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Lapid’s family hopes for mastermind’s identification after surrender of alleged gunman

The family of slain broadcaster Percival Mabasa, popularly known as Percy Lapid, called for the identification of the mastermind behind his killing following the surrender of the alleged gunman.

Interior and local government secretary Benhur Abalos presented in a press briefing Tuesday 39-year-old Joel Salve Estorial who said he was the one who fired at and killed Mabasa last October 3.

Estorial said he surrendered out of fear for his life when the Philippine National Police (PNP) made public his likeness last week captured from closed circuit television footages.

The alleged gunman said orders came from inside the National Bilibod Prison and he and five cohorts were paid P550,000 for the job.

Estorial claimed that he was forced to fire the gun or he himself will be killed by those who ordered the killing.

The press briefing did not identify who ordered the assassination. Reporters were not allowed to ask questions during the briefing.

Mabasa’s family said that while they would like to thank the PNP, they hope the development would lead to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the mastermind.

“We hope Percy does not become part of the statistics and continue to clamor for justice for Percy and the nearly 200 journalists killed since 1986,” the family’s statement adds.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it welcomes the arrest of the suspected gunman.

The media group described the surrender as a positive development towards accountability for his murder.

“Accountability in this case will help chip away at the culture of impunity around journalist killings that media, civil society and government agencies have been working to change,” the NUJP said.

“We join the Mabasa family, Ka Percy’s listeners and supporters, and the journalism community in monitoring developments in the case and in waiting for justice for his death,” the media group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gunmen kill broadcaster; murder earns swift condemnation

Gunmen killed a broadcaster in Las Pinas City on Monday, the second media worker killed under the three month-old Ferdinand Marcos Jr. presidency.

Percival Mabasa, known in the broadcast industry as Percy Lapid, was declared dead on arrival at a local hospital after two gunmen aboard a motorcycle fired at least two gunshots at the victim.

Described as a hard-hitting broadcaster, he was a critic of several Marcos and Rodrigo Duterte government officials.

Mabasa’s family said they are deeply saddened and angered by what they described as a “brutal and brazen killing of fearless broadcaster, father and husband, brother and friend.”

“We strongly condemn this deplorable crime; it was committed not only against Percy, his family, and his profession, but against our country, his beloved Philippines, and the truth,” the family said.

They added that the victim was highly respected by his listeners as well as peers and foes alike.

“His bold and sharp commentaries cut through the barrage of fake news over the air waves and on social media,” they added.

Mabasa was host of Lapid Fire radio show that aired on DWBL. Previously, he was a broadcaster with radio station DWIZ.

On his YouTube channel, Mabasa commented on the dangers of red-tagging, including that of the recent harassment of Manila Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar who ruled against the government’s proscription of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations.

Mabasa also recently commented on the security risks of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators and on historical distortion of Martial Law.

The victim is the second journalist to be killed under Marcos Jr. administration.

Radio broadcaster Rey Blanco was stabbed to death in Mabinay, Negros Oriental last September 18.

Immediate condemnation

Media and human rights organization also condemned the killing and joined Mabasa’s family in calling for justice.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Mabasa’s murder shows that journalism remains a dangerous profession in the country.

“That the incident took place in Metro Manila indicates how brazen the perpetrators were, and how authorities have failed to protect journalists as well as ordinary citizens from harm,” the NUJP in a statement Tuesday said.

The Pinoy Media Center condemned Mabasa’s murder and called it another politically-motivated case of extrajudicial killing “to silence truth seekers and media practitioners.

The People’s Alternative Media Network also condemned the murder it said is part of a landscape of violence and intimidation against journalists and citizens.

The National Press Club and the organization of justice beat reporters also issued statements calling for justice for Mabasa.

