The head of Task Force on Media Security on Monday said his office has a breakthrough in the killing of Catanduanes journalist Larry Que and anytime today he will make an announcement.
“Finally, after months of investigation we have solved the murder of Que and it is a big accomplishment, sending a message to those who are after our friends in the media,” Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco told The Manila Times at the sideline of a forum in Manila.
Que was shot dead on December 19 in Virac City, capital of Catanduanes, last year by unidentified gunmen after he blamed local authorities on the existence of a large shabu laboratory in the province, short of saying government officials were on the take from a drug syndicate.
Egco, a practicing journalist who is on leave and was a former president of the National Press Club (NPC), refused to give details on the “breakthrough,” saying he is satisfied with the police probe and the coordination of some agencies and individuals working to solve the killing.
Que, before his murder, was a columnist and publisher of hard-hitting Catanduanes News Now. He was critical of local government corruption, particularly patronage politics.
At his request, Egco said, the police have extended security to family members of Que who have been experiencing harassments and intimidations since the fatal incident.
Meanwhile, the former senior reporter of this paper, said a ‘Media Security Summit’ will be held this year and he is just waiting for budget approval from the Office of the President.
“We will invite all people concerned so we will discuss various problems of the journalists like salary and poor working conditions,” he added. “Administrative Order No. 1 [authorizes]the agency to look into these problems, aside from making sure that our media people are safe.”
Egco revealed that his office is investigating 20 cases of harassment and at least five journalists in the provinces were given police security.
“There is a marked improvement because we don’t enter the picture after the killing but even at an early stage where the reporters are being harassed or even cursed privately or publicly like through text messaging or social media message.”
“We are promoting safe practice of journalism because freedom of the press is the strongest pillar of democracy,” he said.
Aside from NPC, other media organizations like the NPC, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the killing of Que.
Other guests of Monday’s forum were Raymund Villanueva of NUJP, University of the Philippines Mass Communication Professor Danilo Arao, former Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) president Jason Gutierrez and Ariel Sebellino of the Philippine Press Institute.
Villanueva batted for higher salary for journalists and regularization of long-time correspondents.
Arao said the Philippines is No.4 in global impunity index after Iraq, Syria and Somalia. He urged media entities to stop trivialization and commercialization.
Sebellino said journalists should have insurance, so their families are also protected. JAIME R. PILAPIL