EDITORIAL - Continuing impunity

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Continuing impunity

The inaugural speech did not touch on the problem, but President Marcos is inheriting the impunity that has characterized deadly attacks on media workers in the country.

Last Wednesday in Carmen, Cagayan de Oro, on the eve of the presidential inaugural, two masked gunmen on a motorcycle pulled up in front of the house of radio commentator Federico Gempesaw and shot him point-blank as he got out of a taxi that he owned and drove. Police, quoting a witness, said the wounded Gempesaw wrestled with one of the suspects before being shot a second time. Hit in the head, the victim died at the scene.

Gempesaw, 62, hosted a block-time program over local station Radyo Natin FM CDO. He started the program upon his retirement as the head of an office at city hall that managed markets owned by the local government. It was the first murder of a media worker in the city, raising concern among journalists in Cagayan de Oro that if left unsolved, the case could breed impunity and lead to more armed attacks.

Gempesaw became the 24th media worker killed since Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency in 2016, and the 196th since the restoration of democracy in February 1986. This year, the station manager of Radyo Natin in Tacurong, Jaynard Angeles, was shot dead in the city on Jan. 12. On April 24, local Radyo Ukay block-time commentator Jhannah Villegas was shot dead in Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Maguindanao.

The Philippines has consistently ranked among the 10 worst countries in the annual Global Impunity Index drawn up by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, mainly because of the number of unsolved media killings and slow prosecution of suspects. Some progress has been achieved in the past years, particularly after the conviction of members of the Ampatuan clan and other key defendants in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre wherein 32 media workers were among the 58 victims. But the problems in the criminal justice persist, along with impunity. A new administration raises hopes for improvement in the campaign to stop the killings.


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