August 3, 2006 · Posted in: Journalist Killings, Media

Looking beyond the killings

“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:

Under investigation

  • 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)

Ongoing trial

  • 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)

Pending prosecution

  • Rowell Endrinal (Albay, print/radio)
  • Gene Boyd Lumawag (Sulu, online)
  • George Benaojan (Cebu print/radio)
  • Albert Orsolino (NCR, print)

8 Responses to Looking beyond the killings



August 3rd, 2006 at 8:53 pm

“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.”

Does this mean it’s also practical to assassinate the masterminds
than relying on a slow-paced, non-existent justice system run by mostly corrupt individuals?

Imagine reading the following the minute you wake up:


I wonder what would happen to the Philippines if corruption were assassinated altogether.

This country is a modern jungle inhabited by cannibals hunting for money and killing for more. For the rest of us, how do we survive for a better life? Eye for an eye?



August 4th, 2006 at 12:46 pm

What percent of the total number of people murdered in the Philippines do journalists account for?

Just wondering why (or maybe this is actually a no-brainer) why mudered journalists get more media coverage than all the rest of murdered Filipinos.




August 4th, 2006 at 12:50 pm

Also noted the heading in the second slide: “Death Toll in the Arroyo Administration” (italics added by moi.

What exactly are you implying here?

If you are implying what I think you are implying, then it kinda smells a bit like the fallacy ad hoc ergo propter hoc — i.e. precedence does not necessarily establish a causal relationship with the subsequent state.


Manuel L. Quezon III: The Daily Dose » Blog Archive » Pacquiao’s prize: Manila

August 4th, 2006 at 5:08 pm

[…] PCIJ blog: cheaper to hire assassins than to sue for libel. […]


tongue in, anew

August 5th, 2006 at 3:20 am

I wonder how the graphs for the leftist victims would look like.



August 5th, 2006 at 8:49 pm

Slain journalists are counted because its more than a murder case of an innocent victim, it also represents a threat to press freedom for the entire country….
It’s not just a whim that media counts media…



August 6th, 2006 at 9:43 am

Un-“counted” murders of non-journalists, for that matter, all murders pose a threat to all of society.

To express outrage for the murder of journalists as if this development is a threat above all other murders is hypocrisy at its finest — honed by the finest of spin-doctor minds.

If we want to address the issue of piling corpses of journalists, then lets address murder in our society in the broader sense.


INSIDE PCIJ » 2006: The ‘worst year’ for journalists

January 5th, 2007 at 7:13 am

[…] “The culture of impunity today is almost exclusively used to explain the continuing assassination of journalists in the Philippines,” he said, “It is based on a paradox: Its power is rooted in the weakness of the Philippine justice system. But equally evident is the feeble will on the part of the political authority to protect citizens including journalists.” (See post: Looking beyond the killings.) […]

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