Human rights group Karapatan joined in the calls for an independent investigation to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Karapatan also said it will join the condemnation rally organized by the NUJP at the Boy Scouts monument in Quezon City at six o’clock tonight. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

JOURNALISM IS NOT TERRORISM

Journalism is not terrorism. (NUJP image)

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) memorandum ordering the blocking of the two media outfits’ websites, and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s shutdown order against Rappler are part of the systematic campaign against independent media.

These recent incidents aim to drown out the truth on one hand, and to drumbeat disinformation and misinformation on the other hand.

Just recently, the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) once again labeled the NUJP as a communist front.

The red-tagging of journalists is a deliberate attempt to discredit, isolate and render the Philippine media irrelevant. We are not taking all these sitting down.

Today, Bulatlat.com is filing a petition before the Courts to have the NTC order stopped and dismissed. We are fighting back. We will persevere in speaking truth to power. History is on our side. Press freedom will always remain a pillar of every democracy while those who sought to curtail press freedom were always repudiated and consigned to the dustbin of history.

#defendpressfreedom

NUJP, PTFOMS back OSG to have ex-Palawan governor rearrested

Mario Joel Reyes and brother are alleged masterminds in the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2011

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) renewed its call for justice for slain Palawan broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega as the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) urged the Supreme Court (SC) to have former Palawan governor Mario Joel Reyes rearrested as alleged mastermind in the murder case.

The media union said it also supports Reyes’ continued trial in the 11 year case.

“We welcome moves by the Office of the Solicitor General and the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) to have him (Reyes) rearrested,” the NUJP said.

In a formal motion earlier this month, the OSG has argued that “essential requisites” are absent in the High Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order that allowed Reyes to leave jail.

“There is now a finding of strong evidence of petitioner’s guilt, there is no invasion, much less a material and substantial invasion of [his] right should he be ordered re-arrested,” the OSG argued.

NUJP said a murder suspect like Reyes who can that evade arrest and go about his political business can influence the case.

“[W]hile Reyes may be within his rights to run for office, it is likely that he does not have the right to do it outside of government custody,” the group said.

NUJP added that Reyes’ temporary freedom may only embolden those who seek to silence the critical press and put the entire media community at greater risk.

PTFOMS supports OSG petition

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) also said it “fully backs and supports” OSG’s move for the lifting of the SC’s March 23, 2022 TRO favoring the alleged mastermind.

“We believe that the evidence of guilt is strong in the criminal case filed against Reyes in connection with the slaying of Gerry Ortega,” PTFOMS executive director and Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco said in an April 27 statement.

PTFOMS pointed out that Reyes was tagged by his former bodyguard Rodolfo Edrad as the mastermind behind the killing of Ortega, who had criticized the former governor for the supposed destruction of the environment in the province.

Also implicated in the killing is his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes. The two are running for governor and mayor, respectively, in the May 9 elections.

Earlier, Egco also supported OSG’s investigation into the 2018 Court of Appeals decision to release Reyes from detention due to alleged insufficiency of evidence in the murder case.

In 2019, the CA reinstated the murder charges against the former Palawan governor.

Ortega family to press for justice

In a statement issued during a press conference on Wednesday, Ortega’s widow Patty said their family believes the slain broadcaster will still be given justice.

“I believe there is justice. I believe that the Supreme Court will do what is right so justice will prevail,” she said.

Patty said she is grateful to the NUJP, PTFOMs and other groups who have continuously offered support for their quest for justice for her slain husband. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP demands arrest of media killing ‘mastermind’

Joel Reyes campaigning to reclaim Palawan governorship despite arrest warrant

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called for the arrest of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, alleged mastermind in the killing of Palawan broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2011.

In a statement on Ortega’s 11th death anniversary on Monday, January 24, the NUJP said former Palawan governor Joel Reyes is campaigning to reclaim the top provincial post even as he remains a fugitive from law.

“[N]ot only is former governor Joel Reyes evading his warrant of arrest for Ortega’s killing, he is running for Palawan governor, according to news reports, and is campaigning while a subject of a manhunt,” the media group said.

