By Nonoy Espina

It is to be expected that when President Benigno Aquino III visits Europe, he will boast of his administration’s great strides in ridding the Philippines of corruption, resuscitating its economy, establishing peace in the troubled south, and uplifting the lives of the people. What will be left unsaid or, at best, glossed over, is the river of blood that continues to flow through our 7,100 islands, the thousands of lives claimed by extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, all of which continue to cry out for justice, the battered minds and bodies ravaged by torture and inhuman incarceration, the cries of hunger and despair of communities driven from their homes to satisfy the greed of large mining and agricultural firms. It is also likely that nothing will be said about the 171 journalists who have been murdered since 1986, when the country was supposed to have wrested back its democracy after 14 years of dictatorship. Indeed, this is one of the many contradictions that mark life in this supposed bastion of democracy in Southeast Asia – that the country that is home to what many call the most vociferous, some even say licentious, press in the region, continues to lose so many journalists to targeted killings, all but a handful of which have been solved. And of the 11 cases in which convictions have been secured, the only ones found guilty have been the gunmen. Not a single mastermind has yet to be tried, convicted and jailed.

Two cases are notable in this regard. On March 2, 2005, Marlene Esperat, a community newspaper columnist who had exposed corruption within the Department of Agriculture, was shot dead as she sat down to dinner with her children in their home in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat. The three gunmen accused of carrying out the murder have been convicted. But the alleged masterminds, Osmeña Montañer and Estrella Sabay, regional officers of the department, have successfully managed to evade arrest through legal maneuvers and continue to report for work. On January 24, 2011, Gerardo Ortega, a radio host and environmental activist in Palawan, was shot dead as he shopped for clothes in Puerto Princesa City.

Almost immediately, the team of hired guns who carried out the hit were arrested and named former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario as the ones who ordered Ortega killed. But days after a warrant of arrest was issued against them, the Reyes brothers managed to flee the country with the help of crooked immigration authorities. They remain at large to this day. Indeed, these two cases illustrate why journalists’ murders – and human rights abuses in general – continue to be committed with impunity. This is not to say that media killings appear to be part of an officially sanctioned campaign, unlike the murders and abductions of activists, which even United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston noted, following a 2007 visit of the Philippines, were tied up to a government counterinsurgency strategy that included leaders and members of legal organizations openly labeled by the security forces as “legal fronts” of the rebels as targets. Media killings – and the apparent apathy our government has consistently shown in the face of a phenomenon any genuine democracy would consider an outrage – are the result of a corrupt system of governance. It is what the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines describes as a governance of expedience through which the central government in Manila allows the warlord and criminal politicians to amass ill-gotten wealth and build powerful private armies maintain control in the provinces and regions they control in exchange for their loyalty and votes. It is a system of governance that made inevitable the worst incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press, the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre in Mindanao’s Maguindanao province, which claimed the lives of 58 people, 32 of them media workers.

The accused masterminds come from a clan that had ruled Maguindanao for a decade, amassing a fortune and maintaining a private armed force that ran to the thousands, and who could not allow any challenge to their almost absolute power. It is a system of governance Aquino has done nothing to change, notwithstanding his promises of reform. Aquino, whose father was a former senator whose 1983 assassination by the forces of the dictator helped spark the uprising that ended totalitarian rule three years later, paving the way for his mother to become the first woman president of the country, campaigned for the presidency on a platform of justice, human rights and transparency. However, since he became president in 2010, already 30 journalists have been murdered, a record second only to that of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose nine-year presidency saw a total of 103 journalists killed, including the 32 of the Ampatuan massacre. Not only that, Aquino, who also promised to enact a Freedom of Information Law, has so far not delivered on his pledge but has signed an anti-cybercrime law that press freedom and free expression advocates say threatens freedom of expression.

As for reforming the corrupt system of governance, Aquino has shown himself long on words and words alone. His vaunted anti-corruption crusade has turned into a witch-hunt against political opponents even as he has brazenly ignored all calls to investigate and prosecute his allies. Worse, he has taken a “with us or against us” attitude, branding all those who question or criticize him as forces of corruption and discord. This includes an increasingly critical media, which has called him out on his double standards and question his priorities. It is an attitude that has further emboldened those who would seek to silence their critics in media. But perhaps nothing best illustrates Aquino’s attitude towards the murder of journalists as his reply to a question from Fox News’ Ed Henry during a joint press conference with visiting US President Barack Obama in April. Henry asked what Aquino’s administration was doing about what at the time were the 26 media killings under his watch, noting that suspects in only six of those murders had been arrested. Responding to the question, for which he was obviously unprepared, Aquino went on to flub the figures of the worst media massacre in history by saying: “Now, as far as journalists are concerned, perhaps the track record speaks for itself.

