Thursday, July 13, 2006

PNP claim on journalist killings another cop-out -- NUJP

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines comes out with this statement on the recent claim made by the Philippine National Police on the perpetrators behind the continued media killings in the country.

NUJP response to General Razon

After failing to arrest and prosecute the brains and triggermen behind the murders of journalists, 44 of whom have died under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's watch (The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility counts 28 since Arroyo became president -- Bryanton Post), the Philippine National Police, through Deputy Director General Avelino Razon, now claims that the New People's Army is responsible for our colleagues' unsolved deaths.

We will not debate the veracity or lack of it of Razon's claims.

But neither can we accept his claim at face value.

For, if anything, Razon's statement sounds too much like another cop-out, an attempt to get away with, at best, the inability to fulfill his sworn mandate to protect the lives and liberties of people, at worst, a deliberate effort to sweep culpability under the rug.

Much like previous statements form law enforcement and government authorities, most notably justice secretary Raul Gonzalez, that a number of our slain colleagues deserved their fates, or those harebrained suggestions to arm journalists.

Particularly since, as quoted in news reports, Razon linked the murders of our colleagues to a supposed internal purge by the rebels that the military has also used as a convenient excuse to explain away the unabated killings and abductions of activists and legal dissenters.

Razon's claim, which as far as we know remains just that – a claim – is particularly galling since it was made by no less than the officer named to head Task Force Usig, which was formed specifically to solve the killings of both journalists and activists.

If, indeed, the New People's Army is behind the killings, then it is reprehensible and condemnable. But there have never been any indications that this is so.

If anything, most colleagues who have taken it upon themselves to investigate the deaths of their friends and co-workers say the signs invariably point the other way – to the involvement of state security forces, whether as hired guns or actually undertaking black operations.

We can only point to the latest atrocity against the independent Philippine media, which eliminated not a colleague but an entire media outfit, Radyo Cagayano.

But even if Razon's claim is true, it does not and cannot justify inaction.

For his mandate, as it is the mandate of every policeman or soldier, as it is the mandate of government itself, is to put an end to the killings and see that the perpetrators and masterminds are punished, not to seek excuses for inaction.

For as we have said again and again, and will continue to say, inaction can only mean culpability or, at the very least, a tolerance of such a wide-scale and wanton violation not just of the media's but of the people's civil, social, political and human rights.

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