“IT’S cheaper to hire an assassin than to hire a lawyer. In Pagadian you could hire an assassin for P5,000 while a lawyer’s acceptance fee there for libel is P20,000. So for the warlords, instead of suing radio commentators and journalists who criticize or expose them, they just hire assassins.”
Such is among the cruel realities that Filipino journalists live with, remarked Rachel Khan, journalism professor at the U.P. College of Mass Communication, during her presentation yesterday of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility’s updated study on media killings under the Arroyo administration. (Last year, the PCIJ also did a report on Pagadian City and how it has earned the ignominious reputation as the murder capital of the country as far as journalists are concerned owing to the proliferation of hired assassins and loose firearms.)
Khan is also the coordinator of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) at the CMFR, which has been monitoring attacks and threats to journalists since its founding in 1989. As the number of deaths has reached an all-time high, she said the Center was compelled to do an analysis that looks beyond the killings to see if there are common denominators among the slain journalists.
The CMFR study, titled In Search of Solutions: A Study of Journalists Killings in the Philippines, was first made public in September last year. Some of the study’s findings regarding slain journalists in the past five years (2000-2005) included the following:
- None were affiliated with any national news organization.
- Most were working for the provincial press as freelance journalists or radio block timers, covering local issues and exposing anomalies.
- Common targets were tongue-lashing, crusading broadcast journalists.
- Majority were killed near or inside their homes or offices.
“It is our hope that a better understanding of their professional background and the situation of provincial journalists can contribute to lessening this looming threat to press freedom,” Khan said.
Below are some of the updated figures of the study, which will be published in full in the CMFR magazine, Philippine Journalism Review, this September.
So far, the only successful prosecution has been the murder of Edgar Damalerio which led to the conviction of former police officer Guillermo Wapile in November 2005. Wapile was meted the penalty of life imprisonment. Below is the status of the other cases:
- Mohammad Yusoph (Zamboanga del Sur, radio)
- Rhode Sonny Alcantara (Laguna, print/TV)
- Bonifacio Gregorio (Tarlac, print)
- John Belen Villanueva (Albay, radio)
- Juan “Jun” Pala (Davao del Norte, radio)
- Nelson Nadura (Masbate, radio)
- Klein Cantoneros (Zamboanga del Norte, radio)
- Rolando Morales (South Cotobato, radio)
- Ricardo Uy (Sorsogon, radio)
- Robert Ramos (Laguna, print)
- Orlando Mendoza (Tarlac, print)
- Fernando Batul (Palawan, radio)
- Apolinario Pobeda (Quezon, radio)
- Roger Mariano (Ilocos Norte, radio)
- Marlene Esperat (Sultan Kudarat, print/radio)
- Philip Agustin (Aurora, print)
- Herson Hinolan (Aklan, radio)
- Candelario “Jhun” Cayona (Zamboanga del Sur, radio)
- Noel Villarante (Laguna, print/radio)
- Rico Ramirez (Agusan del Sur, radio/TV)
- Arnel Manalo (Batangas, print/radio)
- Elpidio Binoya (South Cotabato, print/radio)
- Rowell Endrinal (Albay, print/radio)
- Gene Boyd Lumawag (Sulu, online)
- George Benaojan (Cebu print/radio)
- Albert Orsolino (NCR, print)