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Philippines January 10, 2012
H.E. Benigno Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines
Fax: (011.63.2) 735.6152
As the New Year begins, the Philippines has logged its first murder of a journalist for 2012. We refer to the shooting death of Christopher Guarin, a radio commentator gunned down in front of his wife and daughter on January 5 after his evening broadcast.
As in many such assassinations, Guarin was shot by two men who rode up to his car on a motorcycle and shot him with a .45 pistol through the window. Then they followed him as he tried to escape out of the car and finished him with a total of 6 bullets as he lay on the ground. Guarin was killed near General Santos City on the island of Mindanao, the home province of many other Philippine killings of journalists.
Your Excellency, we at the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) join other international press organizations in outrage at the hesitation of your government to bring killers like those of Guarin to justice. Murder of journalists with no consequences for the killers has become a way of life in your country. Even so, local broadcasters like Guarin continue to speak out, ignoring the death threats piled up around them. According to press reports, Guarin read one such threat on his show just hours before being murdered. The text message was said to warn him not to leave the radio station on pain of death.
We understand that Guarin was a free-lance broadcaster who bought time on the radio station to deliver his commentary. As a purchaser of “block time,” he, like others who have been murdered in your country, had no official organization behind him. If there are other circumstances behind the killing besides commentary, it is vital that your government produce the facts. As it now stands, when hired killers snuffed out Guarin’s life and your political and police forces remained bystanders, that sends a clear message to others that killing a commentator, just like the past murders of reporters, is okay.
Last October, after Roy Bagitakan Gallego, another block time broadcaster, was gunned down, we at the OPC wrote that your nation had become a killing field for journalists, with 56 unsolved murders. Unlike war correspondents, these journalists were murdered while covering political campaigns, exposing corruption or, like Guarin, offering commentary. In other words, they were exercising the most basic rights of free speech. With his death bringing the total to 57 unsolved journalist murders, this is a national disgrace.
Your Excellency, you still have time to make a mark and distinguish your administration from those of past leaders. But the time is short. We urge you to begin prosecutions immediately.
Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.
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
Fax: (011.63.2) 400.5059
The Editor, Manila Times