No concrete answer why 26 journalists have been killed

“If you have to kill a snake, kill it once and for all.” — Japanese Proverb

By Alex P. Vidal

Philippines Hostages KilledAs community journalists, we have heard in brutal details how some of our colleagues were killed in cold blood by hired assassins. Sometimes they died in the line of duty like cops and soldiers in battlefields.

When we joined the press after the EDSA Revolution, the country was already becoming one of the most dangerous places on earth for journalists, a notoriety that hasn’t changed until today.

Extra-judicial killings and other forms of harassment continued unabated under the Cory administration — even after Marcos has fled. FVR, Erap and Gloria have failed to curb the culture of impunity, as well.

Journalists, labor leaders, and other activists disappeared like shallow lakes in the summer season. They were summarily executed sometimes in front of their family members and in broad daylight.

Back in November 2009 at Camp Pendelton in Oceanside, California, an American soldier asked why I was in tears while I was reviewing the news in the internet. “My colleagues were massacred in the Philippines,” I replied in a cracked voice. I cried in horror because of the magnitude of that massacre.

MAGUINDANAO

I was referring to the Maguindanao massacre on November 23, 2009. Of the 58 victims, 34 were community journalists. Two of them were my former roommates at the Hyatt Hotel in Manila way back in the 90s when we were still active members of the Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PAPI).

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called the Maguindanao massacre the single deadliest event for journalists in history. Until now, justice has continued to elude the victims and their families.

When an American journalist, who accompanied President Barrack Obama in Manila last April 28, brought the matter of media killings during a joint conference, President Noynoy Aquino was caught flat-footed. In fact, he failed to satisfy this very straight-to-the-point and simple question: “President Aquino, as a journalist, I’d like to ask you why 26 journalists have been killed since you took office. And I understand that there have only been suspects arrested in six of those cases. What are you doing to fix that?”

President Aquino’s answer: “With regards to the killing of journalists, perhaps we should say from the outset that I don’t have the figures right here before me. But we did set up an inter-agency committee to look on extralegal killings and forced disappearances, torture, and other grave violations of right to life, liberty and security of persons.

FIGURES

“And in this particular body, there has been — I have the figures for labor-related issues — there were 62 suspected cases of extrajudicial killings referred to it, and of the 62 investigations before this committee, there have been 10 that have been determined to fulfill the criteria and the definitions of what constitutes an extrajudicial killing. Of the 10 cases that have been determined to be possible EJK cases, only one happened during our watch — the case of Mr. Estrellado.

“Now, as far as journalists are concerned, perhaps the track record speaks for itself. The Maguindanao massacre involved something like 52 journalists, and there are presently something like over 100 people who have been indicted for this crime and are undergoing trial. That doesn’t mean that we have stopped trying to look for others potentially involved in this particular killing. And may we just state for the record that even when it comes to journalists, it is not a policy of this state to silence critics. All you have to do would be to turn on the TV, the radio, or look at any newspaper to find an abundance of criticisms.

INVESTIGATIONS

“Now, having said that, investigations have been done. Anybody who has been killed obviously is a victim, and investigations have been ongoing. If at times we do not reveal the discoveries by our intelligence agencies and security services, perhaps we are very sensitive to personal relationships by the people who are deceased who were killed not because of professional activities, but, shall we say, other issues. But having said that, they were killed. That is against the law. And the people will have to be found, prosecuted and sent to jail.”

Why they were killed and what is the president doing to fix the killings? President Aquino has failed to break the back of the camel in this very fundamental question. No assurance that the culture of impunity will end. No assurance that justice will soon be served on the fallen members of the Fourth Estate.


4 Responses. Have your say.

  1. ben oteyza says:

    Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are fundamental pillars of democracy. Control and suppression of the truth is the goal of foes of democracy and justice.
    The journalists are killed, silenced or corrupted by opponents of truth and fair play in order that evil and illegal pursuits may be perpetrated, unchecked and unfettered. Justice delayed and frustrated is justice denied.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      And the sad part, it’s been over two years since the trial began and no progress. It took a matter of minutes to snuff the life of the innocent victims, the government have witnesses and strong evidence to hang these sorry excuses for humanity and still no closure for the victims and their families. We have the most boisterous people working for the justice department, most vocal and yet the only ones that they are able to put in prison are those small time crooks committing petty crimes. It is so predictable what’s going to happen next to the pork barrel scandal, Enrile will probably be six feet under by the time the trial start, Jinggoy will have plenty of time to enjoy his new mansion, Panday will continue to make movies defending the oppressed and the other guilty parties will be enjoying their stolen pork chops somewhere where De Lima and company could’nt reach them. In the meantime, new corrupt blood in the government will be plotting their next move how to rip the Filipino people off of what’s rightfully theirs and our beloved country will continue to be on the list of the most corrupt country in the world, a prestigious title that our kababayans seemed to be so proud of.

  2. Sluggo Rigor says:

    Simple enforcement of the law is what is at stake here!
    After five years? Can’t gov’t see the injustice here?

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      Like I said Sluggo, enforcement of the law applies only to those who can’t afford an expensive lawyer. A man who gets caught stealing a loaf of stale bread to feed his starving family will be in prison in no time, yet those good for nothing politicians who also gets caught stealing millions of the people’s money are free to flaunt their stolen loot by building expensive mansions and filling their bank accounts. And those murdering SOB’s are probably receiving VIP treatments while in detention. Philippine justice system is so great ain’t it?

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