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EU airs concern on media slays

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The delegation of the European Union (EU) in the Philippines has expressed concern over the latest attacks on journalists in the country.

This came as the police released a computer-rendered sketch of the gunman who killed broadcaster Rogelio Butalid in Tagum City, Davao del Norte last Wednesday.

In a statement on Thursday, the EU delegation took note though of the assurances of government authorities that the Philippine National Police (PNP) “will take immediate action to bring all those responsible for the latest media workers’ killings to justice.”

The attack on Butalid, 44, of Radyo Natin in Tagum City came barely two weeks after a radio journalist was killed in Surigao del Sur and a radio commentator was slain in Bukidnon. A radio reporter survived a slay attempt in Iloilo City also last Wednesday.

Malacañang has assured the public that the PNP is investigating the incidents to identify the killers.

The EU cited the resolution of the European Parliament in June 2012, calling on the Philippine government to take further measures to end impunity for extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture and bring those responsible to justice, including the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre who are still at large.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, for his part, called for a congressional investigation into the spate of media killings that took place in less than a month.

Pimentel condemned what he said were unceasing attacks against journalists in the country, the last three of which took place in the past 12 days alone.

He said the culture of impunity against members of the media has worsened and must be looked into and addressed by the authorities. 

The PNP, meanwhile, said the sketch of Butalid’s gunman was based on the description made by a witness.

Senior Superintendent Samuel Gadingan, Davao del Norte police director, said the witness described the gunman as male, between 40 and 45 years old, 5’4” to 5’5” tall, and with slim build, fair complexion, and pimple scars.

Gadingan added the gunman was seen wearing a brown sweatshirt and faded black pants.

Special Investigation Task Group Butalid was formed to track down the gunman based on the witness’ description.

Among other possibilities, the police task force is also looking into politics as motive behind the killing, since Butalid was also a barangay councilman.  

Butalid anchored a block time radio program for the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative-National Electrification Administration, which is reportedly embroiled in factionalism. 

Pimentel said he believes the killings of media personalities were work-related because they were all known for their exposés against corruption and other illegal activities in their areas.

He called on authorities to step up their campaign against these assailants who have been targeting broadcast journalists.

Senators Grace Poe and Loren Legarda earlier lamented the slow pace in the prosecution of cases and the arrest of suspects in the attacks on journalists.

“I think that the only way you can deter the killings is by making sure that justice is carried out in a timely manner. It takes years before a suspect is caught and brought to trial,” Poe said.

“Criminals are emboldened because hardly any suspected media killers are actually sentenced and thrown in jail,” she added. Legarda, for her part, said, “The slow judicial process and the lack of apprehension, prosecution of perpetrators of violence against media practitioners could be contributory to the continued violence.”

The PNP allayed such fears, saying the three recent killings of media workers in Bukidnon, Surigao and Davao were not related and have no common pattern.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima assured media organizations of focused attention by dedicated special investigation task groups. 

Through Task Force USIG, the PNP is monitoring all ongoing investigations into cases of violence committed against media practitioners.

Purisima expressed confidence that the special teams formed by the regional police offices will be able to achieve significant breakthrough in the investigation of these cases.

He said Task Force USIG is paying particular attention to the recent killings of broadcaster Michael Diaz Milo of Prime Radio FM in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur last Dec. 6; the shooting of dxGT block timer Jash Dignos in Valencia City, Bukidnon last Nov. 29; and Butalid.

At least 11 media workers have been killed under the Aquino administration. The killings are still being investigated by Task Force USIG. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Marvin Sy

AQUILINO PIMENTEL

BUKIDNON

BUTALID

DAVAO

DIRECTOR GENERAL ALAN PURISIMA

KILLINGS

MEDIA

TAGUM CITY

TASK FORCE

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