A Filipino Journalist and a Hit List

Carlos Conde, a Manila-based freelance journalist who writes primarily for the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and other publications (and infrequently for Asia Sentinel) discovered Monday to his shock that his name had appeared on an "order of battle" apparently prepared by the intelligence staff of the 10th Infantry Division in Southern Mindanao.

Conde, in a formal statement to the press, said he wasn't completely sure what that meant, but the implications are that the 100 names on the list are marked for assassination. One of the 100 was killed last year.

In March, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists charged that the murders of 24 Filipino journalists remain unsolved, one of the highest number of media killings in the world.

"While President Arroyo has established task forces dedicated to solving journalists' murders—and last week even created dedicated police tracker teams to find suspects that have eluded arrest warrants—the statistical reality is that no journalists' murders have received full justice since the Impunity Campaign was launched or when her myriad task forces were formed," said CPJ southeast Asia representative Shawn Crispin. "We will continue to condemn her administration's poor record until the situation substantially and genuinely ameliorates," he added.

In recent years extrajudicial killings of political activists have been denounced by Human Rights Watch and others as a government-sanctioned "dirty war" against left wing opponents. The "order of battle", except for Conde, names activists, most of whom are not doing anything illegal but they are nonetheless killed with impunity

Although the CPJ quoted presidential deputy spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo stressed that the government is doing its part in addressing the killings, the fact is that the government has made no effort whatsoever to solve the murders.

"We are working very hard to improve human rights conditions, not only for journalists but for all Filipinos," Fajardo said. Perhaps she could contact the 10th Infantry Division in Mindanao.

Here is Carlos Conde's public statement, along with a fervent suggestion on the part of Asia Sentinel that he had better not turn up dead. Asia Sentinel also suggests that the United States government, the Philippines' largest aid donor and an active military partner in seeking out Islamic militants in Mindanao, send its ambassador to see Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and tell her to get her government to stop making up these lists.

Carlos Conde :

"I found out yesterday that my name is included in the Armed Forces of the Philippines's "order of battle," specifically in a document titled "JCICC 'AGILA' 3rd QTR 2007 OB VALIDATION RESULT" purportedly prepared by the intelligence staff of the armed forces' 10th Infantry Division in Southern Mindanao.

In this "order of battle," more than a hundred individuals – mostly leaders and members of progressive and leftist groups like Bayan, Bayan Muna, among others – are listed and classified as "organized," "dominated," or "targeted." As far as I can tell, I am the only journalist on the list, which classifies me as "targeted," whatever that means.

The army considers me an enemy of the state, as the document, which shows the alleged links of these individuals with the communist movement, seems to be saying.

Needless to say, this "order of battle" has caused anxiety and fear in my family because, as we all know, an "order of battle" in the Philippines is a veritable hit list. Indeed, at least one of the individuals in the document – Celso Pojas, a peasant leader in Davao City -- was assassinated last year and several others have either been attacked or subjected to harassment and intimidation by agents of the armed forces.

Just to be clear, I am a journalist and has been so during the past 15 years. Presently, I work as a freelance correspondent for US-based publications, namely The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and GlobalPost.com. I also contribute stories and reports every now and then to other foreign and Philippine publications.

I used to be the coordinator of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in Davao City and Southern Mindanao, where I resided until three years ago. I was the NUJP's secretary-general from 2004 to 2006. Part of my job at the time was to lead the campaign in the Philippines to stop the killings of journalists. The Philippines, as we all know, is notorious for being the world's most murderous place for journalists. The NUJP is also listed in the "order of battle."

Why my name is included in the "order of battle" is a mystery. Unless, that is, the armed forces considers my and NUJP's advocacy for press freedom, as well as pressuring the government to end the killings, as the work of enemies of the state. Unless the Armed Forces of the Philippines views my job and my writing as threats to my country."