More Filipino Journalists Murdered

Two journalists murdered in less than 24 hours. Is there any doubt that impunity is alive and well in the Philippines?

"These two latest killings emphasize that people in power and the gunmen they employ are confident that they can commit murder and get away with it," said Mike Dobbie, project consultant with the International Federation of Journalists, in an email what he feels about this whole thing.

According to the Associated Press, Two motorcycle-riding gunmen shot Jovelito Agustin, 37, a reporter and anchorman of local radio station DZJC Aksyon Radyo in northern Ilocos Norte province, Tuesday night, said police official Sterling Blanco. He was killed in Laoag city as he and his nephew rode a motorcycle home after an evening broadcast, Blanco said. Agustin died in a hospital before dawn Wednesday, while his nephew was slightly hurt.

According to the AP story, DZJC reporter Nick Malasig said Agustin told co-workers he had received threats through text messages, and suspected a local politician he criticized on air for alleged corruption could be after him.

Tuesday's attack happened less than 24 hours after another radio broadcaster was killed, the story said. A gunman shot Desidario Camangyan of Sunshine FM radio as he hosted a singing contest in southern Davao Oriental province. Journalists there said Camangyan often criticized politicians and illegal loggers on his radio program.

The Philippines is one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists. In the world's deadliest single assault on media workers, at least 30 reporters and their staff were among 57 people massacred Nov. 30 in the province of Maguindanao in the southern Philippines. The victims were in a vehicle convoy targeted in political violence before the May national election.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said Dobbie, "stands condemned for her failure to act to end the culture of impunity surrounding the murder of 102 journalists during the nine years of her administration. She will continue to be accountable for what has taken place during her years in office."

Dobbie said the ball is now in the hands of incoming presidnet Benigno S. Aquino III. Aquino, he said, "must move swiftly and decisively to ensure that the authorities aggressively pursue those responsible for all the murders of journalists since 1986. And every effort must be made to provide safety and security for journalists who are at risk simply for doing their jobs serving their communities."

He noted that Filipino journalists have been campaigning hard for an end to impunity, for proper investigations and prosecutions to take place, and for every effort to be made by the government and employers to ensure journalist safety and security.

"The harassment and murder of journalists in the Philippines has captured global attention and it's encouraging to see that, increasingly, journalists who have been harassed are bringing cases against those who have attempted to intimidate them."

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines released a statement this afternoon echoing the call for an end to impunity, saying that Aquino should hit the ground running.

"Two broadcasters, from opposite ends of the country, murdered in as many days. One hundred and thirty-seven media workers killed since 1986, 102 of them under this thankfully soon-to-be-gone administration.

"Nothing makes a stronger case for our contention that there can be no honeymoon on justice for president-elect Noynoy Aquino.If he is to make good on his campaign promise of good governance, he should take the murders of Davao Oriental's Desiderio Camangyan and Ilocos Norte's Joselito Agustin as a personal challenge to end the culture of impunity that has for so long emboldened those who seek to silence the independent Philippine press, making a mockery of our claims to being a democracy.

"These killings, barely half a month before a new administration takes the reins of government, clearly indicate that the enemies of press freedom remain confident that they can continue to escape accountability even under a new dispensation.

"If there is any pronouncement Aquino will be justified in making even before he is inaugurated, it is to send an unequivocal message to our law enforcers and justice officials to end the killings, arrest the perpetrators, convict and jail them.

"And lest we forget, in the same manner he has promised to make his predecessor accountable for the corruption that marked the past nine years, we also call on him to make her equally accountable for the apathy her administration showed toward the bloodiest period in the history of the Philippine media."

Carlos Conde blogs at Dateline Manila for the Asian Correspondent, with which Asia Sentinel has a content sharing agreement.