April 16, 2024

Press Freedom


Philippines May 14, 2012

H.E. Benigno Aquino III
Malacanang Palace
Republic of the Philippines
Fax: (011.63.2) 735.6152

Your Excellency: 

We thank your government for its words of support for journalists on World Press Freedom Day.  Sadly, the echo of those words was still sounding when yet another Philippine journalist was assassinated.  Nestor Libaton, 45, an anchor for the church-run, DXHM Radio, in the southern city of Mati in Davao Oriental province in Mindanao, was shot dead on May 8 as he rode a motorcycle driven by a fellow reporter.

His murder follows by two weeks the killing of Michael Jayson Calanasan, 36, a reporter for the local, Laguna Courier, newspaper.  He was shot by two gunmen, also while riding a motorcycle in the province of Laguna.  Fortunately, his wife who was with him, was not harmed.

The Philippines ranks third on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2012 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free.  The reason is clear: attacks against journalists are frightfully common in the southern tip (particularly on Mindanao island) of the Philippines and almost always remain unpunished.  From 1996 to 2008, government records show at least 76 journalists have been killed in the Philippines.  Journalist groups list 104 slain over a similar period.  Those who wish to silence journalists exposing corrupt or other illegal activities find that murder is often the best option, as they will most likely never be brought to justice.

This shameful impunity has affected journalistic practices in the country, forestalling investigative reporting on sensitive issues and increasing self-censorship.  It has also tainted the international image of the Philippines and its democratic institutions.

In your World Press Freedom Day statement, you again pledged to protect journalists.  But we find it ironic that you said, "Every time we hear of an attempt on media personnel, we immediately inform the Philippine National Police.”  Clearly, the police are among those who need to be investigated.  Elements of the police have fueled the hostile climate against journalists and are suspected of targeting journalists in several ways. 

The Overseas Press Club of America, an independent organization that has defended press freedom around the world for more than 70 years, asks you to live up to your words and take real action to protect Philippine journalists so that they can be the strong independent voice that is vital to any democracy.

Thank you for your attention.  We would appreciate a reply.

Respectfully yours,

Tom Squitieri
Larry Martz
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 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
Fax: (011.63.2) 301.2399

Philippine National Union of Journalists
Barangay Sacred Heart
105-A Scout Castor, Quezon City
Fax: (011.63.2) 400.5059

The Editor, Manila Times

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC  20520