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Prosecute killers of broadcaster, government told

DILG secretary Benhur Abalos pays his last respects and extends his condolences to the family of slain broadcaster Percival Mabasa, popularly known as Percy Lapid — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE PHILIPPINE government should prosecute the killers of a local broadcaster to show the world it is for press freedom, political analysts said at the weekend.

“The government should act swiftly and thoroughly on the case to show the world that it’s serious in ensuring the safety and continuity of a free and active media,” Gerardo V. Eusebio, a political science lecturer at De La Salle University, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“The killing of Percival Mabasa should initiate the provision of safeguards and guarantees by the state to ensure the protection and freedom of media practitioners in the exercise of their profession,” he added.

Two assassins on a motorcycle killed the 63-year-old radio journalist on his way home in Las Piñas City on the evening of Oct. 3, police said.

His YouTube channel, which had more than 200,000 subscribers, showed he had been critical of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte and some policies of sitting officials.

Last week, one of the alleged gunmen surrendered to authorities and said he had been hired by someone inside the national penitentiary. He said he and his cohorts got paid P550,000.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla earlier said the middleman involved in the murder had died of unknown causes.

The man did not show “apparent signs of external injury,” according to an autopsy report from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) sent to reporters on Oct. 22.

“This is exactly why these killings must be given their day in court so that it can be proven that the deaths are directly related to news reporting,” Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a policy analyst, said in a Facebook messenger chat. 

“The court process is vital in putting some order in the way media and the state relate to each other,” he said, adding that the killing showed how journalists are being silenced.

Last week, Las Piñas City police filed murder complaints against the self-confessed gunman and three accomplices.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCoR) chief Gerald Q. Bantag after the death of a supposed middleman.

Mr. Remulla told an online news briefing on Oct. 21 there was a second middleman whom police had detained.

DoJ spokesman Jose Dominic F. Clavano IV earlier told CNN Philippines the country’s task force for media security would partner with other law enforcement agencies to investigate Mr. Mabasa’s killing.

The task force was formed in 2016 under Mr. Duterte’s administration.

At least 187 journalists have been killed in the past 35 years in the Philippines, including 32 killed in a single incident in 2009, according to global watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

Last month, radio journalist Rey Blanco was stabbed to death in Negros Oriental in central Philippines. 

The Philippines slipped two notches in the World Press Freedom Index released by the global watchdog, ranking 138th among 180 countries last year.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines have condemned Mr. Mabasas killing.

The Akbayan political party has said his murder highlights the prevailing culture of impunity in the country.

In a joint statement on Oct. 18, the embassies of the Netherlands, Canada and France said the journalist’s murder “curtails the ability of journalists to report the news freely and safely.”

“With the outpouring of sympathy and interest internationally and locally to the Mabasa case, the world’s eyes are focused and closely watching the state’s determination,” Mr. Eusebio said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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