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OPC Denounces Philippine Impunity for Journalists’ Killers
H.E. Benigno Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines
Fax: (011.63.2) 735.6152
It has been almost 2 years since the worst atrocity in modern journalism — -the cold blooded mass murder of 32 Filipino journalists along with 25 other civilians took place in Maguindanao province on November 23, 2009. The victims were beheaded, mutilated, shot and dumped in a mass grave.
Two governments, yours and that of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, have said the investigation continues. Meanwhile, unopposed killing continues.
On October 19, the latest victim, radio broadcaster Roy Bagitakan Gallego, was shot while riding his motorcycle in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur province. According to reports by the Committee to Protect Journalists and others, Gallego was an activist who was planning to launch a new radio program. He was outspoken and critical of mining activities in the province.
On October 7, Johnson Pascual, editor-in-chief of Prime News newspaper in Isabela province, was shot by two men on a motorcycle while driving his van at 7.30 a.m. According to police, he died when his van plunged off the road.
On August 24, radio commentator Niel Jimena of Negros Occidental province was shot and killed, again by two gunmen on a motorcycle, as he was riding home. A local press report said the 42-year-old radio commentator had received a threat from a businessman he had criticized on his show.
On June 13, commentator Romeo Olea of Iriga City in Camarines Sur province died after being shot in the back while riding his motorcycle to work. Police said there was a strong possibility the killing was work-related.
No one can make a definitive connection between four new killings this year of provincial journalists and commentators and the mass murders of 2009, except for one clear fact. The inability of your government and those before you to bring the perpetrators to justice has created a culture of impunity that exceeds any we have seen even in some of the world’s most dangerous places for the press. In many cases, the names of the alleged killers are known and some have been detained. But unless you bring them to trial in a way your nation and the world can witness, you have failed in your most basic responsibility to protect free speech.
With 56 unsolved murders, the Philippines ranks third in the world as a killing ground for journalists, just behind the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. That is a huge stain on your nation.
Your excellency, like all leaders, you inherited a host of difficult issues when you took office on June 10, a year ago — from economic improvement to social justice. But tolerating the wanton murder of reporters and commentators, no matter what their editorial positions, is beyond the pale for any democracy. We urge you to prosecute those charged and show — as still a new leader — that you will not accept killing as a method to silence free speech.
Robert J. Dowling
Freedom of the Press Committee
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 Libran N. Cabactulan
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
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
The Editor Manila Times