The Maguindanao massacre involved something like 52 journalists, and there are presently something like over 100 people who have been indicted for this crime and are undergoing trial.” Not only that, he was also wrong in the number of indictments, which is way less than a hundred of the more than 190 suspects, roughly half of whom are still at large. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he went on to tell Henry – and the whole world – that the reason there appeared to be no progress in solving the murders of journalists was because “we do not reveal the discoveries by our intelligence agencies and security services, perhaps (because) we are very sensitive to personal relationships by the people who are deceased who were killed not because of professional activities, but, shall we say, other issues.” It was a statement that understandably outraged Philippine media. As the NUJP said: “While it may be true that there are those in our ranks targeted for reasons other than the work they do, such a wholesale aspersion cast on the victims practically amounts to an attempt to justify their murders.” It doesn’t take a genius to see that this dismal state of affairs will continue for the last two years of Aquino’s term and beyond, unless a leader bold enough or a people who have reached the end of their rope decide to forge a better system of governance. In the meantime, the record below speaks for itself. We ask: Can a country that allows the murder of so many of its journalists still be a democracy?

Case no. Name Affliliation/s Medium Time & Date of Incident
1 Pete F. Mabazza Manila Bulletin print 1986 – April 24
2 Wilfredo “Willy” Vicoy Reuters wires 1986 – April 24
3 Florante “Boy” de Castro DXCP/General Santos City radio 1986
4 Dionisio Perpetuo Joaquin Olongapo News print 1987 – April 12
5 Narciso Balani DXRA / Davao City radio 1987 – Aug. 27
6 Rogie Zagado DXRA / Davao City radio 1987 – Aug. 27
7 Leo Palo DXRA / Davao City radio 1987 – Aug. 27
8 Martin Castor Pilipino Ngayon / Manila print 1987 – Aug. 28
9 Ramon Noblejas DYVL/Tacloban City radio 1987 – Aug. 28
10 Noel Miranda Mindanao Scanner/ Tagum City, Davao del Norte print 1988 – March 29
11 Ruben R. Manrique Luzon Tribune/Bataan print 1988 – Aug. 12
12 Josef Aldeguer Nava Visayan Life Today/lloilo print 1988 – 0ct. 30
13 Severino Arcones DYFM-Radyo Bombo/ lloilo radio 1989 – 0ct. 17
14 Eddie Telan Newscaster/Manila radio 1989 – Dec. 0I
15 Reynaldo Catindig Sr. Northern Sierra Madre Express/Isabela print 1990 – May 15
16 Jean Ladringan Southern Star/General Santos City print 1990 – July 08
17 Nesino Paulin Toling Panguil Bay Monitor/ Ozamiz print 1991 – April 14
18 Danilo Vergara Philippine Post print 1992 – July 01
19 Ladjid “Jade” Ladja Prensa Zamboanga print 1992 – JuIy 03, 7 p.m.
20 Rev. Greg Hapalla DXAS/Zamboanga radio 1992 – Sep. 21, 8 a.m.
21 Gloria Martin DXXX/ Isabela Basilan radio 1992 – Dec. 30
22 Romeo Andrada Legaspi Voice of Zambales print 1993 – Jan. 11
