MANILA – Nineteen journalists have been killed in the 4 years of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, a watchdog said Monday, as attacks on the media continue due to what it alleges as a culture of impunity that prevails in the country.
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) executive director Melinda Quintos de Jesus said Monday in a virtual forum the Philippines remained a dangerous country for journalists.
"There are more attacks and threats that have shown how indeed we've become more vulnerable to those who don't want the media and the press to play the role they are assigned by the Constitution,” she said.
ABS-CBN News sought the comments of Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on De Jesus' remarks and is still awaiting response.
Journalist Ronnie Villamor, 50, was the the 19th journalist killed during the Duterte administration, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).
He was gunned down in Milagros, Masbate on Nov. 14 in what authorities claimed as an encounter. Villamor's colleagues denied that an encounter took place, according to the NUJP.
A total of 170 journalists have been killed in the country since 1986, the group said.
In comparison, 30 journalists were killed while Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was in office from 2010 to 2016, while 80 killings were reported under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over a 9-year period beginning 2001.
Here's the NUJP's list of Filipino journalists killed from 2016 to 2020:
1. Apolinario Suan Jr. - June 14, 2016 - Bislig City, Surigao del Sur
2. Larry Que - Dec. 19, 2016 - Virac, Catanduanes
3. Mario Contaoi - Jan. 6, 2017 - Magsingal, Ilocos Sur
4. Marlon Muyco - Feb. 17, 2017 - M'lang, Cotabato
5. Joaquin Briones - March 13, 2017 - Milagros, Masbate
6. Rudy Alicaway - Aug. 6, 2017 - Molave, Zamboanga del Sur
7. Leo Diaz - Aug. 7, 2017 - President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat
8. Christopher Lozada - Oct. 24, 2017 - Bislig City, Surigao del Sur
9. Edmund Sestoso - April 30, 2018 - Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
10. Carlos Matas - May 12, 2018 - Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur
11. Dennis Denora - June 7, 2018 - Panabo City, Davao del Norte
12. Joey Llana - July 20, 2018 - Daraga, Albay
13. Benjie Caballero - Oct. 30, 2018 - Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat
14. Eduardo Dizon - July 10, 2019 - Kidapawan City, Cotabato
15. Dindo Generoso - Nov. 8, 2019 - Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
16. Cornelio Pepino - May 5, 2020 - Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
17. Jobert Bercasio - Sept. 14, 2020 - Sorsogon City
18. Virgilio Maganes - Nov. 10, 2020 - Villasis, Pangasinan
19. Ronnie Villamor - Nov. 14, 2020 - Milagros, Masbate
The CMFR's De Jesus said that from June 2016 to November 2010, Filipino media workers were also subjected to different attacks and harassment such as intimidation, libel and being barred from coverage.
Of the total 193 recorded incidents, 95 state agents were the alleged perpetrators of such attacks and harassments. Twenty-nine of those came from the national government, 28 from local government, 25 from police, and 9 from military.
Other attacks were perpetrated by private citizens, online trolls while others remained unidentified.
“We've seen the increase of private citizens turning on the media just because it’s become part of the move to look at media as an enemy of the state,” De Jesus said.
For her, the culture of impunity, which is the failure to punish crime and wrongdoing, remains in the country.
“We face a leader who places himself and those he favors above the law,” she said.
There’s also a weak instrument of justice and seeming disregard of rule of law, De Jesus added, which are compounded by activities of red-tagging and militarization of social media attacks.
“Therefore, there can be no other response but continued vigilance not just from media but strength of the society,” De Jesus said.
According to this year’s Global Impunity index, the Philippines is still among the top 10 deadliest countries for journalists. It ranked in the 7th place, trailing Mexico, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia.
The Palace had previously denied there was culture of impunity in the country and that media killings under the Duterte administration went down.
In August, Roque said "the Duterte Administration continues to respect the freedom of the speech and the freedom of the press in the country."
"Media remains alert and vibrant in their reportage of the government and the actions of officials," he said.
The country marked on Monday the 11th anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, considered the single deadliest incident for journalists in the world aside from being the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history.
Thirty-two journalists were killed on Nov. 23, 2009 as they accompanied the convoy of the family and supporters of Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu in filing the latter's candidacy for governor of Maguindanao. Members of the Ampatuan clan and their cohorts were convicted last year for the carnage.