mayor, Lozada also repeatedly alleged on his Facebook account Navarro’s threats against him.

PTFoMS’s red flag letter to Navarro ordered the local executive to “desist from threatening Christopher Lozada” adding, “in case any untoward incident happens to him, we will include you (the mayor) as possible perpetrator of the same.”

Lozada, host of Prime Broadcasting Network DXBF’s radio program “Kuskos-Batikos,” was shot together with his companion Honey Faith Tuyco Indog on their way home on board their Toyota Vios with Plate No. LGY 124 at Purok 5, Barangay Coleto, Bislig City where he resided.

Lozada led the filing of a complaint against Navarro and 16 other city hall officials with the Office of the Ombudsman which subsequently found the mayor guilty of graft and corruption and ordered his dismissal.

Lozada visited the regional Department of Interior and Local Government office Monday to follow up on the Ombudsman’s order.

“We learned he went to the DILG the day before he was killed to press the agency to immediately serve the dismissal order, which sources say triggered the ambush. He even posted on social media photos of the said visit to DILG,” PTFoMS said.

Navarro claimed he is innocent about Lozada’s killing.

Mayor claims innocence

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in Cagayan de Oro City, Navarro maintained his innocence and even condemned Lozada’s killing.

“I can hold my head up high and say I am innocent and my conscience is clear,” Navarro said Wednesday.

Navarro was in Cagayan de Oro Tuesday to attend the three-day 14th National Organic Agriculture Congress (NOAC) of the League of Organic Agriculture of Municipalities and Cities of the Philippines where he is executive vice president.

“He is like a son to me,” Navarro said of Lozada, whom he claimed was “very close” to him as they were related.

In fact, he told PNA, his family was supportive of Lozada politically.

In a Facebook post, Lozada said he had nothing personal against the mayor, also saying they were in fact related.

On Oct. 14, a few days before he was killed, however, Lozada posted on his Facebook account a graphic containing an alleged order by Navarro to have him killed for P85,000 which resulted in a heated exchange of comments between them.

The following day, Oct. 15, Lozada posted a screenshot of a text message from an unknown source saying he only had 95 days to live.

Navarro has filed three counts of libel case against Lozada in 2012 in relation to the work-related and personal criticisms Lozada hurled against him on-air.

The cases are still being tried in court.

“I am open to any investigation and I will face in court anybody who’s interested to file (cases against me),” Navarro told PNA, adding he would “look into it (Lozada’s killing)” and order “a fair and proper investigation of the case be extended to the family so the truth will come out.”

Impunity

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Lozada’s killing, if work-related, may be the fifth case of media killing under the Rodrigo Duterte government and the 178th case of media killing since 1986.

 In a statement Thursday, the NUJP said Lozada’s murder shows how impunity has become so entrenched in the Philippines.

“That Lozada’s killers got him indicates that they were not the least bit worried about being caught,” the NUJP said.

“As experience has taught us, most often the reason for this is that the killers are under the protective mantle of someone powerful or influential enough who is also most likely is the mastermind,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bicol broadcaster survives attack

Carlos ‘Caloy’ Sasis. (Photo by Angel de Mesa, Baretang Bikolnon)

A Bicol broadcaster survived an attack by two gunmen earlier this week as he was about to park his car in front of their radio station in Legazpi City.

Carlos Sasis, 41, anchor of daily radio program “Dos Manos” over Zagitsit News FM 100.3 told independent media outfit Baretang Bikolnon he heard gunshots and bullets hitting the wheels of his car just as he arrived at the station.

Sasis added he saw a bulky gunman trying to reload his gun after the first volley of fire.

The victim said he believed the attack was meant to harass him, “because if they really wanted to kill me, they should have just shot me straight, not (at) my car.”

Baretang Bikolnon quoted a witness as saying the gunmen had coffee at an eatery in front of the radio station along Imelda C. Roces Avenua in Barangay Gogon before the shooting.

Asked for possible motives behind the attack, Sasis said he himself was puzzled.

“I cannot think of any reason for them to do this to me. Personally, I do not aggravate anyone, even at my service as a barangay official,” he stated.

Sasis is a councilor of Barangay Cabangan, Camalig, Albay Province.

Police recovered three spent cartridges and an unspent bullet from the scene.

Baretang Bikolnon reported the police is in possession of a “clear footage from the CCTV.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines issued an alert on the attack Friday.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) for its part said they have already sent a team to Legazpi City Thursday to conduct an investigation.

“We are on it,” PTFoMS executive director and Presidential Communications Office Undersecretary Jose Joel M. Sy Egco said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva / Photos by Angel de Mesa, Baretang Bikolnon)