Killings of Filipino journalists reaches crisis proportions

THE KILLING of journalists in the Philippines, the Constitution of which guarantees the protection of press freedom, has reached its most critical level since 1987.

The Marcos dictatorship was overthrown in 1986, but six journalists were nevertheless killed the year after. The 1987 killings, however, were then regarded as part of the transition period from dictatorship to democratic rule.

Despite 17 years of democratic restoration, however, the killings have continued at an average of three per year. Six journalists have so far also been killed this year, doubling the average since 1986. This year’s figure so far and that of 1987’s are the highest recorded number of journalists in any other year in the Philippines.

The latest victim was Juan “Jun” Porras Pala, Jr. who was killed on September 6, 2003 while he was on his way home. The other journalists killed earlier this year were John Belen Villanueva, Jr. of Legazpi City (April 28); Apolinario “Polly” Pobeda of Lucena City (May 17); Bonifacio Gregorio of Tarlac City (July 8); Noel Villarante of Sta. Cruz, Laguna, (August 19); and Rico Ramirez of San Francisco, Agusan del Sur (August 20).

Ironically, this year’s killings occurred in the context of calls by media organizations and media advocacy groups for the apprehension of the killers of journalists in years past, and the organization of the Freedom Fund For Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) specifically to help protect journalists and to call national and global attention to the killing of Filipino journalists.

It has been one year and four months since broadcast and print journalist Edgar Damalerio was killed in 2002, but the prime suspect is still at large. Damalerio was shot dead on May 13 that year in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, 780 kilometers south of Manila.

The prime suspect, a policeman named Guillermo Wapille, escaped police custody on January 28, 2003. The Damalerio case would have marked the first time that anyone had been charged, detained and possibly punished for killing a journalist since 1961. Fifty-nine journalists have been killed in the line of duty in the Philippines since 1961. Of this number, forty-two were after 1986, when democratic institutions were restored in the Philippines after 14 years of dictatorship.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

– Send appeals to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to condemn the killings and to instruct the police to solve them.

– Write a letter of protest urging immediate action to Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Joey Lina for the immediate capture of former Police Officer 1 Guillermo Wapille.

APPEALS TO:

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
President of the Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila Philippines 1005
Voice: +63 (2) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: 63 (2) 736 1010
Email: president@gov.ph
Jose D. Lina, Jr.
Secretary, Department of Interior and Local Government
Tel. Nos. 925 0320 to 23
Fax: 925 0332
Email: osec@dilg.gov.ph

The members of the FFFJ are the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), as well as individual members Ermin Garcia, Jr., Sunday Punch publisher, and Danilo Gozo, publisher of Philippine News.

The FFFJ represents a national effort by the journalism community to protect journalists in crisis and works in coordination with international groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), Article 19 Global Campaign for Free Expression, and the Southeast Asian Press alliance (SEAPA).

**The information contained in this autolist item is the sole responsibility of CMFR**

20 September 2003
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)