Reyes and brother and former Coron mayor Mario fled the country in 2012 to evade arrest related to Ortega’s murder.

Both were arrested in Phuket, Thailand in September 2015 but were freed by the Court of Appeals (CA) in January 2018.

The appellate court however reversed itself and ordered the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa to “issue a warrant of arrest against the petitioner (Joel) and to conduct proceedings in Criminal Case No. 26839 with purposeful dispatch” in November 2019.

“What is clear is that due to a Court of Appeals directive in 2019, the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa had released an arrest warrant against him for [the] murder [of Ortega],” NUJP said.

Reyes is also facing separate graft charges over the alleged misuse of P1.5 billion in Malampaya funds.

Ortega, an environmentalist and known critic of the Reyeses, was the first media killing under the then Benigno Aquino government.

The broadcaster was shot in broad daylight in downtown Puerto Princesa City after leaving radio station DWAR.

The NUJP said the lack of justice over Ortega’s murder and Reyes’ bid for the governorship despite a graft conviction add to the impunity that has surrounded attacks against journalists as well as land and rights defenders.

READ: NUJP: Where is justice in Doc Gerry’s killing?

The group added the lack of justice in Ortega’s killing is emblematic of the culture of impunity in the Philippines, reminding them how the powerful seem to make a mockery of the justice system.

“We stand with the Ortega family, Doc Gerry’s colleagues and friends in the environmental movement and colleagues in the media in calling for justice and in demanding the service of the arrest warrant against Reyes,” NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media groups reveal renewed Baguio PNP red-tagging of journalists

Media groups slammed renewed efforts by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Baguio City to red-tag journalists it alleges are members of Leftist organizations.

In an alert, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said at least two journalists in the Cordillera region have been invited to a fake dialogue with the Baguio City Police earlier this month that turned out to be a witch-hunting activity against journalists and activists.

On January 14, the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club Inc. (BCBC) and NUJP’s Baguio-Benguet chapter said BCBC president Aldwin Quitasol was invited by the Baguio City Police to attend a so-called dialogue that turned out to be part of its Community Support Program White Area Operation (CSP-WAO), a component of the government’s Oplan Kapayapaan targeting suspected sympathizers of communist rebels in conflict-affected areas.

The second journalist refused to be identified.

 ‘Stop red-tagging’

In their joint statement BCBC and NUJP Baguio-Benguet demanded a stop to the red-tagging and witch-hunting of journalists.

“We are strongly concerned by the renewed effort of the (PNP) to drag us in their counterinsurgency campaign through Dumanon, Makitongtong (Seek and Talk), which the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) adopted from Oplan Tokhang of the Duterte administration,” the local media groups said.

Whatever name it carries, the PNP’s counter-insurgency campaigns involving journalists as well as activists aims to harass and intimidate, they added.

“We urge law enforcers to cease this madness, stop targeting activists and the media in their counterinsurgency actions. We also call on local governments to take a stand and protect the people against institutionalized red-tagging and political vilification,” BCBC and NUJP Baguio-Benguet said.

Human rights violations

This month’s incident is not the first time that Baguio City Police has accused journalists of links to supposed Communist fronts.

In February 2021, the Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee in CAR endorsed tokhang-type campaigns against alleged left-leaning personalities, including activists and the media.

The proposal was quietly dropped after widespread criticism, but police officials last August revived the proposal for the so-called seek and talk strategy against alleged members of left-leaning organizations, the NUJP said.

Cases of red-tagging in the Cordillera Administrative Region rose to 15 incidents in 2021 from eight complaints filed in 2020, the NUJP, quoting the Cordillera office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR-Cordillera), said.

The campaign is patterned after the tokhang campaign used in the Rodrigo Duterte government’s so-called war on drugs that, according to government data, has killed at least 6,000 victims, it added.