23 Rosauro Lao Cotabato News print 1993 – Nov. 22
24 Ding Sade Cotabato News print 1993 – Nov. 22
25 Ferdinand Reyes Press Freedom/Dipolog City print 1996 – Feb. 12
26 Alberto Berbon DZMM / Manila radio 1996 – Dec. 15
27 Evelyn Joy Militante GMA Channel 2 / Legazpi City   TV 1997
28 Daniel J. Hernandez People’s Journal Tonight / Manila print 1997 – June 03
29 Regalado Mabazza Polaris cable network/ Cauayan, Isabela TV 1997 – Dec. 17
30 Odilon Mallari DXCP / General Santos City radio 1998 – February
31 Rey Bancairin DXLL / Zamboanga City radio 1998 – March 29
32 Nelson Catipay DXMY/ Cotabato radio 1998 – April 16
33 Dominador “Dom” Bentulan DXGS / General Santos City radio 1998 – Oct. 30
34 Frank Palma Bombo Radyo / Bacolod radio 1999 – April 25
35 Vincent Rodriguez DZMM / Pampanga radio 2000 – May 23
36 Olimpio Jalapit DXPR / Pagadian City radio 2000 – Nov. 17
37 Rolando Ureta DYKR-Kalibo of Radio Mindanao Network Radio/Print 9:30 p.m., January 3, 2001
38 Muhammad Yusop DXID/Pagadian City Radio 2001 – Feb. 24
39 Candelario Jumamil Cayona Jr. DXLL – Radyo Ukay (UMBN) Radio/Print May 30, 2001, 6:20 a.m.
40 Joy Mortel Mindoro Guardian Print 2001 – May 31
41 Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez CEGP / Davao Print 2002 – April 05
42 Edgar Palomeras Damalerio RPN-9 (TV); DXKP-RPN (Radio); Zamboanga Scribe, Goldstar Daily Radio/Print/TV about 8 a.m., May 13, 2002
43 Sonny Alcantara Kokus, Celestron Cable TV / San Pablo City Print/TV 2002 – Aug. 22
44 John Belen Villanueva Jr. DZGB /Legazpi City Radio 2003 – April 28
45 Apolinario “Polly” Pobeda DWTI / Lucena City Radio 2003 – May 17
46 Bonifacio Gregorio Dyaryo Banat / Tarlac Print 2003 – July 8
47 Noel Villarante The Laguna Score/DZJV Radio/Print 2003 – Aug. 19
48 Rico Ramirez DXSF/Butuan City Radio 2003 – Aug. 20
49 Juan Porras Pala Jr. DXGO/Davao City Radio 7 p.m., September 6, 2003
50 Nelson Nadura DYME/Masbate City Radio 2003 – Dec. 2
51 Rowel Endrinal DZRC/Legazpi City, Bicol Metro News Radio/ Print 2004 – Feb. 11
52 Elpidio “Ely” Binoya Radyo Natin / General Santos City Radio 2:15 p.m. June 17,2004
53 Roger Mariano DZJC-Aksyon Radio/ Laoag Radio 2004 – July 31, 3:00 pm
54 Arnnel Manalo DZRH/Bulgar/Batangas (Dyaryo Veritas, People’s Courier) Radio/Print 2004 – Aug. 5
55 Jonathan ” Jun” Abayon RGMA Superadyo/ General Santos City Radio 2004 – Aug. 8, 3:30am
56 Fernando Consignado Radio Veritas / Laguna Radio 2004 – Aug. 12
57 Romy Binungcal Remate, Bulgar / Bataan Print 2004 – Sept. 29
58 Eldy Gabinales (Eldy Sablas) DXJR-FM / Tandag, Surigao del Sur Radio 2004 – Oct. 19, 10:00 am
59 Gene Boyd Lumawag MindaNews / Jolo, Sulu Print 2004 – Nov. 12
60 Herson “Boy” Hinolan Bombo Radyo / Kalibo, Aklan Radio 2004 – Nov. 13, 10:45 p.m. (shooting); November 15, 2004 (died)
61 Michael Llorin Freelance photojournalist/ Manila 2004 – Nov. 13
62 Allan Dizon The Freeman Daily and its sister publication Banat News, a tabloid, in Cebu City Print 6: 59 p.m., November 27, 2004
