"The persistence of the killings has been attributed to a culture of impunity in which the killers and the masterminds have mostly evaded prosecution in a flawed justice system," FFFJ said in a statement released on the eve of this year's commemoration of the assassination of Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. in 1983.
The FFFJ is an alliance of six media organizations—the Center for Community Journalism and Development, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Philippine Press Institute, and the US-based newspaper Philippine News—created to address the killing of journalists in the Philippines and to assist besieged journalists. It provides financial, legal and other support for prosecution of case and for the survivors of slain journalists, as well as for the witnesses in the killings. CMFR serves as the FFFJ Secretariat.
Journalists still being killed 26 years after Ninoy's death
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Aug. 20, 2009
THE PHILIPPINES marks the 26th anniversary of the assassination of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino on August 21. Aquino’s assassination emboldened the anti-dictatorship resistance, and led to the ouster of the Marcos regime and his widow Corazon’s assuming the Presidency in 1986. Press freedom and other rights were officially restored during Aquino’s term of office. But 26 years later its full realization is still problematic as reflected in the continuing killing of journalists for their work.
The persistence of the killings has been attributed to a culture of impunity in which the killers and the masterminds have mostly evaded prosecution in a flawed justice system.
The successful prosecution of a criminal case, to which the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) and its member organizations are committed as part of their efforts to dismantle the culture of impunity, depends on several factors, the most basic of which is the arrest of the accused. There is no consolation in having a criminal case filed only to have the court order it archived prior to arraignment simply because the accused is at large. But it continues to happen.
Without the accused in court, there can be no arraignment. This stage of criminal proceedings in the Philippines requires informing the accused of the nature and cause of the charges, and the accused’s personally entering a plea. The rationale behind this rule is due process: the accused must know and understand the charges against him so that he may adequately prepare for his defense.
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The killings reflect how deep the roots of this rotten culture of impunity exists in the Philippines. As CMFR's Melanie Pinlac writes: "The continuing murder of Filipino journalists/media practitioners indicates how much the culture of impunity in the Philippines has flourished—one more result of the systemic weaknesses of the country’s justice system."
"In addition to the government’s lack of political will, inefficient law enforcement, prosecutors burdened with impossible case loads, the primitive state of forensic investigation, and the poorly-funded witness protection program are responsible for the culture of impunity," added Pinlac, who serves as the CMFR press alerts officer. She analyzed the culture of impunity and why a poor witness protection program contributes to the problem.
Impunity and Witness Protection: An Analysis
Source: Freedom Watch
Melanie Y. Pinlac
July 30, 2009
The continuing murder of Filipino journalists/media practitioners indicates how much the culture of impunity in the Philippines has flourished—one more result of the systemic weaknesses of the country’s justice system. In addition to the government’s lack of political will, inefficient law enforcement, prosecutors burdened with impossible case loads, the primitive state of forensic investigation, and the poorly-funded witness protection program are responsible for the culture of impunity.
The prosecution of criminal cases including media murders in the Philippines relies heavily, sometimes solely, on testimonial evidence rather than forensic evidence, the result of the rudimentary—and sometimes careless—processing and gathering of physical evidence by law enforcement agencies. Investigators, prosecutors and lawyers try to gather extensive and comprehensive testimonial evidence to make up for the lack of physical evidence, and their unreliability if available. The families and colleagues of slain journalists have also been burdened with the task of locating possible witnesses for the prosecution of the suspected killers of their kin.
In the murder case against the alleged killer of Davao-based broadcaster Fernando “Batman” Lintuan, the testimony of the lone witness, described by the court judge as “ridiculous and unbelievable”, contributed most to the dismissal of the case and the acquittal of the suspect last April 22. The prosecution had failed to present additional evidence to corroborate the testimony of its lone witness.
On Christmas eve almost two years ago (Dec. 24, 2007), Lintuan—a radio blocktimer based in Davao City—was shot to death by a lone assassin.
What happened in the Lintuan case was not unusual. Many other media murder cases, like the 2003 killing of another Davao City broadcaster, Juan “Jun” Pala, never even reached the courts because no witness dared to come forward.
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Shawn Crispin of the Committee to Protect Journalists, also writes about the state of the country's witness protection program and the troubles witnesses face when they come forward to help solve cases. Crispin, who is CPJ’s senior
Philippines Special Report: Under Oath, Under Threat
Committee to Protect Journalist
Shawn W. Crispin
August 18, 2009
When motorcycle-riding assailants shot and fatally wounded Dennis Cuesta along a busy, tree-lined highway here last year, friend and fellow Radio Mindanao Network reporter Bob Flores was walking by his side. Flores recalls Cuesta’s body being flung into his own as one gunman fired three times at close range. As Cuesta dropped to the side of the road, a second assailant fired twice more, inflicting head injuries that contributed to the 38-year-old journalist’s death five days later, on August 9, 2008.
In a twist familiar in journalist killings in the Philippines that allegedly involve wayward public officials, local police initially labeled Flores a suspect rather than a witness. “They said I was the No. 1 suspect in the crime,” Flores told CPJ, recounting what police told him in the immediate aftermath of the murder. “I knew then my life would never be the same.”
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Here's an overview of the CMFR database on the killing of Filipino journalists/media practitioners since 1986 (as of July 2009).
For an interactive map of the killings, please click here.