EDITORIAL — Again, impunity

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL � Again, impunity

Just days after the observance of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the impunity was again manifested in the Philippines.

Juan Tumpag Jumalon was hosting his program on FM 94.7 Gold Radio Calamba in Misamis, Occidental when two men barged into the radio studio set up in his home at around 5:30 a.m. Police said one of the men shot Jumalon twice in the face and snatched the necklace from his neck before fleeing with the other man who served as lookout. The broadcaster, who owned the radio studio, was pronounced dead on arrival in a hospital.

Jumalon, with the broadcast name DJ Johnny Walker, was the fourth media worker to be murdered under the Marcos administration, and the 199th since the restoration of democracy in 1986.

Regardless of the motive, the brazen attack illustrates why the country ranked eighth in the 2023 Global Impunity Index drawn up by New York-based media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists. In the latest World Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters Without Borders, the Philippines ranked 132nd out of 180 countries.

The impunity ranking has improved slightly over the years due to the arrest and prosecution of suspects, although in many of the murders, the masterminds remain unidentified or at large. In the most high-profile attack last year, on broadcaster Percy Lapid near his home in Las Piñas, the accused masterminds were the director of the Bureau of Corrections at the time, Gerald Bantag, and his chief aide, Ricardo Zulueta.

The murder of media workers is rare in Metro Manila. Still, justice is elusive for Lapid, whose real name is Percival Mabasa. While the gunman hired for the hit is in police custody, Bantag and Zulueta remain scot-free. Impunity is the worst in places where the rule of law is weakest, where certain political or other influential persons or groups control nearly all aspects of the criminal justice system. There are, unfortunately, too many such areas in this country. Bereaved loved ones and friends of Juan Tumpag Jumalon can only hope that his hometown is not one of these areas.

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