Group slams PNoy’s ‘search for alibis’ to media killings

By: –

16 December 2013

MANILA, Philippines — A major media organization slammed President
Benigno Aquino III for embarking on a “search for alibis” instead of
acknowledging the seriousness of media killings, especially those under
his watch.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines took exception to
Aquino’s comments in a meeting with Filipino journalists in Tokyo where
he shrugged off [text missing]

Human Rights Watch’s description of recent media killings as a “national
catastrophe” unless “somebody can say that there is some sort of an
established policy to kill a journalist of this particular position,

He also cited the need for a “correlation” between the killings aside
from the victims’ common profession.

Since Aquino came to office in 2010, at least 21 media workers have been
murdered, the last three — Joas Dignos in Valencia, Bukidnon on
November 29, Michael Milo in Tandag, Surigao del Sur on December 6, and
Rogelio Butalid in Tagum City, Davao del Norte on December 11 — within
two weeks.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has described the
killings under Aquino as the worst annual incidence rate in any
president’s watch.

The NUJP said it believes Aquino “is clearly aware of how serious the
problem is” but “keeps on looking for excuses.”

“In short, he just doesn’t care,” the group said as it blamed media
killings on “a system of governance that has allowed local tyrants to
keep their populations cowed and silence any attempt to unmask them
while the national government turns a blind eye for fear of losing their

“Mr. Aquino,” the NUJP said, “in case you missed it, we have never
claimed the murders of our colleagues were the result of any
‘established policy’ unlike, say, the extrajudicial killings of
activists, environmentalists, indigenous people and other dissenters
that human rights experts both here and abroad have rightly linked to a
murderous counterinsurgency program that deliberately targets members of
legal organizations.”

“What we have said is that these killings are the inevitable offshoot of
governance by expediency, which has seen administration after
administration, bar none, allowing the corrupt, the warlords, the crime
lords to reign supreme in their respective personal fiefdoms in the
regions and provinces in exchange for their support,” it added.

Aquino’s refusal to acknowledge this, said the group, has led to “the
search for alibis, like Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma’s
describing some of the victims as ‘not legitimate’ to justify describing
the problem as ‘not so serious,’ or the attempt by an investigator to
explain the recent killings as the offshoot of the victims’ less than
impeccable ethics.”

While acknowledging that the media face challenges in improving ethical
and professional standards, the NUJP said this did not justify murder.

It also said that, before blaming individual practitioners, “especially
the grossly overworked and underpaid variety that populate our
provinces, shouldn’t we look first to those who keep them so overworked
and underpaid that not a few succumb to the blandishments of those would
have the news slanted in their favor?”

“And if corruption were to justify murder, shouldn’t we be wondering,
given the surfeit of evidence, why our corridors of power continue to be
populated by the foremost purveyors of graft and who, by all
indications, are the most likely brains in the murders of our
colleagues?” it added.