27 June 2005
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer
By Nikko Dizon
TWO INTERNATIONAL groups yesterday said that the murders of Filipino journalists were far from solved, contrary to the government’s claims.
“It’s a long difficult road and not enough has been done, in my opinion,” Abi Wright, Asia Program Coordinator of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said in a news conference.
Wright, along with Roby Alampay, executive director of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa), and Lin Neumann, executive editor of The Standard of Hong Kong, recently concluded a week-long research tour around the country. The delegation met with the families of the victims, journalists, media executives, police and justice officials, and local government representatives.
Wright said the government’s definition of “solved cases was misleading, that justice had not been served in the vast majority of cases and that journalists in remote provinces remained vulnerable to fatal attacks.”
Alampay said: “The police definition of ‘solved’ is the identification of the suspects and they are ready to file cases. There are no actual arrests and identification of the masterminds. It’s still a long way off from bringing people to justice and actually putting them behind bars. Of all the cases the government has investigated so far, only a handful has come close to true resolution.”
According to the mission, nothing less than the conviction of killers and the actual masterminds behind the murders should indicate the government’s success in the campaign against violence against journalists.
Wright also said another problem was “systemic,” pointing to the huge backlog of cases before trial courts.
Culture of warlordism
She said the government should have the political will to address the “culture of warlordism” and the “culture of impunity,” especially in the rural areas where journalists are most vulnerable.
“In half of the cases, mayors and local government officials were mentioned as masterminds, and police officers were actually hired to commit the crimes,” Wright said.
The mission also urged the media to continue focusing on the issue, following up investigations into the murders in order to compel the police and courts to expedite the prosecution of cases.
Alampay also stressed that the joint mission went to the Philippines to focus international attention on the perils journalists faced in the country–described as the “most murderous” for journalist. Since the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, the Inquirer tally of murdered journalists stood at 93.
Alampay also said it was “refreshing and inspiring” that journalists and media executives the mission spoke to had acknowledged that addressing ethical issues, the need for reforms, and elevating industry standards were also solutions to the problem.
“Journalists are taking a hard look at themselves now. The question to the government is what about you?” Alampay said, adding that the bottom line was no one had the right to take someone else’s life.
He thumbed down the gun training seminars for journalists sponsored by government officials and the police.
“It’s basically a cop-out. They give you the gun and wish you good luck when it is their job to protect you,” Alampay said.
(The article was published on Page A1 of the June 27, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquire.)