DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 November) – At least 99 cases of attacks and threats online and on ground against the Philippine media across the nation have been recorded in the first 28 months of the Duterte administration, 12 of these killings, seven of them in Mindanao, according to the latest State of Philippine Media report.
The report, the second since May by the Freedom for Media, Freedom for (FMFA) network, was launched here Saturday during the National Media Forum organized by network members Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and Philippine Press Institute (PPI).
Its Manila launch will be held on November 23, on the ninth anniversary of the massacre of 58 persons 32 of them form the media, in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. The Ampatuan Massacre has been described as the worst election-related violent incident in Philippine history and single deadliest event for journalists worldwide.
Among the 12 killed nationwide between July 1, 2016 and October 31, 2018, the first victim felled was in Mindanao – broadcaster Apolinario Suan, Jr., anchor of Real FM station in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur who was attacked by men aboard a van along the national highway in Sitio Tandawan on July 14, 2016.
Suan was critically wounded during, slipped into coma and died on July 28 while his brother and escort, Dodong Suan, died on the spot. The broadcaster’s two other escorts were injured.
A report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Bislig City police director Supt. Rainier Diaz as saying Suan’s killing may be connected to his work as a broadcaster. The broadcster was then a newly-elected provincial board member.
Of 7 killed, 5 under martial law
Five of the seven Mindanawon victims were killed while Mindanao was already under martial law.
To recall, President Rodrigo Duterte placed Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities under martial law on May 23, 2017, barely eight hours after the first shots were fired in the Marawi siege.
Duterte declared martial law supposedly only for a period of 60 days but twice asked for an extension — in July 2017, until December 31, 2017 and in December 2017, until December 31, 2018. Another extension is being sought now for a period until June 30, 2019 or December 31, 2019.
“Attacks and threats online and on ground against the Philippine media — acute and creeping, online and offline, deadly and debilitating — continue to rise under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte,” the report said, adding that in the 28 months of the Duterte presidency, or from July 1, 2016 to Oct. 31, 2018, at least 99 such cases of direct and indirect assaults against journalists and news media agencies had occurred and these have “continued to put at risk and serious peril the practice of independent journalism in what had hitherto been hailed to be Asia’s freest and most rambunctious press.”
Summed up, the 99 cases of attacks and threats nationwide are: 17 online harassment; 12 killings; 12 cases of libel; 11 threats by SMS; seven slay attempts; six cases of intimidation; five cases of verbal threat/assault, mostly from public officials; five cases of physical assault; four cases of website attack; four cases of cyber libel; three cases of arrest; three corporation-related cases; three cases barred from coverage; three cases of physical harassment; two cases of article takedown and two strafing/shooting incidents.
21 of 99 cases in Mindanao
Of the 99 cases documented, 66 cases were recorded in Luzon, 21 in Mindanao, and 12 in the Visayas.
The National Capital Region or Metro Manila had the most number of cases at 41, followed by eight in Central Luzon and seven in Mindanao’s Caraga region.
In the other regions in Mindanao, five cases each were recorded in the Davao and Western Mindanao regions, four in Region 12 or what is referred to as Soccsksargen. No cases were recorded in Northern Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Other cases recorded were in the Bicol Region with six; five each in Eastern Visayas and Calabarzon; four in Ilocos region; three each in Western and Central Visayas; and two in Cordillera Administrative Region.
7 of 12 killed in Mindanao
Aside from Suan, the six others killed in Mindanao were Marlon Muyco, who hosted a blocktime program over DXND Radyo Bidain Kidapawan City; Rudy Alicaway, host of the weekly community affairs program “Tigmo-tigmo” over radio station DXPB in Molave town in Zamboanga del Sur; Leodoro Diaz, reporter of RMN’s Cotabato City station DXMY and columnist of the tabloid Sapol; Christopher Lozada, operations manager and anchor of DXBF Prime Broadcasting Network in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur; Carlos Matas, host of Zamboanga News Patrol over DXCA in Pagadian City, and Dennis Denora, publisher and writer of Trends and Times in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.
According to the report, Muyco was shot dead by motorcycle-riding killers in Barangay La Suerte, M’lang town in North Cotabato, on February 2, 2017. His daughter, who was with him, was wounded in the attack.
