Press Release
October 3, 2023

Keeping the Flame of Freedom Alive: Case Study of Percy Lapid Mabasa
University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City
October 3, 2023


Magandang magandang umaga po sa ating lahat, mga kasama.

Allow me to greet:

My colleague, former and hopefully soon to be again Senator Kiko Pangilinan;

Our National Artist Virgilio Almario;

Our friends from the diplomatic community, including

Laure Beaufils, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Philippines;

Dalibor Micka, charge d' affaires of the Czech embassy in Manila;

Samantha Parkes, of the United States embassy in Manila and

Renuka Randhawa, second secretary, political section of the UK embassy in Manila;

President Jimenez of the University of the Philippines;

Likewise ang lahat ng kabataan na pag-asa ng Inang Bayan na nandito;

Veronic and Ka Roy, Glenda Gloria and Kara David.

Let me also greet our organizer, the Center for People's Media- Philippine Media Advocacy Asia (CPM-PMAA), our friends from the academe, as well as Ka Percy's friends and colleagues in the media.

I thank all of you for lending your time, your ideas, and your support for this important discussion.

Exactly one year ago, Percival Mabasa, or Ka Percy Lapid, paid the ultimate price for speaking truth to power.

Ka Percy was killed by men who sought to silence him and end his fiery brand of journalism. After all, his reporting offended and irked people of power and influence. From corruption, human rights abuses and government mismanagement, Ka Percy was never afraid to tell the truth, and to advocate for what is right.

For Percy Lapid, the truth was always worth telling - no matter how difficult, unpopular, or deadly it is to do so.

His story, unfortunately, is all too common in our supposedly free and democratic country. In 2022, the global watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists ranked the Philippines as the 7th most dangerous country in the world for media workers, only behind active warzones like Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and South Sudan.

After Ka Percy's killing, the list of slain Filipino journalists has only grown longer. In June of this year, broadcaster Cresenciano Bunduquin was killed in Oriental Mindoro - the third media personality to be killed during the administration of this president.

Beyond threats of physical violence, Filipino media workers also operate in an environment where journalists may be slapped with civil, criminal or administrative charges due to their reporting - as in the case of independent online outfit Rappler.

Our journalists have to deal with rampant disinformation and propaganda campaigns - especially in the online space - which not only affect their reach and distribution, but also incite real-world violence against those in the media industry.

Make no mistake: these attacks on journalists - whether physical or otherwise - represent a worsening challenge to Philippine democracy itself. Every slain journalist weakens our collective ability to speak truth to power, to demand justice, transparency and accountability, and to defend our basic rights.

Upholding press freedom, and protecting our journalists starts with the promotion of the rule of law. To dismantle the culture of impunity regarding media killings, we must identify, investigate and prosecute those behind these heinous acts.

The Philippines has a sorry track record when it comes to achieving justice for media killings. According to a report in 2022 by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), of the 176 media workers killed in the Philippines since 1986, only 19 have resulted in convictions.

Ka Percy's case offers a unique opportunity to turn things around and set a model for obtaining justice in media killings. Earlier this year, several high-ranking government officials were formally indicted for their roles in the death of Ka Percy, including former BuCor chief Gerald Bantag.

I remain hopeful that Bantag and the other accused individuals on the run will be brought before the courts to face the charges against them. I believe that, sooner rather than later, justice for Ka Percy's death will be achieved.

While we continue to clamor for the successful investigation and prosecution of media killings, we should also work on fostering an environment that guarantees journalists not only safety from physical violence but also legal harassment.

In the Senate, I have filed Senate Bill No. 1593, which seeks to finally decriminalize libel in the Philippines, and end the weaponization of criminal laws to stifle the freedom of the press.

Alongside our growing coalition of partners within and outside the Senate, I will continue to push for the decriminalization of libel. I believe that more and more people are seeing that journalists should not be made to face criminal charges simply for doing their jobs.

It is clear that much of the reforms which must be undertaken to stop media killings and better protect press freedom in the Philippines lie with the government. However, that does not mean that the rest of the country, and the world, should only watch and hope for the best.

Every voice and demand for justice counts - be it from the inside the government, the diplomatic circle, the academe, the media industry and even everyday Filipinos. We must never tire of standing in solidarity, and of speaking up for those who could not.

Friends, we owe it to Ka Percy, and to every single journalist slain in the line of duty, to continue to seek and speak the truth, and to continue the fight for genuine freedom of the press and expression so essential to our democracy. No ifs, and no buts.

Before ending this sharing, allow me to send a message to the wife and children of Ka Percy Lapid - Ma'am Liza, their beautiful and talented children, and Ka Roy, who is similarly courageous and faithful to the cause. We pray that you have found peace, joy and love, one year after Ka Percy's passing, and thanks to the friends who made that search possible. Know that your family is never alone in your quest for justice - we are all with you.

As I have said in the past, death could never silence Ka Percy and all the slain Filipino journalists. Their fight for truth and justice speaks so loudly to all of us, even now. We are listening. We will not be cowed. And we will continue the fight.

Marami pong salamat sa inyong lahat at mabuhay.

News Latest News Feed