63 Stephen Omaois Guru News Weekly, DZRK / Kalinga Print/Radio 2004 – Dec. 1
64 Edgar Amoro Freelance Broadcaster, DXKP Pagadian City Radio Feb. 2, 2005; 11:30 a.m.
65 Arnulfo Villanueva Asian Star Express Balita / Naic, Cavite Print 2005 – Feb. 28, 10:00 pm
66 Romeo Sanchez DZNL, Baguio Radio 2005 – March 9
67 Marlene Garcia Esperat The Midland Review/Tacurong City Print 2005 – March 24, eve of Easter
68 Klein Cantoneros DXAA-FM / Dipolog City Radio 2005 – May 4, 12:30am
69 Philip Agustin Starline Times Recorder Print 2005 – May 10, 11:45 p.m.
70 Rolando “Dodong” Morales DWMD-Radio Mindanao Network, South Cotabato Radio July 3, 2005, around 5:30 in the afternoon
71 Ricardo “Ding” Uy DZRS-AM Sorsogon City Radio 2005 – November 18, 11am
72 Robert Ramos Katapat (community paper) Print 2005 – November 21, 7:45 am
73 George Benaojan DYDD Bantay Radyo, Cebu City Radio 2005 – December 2, 9:30 p.m.
74 Rolly Cañete DXPR, Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur Radio 20 January 2006, 10AM
75 Graciano Aquino Central Luzon Forum, Bataan Radio 21 January 2006, 4:40pm
76 Orlando Mendoza Tarlac Profile / Tarlac Patrol Print 2006 – April 2
77 Nicolas Cervantes Surigao Daily & Daily Tribune Print 2006 – May 2
78 Albert Orsolino Saksi Ngayon (tabloid) Print 2006 – May 16
79 Fernando “Dong” Batul DYPR (Palawan Broadcasting Corp.), Puerto Princesa City, Palawan Radio 2006 – May 22
80 George Vigo Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), Kidapawan City Print 2006 – June 19, 5:15 p.m.
81 Macel Alave-Vigo Church-run radio dxND Radio 2006 – June 19, 5:15 p.m.
82 Armando Pace RADYO UKAY DXDS Digos City, Davao del Sur Radio 2006 July 18, 1 p.m
83 Ralph Ruñez RPN 9, NCR TV 2006- July 28
84 Prudencio “Dick” Melendrez Tanod (tabloid) Print 2006- July 31
85 Ponciano Grande The Recorder and Nueva Ecija Times Radio 2006- December 7
86 Andres “Andy” Acosta dzJC Aksyon Radyo Ilocos Norte Radio 2006- December 20
87 Hernani Pastolero Lightning Courier Sultan Kudarat Radio/Print 2007- February 19, around 6:20 a.m.
88 Carmelo   “Mark” Palacios Radyo ng Bayan Nueva Ecija Radio 2007- April 18, 7:30am
89 Dodie Nuñez Katapat Cavite Print 2007- May 21
90 Vicente Sumalpong Radyo ng Bayan Tawi-Tawi Radio 2007- June 25, around 8 a.m
91 Fernando “Batman” Lintuan DXGO Aksyon Radyo Radio 2007-Dec 24, 10am
92 Benefredo Acabal Pilipino Newsmen Tabloid Print 2008- April 7, 10:15 pm
93 Marcos Mataro UNTV host, D Ex-Man TV 2008- April 27, 10 am
94 Robert Sison Regional Bulletin/ Harana program Print/Radio 2008-June 30
95 Martin Roxas dyVR,-RMN Radio 2008-August 7
96 Dennis Cuesta DXMD-RMN Radio 2008-Aug. 4; died 9 August 2008
97 Arecio Padrigao, Sr. dxRS Radyo Natin Radio 2008- November 17, 7:30am
98 Leo Mila Radyo Natin Radio 2008- December 2
99 Badrodin Abas dxCM Radyo Ukay Radio 2009- January 21
100 Ernesto Rollin dxSY-AM Radio 2009- February 23
101 Crispin Perez dwDO Radio 2009- June 9
102 Antonio Castillo Bigwasan Radio 2009- June 12
103 Jonathan Petalvero dxVM-FM Balita at Komentaryo Radio 2009- June 25
104 Godofredo Linao, Jr. Radyo Natin program Kapamilya Walang Iwanan Radio 2009- June 27
105 Ismael Pasigma B96-FM station/Zamboanga del Norte Radio 2009- December 24
106 Desiderio “Jessie” Camangyan Sunrise FM/RADIO Radio Jun. 14, 2010
107 Jovelito Agustin dzJC/RADIO Radio Jun. 16, 2010
108 Nestor Bedolido Mt. Apo Current, Kastigador/ Print Jun. 19, 2010 71
109 Bengie Adolfo Gold Star Daily Print 2009- November 23
110 Henry Araneta dzRH Radio 2009- November 23
111 Mc Delbert “Mac-mac” UNTV TV 2009- November 23
112 Rubello Bataluna Gold Star Daily Print 2009- November 23
113 Arturo Betia Periodico Ini Print 2009- November 23