Alicaway, 47, was on his way home on August 6, 2017, after hosting his weekly community affairs program “Tigmo-tigmo” over radio station dxPB in Sitio Lopez, Barangay Culo, Molave town in Zamboanga del Sur, when motorcycle-riding gunmen shot him dead.
The next day, on August 7, 2017, Diaz, 60, of President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat, was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen as he was heading to Tacurong City. Before this, he had been receiving death threats and had been harassed by armed men at his home in Barangay Katiku, President Quirino.
Lozada, 29 was involved in the filing of charges against Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro over the questionable purchase of a P14.7-million hydraulic excavator in 2012. Gunmen in a van opened fire at him at around 9 p.m. on October 24. He had been receiving death threats via text messages.
Matas, 61, was gunned down as he was visiting Barangay Nuburan in Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur at around 2 p.m. on May 12.
Denora was killed in an ambush on June 7, 2018 at around 1 pm in Panabo City, after attending a meeting of Davao Multimedia Group in Tagum City,
The report quoted Davao del Norte Representative Antonio Floirendo Jr. as saying he believes Denora’s murder was related to his exposes in his newspaper.
Of the 12 killed since Duterte came to power, seven were in Mindanao, four in Luzon and one in the Visayas.
Larry Que, publisher and columnist of the community paper, Catanduanes News Now, was shot by motorcycle-riding killers as he was entering is office in Virac at around 9:30 a.m. on December 19, 2016.
On January 7, 2017, Mario Cantaoi, who worked at the Catholic church-owned radio station DZNS, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen in San Ramn, Magsingal, Ilocos Sur. Cantaoi was also a professor at the University of Northern Philippines.
On March 13, Remate columnist Joaquin Briones, a former commentator of station dyME, was gunned down as he was heading home around 8:45 a.m. of March 13, 2017 by motorcycle-riding killers in Barangay Bacolod, Milagros town in Masbate.
In Bicol, Joey Llana, a hard-hitting radio broadcaster was shot dead by five unidentified armed men at around 5 a.m. on July 20, 2018 while on his way to the radio station, 92.3 FM Home Radio along Barangay Penafrancia in Daraga town.
The lone victim in Visayas was broadcaster Edmund Sestoso, host of the daily program “Tug-anan” over DYGB 91.7 FM and former chair of the NUJP in Dumaguete City. He was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen on April 30, 2018 and died the next day.
Nonoy Espina, NUJP chair, said the first assumption is that the 12 victims were killed in the line of duty.
Of seven slay attempts documented, four were in Luzon, two in Mindanao and one in the Visayas, he said.
Espina urged journalists to “never, never take a threat lightly. A threat is a threat.”
Free and Independent Press
Melinda Quintos de Jesus, CMFR Executive Director explained that they hope the FMFA to be a nationwide network.
“We want to bring everyone, sana tayong lahat, would be on the same page about how we look at ourselves and the role of the media in the society and what a free press is supposed to do for the communities and the society that it serves,” she said, reminding journalists that “our first protection comes from our Constitution,” that media is the fourth estate that connects government, citizens and all other organizations through the coverage of news and the provision of information that matters to them in the public sphere.
“We operate in a public sphere. We are part of good governance as we are part of the failure of governance,” she said.
She said journalists in Luzon had a roundtable on the first week of November and another roundtable is being scheduled in the Visayas.
“We want to share a little bit of how these things are moving forward and that we hope the energies of Mindanao, the frontier spirit of Mindanao, the courage and the groundbreaking animus of Mindanao will be part of what we are going to do for the entire country. This is not Manila. If it happens only in Manila wala pong mangyayari. and that’s why we are reaching out and hopefully you, too, will say, ‘we can help a little bit there,’ ‘we can join you in some of these places’ and little by little, develop the kind of institutional solidarity so that if one is killed, we will feel that wound, if one news organization is attacked, we will feel as well the weakening of the strength of the power of the people,” De Jesus said.
She said the consensus principles of the movement state that democracy “cannot be a real democracy unless we have a free and independent press, that media freedom is not a right that provides benefits only for those practising in the media or are journalists but it is a bigger, larger social good. a benefit for all.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)