YESTERDAY another journalist was shot dead. Alex Balcoba, 56, a reporter for the People’s Brigada tabloid, was killed in Manila by two gunmen on a motorcycle. With this murder, more than 30 journalists have been slain during the about-to-end regime of President BS Aquino 3rd.
“With no suspects yet brought to justice,” for these killings, National Press Club President Paul Gutierrez said, “The culture of impunity that is behind these attacks is yet to be addressed by the authorities despite their repeated boasts and promises.”
On Feb. 14 last year, Bohol province radio commentator Maurito Lim, was also murdered. New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the killing showed that “killers of journalists are as bold as ever under President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s watch.”
“The Philippines will remain one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist until President Aquino’s government shows stronger resolve in prosecuting cases like Lim’s and breaking the cycle of impunity in all media murders,” said CPJ senior Southeast Asia representative Shawn Crispin.
In 2014, a day after the commemoration of World Press Freedom, the number of journalists murdered in our country during the administration of Aquino 3rd increased to 27. Rubbed out on a Sunday was Richard Najid, 35, a good family man and the father of five, who was the acting manager of dxNN PowerMix FM in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi province, and the anchor of the station’s regular morning news and public affairs program. He was the second journalist from Tawi-Tawi killed since 2007. Murderers killed Vicente Sumalpong, production supervisor of the government-owned Radyo ng Bayan.
He had worked closely with the local Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) in promoting good governance. In addition, Najid had joined a drug bust carried out by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and was counted on to serve as a witness of the operation.
But the Tawi-Tawi provincial police director, Senior Superintendent Joselito Salido, made insulting remarks about Richard Najid’s murder. He dismissed Najid’s murder as a deed “unrelated to his work.” He said Najid was nothing but a “disc jockey, a person who plays popular music on FM radio. He is not a journalist.”
Rowena Paraan, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, found the police official’s words about Najid painful. First, because the murdered journalist did not deserve to be demeaned and, second, because, in fact, when Salido said those words, the investigators had not yet established a motive for the radio journalist’s murder.
Echoes of Aquino’s words and sentiment
The unkind words of Sr. Supt. Salido somehow sounded like an echo of President Aquino’s words during the joint news conference he gave with US President Barack Obama on April 28, 2014. Mr. Aquino spewed out words suggesting that some of the journalists who had been killed deserved what they got! And some should not be given so much attention and sympathy because their murder was not work-related.
We wrote an editorial about this saying, “President Aquino does not care about journalists’ killing.” We wrote that the vacuousness of Aquino’s answer to Ed Henry, of Fox News, confirms what we had long suspected: he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the killing of Filipino journalists. And it doesn’t matter to him if the killing is an individual assassination or a massacre.
Henry had asked him, “President Aquino, as a journalist, I’d like to ask you why 26 journalists have been killed since you took office? And I understand that there have been suspects arrested in only six of those cases. What are you doing to fix that?”
Aquino fumbled in making his reply. International press freedom and press welfare watchdogs berated him about it and his administration’s failure to protect journalists and to try to catch and jail the killers of press workers. When he touched on the world-record breaking Maguindanao (Ampatuan) massacre, in which 32 journalists out of a total of 58 persons were murdered, he manifested that he did not quite know what he was talking about. He said 52 journalists were killed in the massacre.
He also used words that betrayed his attitude to these journalist murders. That anyway some of them deserved to die and some of the killings were not related to the work of the victims as reporters. He spoke words that the police senior superintendent seemed to have used as the model when he talked about Richard Najib’s murder.
Those words prompted the NUJP chair at that time, Rowena Paraan, to say, “That the chief of a province’s police force can display not only insensitivity but, more alarming, ignorance reflects on the quality of what is supposed to be the country’s main law enforcement agency and explains why media murders and human-rights violations in general continue to be committed with impunity.”