Following earlier police summons of Quitasol, CHR-Cordillera in June 2021 issued a resolution warning that red-tagging — linking individuals and groups to the communist armed rebellion — violates human rights.

Other rights organizations, including the UN Human Rights Office, have also warned against the practice, which they said can lead to harassment and physical attacks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media groups slam energy secretary’s libel charges against 18 journalists

Media groups said the multiple libel charges filed against seven news outfits and 18 reporters by a Rodrigo Duterte government official and a campaign donor are meant to intimidate journalists from reporting perceived corruption in government.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP), and the Cebu City Press Council (CCPC) said in separate statements they deplore the libel charges filed last week by energy secretary Alfonso Cusi and Duterte campaign donor Dennis Uy against the news outfits.

“These complaints, filed at the same time across seven news organizations, are clear harassment suits meant to intimidate and chill the press,” the NUJP said.

“We view the libel complaints filed against seven news organizations as an assault to press freedom. It sends a chilling effect as this clearly signals that the media would incur the ire of government officials and businessmen even if they do their best to ensure that their stories are factual, accurate and objective,” the EJAP said.

“If Cusi didn’t know basic journalism and constitutional protection of free press and free speech, his publicists and lawyers do. We, in the community media, share the distress of the country’s journalists over the Cusi lawsuit,” the CCPC for its part said.

MALAMPAYA DEAL COMPLAINTS

Cusi announced Friday, December 3, he filed libel charges before the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office last against 18 Manila Bulletin, ABS-CBN News, BusinessWorld, Rappler, Philippine Star, GMA News, and Business Mirror journalists and officials.

In his statement, Cusi said he filed the complaint last November 29 “to defend his family’s honor, and to send a strong message that there is a fair and humane way to settle misunderstandings and differences without resorting to malicious news reporting.”

Uy reportedly filed counts of libel and cyberlibel against Business World’s Wilfredo Reyes and Bianca Angelica Añago; Anjo Bagaoisan of ABS-CBN; Benjamin Ramos of Business Mirror; and private citizen Rodel Rodis.

Cusi and Uy’s charges stemmed from October 19 news reports on a graft complaint filed against the pair by Balgamel de Belen Domingo, Loida Nicolas-Lewis and Rodis before the Ombudsman.

The complainants allege that Cusi, along with other respondents, conspired to favor Uy’s Udenna Corporation in the sale of Chevron’s share and transfer of rights in the Malampaya Project.

Domingo, Nicolas-Lewis and Rodis said the supposed irregular transaction resulted in “a minimum of over P21 (billion) to P42 billion in total losses to the government.”

‘DECRIMINALIZE LIBEL’

The Energy secretary demands the news organizations and the journalists pay P200 million in fines for damaging his “reputation and good standing in government.”

The NUJP however said the amount from each of the seven news organizations could cripple them if enforced.

“Even if it isn’t, the lawyers’ fees that these news organizations would have to pay to answer the complaints and the time it would take to address them — time that could be spent on reporting — are enough to send a chill,” the group said.

“It is meant to say: be careful what you report next. It is the textbook definition of a chilling effect,” it added.

The NUJP, EJAP and the CCPC said the subjects of the libel complaints were news reports based on a press conference, a press release, and a complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman that are “all fair game in journalism, especially that it is about a public official involving a tax-funded project.”

“The journalists did not accuse him; the complainants did. The journalists only covered the complaint,” the NUJP added.

The NUJP and EJAP said they reiterate calls to decriminalize libel. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Group reveals attacks on media and human rights websites

Digital platforms linked to the Rodrigo Duterte government launched attacks on the websites of alternative media outfits and a human rights organization, a Sweden-based digital forensics group revealed.

Several internet protocol (IP) addresses linked to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine Army attacked the websites of media outfits Bulatlat (Bulatlat.com) and Altermidya (Altermidya.net) and human rights group Karapatan (Karapatan.org), Qurium Media Foundation reported.

