December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Philippines

OPC Asks Philippine President-elect to Stand Up Against Impunity

H.E. Benigno Aquino, Jr.
President-elect
Malacañang Palace
Manila
Republic of the Philippines
Fax: (011.63.2) 735.6152

Your Excellency:

Congratulations on your recent election to the presidency, and our best wishes for a successful term in office.

The Overseas Press Club of America, an independent organization that has defended press freedom around the world for more than seventy years, calls your attention to the deplorable record of the Philippines in protecting independent journalists from attacks in retaliation for their work of informing public opinion.  According to your country’s National Union of Journalists, 140 journalists and other media workers have been killed since the late President Ferdinand Marcos left office in 1986 and democracy was restored.

The three latest of these tragic cases, in just the past two weeks, were Joselito Agustin, a broadcaster with DZJC Aksyon Radyo in Laoag City; Desiderio Camangyan of Sunrise FM in Mati City; and Nestor Bedolido, a reporter for the weekly tabloid, The Kastigador, in Digos City.

Agustin was assassinated by two men on motorcycles, an all-too-common killing technique in the Philippines.  Camangyan was shot and killed while he was hosting an amateur singing contest.  In both cases, police are said to be investigating whether the journalists were killed for work-related reasons, but pending the results of those investigations, the assumption has to be that they were.  Agustin and Camangyan were both known for their unrelenting attacks on corruption, illegal logging and other controversial issues.

Bedolido was assassinated while he was buying cigarettes from a street vendor.  The killer escaped on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice.  We understand that police are working to establish a motive for the murder.

Your Excellency, we are well aware that not all of our colleagues in your country are dedicated solely to uncovering the truth.  Some have been politically motivated (we understand that Camangyan recently campaigned for a local politician, and that Bedolido, who had criticized a local office holder, had also campaigned for his rival).  Some journalists have even used their positions to seek bribes for withholding information.  So we do not automatically assume that all victims are martyrs to press freedom.  However, the record of impunity for killers of journalists over many years in the Philippines is truly horrifying.

We hope that your administration will signal a quick end to this sorry state of affairs.  As Colombia has proved in recent years, when killers of journalists are brought to justice and it becomes clear that impunity no longer reigns, the murder rate can rapidly decline.  We hope you will preside over a similar triumph of justice during your term in office.

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.  We would appreciate a reply.

Respectfully yours,

Larry Martz   
Kevin McDermott
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H.E. Willy C. Gaa
Ambassador of the Philippines to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines
1600 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20036
Fax: (202) 467.9417

Ambassador Hilario G. Davide, Jr.
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
556 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10036
Fax: (212) 840.8602

H.E. Harry K. Thomas, Jr.
U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines
Embassy of the United States of America
1201 Roxas Boulevard
Manila
Philippines
Fax: (011.63.2) 301.2399

Philippine National Union of Journalists
105-A Scout Castor
Barangay Sacred Heart, Quezon City
Philippines
Fax: (011.63.2) 400.5059
nujp_manila@yahoo.com

The Editor
Manila Times
eMail: Newsboy1@manilatimes.net