Press Release
January 25, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today assailed the half-hearted efforts of the government and law enforcement authorities in preventing and solving the killings of journalists amid a report of the International Federation of Journalists that has tagged the Philippines the second most dangerous place for newsmen, after Iraq.

Pimentel hurled the criticisms in the wake of the murder of two more journalists last week broadcaster and public relations practitioner Rolando Canete of Pagadian City and broadcaster-columnist Graciano Aquino of Morong, Bataan.

He said the governments sincerity and determination in protecting journalists and solving the murder case are under a cloud of doubt in the light of the revelation of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) that not a single centavo of the P3 million Press Freedom Fund has been released in the form of reward for informants on the cases and assistance to the families of the victims.

The Press Freedom Fund consists of a donation of P1 million from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and P2 million from Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. The fund, which was turned over to the Philippine National Police, was set up in the aftermath of the slaying of community newspaper columnist and anti-graft crusader Marlene Esperat in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat in March, 2005.

Pimentel also deplored the governments failure to identify the masterminds behind most of the killings of journalists and to break up the gun-for-hire syndicates that are responsible for the senseless assassination of members of the media profession, particularly in the provinces.

He said the PNPs report of the President that 90 percent of the murder of journalists has been solved does not jibe with facts, as attested to by the NUJP and National Press Club.

With the perceived lackluster government efforts in solving these murder cases, the slayings of working journalists have persisted as the price they had to pay for exposing graft and other venalities in the government and society. The gunmen and the masterminds behind these killings seem to have no compunction in carrying out this ghastly crime, the lone senator from Mindanao said.

On Jan. 20, broadcaster and PR man Rolando Canete, 60, was walking on his way home in Barangay Kawit in Pagadian city when two motorcycle-riding gunmen approached him and shot him at close range. Canete was the 8th newsman to be killed in Pagadian City.

The following day, DZRH radio reporter and Central Luzon Forum columnist Graciano Aquino, 40, was shot dead inside a cockfight arena in Barangay Poblacion in Morong, Bataan.

Last year alone 10 journalists were murdered in the Philippines. War-torn Iraq accounted for the death of 35 journalists in the same period.

NPC records showed that at least 72 Filipino journalists have been slain since 1986.

Pimentel requested PNP Director General Arturo Lomibao to furnish his office and the Senate committee on public information and mass media the complete report on the investigation and prosecution of murder cases involving journalists.

He said the report of the PNP Task Force Newsman that 90 percent of the journalists killings has been resolved should be checked and validated in view of the assertion of NPC president Tony Antonio that so far only one such murder case that of community newspaper publisher-editor Edgar Demalerio, has been fully solved with the courts conviction of his killer.

Pimentel said he was heartened by a report that a Cebu City Regional Trial Court has rendered a verdict on the murder of photojournalist Allan Dizon, by convicting killer, Edgar Belandres, last week.

Dizon, 30, a reporter-photographer of the Freeman daily and Banat tabloid, was gunned down near SM City Cebu on Nov. 27, 2004.

Pimentel said the spate of killings of journalists poses a grave threat to press freedom in the country aside from wreaking havoc on the lives of their lived ones and families.

He lamented that the repulsive tag on the Philippines as the second most dangerous country for journalists has not only brought national shame but has also had the effect of scaring foreign tourists and investors.

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