Fr. Shay Cullen

The Philippines is quickly becoming the killing fields for journalists,
reporters, and writers with 14 killed in 2013; ten of them by suspected
assassination squads. According to the International News Safety
Institute (INSI) based in the UK, this makes the Philippines the third
most dangerous place in the world for news reporters after Syria and Iraq.

Four died on the job during the Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that hit
Tacloban with full force last November 8, 2013. I write this on
International Day for Press Freedom on May 3 and can say that the
Philippines is becoming one of the most dangerous places for writers and
journalists in the world. It’s frightening to learn that 1054
journalists have been killed worldwide since 1992, and 76 of them were
cut down by gunfire or stabbed to death in the Philippines.

Towards the end of 2013, three radio journalists were shot dead in
Mindanao. A fearless reporter for a Manila tabloid, Rubylita Garcia, 52,
who exposed police corruption and had a heated altercation with a senior
police officer a few weeks ago was shot dead in her home only last month
on April 27 in front of her children. Before she died, she gave the name
of alleged police mastermind. However, none of the killers have been
identified, caught or brought to justice. The shooter of Gerardo Ortega
was convicted but the politicians suspected of being behind it are still
in hiding.

Most of the killings of journalists are to silence the exposé of
corruption which is epidemic in the Philippines and since President
Aquino and his Justice Secretary and Ombudsman are making serious
headway in charging Senators and Congressmen and others for massive
plunder and the wholesale theft of public funds, media exposés do have
powerful repercussions and so the guilty resort to murder to have them
silenced; although 26 is the total number of journalists killed since
Aquino assumed office in June 2010 and only one killer has been brought
to justice.

Politicians in many countries fearing the exposé by media of corrupt
practices including the Philippines, have enacted increasingly strict
laws to restrain and intimidate the media, making on-line libel a
criminal offense with long prison sentences. Anyone speaking truth to
power, as they say, are in some danger of retaliation. The prophetic
mission to stand with the downtrodden and speak the truth against
corruption and human rights violations is a dangerous calling.

Human Rights Watch based in New York claims that the government of
President Aquino administration has made little progress to bring the
killers of journalists to justice. Impunity for the masterminds who
order and pay for the killings is the bane of the nation. The President
is not as powerful as people think and investigations are blocked by
local police, and even by judges in some cases. The culture of silence
and fear protects the killers and their masters.

Death Squads are allegedly unofficially available to kill anyone that
might threaten their clean public image of powerful wealthy people,
politicians and even officers. Even priests, pastors and social
activists trying to get human rights and justice for oppressed people
and communities are murdered by these killers. Most are known within the
police and military establishment, some are protected but none dare
expose them. The majority of government officials are said to be decent,
honest people but they are in fear of their lives too if they reveal any
anomaly, kick backs or corrupt practices in the government departments
or military.

The World Council of Churches made this statement in 2006, “since 2001
more than 740 people who have worked with and for the poor in the
Philippines have been assassinated in extra-judicial killings. They
include journalists, lawyers, leaders of people’s organizations, human
rights activists and church workers. The killings have intensified since
2004 : 21 church workers, including 9 pastors and priests have been
killed since 2001. Most of the attacks have been committed by
unidentified men shooting from unmarked vehicles or motorcycles.

Paramilitary groups armed by the military, and even members of the
military and police, have been implicated in these killings. While a few
suspects have been detained briefly, no charges have yet been issued in
relation to these killings”.

Father Tullio Favali, Father Salivator Carzedda, and Father Fausto
Tentorio, all of the Italian missionary society PIME, Father Rufus
Halley on 28 August 2001 of the Columban Missionary Society and many
more over the years. Father Fausto was gunned down in North Cotabato in
October 2011. Most of the killers or those who planned and ordered them
killed have never been arrested.

We call on the international social media, all bloggers who are safe
from retaliation, to take up the cause of justice and expose the
terrible crimes against journalists and human rights workers and to
expose corruption to the world in the brilliant light of truth.,

(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications
in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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