114 Romeo Jimmy “Pal-ak” Cabillo Midland Review Print 2009- November 23
115 Marites Cablitas News Focus, RPN dxDX Print/ Radio 2009- November 23
116 Hannibal Cachuela Manila Star & Punto News Print/ Radio 2009- November 23
117 Jephon Cadagdagon Saksi Balita Print 2009- November 23
118 John Caniban Periodico Ini & Sultan Kudarat Gazette Print 2009- November 23
119 Eleanor “Leah” Dalmacio Socsargen News Today Print 2009- November 23
120 Noel Decena Periodico Ini Print 2009- November 23
121 Gina dela Cruz Saksi Mindanaoan News Print 2009- November 23
122 Jose “Jhoy” Duhay Gold Star Daily Print 2009- November 23
123 Jolito Evardo UNTV TV 2009- November 23
124 Santos Gatchalian, Jr. Mindanao Daily Gazette Print 2009- November 23
125 Bienvenido Legarta, Jr. Periodico Ini & Tingog Mindanao Print 2009- November 23
126 Lindo Lupogan Mindanao Daily Gazette Print 2009- November 23
127 Ernesto “Bombo Bart” Maravilla Bombo Radyo Radio 2009- November 23
128 Rey Merisco Periodico Ini Print 2009- November 23
129 Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay Midland Review Print 2009- November 23
130 Marife “Neneng” Montaño Saksi Balita & dxCP Print/ Radio 2009- November 23
131 Rosell Morales News Focus Print 2009- November 23
132 Victor Nuñez UNTV TV 2009- November 23
133 Joel Parcon Prontiera News Print 2009- November 23
134 Ronnie Perante Gold Star Daily Print 2009- November 23
135 Fernando “Ranny ” Razon Periodico Ini Print 2009- November 23
136 Alejandro “Bong” Reblando Manila Bulletin & Reuters Print 2009- November 23
137 Napoleon “Nap” Salaysay Clear View Gazette Print 2009- November 23
138 Francisco “Ian” Subang, Jr. Socsargen News Today Print 2009- November 23
139 Andres “Andy” Teodoro Mindanao Inquirer Print 2009- November 23
140 Daniel Tiamzon UNTV TV 2009- November 23 32
141 Miguel “Mike” Belen dwEB/RADIO Radio Jul. 31, 2010
142 Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega dwAR/RADIO Radio Jan. 24, 2011
143 Cirilo Gallardo Spirit FM/RADIO Radio Feb. 1, 2011
144 Maria Len Sumera dzME /RADIO Radio Mar. 24, 2011
145 Romy Olea dwEB/RADIO Radio Jun. 13, 2011
146 Niel Jimena dyRI/RADIO Radio Aug. 22, 2011
147 Datu Roy Bagtikan Gallego dxSF/RADIO Radio Oct. 14, 2011
148 Alfredo “Dodong” Velarde, Jr. Brigada News/PRINT Print Nov. 11, 2011
149 Antonio Silagon tabloid Bohol Balita Daily News/PRINT Print Dec. 15, 2011
150 Nestor Libaton dxHM-FM, Mati Radio May 08, 2012
151 Rommel “Jojo” Palma Bombo Radyo Koronadal Radio April 30, 2012
152 Aldion Layao GMA Super Radyo Davao Radio April 08, 2012
153 Nixon Cua Pilipino Star Ngayon Print July 22, 2012
154 Julius Cauzo dwJJ Radio Nov. 8,2012
155 Christopher Guarin Tatak News Print Jan. 5, 2012
156 Dr. Edgardo Adajar 101.7FM Radyo Natin Radio January 04, 2013
157 Mario Vendiola 101.7 FM Radyo Natin, Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay Radio April 22, 2013
158-159 Richard Kho, Bonifacio Loreto Aksyon Ngayon Print July 31, 2013
160 Mario Sy Freelancer Print, Online (freelance) Aug. 1, 2013
161 Fernando “Nanding” Solijon dxLS Love Radio Radio 2-Sep-13
162 Vergel Bico Kalahi Print 4-Sep-13
163 Jessie Tabano Radyo Calungsod Radio 15-Sep-13
164 Joas Dignos dxGT Radyo Abante Radio Nov. 29, 2013
165 Michael Milo Prime FM, Tandag City Radio Dec. 9, 2013
166 Jhonavin Villalba dyOK Aksyon Radyo Iloilo Radio 10-Dec-13
167 Rogelio “Tata” Butalid Radyo Natin Tagum Radio Dec. 11, 2013
168 Rubylita Garcia Remate Print April 6, 2014
169 Richard Najid DxGD AM Radio May 4, 2014
170 Samuel Oliverio Radyo Ukay/ Supreme Radio Radio May 23, 2014
171 Nilo Baculo DWIM Radio June 9, 2014

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