Qurium said that it was able to identify a vulnerability scan an attack on Bulatlat.com last May 18 by a machine from the DOST network with IP address 202.90.137{.}42.

The vulnerability scan sought potential weaknesses in the targeted network without permission from the system owner, Qurium said.

The group said the IP address’ certificate was registered to IP Solutions, Inc., a supplier of hardware and services to Philippine government agencies.

Another unit under the same IP address was registered to a certain “[email protected] Taguig Red Server.”

The “army.mil.ph” is the official domain and website of the Philippine Army.

The IP address was also traced to an edit in the Wikipedia entry “Chief of the Army (Philippines)” last June 10, 2021, Qurium said.

The series of attacks also included “HTTP flood attacks”, a type of volumetric Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack designed to overwhelm a targeted server with seemingly legitimate HTTP requests.

Kodao was first to announce of an intense DDoS attack that coincided with the attacks on AlterMidya, Bulatlat and Karapatan.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has issued separate alerts on both reports. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CHR: Democracy needs a free press

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) underscored the role of a free press in a democracy, even as it noted the Philippines’ steady decline in the World Press Freedom Index in the last four years.

In her keynote message for a journalists and human rights defenders’ project Friday, May 28, CHR executive director Jacqueline Ann de Guia said democracy needs a free press to thrive and survive.

“It is the power of a free and independent media—to be a watchdog, to promote transparency and accountability, and to amplify the voices of the weak, disadvantaged, and marginalized—that put pressure on government to be responsive to the needs of the people,” de Guia said.

De Guia however expressed alarm at the state of press freedom in the country, adding that international group Reporters Without Borders has noted continuing attacks against mass media, journalists and other human rights defenders in the past four years.

“The state of press freedom in the country is a cause for concern for CHR. In the past four years, data from the World Press Freedom Index shows a continuous decline of the Philippines from 133rd out of 180 countries in 2018; to 134th in 2019; 136th in 2020; and 138th in 2021,” de Guia said.

De Guia spoke at the project launch of Safeguarding Journalists and Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines by various media groups led by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication and the International Media Service.

Other attendees included members of the Journalists Safety Advisory Group (JSAG) that crafted the Philippine Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists (PPASJ) last November 2019 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre.

The JSAG included the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Center for Community Journalism and Development, and the Philippine Press Institute.

Commission on Human Rights executive director and spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia. (AIJC photo)

In her address, de Guia said the press must maintain its ability to expose corruption, demand redress of grievances, and call out lies and propaganda in favor of truth.

She added that the press must equally allow the people to decide better and demand more from the government that bears the obligation to uphold and protect the human rights of all.

The last four years have seen journalists, media workers, and media organisations being repeatedly confronted by a dangerous and hostile climate marked by episodes of harassment, silencing, and even death.

“And with the closure of ABS-CBN, we have greatly felt the gap in delivering critical information in hard-to-reach communities to help them cope and survive disasters, calamities, and this current Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

De Guia said that the CHR’s Task Force on Media-Related EJKs (extrajudicial killings), with regional desks in its Bicol, Cotabato and Cebu regional offices, is ready to investigate attacks against the press.

“Thus far, 21 media killings have been docketed for investigation in different CHR regional offices covering July 2016 to May 2021. We are also investigating 7 cases involving 20 victims of other alleged human rights violations, including unlawful/arbitrary arrest/detention, frustrated killings, and red-tagging,” she said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Habang lumiliit ang democratic space, mas kinakailangan nating itulak na maging malaya’

“Napakahalaga, lalo na sa panahon ng pandemya, ang tapat at malayang pagbabalita. Habang patuloy tayong pinipilit na sumabay sa opisyal na pahayag ng pamahalaan at habang lumiliit ang democratic space sa Pilipinas, mas kinakailangan nating itulak na maging malaya.”Jonathan de Santos, Chairperson, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines