MANILA – Lawyer Harry Roque said there is blood on the hands of the Court of Appeals (CA) after it denied an appeal for protection of Mindoro broadcaster Nilo Baculo Sr., who was gunned down on Monday.
In a post on the website of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Roque noted that Baculo, whom he once represented before the courts, was the first journalist to ever obtain a writ of amparo (protection) from the Supreme Court.
''Regrettably, when remanded to the Court of Appeals for determination of propriety of issuance of a protection order, the Court of Appeals denied his plea, ruling that Nilo failed to prove the threat on his life ,'' Roque said.
''His killing today is what happens when the Court errs in their appreciation of evidence."
A gunman riding a motorcycle shot Baculo, 67, from close range outside his home in the small, central city of Calapan, local police chief Superintendent Glicerio Cansilao said.
"We are investigating whether it had something to do with his work, although at the moment we could not say categorically," Cansilao told AFP.
Cansilao said Baculo used to work as a commentator and newsreader for the DWIM radio until it shut down last year. Baculo was also the publisher of "Traveler's News."
Nilo, in his application for protection, said certain local officials engaged in illegal drug trade were out to kill him. Roque said the CA denied Nilo's petition because his claim was not backed by evidence.
But Roque, in Baculo's defense, argued that ''the CA, in Baculo's case, wanted evidence oftentimes cannot be provided given the nature of threats against anyone: their verification is almost difficult if not possible."
Roque said Baculo's killing should prompt courts to become more circumspect in dismissing applications for protection orders.
''While a wrongfully issued writ will not hurt anyone, a person denied of the same could result in the death of the petitioner,'' he said.
''There is blood in the hands of the CA Justices who refused Nilo Baculo protection."
The Philippines is the third most dangerous country in the world to be a media worker, behind Syria and Iraq, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
The Philippines is so dangerous because of what is described as a "culture of impunity," where powerful figures, such as politicians or businessmen, can organize the killing of journalists or other critics without fear of being caught.
These figures can rely on corrupt police and politicians, as well as a graft-tainted judicial system, to ensure they will not be held to account.
Baculo's murder came after another radio broadcaster was shot dead in the southern city of Davao on May 23. A fortnight earlier yet another radio broadcaster was shot dead in the southern Philippines.
Four journalists have been killed this year, and 33 since President Benigno Aquino came to power in 2010, according to the NUJP. – with Agence France-Presse