Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Opinion
Yes, journalists are killed in the time of Duterte
By Bong Lacson

May 15, 2018

I CEDE my space to this statement of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) issued last May 10, 2018.

The NUJP stands by its findings that nine journalists have been killed under the Duterte administration. NUJP bases its stand on independent investigations done by its Media Safety Office and chapters nationwide.

NUJP considers all cases of media killings as work-related, unless duly proven otherwise.

This is the Union’s response to the article by Vera Files that media groups erred on figures on media killings (VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Media groups err on figures on media killings; Roque claim on press freedom wrong, May 9, 2018).

The names reported to the media during a press conference on World Press Freedom Day last May 3 was a consolidation of reports from the NUJP and the Center for Media and Responsibility. NUJP is surprised that Vera Files came up with its story without verifying with our Media Safety Office.

Below are the case profiles of the nine journalists killed under the Duterte administration.

Surigao broadcaster first killed under Duterte administration

Just two weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, newly-elected Surigao provincial board member and broadcaster Apolinario Suan Jr., became the first journalist to be murdered under the new administration.

Suan, a radio anchor at Real FM station in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur, was on his way home from the radio station when attacked by men aboard a van along the national highway in Sitio Tandawan, Barangay San Vicente, Bislig City on July 14, 2016 at around 2 in the afternoon.

He was critically wounded during the attack, while his brother and escort, Dodong Suan, died on the spot. The broadcaster’s two other escorts were injured.

Suan slipped into a coma and died two weeks later on July 28.

In a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Bislig City police director Supt. Rainier Diaz said Suan’s killing may be connected to his work as a broadcaster.

A friend* of Suan told the NUJP the broadcaster threw hard-hitting commentaries against Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro even before he was elected as board member of the province. Suan had also received death threats before he was killed, the source said.

Catanduanes newspaper publisher slain

Larry Que, publisher and columnist of the community paper Catanduanes News Now, was the second journalist killed under the Duterte administration. Que was assassinated by motorcycle-riding killers as he was entering his office in Virac around 9:30 a.m. on December 19, 2016.

Shortly before he died, Que had written a column accusing local officials of negligence following the discovery of a major drug manufacturing facility in the province.

On May 2, 2017, Que’s partner Edralyn Pangilinan filed a murder complaint with the Department of Justice in Manila against Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua, police officer Vincent Tacorda, Cua’s aide Prince Lim Subion and several “John Does”.

Tacorda has reportedly admitted having been ordered, alleged by Cua as relayed by Subion, to kill Que in the guise of the police’s anti-drug “Operation Tokhang.” Subion had reportedly been sending death threats to Que before his murder.

A colleague and close friend of Que, Marlon Suplig, said aside from the murder charge, Tacorda is also robbery and extortion charges because he allegedly asked the slain publisher’s family for P10 million in exchange for evidence in the case.

Despite the charges, Tacorda remained in active service a year after the killing.

A year since the complaint against Cua and the other suspects was filed, Que’s family is still waiting for the Department of Justice’s resolution.

Broadcaster-university professor killed in Ilocos Sur

Northern Luzon lost its first journalist under the Duterte administration when Mario Cantaoi was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen on the national highway in Barangay San Ramon, Magsingal town, Ilocos Sur the night of January 7, 2017.

Aside from working at Catholic churchowned radio station dzNS, Cantaoi was also a professor at University of Northern Philippines.

Provincial police director Senior Supt. Rey de Peralta was quoted in a news report as saying Cantaoi’s work as a journalist was not likely a reason for the broadcaster’s murder, although to date authorities have yet to determine the motive. The victim’s wife also said her husband had no known enemies.

But the environmental advocacy group Kalikasan PNE believes Cantaoi’s commentaries against the destruction of the environment and the militarization of communities opposed to mining led to his killing.

Blocktime radio anchor shot dead in Kidapawan City

Marlon Muyco, who hosted a blocktime program over dxND Radyo Bida in Kidapawan City, Cotabato province, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding killers in Barangay La Suerte, M’lang town the afternoon of February 2, 2017.

His daughter, who was with him, was wounded in the attack.

Police investigators said the killers had been tailing the host of the program “Abyan sa Kalambuansa Banwa Sang M’lang (Your Friend in the Development of M’lang Town)” and struck when the victims reached a secluded area.

Authorities identified one of the suspects as Boyet Patubo, who they described as a “gunfor-hire.” They said Patubo was seen fleeing toward Antipas town where his brother is a barangay chairman.

Police have yet to ascertain the motive for Muyco’s murder.

Hard-hitting Masbate columnist gunned down

Remate columnist Joaquin Briones, a former commentator of station dyME, was gunned down as he was heading home around 8:45 a.m. of March 13, 2017 by motorcycle-riding killers on Bombom Bridge, sitio Feeder Road, Barangay Bacolod, Milagros town.

