Press Release
May 17, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today deplored the lackluster government support for the prosecution of perpetrators of the killings of journalists and for the needy members of their families.

Pimentel was dismayed by a report of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) that not a single centavo of the P5 million fund put up by Malacañang has been released to the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ).

The fund was supposedly made available by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. for cash reward for information leading to the capture of the assassins and masterminds, protection of witnesses and assistance to families of the victims.

The shocking revelation by the CMFR that the so-called Press Freedom Fund with an initial amount of P5 million has not been released casts doubts on Arroyo administrations sincerity and determination to solve the media killings and prevent the occurrence of new ones, Pimentel said.

The opposition senator issued the statement in the wake of the slaying of another journalist, 45-year old Albert Orsolino, a reporter of the Saksi tabloid.

Pimentel bewailed that the failure to solve most of the journalists killings and to bring the culprits to justice have emboldened the sinister forces to carry out their wicked mission of harassing, harming and murdering members of the media, particularly those who have been courageously writing about government corruption and the criminal activities in the communities.

Pimentel also accused Malacañang and the Philippine National Police of giving misleading information to the public by claiming that most of the media killings that happened under the Arroyo administration have been solved.

Data from the CMFR showed that 28 journalists were killed in line of duty since 2000. The PNP claimed more than half of these cases have been solved.

However, Pimentel said the CMFR pointed out that in only one of these cases community journalist Edgar Demalerio of Pagadian City was there a conviction of the killers.

Four cases are still on trial, 6 are yet to be prosecuted and five have been dismissed.

Pimentel said the PNP considers a murder case solved if the lawmen have identified the suspect and filed the corresponding case in court even if they have not arrested the suspect or suspects and they have not bothered to gather sufficient evidence to make the case stand and prosper in court.

With sloppy police investigation work, government prosecutors could not expected to successfully prosecuted the cases in court, the minority leader said.

Pimentel said the CMFR report confirms the widely-held suspicion that the PNP and the Palace are window-dressing the efforts to solve the slaying of journalists.

He said the government is trying to conceal its poor record in solving the media killings and in protecting journalists in a desperate bid to repair the damage caused by the criticism of the New York-based Reporters Without Borders that the Philippines is the second most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq.

Pimentel said the governments lack of resolve is solving the media killings is best illustrated in the dismissal of the murder charges against the killers of community journalist and anti-graft crusader Marlene Esperat.

Esperat was gunned down insider her home in Tacurong City in March, 2005. Her three assassins confessed that they were hired to kill her and even identified the persons who paid them for the crime. Pimentel said it was incredulous that the murder case against Esperat was thrown out by the court despite the strong evidence against the accused.

The senator from Mindanao also lamented that the aid promised by the President to the orphaned children of Esperat and the prosecution of her case did not materialize.

The FFFJ had to rely on the funds raised by a network of international media organizations to help finance the murder trial of Esperat and the needs of her children.

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