Print Version    Email to Friend
Politicians and Church leaders silent over journalists’ murders

MANILA (UCAN) : The National Press Club of The Philippines was sharply critical of political and Church leaders for their constant silence over the long-running series of murders of journalists, saying that three have been killed in the past two weeks and not one politician or Church leader has even mentioned it.

“Impunity continues because everybody is silent,” Joel Egco, the president of the club, said. “Nobody cares. The government is not protecting us, the police are not going after the killers and even our Church leaders in this supposedly Catholic country are silent over the killings.”

Unidentified gunmen shot and killed 46-year-old radio broadcaster, Cosme Maestrado, in Ozamiz City in Mindanao on August 27.

He is the third journalist to have been murdered in The Philippines in the past two weeks.

On August 19, unidentified gunmen also shot and killed another broadcaster, Teodoro Escanilla, in the town of Barcelona, Sorsogon.

The day before, gunmen shot and killed Gregorio Ybanez, the president of the Davao del Norte Press and Radio-Television Club.

Presidential spokesperson, Herminio Coloma, said the police have been directed “to identify and arrest those responsible for the killings.”

He said in a statement, “We strongly condemn the killings.”

Father Joselito Jopson, the secretary of the Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media, said the Church supports the right to freedom of expression and denounces people who use force to suppress the truth.

“We pray that the government would act swiftly to bring justice to our journalists, who in the pursuit of truth are silenced violently,” he said.

Father Edu Gariguez, from the National Secretariat of Social Action, said he could not comment on the issue because he was in a meeting.

“We are being killed and nobody is talking for us,” an emotional Egco said. “We cannot blame our journalists for taking up arms to defend themselves.”

Several journalists around the country have been arming themselves for self-protection. “It is our only protection from attacks,” Egco said.

Early on August 28, gunmen fired at a coffee shop owned by an investigative journalist, Anthony Taberna, from the ABS-CBN television network.

Taberna is known for his radio and television exposés of alleged corruption involving top government officials.

“If their intention is to intimidate and stop me, they are wrong,” he said. “My principle is very simple, do what is right and reject what is wrong.”

In February this year, The Philippines ranked 141 out of the 180 countries surveyed by Reporters Without Borders in its 2015 World Press Freedom Index.