A news report quoted Inspector Anselmo Prima of the Milagros police as saying the likely motive for the murder was either local politics or personal grudges.

But the same story quoted Remate managing editor Lydia Buena as saying the killing was likely triggered by Briones’ hard-hitting reports on sensitive topics like illegal fishing, illegal gambling and the drug trade. Briones had been receiving death threats before he was killed.

In the meantime, Leonardo del Rosario, aka Pandoy, a suspect in the Briones murder was himself killed along with his father and another companion when police tried to arrest them. Del Rosario allegedly led a crime gang in Masbate.

Journalists in Masbate described their colleague’s fate as an extrajudicial killing. However, the Briones family has yet to file charges against the suspects.

On the other hand, Briones’ daughter* says her father might have survived his injuries if responding police had immediately taken him to a hospital. The listed cause of death were not the gunshots but massive blood loss.

She claims her father was taken around the town plaza and allegedly shown to townsfolk by the police before he was brought to the hospital.

Broadcaster shot dead in Zamboanga del Sur

On August 6, 2017, Rudy Alicaway, 47, was on his way home after hosting his weekly community affairs program “Tigmo-tigmo” over radio station dxPB in Sitio Lopez, Barangay Culo, Molave town in Zamboanga del Sur, when motorcycle-riding gunmen shot him dead.

Station manager Rocel Navarro said Alicaway never tackled controversial issues.

Aside from hosting his program, Alicaway was a councilor of Barangay Miligan in Molave.

The motive for his murder remains undetermined to date.

Sultan Kudarat native first Mindanao journalist slain since martial law

On August 7, 2017, Leodoro Diaz, 60, of President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat province became the first Mindanao journalist to be murdered since President Rodrigo Duterte declared the southern island under martial law on May 23, 2017.

The reporter of RMN’s Cotabato City station dxMY and columnist of the tabloid Sapol, Diaz was heading to Tacurong City from his home when ambushed by motorcycle-riding gunmen.

Before this, he had been receiving death threats and had been harassed by armed men at his home in Barangay Katiku, President Quirino.

Diaz’s daughter* believes he was killed because of his hard-hitting columns on corruption, illegal gambling and drugs in his hometown even if, as she pointed out, he seldom, if ever, identified the subjects of his criticism.

Before his death, Diaz had reportedly informed colleagues he was writing about illegal drugs.

His daughter dismisses observations he might have been killed because he planned to enter politics. She said that was just a “joke.”

Murder charges have since been filed against a suspect, “Toto” Tamano, remains at large.

Radioman shot dead day after Ombudsman ousts Bislig Mayor

Christopher Lozada, 29, a program host at station dxBF of Prime Broadcasting Network, was involved in the filing of charges against Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro over the questionable purchase of a P14.7-million hydraulic excavator in 2012.

On October 23, 2017, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered Navarro and 11 others dismissed from the service over the alleged anomaly.

Around 9 p.m. the next day, Lozada was driving home when gunmen in a van opened fire, killing him. His common-law wife, Honey Faith Indog, was wounded in the attack.

According to his sister*, before his murder, Lozada had been receiving a series of death threats sent from an unknown number. One of the texts said: “95 days ka nalang, umalis ka nadito sa Bislig kundi papatayin kita (You have 95 days left. Leave Bislig or I will kill you).”

She said they have not been able to file charges against the suspected killers, Rolly Mahilum and Felixberto Villocino, and Navarro, who the family has accused of ordering Lozada’s death, because the former mayor is monitoring them.

The principal witness, Lozada’s partner Honey Faith, has been enrolled in the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice but her family reportedly lives in fear because Navarro is keeping an eye on them.

Before the Ombudsman resolution dismissing him, Navarro allegedly offered a car and a P50,000 monthly allowance to Lozada to make him withdraw the case but the broadcaster refused, saying: “Kahit mahirap po kami, ayaw kong magkaroon ng ganyang kalaking pera kung galing naman sa masama (Even if we are poor, I do not want to earn that much money from wrongdoing).”

Lozada was insistent about filing charges against Navarro. “Kahit ikamatay ko pa, gagawin ko ang dapat (Even if it costs my life, I will do what is right).”

Dumaguete broadcaster declared dead after gun attack

Broadcaster Edmund Sestoso, former chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chapter in Dumaguete City, was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen late in the morning of April 30, 2018 and died the afternoon of the next day, May 1.

Sestoso was on his way home to Barangay Daro after hosting his daily program “Tug-anan” over dyGB 91.7 FM when he was attacked.

Hit five times, Sestoso was rushed to the Siliman University Medical Center where he underwent surgery.

A friend* who had been assisting the journalist’s family said Sestoso had texted a relative hours before the incident saying someone was out to kill him.

Sestoso’s wife Lourdes also told his colleagues he had been receiving death threats but had refused to discuss these with her.

Authorities have yet to determine the motive behind Sestoso’s murder.

*Names withheld for security



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