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Task force seen to help end media killings

Candles are lit beside a tarpaulin bearing the photos of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre following a protest march on November 23, 2015 to mark the sixth anniversary of the killing of 58 people, more than half of them media workers. MIGUEL DE GUZMAN  

MANILA, Philippines – The new task force on media killings that President Duterte ordered established over the weekend will aim to put an end to the murders of media practitioners, Malacañang said yesterday.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the official executive order creating the task force was drafted and reviewed by the offices of chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

“Once we have this signed by the President, then we’ll be able to set the policy directions for those who fell victim to extrajudicial media killings. We need to find an exclamation point, to put an end to the killings,” Andanar said.

On Thursday, broadcaster and provincial board member Apolinario Suan was ambushed, together with his driver and bodyguards, along the national highway in Barangay San Vicente in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur.

Suan survived the attack but his bodyguard died.

The attack on Suan is the second act of violence committed against members of media under the Duterte administration.

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Earlier this month, Surigao City-based broadcaster Saturnino Estanio Jr. of Radio Mindanao Network survived an ambush. Estanio said the attempt on his life was related to his commentaries against illegal drugs and gambling in Surigao City.

Asked if the task force will also look into the media killings in the past administrations, Andanar said the panel would have to review some cases.

“We have a 20-20 hindsight on what happened in previous years. We will advise, recommend (to the President) that the past cases be reviewed,” he said.

Andanar added the Maguindanao massacre in 2009, where scores of journalists were killed, has to be concluded.

“It’s about time, I believe, that the DOJ (Department of Justice) should hasten the (resolution) of the past cases and give justice to the families of the victims. It’s long overdue,” he said.

Andanar said the creation of a task force on media killings is a “very positive direction.”

“It will be able to investigate and seek justice for those victims of extrajudicial media killings. That’s the point, the objective… to put a final period, exclamation point in finding out the root of this unnecessary killing of our brothers and sisters in the media,” he said.

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